New Modern Home in Seattle Area
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New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Rich Choi at July 04. 2006
My wife and I are looking to build a custom home in Seattle Area (Sammamish, about 15 miles east of Seattle) after looking at countless spec homes for sale. We have made an offer on a lot (.25acre, slightly sloped, with a partial view of Lake Sammamish) and are in the middle of the feasibility study.
I have sent out several inquiry to local architects and vast majority are saying that there is no way I can build a custom home for less than $250/sqft. Which is just maddening since I know I can build a traditional custom home for $125/sqft. I know modern can be expensive, but I do not understand why it would be over $100/sqft difference.
Is it possible to build a modern home for less than $200/sqft? I know Dwell tried and failed. Am I doomed? What compromises are required to build for less than $200/sqft?
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by JohnC at July 05. 2006
I know this subject has been discussed before, but I could not find the threads. I do not think you are doomed, but there are many things that will affect your budget and your final cost. What will you be paying for design fees? A completely custom design can range from reasonable to very expensive. Have you considered alternatives? There are several architects and designers that offer modern stock house plans. If none of these suit your needs, they could possibly be altered for a nominal fee.
Keeping the structure simple will help keep costs in line. The more extravagant the design, most likely the higher the building cost. Designing the house to have the spaces you desire and still use common structural materials will save money.
How much work are you willing to do? Being your own general contractor and/or providing sweat equity can have a big impact. Labor is expensive! But, do you have the time to spend on the project and do you want to do so?
Many of the cool fixtures and finishes of a modern home cost more than the standard stuff from the big box stores. How much more depends on what you want. Some modern stuff is reasonable and some is really expensive. Also remember, the bones of the house are difficult to change, but many things can be upgraded later. You can find lots of great ideas and resources here on LiveModern.
We just started building our own modern home. We are in the Midwest so labor is cheaper. We are being our own GC and doing lots and lots of sweat equity, but, we are also using some upgraded materials like ICFs, etc. I am expecting to have a final cost of about $80/sq. ft. for 3000 sq. ft. of finished space, not including land. Did I mention lots of sweat equity?
If builders are charging $125/sq. ft for their standard box (not including land), I would think that you could build a nice custom modern home for $10 to $30/sq. ft. more if you keep a close eye on costs. Modern does not have to cost a lot more, it just can. It all depends on the choices you make.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Rich Choi at July 06. 2006
Thanks for your encouraging words.
I am definitely willing to put some sweat equity and willing to tone down on finishes. But it is really hard to build for less than $200/sqft when you have architects and general contractors involved.
I have looked at some stock plans, but they do not suit my needs. So I am trying to decide right now; do I hire an architect and try to act as my own GC? OR should I design the house myself (with draftsman to finish out the drawings) and hire a GC?
Which way do you think is better? I am leaning towards the latter since, I am not sure how much time I will be able to spend and I know pretty much what floor plan I want (lots of open spaces).
Another question is, how do I choose an architect? What questions should I ask?
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Scott Mason at July 06. 2006
Have you looked at Kira Obolensky's book Good House,
Cheap House? Various strategies for doing a modern house frugally.
They certainly manage to do lots of custom modern houses in my area for well under the average price for new housing.
I think the key word it to make frugal choices in finishes and not hold out for designer brands in hardware and fixtures.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by JohnC at July 08. 2006
I guess if you are set on a floor plan for the home you could always hire a draftsman to draw the plans to your specifications. Around here, having a set of plans done by a draftsman with a CAD program will cost about $1500. They typically charge by the square foot. Most draftsmen are competent and can draw up the plans to your specifications. Of course you may get exactly what you initially ask for and not benefit from the ideas an Architect might bring to the table. But, that would probably cost more too. Regardless, ask for references and look at examples of past projects.
If you have limited time, I would think a GC is a must. There is a cost involved, but, the GC will manage the project from start to finish. Ask for references and contact several of these people. Find someone who is willing to work with you and your level of involvement in the building process.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by John Paulsen at July 10. 2006
The State of Washington does not require an architect to design a house but your plans must be stamped by a licensed structural engineer. I've been through this entire process recently (all the way up to obtaining a permit) and ended up selling my view lot and buying a house instead. Even with 7+ years in the construction industry I couldn't financially make the numbers work. You've got to take into account all the soft costs that will be part of your project. I had a modest 1650 s.f. house designed and the cost to build the house if I were to build it myself was approx. 250K (basic finishes)and $302K for a GC to build the same house. But the loan amount for construction was over $450K when I added up my soft cost and the balance of my land loan (which was only 60K). So though it seems possible to do it yourself, don't be fooled. It's a very expensive endeavor, particularly in the NW where construction is booming. You're going to pay top dollar for any contract work right now because the market is hot. The only way I saw my situation as doable was if I owned my land outright. And I didn't want to put my life on hold that long.
Good luck nonetheless!
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Don Whitten at November 02. 2006
For those interested in Seattle area designers, check out Context
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by David Billinghurst at November 13. 2006
I have been through the entire building process and like john said above there are a lot of costs that you don't even consider and changing in cost of materials, hidden issues, mistakes, permits, etc. So when people say its going to be x per square foot that is based on what i have found to be as unfinished. When you decide to get expensive appliances or better hard woods, or extra windows, or sod for your yard it all starts to add up really quickly.
I designed my own home and worked with a engineer to do my calculations. which saved me a ton of money but you also need to know what they want to see on the plans and what all the codes are, restrictions, easments, etc.
I live in seattle and would be happy to share all my knowledge with anyone interested in building their own home. I would even be willing to help draw up the plans.
you can save a ton of money by doing the work yourself but its also important that you are at the home all the time as a GC would be. You need to be there to answer questions and make decisions and get materials.
My theory is to try and keep the whole project and design as simple as possible to make things easy to design, engineer and build.
you can see our house at http://livemodern.com/Members/purekrista/blog/
feel free to email me if you need anything. email@example.com
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Dustin Ehrlich at November 14. 2006
Well it looks like context brought an old thread back to life that the OP is probably not even watching any more, but...
If your choice is between hiring a GC and an architect, go with the architect! The GC will save you a lot of headaches for 6-12 months, but the architect's work will be with you as long as you're in the house. An architect (and maybe this gets on my nerves a bit because I am an architect) does a whole lot more than simply draw a bunch of lines in CAD. A trained monkey can do that. Yes, hiring an architect may cost you 10-20k, but the talent and expertise most bring to the table can be worth much more. By using someone who knows what they're doing designing a house you can avoid pitfalls that can cost you many times the architect's fees over, such as awkward structural systems that would require custom and/or oversized members. Also keep in mind that most GCs make thier money in the construction costs, so your best interests aren't really in thiers, if you know what I mean. Not to mention I've seen GCs make over 100k on an averaged priced house. I'm not saying GCs are thieves, and I'm not even saying they're not worth the money, I'm just saying if you have to choose between the two, go with the architect.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Jim Meehan at November 14. 2006
Just to elaborate on what daveb said above, we found that per sq. ft. figures can be very deceptive when estimating the total cost to build from scratch. It leaves out things like:
interest on lot/construction loan during planning/building
optional changes (upgrades)
required changes (city throws in fire sprinkler requirement)
Some of those we were prepared for, others came as total shockers. The utilities especially, even with all of them already present either in the street in front, or in some cases, already delivered to a vault on the corner of our lot.
Even when considering hard construction costs only, per sq. ft. figures can be misleading. If you're building a smaller-than-average home, the cost per sq. ft. is likely to be higher than average for your area, because the relatively expensive bits (kitchen, baths, foundation, etc) and fixed costs are spread over fewer total square feet.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Julie M at March 12. 2007
I feel the OP's pain. We are preparing to renovate a mid-century modern home and build an addition in an area 20 miles south of Seattle. We set out a year ago with a $250/sq ft budget, and now that the design is complete and we're getting the bid from the GC, we're pushing dangerously close to $400/sq. ft. mark! So we're desperatlely trying to cut back on the cost by choosing cheaper materials, changing design elements, and cutting out some things entirely. It's so difficult! There are some things you just can't predict. In our case, the foundation turned out to be a major part of the expense because the ground is not solid and we require major pilings to secure the foundation. Building a custom home is extremely expensive, no matter how you go about it. Be prepared for anything.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Jason at March 13. 2007
Jim is right regarding the price per foot variations. OP - I don't know you situation with the lot, but an architect telling you that you can not build a custom house for under $250 is full of shit. His ego is getting in the way. I have a love/hate relationship with architects because they at times like to turn projects into pieces of "art" with no concern for boundaries or financial challenges.
We build modern townhomes and homes in Dallas and can build a really, really nice custom modern home for $150-$175 per foot above ground - excluding dirt, site work, landscaping, pool, etc. This would not include crazy foundation work like canilevers, etc.
I just priced out a 4,500 square foot custom house, 5 bedroom, 4.5 bath, 3 car garage house for $160 per foot. High efficiency AC/ foam insulation, commercial storefront glass, a $10,000 lighting package, Kohler and Grohe fixtures, Viking kitchen, etc.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by matt hutchins at March 26. 2007
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by JB at March 26. 2007
If you take your $160 (very low for a LOT of the US)- add in the architects fees of 15%- and a GCs profit and overhead averaging 20%- then look where you are--- $216.
Don't forget that the architects and GCS are in business to make a living. There services aren't- and shouldn't be free.
In my experience architects tend to be too "optimistic" with their estimates. It's much better to be realistic than to be a fool and get yourself in too deep- so if you just ignore the $250 because you don't like it you've already made a mistake that will snowball-
Doing your own design or your own GCing can be hit or miss. It's a really tough thing to do - architects and GCS earn those % with very hard work and application of decades of knowledge and experience. I've seen some DIY waste a fortune making mistakes, and design some cluster F's because they don't have any design experience. A lot of people that take this route end up with something they are very proud of but the appraisers, realtors, neighbors, and future buyers can be less than enamored with the "I did it my way" approach.
That's the truth so don't get all bent out of shape if you don't like the truth.
But if you keep the size to a limit and are conservative with your finish selections most likely you can get your home done on a budget.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Jason at April 02. 2007
FYI - I have GC and architects fees included in my price of $165 per foot. I don't doubt the labor costs are more expensive as we have a lot of immigrant (Mexican) labor that drives down labor costs for Texas - which is a good thing, but the material costs can't be that much more. Matt - you have a good point regarding media house costs, but those quotes take into account land costs. Land in Dallas is (I imagine) considerably cheaper than Seattle.
I would try to find a good design/build firm to do a house. They typically have a lot better grasp on costs AS they are designing versus having a "name brand" architect do the work.
All in all I still think the $400 per square foot is ridiculous. I would look for a new contractor and architect.
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Nensi at April 25. 2007
The new affordable house that we are building in Connecticut is under $ 200 per SF. You can check out the 3d renderings and the construction photos as well
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by P at August 12. 2007
- Seattle Metro Area
- 2200 - 2300 sq feet total
- "mid" level construction quality.
- 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, large kitchen
- tile or hardwood throughout home
- Lot will cost about $300,000
- Lot is within existing residential area, so there are all utilities on street, but not into the lot
- Our appliances are not "Viking" level, but more in the high end GE level that can be ordered from a Home Depot or are on the floor
- I will do the landing around the house and will plant the grass, etc.. myself. I need dirt loaded in.
- We will want large and many windows
Can't think of anything else. Is there a range anyone can give me for a true total after everything is taken into account? I may be able to get free or VERY cheap architecturally designed and stamped plans( i will have to cover any true costs they have + about $1,000 to draw it up), but will need a GC to oversee the entire process, get the permits, etc...
Re: New Modern Home in Seattle AreaPosted by Jason at August 13. 2007
I house like that would costs $325,000 to $350,000 in Dallas - $140 per foot for above ground construction only. No soft costs such as interest carry or arch/engineering, etc. I would not know the costs in Seattle (which is the topic of this entire thread).
A couple of other notes:
1. I would consider bumping up the size of your house to 2,500. squeezing 4 bedrooms in a 2,200 square foot house is certainly possible but everything will be too small. We build 2,200 square foot 2 bed/2.5 bath/study townhomes that are nearly perfect in porportion. The room sizes are just right - not too big, not too small. It may help if you are on one story (versus 3) but consider going a tad bigger if you can.
2. Consider access and topography on your budget. If you have a hard to reach lot, lots of trees, or a sloped lot your prices will escalate quickly especially on your foundation. Make sure you get a soils report for your foundation.
3. Windows can be really expensive depending on how crazy you get. Windows can be had for $7,000 in your size house or could go to $50,000 for the high end commercial store front glass. If you are on a tight budget, consider avoiding floor to ceiling windows, lots of operating windows, and use "nailfin" windows that are easier to install. You can get the appearance of floor to ceiling windows by using nailfin tempered windows without the massive costs. You just have to elevate the window 4 to 6 inch off the floor.
4. Look at Jenn Air appliances. I would avoid Home Depot or Lowe's appliances because they are so common and don't feel "special". You will get your money back on resale for sure.
I would look for a small design/build firm that specializes in modern houses. If your lot is special and you are going to effort of building a house, have a house designed that makes best use of the lot. If you have a plain jane lot, then off the shelf plans might be more feasible.