The Cost of Building a House in NJ
A Guide to Custom Home Builder Prices
When I talk to potential custom home clients in New Jersey, the number one question is: How much will it cost?
You can search around on the internet and find blurbs of information on custom home builders’ prices, and these averages are certainly great to keep in mind when you’re starting to think about your budget.
I have found, however, that average prices don’t generally bear much resemblance to what the actual cost. Speak with a few people who have completed a build or a large renovation and, over and over, you’ll hear stories about the actual cost being MUCH higher than they were originally told.
Why are custom home builders’ prices often inaccurate?
The truth is this: Some builders throw out a teaser number to try to get the job. And often they don’t account for a lot of the other costs associated with a build.
Everything needs to be considered: demolition if there is an existing structure on the site, any general site work preparation, engineering and surveying fees, architectural services, building permit fees, carrying costs, utilities, debris removal during construction, warranty fees, and countless other fees that are either directly or indirectly paid for by the homeowner.
There will also be interest payments on the construction loan during the project, property taxes during the project, and/or property insurance that is required. These—and more—all need to be considered in the overall cost.
Why is square footage misleading?
When trying to determine the price of a custom home, a good builder requires two pieces of information—a complete set of construction drawings and a document specifying all the detail that goes into each individual item in the house. Without the combination of the two, any per square foot price or quote you get is worthless.
As an example, I have two houses—House A and House B—with the same 1st and 2nd-floor living space size and the same detail on the finishes. But House B has a huge wrap around porch, a larger garage, a covered rear patio and a basement walkout up to grade in the rear yard.
One can easily see that House B would have a much higher cost to build than house A without these ‘extra’ items. However, a per square foot price comparison wouldn’t tell you that. As a result, the per square foot price is useless on anything except for track homes where the finishes are what I would call “below builder grade” and the builder is striving to drive costs out as much as possible.
Is everything being considered in the price?
Another misnomer that goes into a per square foot price is what someone is actually counting towards the square footage as the denominator in their calculation.
I see countless listings by realtors of the same house floor plan that have greatly varying numbers in terms of the per square footage. Some count only the 1st and 2nd-floor living space, some add in the basement, others the attic (when finished).
That, coupled with other exterior factors such as sizes of garages and porches, can change the factor that is being divided into the overall price to come up with the cost per square foot.
What this all means is that a custom home builders’ prices could roughly range from $600,000 – $1 million for a 3,500 square foot house in New Jersey. The only real way to compare is to have a full set of construction drawings (or at least floor plans and elevations) as well as a detailed list of every item with detail that will be going into the house.
Location, quality of the subcontractors they are using to perform the work, as well as the materials all play a major role in the price of your custom home.
It’s absolutely true that you get what you for.
I’m sure you can find a custom home builder offering lower prices than us, but make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for that price. What we do is show prospective new clients a house that’s already been built (floorplans, finishes, and details), and tell them what it costs.
You have to compare apples to apples, which is difficult when you don’t have the full plan for the house yet, but definitely ask for as much detail as possible regarding what is included.
Some custom home builders will be very eager to give you a low price upfront, but fail to mention that price doesn’t include any of the upgrades you probably want that we provide as a standard.
Timeline matters too. You want a custom home builder who will get the job done on the timeline they promise. If they don’t, you’re not only paying extra for the carrying costs, you’re paying in heartache as well.
Another thing you want included in the price: a custom home builder who is there on site every day, keeping the subcontractors on track and checking the quality of the work. This is factored into our costs, and it’s well worth it for your timeline and the end result.
What makes us different at Premier Design Custom Homes?
What makes us different is our constant presence on the job site to oversee all aspects of construction. We are truly hands-on, and care about your house like it’s our own.
We use the highest quality, name-brand materials with no substitutes. Only Tyvek house wrap, James Hardie siding, and Azek exterior trim.
Solid mahogany front doors are standard⎯no fiberglass or faux wood doors. We always install French doors leading into the backyard from a kitchenette, not sliders. Oversized 6″ gutters are standard.
We use all plywood construction⎯never pressed boards. Steel construction is used wherever possible to eliminate basement columns and beam drops, which means you get maximized finished basement space.
And speaking of basements, we do basement slabs reinforced with wire mesh and rebar, despite that not being required by code. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.
We also always use overkill drainage system with French and perimeter drains, tying to window well drains to assure dry basements. Inside, we do coffered ceilings, custom closet packages, up lit tray ceilings, and raised panel solid core doors throughout.
We offer very generous lighting packages, and all accessible windows and doors are always hardwired and ready for an alarm system installation.
Fireplaces come with a remote control, LED accent lighting, and brick refractory kits⎯not just black fire boxes. And SO MUCH MORE.
Go ahead and compare these items to other builds and you will see the difference. There’s nothing average about it.
“ I can’t say enough good things about what a great experience this has been…”