Current events have affected people very differently across the nation, but they have fomented an unprecedented construction boom in the Carolinas. Questions we receive on a daily basis lately are:
- How much does it cost to build/ what is your cost per square foot?
- Is landscaping and site work included?
- Do you include permitting and design fees in your cost estimates?
- Is unconditioned square footage included in your cost per square foot?
The short answer is, Yes! everything is included. As custom home builders, it really boils down to what you, the client, are looking for and we’ll go from there together.*
So why are people flooding to the area for primary or vacation homes? Maybe it’s the cost of living, the healthy lifestyle emphasis, the greenspace and lot sizes, or a desire to be less exposed to the regulation or disruption in bigger cities – you can draw your own conclusions.
But we anticipate a real labor and material shortage on the horizon as record numbers of new buyers submit inquiries for custom home construction. We’re predicting the crunch to hit in the spring of 2021. Each new request to estimate a set of plans merely adds to the backlog of subcontractor availability, many of whom are sole proprietors that perform work during the day and tend to paperwork at night. Estimating large custom home projects can be tedious and time-consuming. It’s one thing to pour over a plan set during slow times; it’s a different story when they’re covered up with opportunities to bring in cash for their labor.
At Fairview, Chris Hamblen leads our Construction Estimating and Project Management teams for maximum effectiveness. He utilizes several tools to keep the bids coming on schedule:
- Chris does his own takeoffs – it pays to have a Clemson CSM grad at the helm scouring plans for flashing details, material cut/fill sheets, or missing technical information. Chris also consults with Fairview’s Senior Project Manager and Site Superintendent on each job before finalizing an estimate.
- We don’t solicit bids without a contract – now is not the time to ask subs for favors. If you ask for a bid, it better be for a job that is under contract, otherwise, why spend any meaningful time on it?
- Treat subcontractors with respect – we hear all the time that our subs love our management style and team. They want to be respected for their skills and abilities, just like anyone with that much experience would want. We offer that, and they prioritize our needs.
- We pay quickly – Fairview’s standard is Net 21, which is a quicker pay turnaround than many builders offer. We’ll pay even faster if it will help a job finish quicker and a particular subcontractor impresses us with their performance.
- We keep an efficient list of subcontractors – to keep prices in check, we competitively bid every scope of work to 3-4 subcontractors. Any more and we’d risk lower buy-in from our subs because the subcontract award rate would be low for each, and they’d stop taking our requests as seriously. We’re always adding new providers to our bid lists who have shown good quality work and may help keep prices in check as our more experienced tradesmen begin to price themselves out of the market.
So, how can new clients beat the present rush? Here are some suggestions:
- Decide on a plan footprint early – this should be done with consideration to the buyer’s preferred lots. All lots are different and most fit better with particular dimensions, so decide on what type of lot to look for to accommodate the desired house plan. Drew Hamblen leads Fairview’s lot analysis team and can advise you on how to pair your home plan with the lots you’re considering.
- Sign a building contract early – for all the reasons above, you can’t expect a reliable estimate for a custom home if there’s no commitment from you to the builder. Take the time needed to vet your contractor, then empower them to be your advocate with the trade base. Fairview offers two methods of achieving this: a) a full design-build agreement (best when the home plan hasn’t been designed yet) and b) a pre-construction agreement (excellent for getting things moving on the estimate without requiring a large down payment or commitment. This is possible when the client has decided on a home plan that can be estimated immediately)
- Give timely feedback to aid finalizing the plans, specs, and budget. The more clarity we can achieve early, the more interest the subs will have in giving us priority scheduling to help us beat the rush!
It’s a great time to build in the Carolinas, and we’re standing by to help. Don’t drag your feet too long though; the secret is out!