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Understanding “Price per Square Foot” for Custom Homes in the Greater Austin and Hill Country areas of Texas

We receive many questions from both Real Estate professionals and Clients regarding the costs associated with building a custom home in the Austin Texas area.  Steve Zbranek, 2011 & 2010 National Master Builder of the Year offers the following series to address these many questions.

Foundation Prep

Foundation Prep

Foundation being poured

Foundation being poured

Understanding “Price per Square Foot” for Homes

A common measure of value used in comparing real estate is typically “price per square foot”.  By simple definition, when someone refers to this measure they are only referring to the square footage considered “living area”.  Most believe that the living area square footage quoted for a home is the “conditioned space” within the sheet rock walls.  In actuality, both real estate and property tax appraisers measure the living area of a home to the outside of the masonry surrounding the livable space.  While this does not include garages, porches, patios and decks it does include the framed wall and masonry material applied to the exterior facade of the home (stucco, stone, or brick).  This practice began years ago when the tax appraisers measured a home for valuation purposes by running a tape measure around the exterior of the building and subtracting the non-living area footage from the total.

Many factors affect the price per square foot of a home.  We will examine a couple today and continue with others in a follow up blog.   The best place to begin is to understand the items that affect the “cost” per square foot of a home, which ultimately translates to price.  First, think about geometry.  If we were to draw a 10′ x 10′ square on a chalk board we would create an imaginary room with 100 sq ft.  If we drew a 2′ x 50′ rectangle on the same chalk board we would again create a 100 sq. ft. room, albeit strange.  To build the first room the building would require 40 linear feet of wall space.  That is, framing, drywall, insulation, masonry, etc.  to build the second 100 sq. ft. room the building would require 104 linear feet of wall space.  While no one would want a 2 x 50 room, the example demonstrates that while the square footage remains the same, the cost to produce that footage increases the more you deviate from the original box.  It’s not by accident that production builders that offer the most affordable homes stay close to the box, to reduce their costs.  So, “how much per square foot” depends on the design geometry of a home to determine the building cost. Without this and other information we will cover, it’s just a guess or “estimate”.

Stay tuned!

Steve Zbranek, Owner/Partner of Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes is a nationally recognized, award winning custom home builder in Austin Texas with over 32 years in the home building industry.  Zbranek has been awarded the National Master Builder of  the Year for both 2011 and 2010.  The company is the recipient of both the 2010  Texas State and Austin Custom Home Builder of the Year Awards as well as the 2011 Austin Business Journals Custom Home Builder of the Year, in addition to  the 2010 Business of the Year for the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce.

He and his business partner, Tony Holt build only “Pre-Sold” custom homes, electing not to buy lots or build any speculative inventory.  They strive to offer clients the best possible experience while building their dream home utilizing highly skilled craftsmen.  All Project Managers with Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes are Certified Master Builders as well as Certified Green Professional Builders. Zbranek & Holt Custom Homes proudly builds throughout Greater Austin, Westlake Hills, Lakeway, Lake Travis, Marble Falls, Horseshoe Bay, Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Georgetown and Round Rock Texas.

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