Here are 15 tips that may help keep your building budget within reason, without compromising on the home you want. See below! And when you're done reading through the tips, you may be interested in browsing our collection of Affordable House Plans.
Buy a large lot with a friend or family member that can be split into two smaller lots. Some of the most appealing properties may be much larger than what you want or can afford, yet the seller may not be willing to break up a large parcel. So if you can share the cost with someone else (preferably someone you don't mind having as a neighbor), you may be able to pick up a great building site for a reasonable price.
Consider a so-called problem lot — a hillside, narrow, or in-fill property. Generally, these types of lots are not as desirable as others, so they don't sell as quickly and often go for a much lower price. With the right plan and a capable contractor, however, a potentially difficult lot might be perfect for your new home. Check out our house plans for Sloped Lot House Plans and House Plans for Narrow Lots
Choose a canal or bay lot instead of ocean or lakefront property if you must have a waterfront site. These choices are usually less expensive but still water accessible. Plus, they provide great protection against inclement weather. Browse our collection of Coastal or Lakefront (which don't necessarily have to be built next to an "ocean" or "lake!").
Buy low-maintenance building materials — vinyl or cementitious siding and metal roofing, for example. Even if they are somewhat more expensive at installation, they will pay for themselves in the long run as you won't have to repair, replace, or repaint.
Collect salvaged materials from demolition sites. Old barnwood, used bricks, and distinctive wood doors add inexpensive character to a home without exorbitant cost. Many times you can have the materials at no cost, as long as you're willing to haul them away. Just be sure to check first with the owner of the building being demolished.
Splurge only on those things you truly cannot live without. However, don't skimp on structural components or doors and windows — for the safety and security of your home, you'll want to purchase the best you can afford in these areas. In addition, certain features help determine the overall design and are worth making every effort to keep; for example: the board-and-batten siding and large black double hung windows of House Plan #430-156 (see plan image below) reinforce the design’s farmhouse character.
Don't overbuild for the neighborhood. A home that is better and bigger than any other in its area will not command a fair price at resale. Instead, the assessment will be colored by the lower-priced homes around it.
Monitor construction allowances as the home is being built to ensure you're getting what you asked for (and are paying for). This includes decorative details as well as structural elements. If you and your builder agreed, for instance, that a particular brand of insulation would be installed, don't accept a lesser brand — at least not without a cost adjustment.
Use only a certified general contractor. The experience of a well-qualified contractor is invaluable to the home-building process. In addition, seasoned professionals have established relationships with suppliers and subcontractors — something you cannot possibly hope to get without years of experience in the business.
Try to avoid site preparation charges — hauling in-fill dirt, grading, clearing trees, blasting rock. These processes are expensive and add time to the building schedule right off the bat. Choose the best site you can afford and then pick a plan that fits that site or can be modified to better suit the site.
Avoid change orders — the changes in materials or blueprints that invariably occur in the midst of the building process. Not only do change orders cost more money, they add considerable time and frustration to the building process. Decide exactly what you want before ground is broken — and then stick to it.
Keep the depth of your home at 32 feet or less. Any more than that and roof trusses may need to be specially designed, which can add significant dollars to the overall building cost. If you have sufficient land and want a larger house, consider adding width or additional stories.
If you really want ceramic tile or hardwood flooring but feel you can't afford it right now, consider vinyl flooring. Vinyl makes a good underlayment, and the tile or wood can be installed right on top of it at a later date.
Select a great stock plan instead of a custom-drawn plan. The savings in total cost are great and you can probably customize the stock plan to get exactly what you want.
Do you really need a three-car garage? If you only have two vehicles and you're counting on the extra bay for storage space, consider other areas of the home that will work just as well — attic space, space under a stairwell, or spare bedroom. Or put up a garden shed, which is cheaper than building a huge garage.