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Poconos Custom Home Blog

How to Budget for a Custom Home in the Poconos

Posted by John Holahan on Feb 15, 2017 4:45:00 PM

How_to_Budget_for_a_Custom_Home_in_the_Poconos.jpgSetting the budget for your new home in the Poconos is one of the most critical steps you’ll take in the homebuilding process. So how do you “get it right”? It’s a process that’s filled with questions. Let’s take a look at some of the key questions that will help you get things off on the right foot and ensure that you end up with the Poconos home that’s right for you.

Is There a Standard Cost for a Custom Poconos Home?

To be honest, “standard” pricing and “custom” homes are more or less incompatible concepts. The whole idea behind a custom home is that it’s personalized for you. You don’t expect it to look or feel exactly like someone else’s home. And it stands to reason that the price won’t be identical, either.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to be in the dark when it comes to the price of a home you’re considering. That’s why if you look at floor plans for the homes we build in the Poconos region, you’ll see that we talk about various home designs “starting at a certain price.” That gives you a base price from which to work. So what affects the final price?

The size of your home is naturally one of the major factors that will affect the ultimate cost of a home. More square footage requires more material and labor.

The lot you build on also has a big impact on the cost of your home. The price you pay for your lot isn’t “standard” because lots vary quite a bit. The cost of a lot depends on location and size, and even on the ease of building. If your builder has to do a lot of preparation work to make the lot suitable for building, it’s going to cost more. We can help you find a lot that’s right for the home you want to build. We have a number of communities with properties where we currently build—alternatively, our on-site realtor will be happy to show you different locations.

The amount of customization you request will definitely affect the final cost of your home. If you look at the floor plans for the different home designs we offer (take the Arden, for instance), you’ll notice that at the end of the description, we include a few words about customization: “If there is an aspect of a floor plan that you don't like or that you would like to modify to better fit your needs, we can adjust floor plans ...”

Those modifications could involve changing the size of the rooms, the placement of windows or the location of a garage door; adding additional space; or a number of other things. The scope and complexity of the changes you want to make to the original plan will determine how much extra you’ll spend.

The good news is that once you pick a base plan (and know what it will cost), you can discuss specific changes with your builder to get an accurate estimate of your final costs. There may be no “standard” pricing when it comes to building a custom home, but that doesn’t mean you have to expect a case of sticker shock at the end of the process. Find a plan that works for you, and then work with your builder to get the specifics for the home you’ve always dreamed of at a price you can afford.

What’s an “Affordable” Custom Home? For some people, an “affordable custom home” is an oxymoron. How can a home be both “custom” and “affordable” at the same time? 

Let’s be realistic: Some custom homes are probably too expensive for the vast majority of homeowners. You’ve got to figure in location, square footage, specialized materials, and the degree of specialized customization when you talk about the cost of some of those homes. 

But what if you don’t need (or even want) a built-in humidor for your cigars, a climate-controlled wine cellar, an air-conditioned doghouse, or other types of extravagances for your home? What if you simply want a home that’s customized to make your home fit you and your lifestyle better?

You’ll notice that all our home floor plans are priced: “Starting at . . .” It’s not that we don’t know how much to charge for these different floor plans. And it’s also not because we’re looking to see how much we can squeeze out of a potential buyer. It’s that we know people want a home that fits their specific wants and needs.

Maybe you want your living room to be a little larger than it appears in the plan. Or perhaps you want to add another window in your master bedroom. Maybe you want to add a deck to the back of your home. We don’t think that should be a problem. That’s what customizing your new home is all about!  Will it cost you a little more? It probably will. But we can sit down with you to figure out exactly what it will cost you, to make sure it’s still well within your budget.

Every plan we offer can be modified to your specifications. Customization doesn’t have to mean outlandish finishes and expensive add-ons. If what you’re after is a design that makes the house you build feel like home—we can help you with that. 

Affordable custom homes don’t have to be an oxymoron. Don’t let the concept of an expensive custom home keep you from the home you really want. Building a custom home means tailoring the design of the home (and the cost) to fit your specific needs. You may want to invest a bit more to get some of the features you want, but you can easily leave out other features so you end up with an affordable new home well within your budget!

Is Going Over Your Initial Budget Always a Bad Thing?If you’re doing research about building a custom home in the Poconos, you’ve probably come across a horror story or two from homebuilders whose budget was blown to bits. That’s probably not the kind of ending you’re hoping for when you set out to build your dream house.

It’s important to meet with a trusted lender to make sure you understand exactly what kind of loan you qualify for. You may not want to budget down to the very last penny.  You will, however want have realistic parameters.

There are times, however, when going a bit over on the budget for your Poconos custom home may not be so bad. I’m not talking about blowing past your budget and getting yourself in over your head. Nobody wins in that scenario. But to be honest, most custom homeowners overspend their original budget to some degree. If overspending is done for the right reason, it can actually be a good thing. Here’s why.

You’re probably planning to stay in your new Poconos home for a considerable length of time. That means you want it to be comfortable and convenient – a place you really enjoy. Occasionally, there are small changes you can make to your original plans that you know will make your home more comfortable and enjoyable.

I’m not talking about opulence or over-the-top luxury features. What I’m talking about are (relatively) simple design changes that will make life in your new home better. Here are a couple of examples.

Maybe you planned a conventional shower for your master bathroom. But as you thought about it, you realized you wanted a shower that you could get into and out of without stepping over some kind of lip or opening a door. It wasn’t in your original plan, and it will cost you a little bit more. But it’s a convenient comfort that you’ll enjoy for years. And if you end up retiring to this home, it’s a tripping hazard you won’t have to fix later. Making the change costs a little more now, but it will deliver years of value and save you money down the road.

Or perhaps you’ve always wanted a woodworking shop and the logical place to put it is in the garage. Your original budget was for a two-car garage, but for a little more you can add a third bay and build your woodworking shop inside when you’re ready. Again, it costs a little more now, but it will be considerably more expensive to add a third bay years later.

We think budgets are extremely important, and we’ll respect yours. But keep in mind that a budget is there as a tool to help you—not to hinder you. And sometimes the long-range value makes bending the budget the right thing to do.

Are You Prepared for Surprises? I mentioned above that it’s important to build a little bit of “wiggle room” into your budget. Part of the reason for that is that building a custom home in the Poconos can be full of little surprises. Some of those surprises are really good ones, such as when the view from your family room windows is even better than you anticipated and you want to install even larger windows. Others may not be quite as welcome, like when the material for your backsplash doesn’t look much like the sample you saw (and doesn’t go with your countertops the way you thought it would).

The fact of the matter is, building a home isn’t an exact science. Even the most meticulously crafted plans can run into snags that nobody would see coming. Preparing yourself for the unexpected (and how it could impact your budget) will help you work though those hiccups with less stress and worry.

So how might your Poconos custom home surprise you with added expenses? Here are a couple of areas we’ve observed over the years:

  • Changes to the Plan: This is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to impacting your budget. Even homeowners that are extremely conscientious about reviewing their floor plans and designs ahead of time will occasionally want to make a change when they see something physically taking shape. Obviously, the sooner you can make your changes, the better. It’s cheaper to re-draw a plan than it is to tear out existing work and re-do it. The less you change, the less it will cost you. Knowing ahead of time that these changes can happen helps you to plan ahead—and even allows you to prepare for some changes in overall costs. If you don’t need the change, that’s great. If you do you’ll be prepared.
  • Changes in Materials: I alluded to this briefly in my example above. Slight changes in the color or texture of materials (backsplashes, flooring, counters, tile, etc.) may not seem like a big deal, but sometimes the shifts are significant enough that you know you won’t be happy with them in the long term. It’s nobody’s “fault,” it’s just not what you want. You may have to delay your project a bit or even pay a restocking fee. Again, it’s a good idea to keep this kind of thing in mind as you create your budget.
  • Upgrades: Many a homeowner has opted for upgrades in materials, fixtures or hardware as they finish out their home. It seems to happen in the kitchen more than anywhere else. By themselves, these additional increases in cost don’t seem like much, but they can add up to a significant amount—and that’s where the surprise kicks in.

That’s why it’s a good idea to stay on top of your budget and track expenses as you go. Sometimes doing an upgrade is really the smart thing to do in the long run—because it delivers more value for the money. Still, you want to be deliberate about it so you aren’t surprised when it’s time to write that final check.

Preparing for the unexpected things that can happen during construction can make the whole building process a lot less stressful. And then you can really enjoy those pleasant surprises as you enjoy your new Poconos home.

Where Does It Make Sense to Spend More? Nobody goes into the custom homebuilding process looking for ways to spend more money. But there are occasions where it actually makes financial sense to spend a little extra. That may sound counterintuitive, but it there are times when spending a little more delivers more value for you now—and in the future should you decide to sell your home.

When you build a custom home in Pennsylvania, you get to call the shots when it comes to what you want your home to look like. You get to design it and decorate it according to your specific wants, needs, and tastes. Here are a few general guidelines that you’ll want to keep in mind as you begin to plan so that you get the biggest bang for your buck with your new custom home.

  • Your Lot: The parcel of land you build your home on is critical. There’s a lot more to the picture than simply, “location, location, location.” Sure, you want to pay attention to things like convenience and ease of access to things you want to have nearby. And yes, great views are really important to a lot of homeowners—especially in an area like the Poconos. But you also need to be sure that the lot you chose is well situated for you home and that you won’t be facing a lot of preparation work before you can even start building. We invite you to check out six different communities where we build or talk to our on-site realtor to find a lot. If you prefer, you can build on a lot you’ve discovered yourself. But don’t look to save money on your lot. That’s one place where spending a bit more can really pay off.
  • Room Size: While we don’t subscribe to the adage that “bigger is better,” we’ll make an exception when it comes to room size. We’re not talking about having huge, ostentatious rooms, but making sure you have rooms that are large enough for your needs is money you won’t regret spending. Part of the reason is that it’s relatively inexpensive to add a few square feet to the size of your rooms when you do it up front. Yes, it will cost you more, but it’s a lot cheaper to do it before your start building. Coming back later to add space can be expensive.
  • The Kitchen: Your kitchen is perhaps the one room in your home that delivers the biggest bang for your building dollar. It’s not surprising when you consider how important the kitchen is to the life of your home. And it’s not just things such as cabinets and appliances that make the difference (although those are important and make up a substantial amount of your expense). Before you begin building, think about how you’ll use your kitchen. What are the things that will make it comfortable and enjoyable? Money spent on the design (and construction) of your kitchen pays off in your enjoyment of the room—and pays dividends should you ever decide to sell.

You’re going to spend money on your new home. But before you get too wrapped up in finishes and décor, make sure you’ve got the basics covered by paying attention to your lot, your room size, and the room they call the heart of the home.

Budgeting for your new custom home in the Poconos may not be the sexiest part of the custom homebuilding process—but it’s absolutely critical. Your budget will drive your design, the size of your home, the location, and the features you build into your home. There is no “one-size-fits-all” budget for a custom home because every home (and every homeowner) is unique. Addressing the questions we’ve raised here, however, will help you do a better job of setting a realistic budget that will result in a home that meets (and hopefully exceeds) your expectations!


Topics: Aging in Place in the Poconos, Poconos Homes

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