Final costs and stats

Now that the house is all completed and everything’s paid for, I thought I’d share some of the final costs and statistics of the project. Half the fun of keeping such meticulous documentation during construction is being able to check back at the end to see how you did.

As you can see from the chart, thanks to team Build, we did insanely great on the overall budget. Going into the project, I wanted to spend $1.1m, and the finally tally came out to $1,144,538.80 (excluding land). This represents an overage of only 4%. It should also be noted that these are total project cost numbers and include several items that occurred before the project even started and after it officially ended, from Build’s point of view (things like inspection of the property before I even purchased it and purchase of some automation stuff after it was finished). Using Build’s own tally of budgets, and only counting true construction costs, it was more like a 1% overage… even more incredible.

Even more astounding than that however, is all of the stuff that was added to the project midstream. In addition to landscaping, irrigation, a more extensive cabinet package, and several other things, we ended up finishing the entire basement, which increased the finished square footage from 3,165 to 4,618… a whopping 46%:

Going through this process, it’s very easy to see how costs get out of control on construction projects. You get 10% of the way in and you change your mind on something major. Then, 20% of the way in, you make another left turn. Then halfway in, you think you’re ok on budget, so you authorize a bunch of upgrades. Then, when the shit starts to hit the fan and things inevitably don’t go as planned, you’re way over budget and can’t turn back.

One of the great things about working with Build on this project was that we did cost reality checks every couple of weeks. Every time an element was adjusted upward or downward in price, Kevin re-calibrated the spreadsheets and we talked about what that did to the overall cost of the project. There was no sugarcoating when something went wrong and no parties with hookers and cocaine when things went right… just a nice steady march towards the number we both wanted to hit.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to pick trustworthy, disciplined experts to build your house for you. They really have your entire investment and then some in their hands. It’s even riskier than giving someone access to your bank account, because it’s not just honesty you need to worry it… it’s construction management skill. A couple of bad, honest mistakes and you could be in really bad shape.

As for how the costs broke down, here’s the raw spreadsheet (make sure to click both tabs at the bottom of it) and a graph that summarizes it:

Here are several other vital stats on the project:

  • Time between purchasing the property and moving in: 679 days
  • Time between construction began and moving in: 335 days
  • Total cost per finished square foot of the project: $247
  • Construction cost per finished square foot of the project: $209
  • Number of job-site injuries: 1 (fingertip jammed during framing… needed stitches)
  • Number of checks written: 187… more than entire life combined
  • Approximate amount rebated via use of 2% cash back credit card: $5000
  • Total number of posts on A House By The Park including the next and final one: 98

I have one wrap-up post with a complete time-lapse movie of the whole project left, and then it’ll be time to put this blog on autopilot and go back to posting on Mike Industries.

29 Responses to “Final costs and stats”

  1. Jacob Says:

    Curious, after all that work to create such a beautiful house, at what price could you put this house on the market for now?

  2. Scott Says:

    Surprised how high the carpentry/framing is. That is usually a surprisingly low part of a house, not the #1 expense.

  3. Mike D. Says:

    Jacob: Based on the appraisal and other houses in the neighborhood, I would say probably $3m-$3.5m. Selling is certainly nowhere in my plans though.

    Scott: Keep in mind that is a combined number that includes many things which GCs might never put in there (things like doors, door hardware, miscellaneous wood-related installs, etc.). If you look at the master spreadsheet (linked above), you’ll see that the pure framing number is less than half that (about $86k). I had a hard time combining down all of the categories into a set that would look good on a graph… might need to adjust a few things.

  4. Jacob Says:

    Second question. Why don’t you do that for a living? :P

  5. Mike D. Says:

    Jacob: I don’t know if you’re referring to architecture, development, or real estate sales (I assume development), but those are all really tough businesses for different reasons and they are all completely at the mercy of the current state of the economy. I like creating entirely new things and solving problems that have never been solved before. For me, that takes the shape of inventing new products and services online. That said, however, this process has given me a few possibly good ideas for house-related services to build. We’ll see.

    Also, I believe it should be noted that although architecture always comes up near the top of people’s “I wish I would have been this instead” lists, it’s not as glamorous and lucrative as it seems for most people. Your business swings wildly with the economy, your clients are always changing your work, and they rarely appreciate you as much as they probably should. That, and a lot of architects aren’t compensated enough either.

  6. Mike, seeing your total spreadsheet is really useful for those of us building houses, thanks for that.

    One thing I notice is that you don’t include sales tax in your final tally, or your price per sq ft? I see a sales tax column in your spreadsheet, but it doesn’t look like it’s summed.

    It’s interesting that by serving as your own GC and hiring construction management services, you managed to avoid A LOT of sales tax. I am paying sales tax on everything, including on the profit, overhead, and supervision components of my GC’s budget. It looks like you’re only paying sales tax on materials, and subs who provide a combination of materials/labor.

    Of course, serving as your own GC isn’t really possible for those us using construction financing; banks want an approved GC who can provide a guaranteed maximum price.

  7. Mike D. Says:

    Aseem: Sales tax is indeed included in the numbers. The only reason I had that column in the spreadsheet was so I could keep track of my sales tax separately in order to take advantage of sales tax deductibility (which I didn’t end up being able to do). After the sales tax deduction expired last year, I kind of stopped keeping track of it. As I said, however, it’s part of the main expense line item… not “in addition” to it.

    Also, I wouldn’t say I’m serving as my own GC really. A lot of people do that and it’s a ton more work. I would have failed miserably at it. Instead, I used the design-build process, which is where the savings come in. I would say that I just used a really good construction manager (Build) who eliminated the need for a GC, albeit with an increased risk profile for me (if something goes wrong, I am on the hook… not them).

    With regard to sales tax, yeah, you don’t really pay sales tax on consulting services, which is what the construction manager is doing. Since I’m paying for everything directly, however, I do pay sales tax on everything else. So for instance, when I pay the blind company, normally they don’t charge sales tax because they are charging the GC and not the customer… but since they are charging the customer, in my case, I have them add the sales tax. Make sense?

    Also, your house is looking really great! Love the siding.

  8. I see, so column F in your spreadsheet has already been added into column B? Yes, makes sense.

    Also, my understanding was that the sales tax deduction was there for 2009? I see it in the 1040A instructions. I don’t think it’s been renewed for 2010, yet, but it should happen (I’m hoping, I am keeping track of sales tax).

    There are some things beyond consulting services that you managed to avoid tax on: inspections, honeybucket rental, dumping fees, etc., but it looks like the bulk was in consulting.

  9. Mike D. Says:

    Aseem: Yes, sales tax was deductible in 2009 but not 2010. The reason I didn’t end up using it was that I was already at the AMT limit so trying to itemize more deductions wouldn’t have saved me a dollar unfortunately (and would be more likely to trigger audits).

    (Editor’s note: As has been pointed out in the comment below, the sales tax exemption has been extended through 2010 now.)

  10. Will Says:

    If you have time, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Myro HA ..
    Thanks for a wonderful blog!

  11. Robin Says:

    Mike, are you sure the WA sales tax deduction is off the table for FY2010? seems to suggest that it’s going to be there still.

  12. Mike D. Says:

    Will: The Myro is great, but Danny hasn’t released his iPhone app for it yet so I can’t say I use it much yet. I mean, it’s there, and it’s working, but I just don’t interface with it much. Until the Myro iPhone app is released, I’ve just been using the HAI iPhone app which is expensive and kind of ugly, but it works. After experiencing both wall panel and phone control, my opinion is that phone control is much more valuable. The panel looks great on the wall, but there is just no substitute for a control that is always in your pocket.

    Robin: Good point. When I did my taxes, I don’t think that initiative to extend was on the table yet. I still probably won’t be able to use it because of AMT, but I’ll update the post. Thanks!

  13. I wanted to thank you for the blog that you put together. I stumbled upon it some time ago and have been following your progress. What a beautiful home you have created and a fabulous job documenting it.

    I just purchased land and am at the beginning phases of my planning. I have also started a blog, thanks to your inspiration. What a great way to chronicle your progress.

    Thanks so much for the idea.

  14. Coby Says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey Mike, it’s been amazing to be able to watch from the sidelines. Looking forward to the time lapse video and visiting this archive for references and reminders. EXCELLENT job

  15. Jannicke Says:

    Just wanted to say a BIG thank you to you Mike for all the information you have provided for me as I start my journey of building our home. We are breaking ground in January and your blog has been an incredible source of information. The house is absolutely beautiful – congratulations on a job well done!

  16. Patrick Says:

    Interesting to that the architect’s fees are so low, 5.6% of construction cost is almost absurdly cheap. Does Build provide a lean construction drawing set with the majority of details worked out during construction (and absorbed into the construction management category)?

  17. Mike D. Says:

    Patrick: Indeed, Build’s design/build process provided a good deal of savings on all aspects of the project, including architecture fees. As for construction docs, they were actually quite complete before construction even began. One of the GCs I showed them to said they were more detailed than any set they’d seen. :)

  18. Rob Says:


    Amazingly detailed journey you’ve been through. My architect turned me onto your site and it’s incredible. I am finishing up the permitting process and beginning the search for a builder. I used a design/build approach on a major renovation done a number of years ago and it worked well. Not sure how I’m going to do this house (albeit a modest one in comparison – 1300 sq ft tucked onto a postage sized lot) but love all your information. Which card did you use for the cash back & where did you use it? Was your spreadsheet an excel doc? Thanks.

  19. West Seattle Dreamer Says:

    Mike – Thanks you so much for chronicling your adventure. I stumbled upon your site last weekend and read the entire thing while sitting at my desk in mind numbing conference calls this week (at what a week it was; I’m at T-mobile). I’m in the process on convincing my wife that we should build a house and this is a great resource in terms of preparing myself for the adventure.

  20. lindy Says:

    “how are architecture fees so cheap?” someone asked.

    because he didn’t use an architect! Build has no licensed architects on staff, do they? I couldn’t find one on their website.

    there’s some nice details to the house, but the big picture doesn’t really do it for me (the exterior elevations don’t seem very residential–modernist or not, there’s no sense of human scale).

    I think an actual architect might’ve helped this project. who knows

  21. Mike D. Says:

    Lindy: Much as was the case with the other trollish comment you left on this site, you’re misinformed. Both partners at Build are licensed architects, as is readily apparently from a quick visit to their site.

    Hint: it’s the button that says “Team”. Click it.

    Also, I won’t reveal your identity because you chose to remain anonymous on this site, but I looked up your portfolio based on your email address. Let’s just say I’m thrilled you don’t like the house. Couldn’t be more thrilled actually.

  22. Mike… great blog! I love this post and thanks for all the details. I love the video. A fabulous chronicle of a great project start to finish. Thanks for the inspiration.

  23. steve Says:

    Hey Mike,

    Now that you’ve been in the house for awhile what features do you enjoy most and what would you have done differently?

  24. Mike D. Says:

    Hi Steve. I would say my favorite aspect of the house is the livability of it. Everything is where it should be (in my opinion, at least). In a year of living here, I haven’t stubbed my toe even once. It’s just nice to live in a house where you don’t wonder why someone designed something a certain way. As for particular aspects, perhaps the rooftop deck/hot tub is the favorite. For things I wish I did differently, it’s probably just the cabinetry, really. I really wish it had been stained instead of clear-finished. Regardless of that, the usability of the cabinetry has been great.

  25. Scott Says:


    Your sense of detail really paid off in a beautiful project. Question: do you regret not going with whole-house radiant heat? I ask because concrete radiates cold (and heat), and with Seattle’s damp cold, I’m thinking perhaps the concrete flooring is chilly. I’m contemplating a custom home, and the quote I got on radiant heat is really expensive; I’d like to eliminate it if not necessary. So in the winter, is the concrete cold, or not?

  26. Mike D. Says:

    Scott: Nope, I definitely don’t regret not doing radiant heat. Forced air creates more circulation around the house and is also quicker to react to rapid changes in outside conditions (i.e. if the sun goes down and it starts getting cold quickly). I did do the electric radiant pads underneath the concrete and also upstairs in the master bathroom. It works great for my purposes (warms the surface to your feet but doesn’t heat the whole house).

  27. Charles A. Says:

    Mike, all I can say is THANK YOU for putting together this amazing website. It contains so much valuable information and it is a fantastic product in itself. I had a quick question on the total costs; does your spreadsheet include the original cost of the property that you purchased? Maybe I missed this somewhere on the blog or in the spreadsheet but I couldn’t seem to find it.

  28. Mike D. Says:

    Charles: Nope, doesn’t include land cost.

  29. allan Says:

    Not sure if this blog is still active but a quick comment on the construction costs. First of all, a beautiful house with a interesting and unique combination of materials. I am suprised but happy to see your total construction costs including landscaping come in under $250/ft; there’s hope for me and my project! I have spoken with the principal of a well known high end architectural firm in Seattle and he said his firms projects are coming in at $600-$800/ft. Well Done!