To Build or Buy?
This is a common question and a good one. Of course, the answer is “it depends.” Mostly, it depends on you. I have owned two second homes, and between that time I bought and sold two lots that I thought I wanted to build my Crested Butte dream home on. Have you been waiting for twenty years to build your dream home in the mountains? You may have your plans locked away in a special trunk and the key has been hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar waiting for just the right time. Some buyers do not want to buy someone else’s poor home design, a deteriorating home, or a home with unforeseen expensive problems.
Considerations for Building Your Crested Butte Dream Home
It can be fun and rewarding to build your dream home in the mountains, especially if you have worked and planned for years to arrive at this point. To build your dream home, you will need to find a dream lot, and a dream architect and a dream builder. Luckily, you have a dream real estate agent that can help with this. Unless you have a very large sum of money and money is no object, the first thing you might want to do is talk with some local architects to get an understanding from their perspective what the overall costs will be to design, build and furnish your Crested Butte dream home. Based on your criteria, an architect may also have input on the area, and can help determine which lot would be less expensive to build on. Flat lots are typically less expensive; lots on a slope require more foundation and expensive concrete, but can provide some nice views, and walkout basement options.
Once you have selected and purchased the lot, your new architect will start creating the renderings and detailed plans for you to review. It may take months, but after the plans are in final form and you approve, then the architect will shepherd your plans and designs through all the aspects of the architectural review/ approval process with the HOA and the municipal building department review and permitting. The architect can also help facilitate hiring a builder to build your home. It is common that the architect will put the job out to bid to three or more builders, allowing you and the architect to interview and select the builder. Typically, the process will take eighteen to twenty-four months (or longer) to complete your dream home from inception to the certificate of occupancy. Things take longer in the mountains; the labor and materials are not as prolific as in suburban metro USA. The weather in the mountains affects specific tasks — excavation is tough in the middle of winter, concrete won’t set properly below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold temperatures can have a detrimental effect on concrete strength development.
Why Use a Local Architect?
You may have a brother or uncle or friend who is an architect in Florida. That is great; they should be able to design a wonderful Florida home and know everything about hurricane design and construction, and energy efficient design to reduce solar gain in the home so that excessive and expensive air conditioning is not needed, etc. But in the mountains, there are no hurricanes and the opposite is needed for a good home design — for example, you will want to capture the solar gain, and use materials that hold in that heat. It is rare for a mountain home to have air conditioning, and snow load and snow shed are important to the engineering and design of your mountain home. Snow shedding in front of windows, exterior doors, onto driveways, and onto decks is not good. Having a place to “store” snow when it is pushed off driveways, walks and decks is critical.
Unfortunately, there are many homeowners that are living with the inconvenience of poor architectural design every winter. In addition to the design aspects mentioned, local architects also know the good local builders, engineers, excavators, and interior designers. They also know where to source quality reclaimed timber, and they can be the extra set of eyes and ears onsite as your home is being built. Since you will likely be building the home remotely, hire a local architect to ensure you have a smooth and enjoyable experience building your Crested Butte dream home. You will be glad you did.
Remote Architect Story
There is a house just up the street from my home that went through a bit of a challenging process after construction started. The owner hired an architect in his hometown of Portland, and the plans were drawn up, a builder was hired, and the building permits were issued. The excavators started digging and the concrete foundation of the home was poured. After the foundation was in place, the adjacent homeowner came to town and was surprised to see the new construction started. This was a surprise because the HOA’s Architectural Review Committee had never seen the plans for the home and had not given approval for the design. Construction was halted and the review process was started. The plans were rejected! The adjacent neighbor’s viewshed was going to be obstructed; there were issues with the building envelope, and the building height and the setbacks. The new design changed the home significantly, including a costly change to the foundation, but ultimately the home was built. The owner could have avoided all of the above issues and saved a lot of money by working closely with a local architect with local knowledge of the design criteria and the local process.
Building — Back of the Napkin Analysis
What goes into building a luxury home in the mountains? Cost of land, architect fees, permitting fees, materials, labor, change orders, furniture, furnishings, window coverings, landscaping, retaining walls, driveway… In the big city, you may be able to build a super high-end home for $200 per square foot. Building in your mountain dream town is probably double or more because labor is more expensive, you are building a custom home, and you will be using more materials to account for snow loads, and different materials than your metro suburban home. Some material differences may include: log or timber trusses, reclaimed wood, ironwork on railings, accents and fixtures, hardwood/ slate/stone floors instead of carpet, in-floor heat vs. forced air, larger open rooms, mud room, a second living area for kids, vaulted ceilings, stone fireplace, large view windows… Let’s say you have a number from a builder of $300 per square foot for a luxury home in your mountain town. Conventional wisdom says to add 20 percent, since there are always overages and change- orders and add-ons. But let’s say you don’t believe me and are demanding a firm price, so let’s use $300* per square foot.
|Cost of lot (land)||$150,000|
|House construction at $300 per square foot x 3,500 square feet||$1,050,000|
|Large 2 car Garage at $250 per square foot x 750 square feet (25 x 30)||$187,500|
|3% municipal sales tax on materials ( @ 60% of house construction cost)||$21,600|
|Water tap fee, or approximate cost to drill well||$20,000|
|Septic tap fee, or approximate cost to install septic system||$15,000|
|Permitting and any impact, linkage, or affordable housing type fees||$25,000|
|Driveway — excavation, ditch & drainage, roadbed, asphalt or concrete||$25,000|
|Landscaping — trees, shrubs, wildflowers, flower beds, irrigation||$25,000|
|Hardscaping — retaining walls, rock walls, stone walkways, patios||$25,000|
|Full house audio / video equipment and installation||$25,000|
|Furniture and furnishings||$100,000|
*Check to verify your assumption here as the house plus attached garage are the two largest numbers. Also determine what is included and excluded, and are items like high-end kitchen appliances, washers and dryer(s), a lite-touch lighting system, light fixtures, outdoor hot tub, decks, drawer pulls…etc. all in the builder’s number?
Of course, this is a “back of the napkin analysis”, and many things may be different with your home, so “mileage will vary,” but the majority of items and ballpark budget items for consideration are represented here.
How can I help you? I have over 30 years of sales and marketing experience and am a top real estate agent in the mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado representing affluent clients who are buying and selling their home and ranch properties in the mountains. To see featured properties or search the Crested Butte MLS – visit chriskopf.com. How is the Real Estate Market doing? Click this link to see my monthly Crested Butte Real Estate Market Reports. I appreciate the opportunity to earn your business and be your Crested Butte Real Estate Agent when buying your Crested Butte dream home.
Previews® Property Specialist