Be Careful When Comparing Price Per Square Foot

By Ryan Siebert

Being in construction and remodeling for over 10 years the one thing that we know is that price per square foot can be one of the most misleading variables towards choosing your contractor that you will make. Yet, somewhere along the line someone told all of us that the most important question to ask if “What is your price per square foot?” The problem with the question isn’t the question itself, it is the lack of detail to the question that throws off the answer that you are going to receive. Let’s look at an example to see exactly what we are talking about.

Betty and Braxton are looking for a builder to construct a two story 2,000 sq ft home with finished basement adding an additional 800 sq ft of finished space and a two car garage with 560 sq ft. While searching for price per square foot quotes they received three bids.

Contractor A – Contractor A was a bit busy to break the quote down and gave Betty and Braxton a quote of $160/sq foot of finished space. Betty and Braxton took the total sq footage (2,000 + 800 + 560 = 3,360) and multiplied it by the $160.00 quote for a total price of $537,600.00 (3,360*$160.00).

Contractor B – Contractor B broke the quote down into above grade space and below grade space giving Betty and Braxton a price of $170/sq ft on the above grade and only $55/sq ft for the finished basement. This time Betty and Braxton took the 2,000 sq ft plus the 560 sq ft in the garage since it was above grade (2,560 * $170.00) = $435,200.00 and further added the basement cost of (560 * $55.00) = $30,800.00 for a total of $466,000.00

Contractor C – Contractor C broke the quote down into three areas, above level ($180.00/Sq FT, basement ($55.00/Sq Ft), and for the garage ($27.00/Sq Ft). One more time Better and Braxton did the math ($180.00*2,000 = $360,000.00) + ($55.00*800 = $44,000) + ($27.00*560 = $15,120.00) = $419,120.00

The bottom line is the more details that you can obtain from your contractor up front the better you can understand what it is you are paying for and to be able to better compare quotes.

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