The most obvious way to save money when building a house is to build a smaller house. The trick is to produce a home that may have less square footage but more livability and functionality. This is another area where an architect versed in production building efficiencies can offer a distinct advantage. “Value is not created by the square foot, but by how each square foot serves a purpose and provides a feeling of how one’s life can be better served by one experience over another,” says architect Carson Looney, founder of Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK).
LRK architect Mike Sullivan sums up the best way to make a smaller house look and feel like its million-dollar neighbor: Focus on scale, proportion, open plans, flexible spaces, and statement cabinetry. “We do an open plan in all price points, but we also provide one combined back-of-house room that accommodates several functions,” Sullivan says. “Place this one larger room off the kitchen and for very little money you’ve added a lot of value.”
Although open plans remain in highest demand, they still require care and thought to be successful. Breaking up large expanses of ceiling with simple coffers using 2x4s and drywall is a technique endorsed by several architects. Also, thinking about views from one space to another, and from indoors to out, can increase a room’s perceived size. “Line up French doors with windows to see beyond the walls and it makes a huge difference in perspective on space,” architect Donald Powers says. “And don’t place the fridge in direct sightlines of the living room opening.”
As for proportion and scale, Powers suggests using standard building material measurements as the module for laying out floor plans. “Plywood comes in 4x8 sheets and lumber comes in 2-foot increments,” he says, “and if you always design in those increments there are no cuts and no waste.”
Adding a single foot to the dimensions of certain circulation or living spaces can enhance a home’s worth for perspective buyers. “Identify areas where you can add a foot to the room for a built-in, like a desk or window seat,” developer Bill McGuinness, owner of Sun Homes, says. “Clients will remember that way more than a flashy master bath.”
The Seven Strategies
Turn renters into buyers by zeroing in on what they want in a new home, starting with the price tag.
Older, established enclaves and outer-ring suburbs offer affordable land in locations that appeal to new buyers.
Properly scaled elevations with simple detailing, regardless of style, turn buyers' heads at any price point. .
High-performance techniques conserve time and money while cutting down on owners' energy bills.
Scale, proportion, open plans, and flexible spaces make a smaller house look and feel like its million-dollar neighbor.
Thoughtful details such as frosted doors, dimmable lighting, high ceilings, and built-ins create a luxury look for less.
When it comes to helping buyers with interior product selection, less can be more.
Hiring, training, and retaining talented employees and subs should be job No. 1 for builders trying to manage costs.