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Cost per sqm - what doesn’t it include


Kelvin
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I was browsing the forum the other day and one member referenced his costs as £2100/sqm for the build and £2800 including all the professional fees etc. Up until reading that I’d assumed that when  the cost per sqm is quoted by people (anf websites) it included all of the costs associated with the build. I now realise that might not be the case. In the example above it’s £700/sqm for all of that additional cost on top of the build. Applying that to our build suggests I am out by about 50% I realise every house is different and there are some costs that might not apply such as architects fees if you’ve not used one and that can be a big chunk of money. 
 

Is £700/sqm typical for all the other costs on top of the pure build costs? It seems very high to me. 

 

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As ever 'it depends'.

 

But you're correct that the oft quoted build £/m2 is associated with the works themselves, not the preliminaries. This may or may not include site prep, clearance etc. 

 

We used an architect to get planning (took 2 goes) but since we were using a package timber frame, did not use him for the detailed design stage and did our own discharge of planning conditions etc. Commissioned a SE to design basement and the frame firm used theirs. We were the PM vs using a 3rd party.

 

Some here have not even used architects, doing their own design and using a technician to do the drawings, others have used professionals to oversee the whole process.

 

 

 

 

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This is a bug bear of mine on this forum - I have two.

 

The first is how some go on about how 'perfect' and 'precise' their slab, frame whatever is. This caused me a.lot of stress early on when things weren't quite perfect. I now know enough to know that building ain't perfect - it doesn't matter as long as the end result is correct. I.e. insulation, air tightness and look.

 

The second is costs. I think people like to delude themselves/be able ro brag how little their build costs and kit all sorts of things such as plot etc. How can that not be included- its a build cost. Yes it will vary depending in region (which is the excuse most use for ommitting) but then so do labour costs, do they omit those? Nope.

 

People on here love to massage the numbers. Not many will give you a true 'total' cost. My dislike for this stems from the fact that the unwary will.read this and factor it into their costings and come a cropper. For myself, every single spend I have that would not have arisen if I wasn't self building is a 'build cost'. Simple.

 

'Sat quietly now waiting for the I built my house for less than £1000/m2 people to pipe up?'

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7 minutes ago, LA3222 said:

...

The second is costs. I think people like to delude themselves/be able ro brag how little their build costs

...

 

Harsh, but uncomfortably fair.

I started out by itemising - and publishing every penny cost on here. Until the unkind remarks came: masked as teasing from the usual suspect.

So, I shut up. 

 

Yours is a understandable standard:  '...  For myself, every single spend I have that would not have arisen if I wasn't self building is a 'build cost'  "

 

It ain't just as you say '... simple ...'  its too simple, too open, too honest, too understandable.   Not even a fig leaf behind which anyone can hide. 

Many people cant stand too much reality.

 

In kindness, I think it may be because there so much optimism bias on this board.

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I totally get that people want to lie to themselves (and therefore everyone else) about the true build costs. Especially if you have justified the project by thinking that self build is a cheaper route to a house. 

 

Also where do you stop when including associated costs? Land, preliminaries, build mortgage, marriage counselling, regular medicine (bottle of Macallan)?

 

The difference between my lowest, build only and highest, everything I can think of, is probably 40%
 

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The reality is the costs for the legal side is very site and location dependant and so is getting the foundation in place.  So some will elect to have these costs as separate line item away from the "build" cost, other won't.  Some will include a kitchen be it a £50k or £5k one, others may not.  All depends on what you class a "building" cost.

 

Very difficult sort out, it also makes a big difference if you paying someone to do the build, someone else to project manage etc, or doing loads yourself and getting specific trades in for defined jobs.

 

Professional fees in Scotland will always be different from England, as we have to get planning permission (as everywhere else), then we also have to get a warrant (basically proving your design is in line with building regs), we also need a full structural engineering package and any soak-aways and treatment plants approved by SEPA, all prior to starting building.

 

 

As you can see loads of variables, but have said that the reality is somewhere plus or minus £2000/m2 all in, incl professional fees and groundwork (plus buying the site).  An all singing/ dancing complex design, done by someone else, with £50k kitchen expensive bathrooms, who knows the real cost.

 

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Hi @Bitpipe and @LA3222 , and poor old @ToughButterCup having worked over the years, as self employed builder all the way to multimillion pound property, in roles from quoting, as an estimator, planner, cost engineer, site manager, surveyor and clients project manager, form pre-tender estimates through to final accounts I can safely say that every build is different.

 

I know of no "One size fits all" answer.  There are lots and lots of variables, far too many to list.  

 

For the avoidance of doubt I am not mocking anyone. Its neigh on bloody impossible to estimate the final cost. Having been paid to do just that day in day out for a few years .........

 

 

 

 

Edited by Marvin
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42 minutes ago, ToughButterCup said:

 

Harsh, but uncomfortably fair.

I started out by itemising - and publishing every penny cost on here. Until the unkind remarks came: masked as teasing from the usual suspect.

So, I shut up. 

 

Yours is a understandable standard:  '...  For myself, every single spend I have that would not have arisen if I wasn't self building is a 'build cost'  "

 

It ain't just as you say '... simple ...'  its too simple, too open, too honest, too understandable.   Not even a fig leaf behind which anyone can hide. 

Many people cant stand too much reality.

 

In kindness, I think it may be because there so much optimism bias on this board.


I’m keeping a track of every penny spent largely because I didn’t want to kid myself on about the true cost. I’m surprised mocking is allowed on here. It’s not a car forum. 

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Strangely this issue of costs and what's included only happens on smaller private housing projects where people include and omit things. I think it's because on other projects such as an office buildings, schools, healthcare, etc that I work on you'd always have a Quantity Surveyor. In every cost report no matter what the project or who the QS is you'll always find a summary sheet that lists the actual build, the design team fees, any planning contributions, fixtures and fittings/fitout, abnormal's(additional rock/unusual foundation/long entrance road/etc) and then the total cost. You've a construction contract which is what the builder is paid but that's far from the total cost when everything else is included. Particularly an anything that receives funding from the EU (education, healthcare, infrastructure, etc) these things are all listed in a certain way and have to be included. This might change slightly now with Brexit but similar rules apply if it's government funding.

 

On one off private housing, it really is a case of anything goes as you're only reporting costs to yourself or the other half.

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the only true cost is every penny, from legals, stamp duty and every £1 spent no matter on what it all counts. 

 

then you can see if you have made or lost money when you get it valued.

 

The only real cost reducer for a diy/self builder is free labour. Trading dragging out the build time over paying for professionals/trades.

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1 hour ago, LA3222 said:

The second is costs. I think people like to delude themselves/be able ro brag how little their build costs and kit all sorts of things such as plot etc.

 

 

So true.

 

There are lies, damn lies and square meter build costs.

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2 hours ago, Kelvin said:

Is £700/sqm typical for all the other costs on top of the pure build costs?

 

 

I hope not, there comes a point where you need to define a detailed budget. I assume the biggie that could account for a + £700 sqm figure is an architect.

 

Then add site insurance, mid build planning revision applications, pre build enviro surveys, ground quality test digs, crane hire, muck-a-away, planning consultants, 10 year warranty, mortgage arrangement fees, site fencing and building control. Someone recently said their m2 costs did not include main service connection charges which is highly dubious accounting.

 

What about tools? I have probably spent over a £1000 on these, they will offer some post build benefit but it is money I would not have spent otherwise.

 

There is a consensus that a detached garage build cost is excluded.

 

When considering the broadest financial picture, each year in a static caravan saves £1000 on council tax, no need for gym membership and our holiday budget has shrunk. Long term I will be far less likely to get trades in to fix problems.

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It depends on what you want to call "finished". 

 

For most it's determined finished when all the money has run out so, the short answer is that it'll cost all your money. 

 

We were €1161/m2 towards the builder for a very straightforward house. (A rectangular concrete block with PVC windows) By the time we had finished it was €1610/m2 but I did about 1000hrs unpaid myself + another 1000hrs at least in research. We owned the site. 

 

I've always thought cost/m2 is too crude as it benefits large houses disproportionately. 

 

I'd say €1000/m2 + €100000 + € SiteValue is a good baseline. Increase to €1500/m2 for complex designs. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm including everything - professional & planning fees, service connections, groundworks (many loads of muckaway ain't cheap), plant hire etc.  And not forgetting rental costs of £21,600 over my expected 18 month build schedule which started from buying the plot in April this year.  Saving grace with the rental costs is buying an equivalent new build would have meant stamp duty in the region of £25k.

 

I'll report back next autumn whether the project has resulted in any financial uplift...but that should not be the only way of evaluating a successful self build.

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1 hour ago, Marvin said:

Hi @Bitpipe and @LA3222 , and poor old @ToughButterCup having worked over the years, as self employed builder all the way to multimillion pound property, in roles from quoting, as an estimator, planner, cost engineer, site manager, surveyor and clients project manager, form pre-tender estimates through to final accounts I can safely say that every build is different.

 

I know of no "One size fits all" answer.  There are lots and lots of variables, far too many to list.  

 

For the avoidance of doubt I am not mocking anyone. Its neigh on bloody impossible to estimate the final cost. Having been paid to do just that day in day out for a few years .........

 

23 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

It depends on what you want to call "finished". 

 

For most it's determined finished when all the money has run out so, the short answer is that it'll cost all your money. 

 

I agree to both the above, we spent what we had, some things did not get finished and when more money came along, they did.

 

The end valuation we got when converting to a high st mortgage (from the Ecology self build one) equalled the original site cost plus what we spent so I consider that a win.

 

For me, self build is about getting what you want, where you want at a price you can afford. It was never about profit.

 

What was very useful, and something of a reality check, was (post PP approval) getting a QS to itemise the build elements and do a cost plan.

 

The 'book' costing was about 30% over our available budget so I was able to see where to make savings, either through value engineering / design simplification or some good old fashioned negotiation and bargain hunting.

 

 

 

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I include absolutely every cost such as professional fees to demolition. Just over half way through our build and it is currently estimated to come out at £1775m2 including the garage. Had hoped for £1400 to £1500/m2 but material costs have pushed things north post covid. We already owned the land as are building in the garden so no cost attributed for this. If we would have to have bought the land would be looking at around £3000/m2. North West build and fairly complex design in ICF built into a hill. Not hands on other than project managing. 

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1 hour ago, Dave Jones said:

the only true cost is every penny, from legals, stamp duty and every £1 spent no matter on what it all counts. 

 

then you can see if you have made or lost money when you get it valued.

 

The only real cost reducer for a diy/self builder is free labour. Trading dragging out the build time over paying for professionals/trades.


So far my spreadsheet counts every pound  we have spent that we otherwise wouldn’t have spent. 

 

Like everyone we have a fixed budget that we don’t intend to go over and that includes buying the land. It’s not a tight budget as such but it is capped at that amount. We aren’t on Grand Designs where they miraculously find another £100k from somewhere and the wife ends up preggers. ? 

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Homebuilder's Bible has a good chapter on how design impacts build cost. To quote from memory...

 

A sphere has the minimum surface area to volume, but not easy to build :)

Next most efficient is a cube - i.e. to enclose 100m2 of floor you need 40m of linear wall (10m x 10m).

Rectangle is less efficient, the same 100m floor may require 50m of linear wall (20m x 5m).

Angles increase complexity and reduce usable space.

Gable ends maximise room in roof space and simplify roof construction.

Walls are cheap, glass is expensive.

Slopes, difficult access, laying services all cost extra money, but often the land is cheaper as a result - same if planning will be tricky to get.

 

Then, considering the structural build method, some are low cost material but high cost labour (brick & block), and the ratio changes as you move into ICF and then timber frame. Speed of construction can be desirable if you have expensive accommodation costs during the build or high financing costs.

 

We built a basement, which on the face of it is an expensive idea, but it turned out to be one of the more economic parts of the build working out as £1000/m2 and it also acts as the foundation system for the house above. However that was highly dependent on the ground conditions and site access etc, which in our case were all favourable (but you need to spend ££ to establish this before you start).

 

Then you have global FX rates, supply chain issues, local and national labour costs & availability etc. 

 

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11 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:

...

we spent what we had, some things did not get finished and when more money came along, they did.

...

 

Thats the one. 

Currently we are covering our costs on monthly income and selling stuff ( for example digger, scaffolding, other bits and bobs) . It makes things like carpet fitting a real pain in the Botticelli - move this there - move it back - cover this over, cover that again and again, oops made a mistake there, get the scaffolding out, mend that... 

Cant take joke ? ... etc

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18 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:

What was very useful, and something of a reality check, was (post PP approval) getting a QS to itemise the build elements and do a cost plan.

Absolutely the right thing to do if you want to keep an eye on the costs.

 

It's at this stage that Cost Engineering comes into its own. You know the structure. (Ground works and services is another thing altogether) I would not give the QS an indication as to what you are hoping for. If its too much change the design BEFORE you start work. Also have a list of cheaper alternatives up your sleeve for the finishes in case.

 

Study's have shown that if by the time you have paid out for 10% of the work if you have spent 10% more than budget, unless you change the attitude, when you get to the end the costs will continue at that same sort of rate.  

 

M

 

 

 

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21 minutes ago, Marvin said:

If its too much change the design BEFORE you start work.

Just occasionally a good idea may occur during construction, often a suggestion from a contractor.

However it may be too late without disrupting other details.

Therefore it is very important to do all this discussion before you start, including detailed discussion with all parties.

 

Contractors do not like changes as it disrupts their plans , material ordering and resources, and so it either costs you more, or doesn't make the savings you hoped for. it might also require redesign.

 

At some stage you have to trust designers/contractors and get into detailed discussion. As a contractor I was always wary about giving away commercial ideas, but there comes a time for trust in that direction too....or not.

 

 

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I always separate out the purchase costs for the site.

 

For the rest of the costs, fees, prelims and contingencies are about 16% and service connections 4%.  Per metre I am currently working on £2,300.

 

If you want to see what your profit or loss is, you also need to add notional disposal fees (agents and legal) plus finance and valuation costs.

 

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3 hours ago, Kelvin said:

So far my spreadsheet counts every pound  we have spent that we otherwise wouldn’t have spent. 

That is exactly what we did. The per m2 comparison is meaningless as you are never comparing like with like. Even the m2 figure can be interior or exterior area. When you get into comparing professional builders doing self builds with amateurs/DIYers and how much they do themselves it becomes pointless. We didn't have to buy our plot but we did have to demolish the bungalow which had asbestos and those costs were included in the total. Our total cost was £246,818.26 which included nearly £7000 worth of tools because I did a lot of the work myself. This is the amount of money I wouldn't have spent had I not built the house. This was for a gross internal area of 126m2 or gross external area of 162m2 because it was a PH with thick walls and not a regular shape, again not the same for everyone. It will cost you whatever you end up spending.

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