Welcome to Augspach Architecture

Architecture office with a focus on passive design. Articles to help you pursue your architectural projects will be posted on this section on a monthly basis.

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How much does it cost to build a new house?

21/08/2017

A case study

So as to give you a general idea of the agents and costs involved into the process of building a home a case study will be developed as a reference. The values here mentioned are mainly averages but they should serve as a guideline.

Buying the plot of land

The first thing to do, would obviously involve acquiring a plot of land. According to the statistics department of the Belgian Federal Government in 2014 the average price per square metre of buildable land in the whole of Belgium was little under € 120/m². This price is a bit outdated and varies greatly from an average of € 622,09/m² for Brussels to about € 50/m² for the mean Walloon area. However, for the referential purposes of this exercise let’s say one wishes to settle down in the Brabant Walloon province and finds a plot for €200/m². Plots vary in size but given commune restrictions weighing against the push of the developers, the sizes of the plots are fairly standard, raging commonly around 800 m². Therefore, a reasonable cost for this plot of land would be € 160.000. The taxes and registration fees oscillate around 15% meaning that one can’t declare oneself the owner of said plot before spending another € 24.000, making the grand total € 184.000 for the plot of land.

Average land price per square metre
source: statistics department of the Belgian Federal Government

Determining the surface area to be built

Certainly everyone has different needs and requirements, but for the purposes of this exercise, here you will find a detailed example. The purpose of this example is not only to follow up with the exercise, but also to give a rough estimate as to the surface area one requires to meet his or her needs. It is usually the case that people who are not involved in the building sector have a hard time trying to determine a number (or surface area) to meet their requirements. Moreover, this example can be used as a benchmark for future references, meaning that if one would want scale up or down they can get a rough estimate of how much would be required. For this example a 3 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms will be considered.

Programme Width Depth Surface
Master bedroom 3.00 5.00 15.00
Bedroom 1 3.00 4.00 12.00
Bedroom 1 3.00 4.00 12.00
Bathroom 1 2.00 2.00 4.00
Bathroom 2 2.00 1.50 3.00
Kitchen 3.00 5.00 15.00
Dining 3.00 5.00 15.00
Living 6.00 4.00 24.00
Circulations & hallways - - 30%
total - - 130.00

Please, bear in mind that the example is not the absolute minimum possible, it is just a logical distribution of space. In this case we have a total of 130 m² only of living space meaning that it is not considering a garage, a laundry or technical room nor a basement. If these spaces are instrumental in your project you should add it in your cost estimations (see below).

How much does it cost to build?

Building costs are yet another huge variable. As a norm architects tend to estimate building costs per square metre (€/m²) with estimates ranging from €900/m² for the most basic of structures and finishes possible. One should be careful right from the onset about this estimate. It is usually the case that everybody thinks they can achieve what they want for a really low price of say € 900/m² only to quickly realize that they are not happy with the decisions they are forced to take, leading to frustrations and complications. It is better to be honest with oneself early on and plan for less square metres and a possible expansion sometime in the future, than think that for some reason or other one will outsmart the market and be able to build cheaper than everyone else.
For more detailed prices of materials, works and agents involved in the construction industry within the Belgian context, you can either consult the "livios" (in french) database. These numbers and considerations are for people who are building their own house. An article about building and refurbishing as an investment will follow later in the year.
For the sake of this exercise a budget of € 1.400/m²will be fixed, placing the building costs of the house afore mentioned, at roughly €185.000. This price is usually set by the client based on his needs and means and it relies on the architect to tell him or her, if it is feasible or not.

How much does an architect cost?

The fees for an architect involved in a new built house do not vary that much from one office to the other as long as one strays from star architects. The relative fees in Belgium usually oscillate from 8 to 12% with most firms charging about 10%. Although it may seem like a big difference, bear in mind that this percentage is only relative to the building costs and not the whole project costs, which would also include the land. So in the scale of things this percentage is more like 4 to 6% of the whole costs. Making the difference from the most expensive firms to the cheapest ones of just 1 or 2%. Although every cost reduction counts, it is arguably not that significant in relation to the impact the architect has on the project itself. Augspach Architecture's mean fees for a new built home oscillate between 8 and 10% or roughly €100/m² (see our services area to know more), with a certain margin, in relation to the project's budget. Projects, and their complexities are not all the same, this is why our fees are tailored to each client and their project. At the time of drafting a contract a lot of things will be considered so as to see where we can reduce our costs and therefore our fees, but this is a step done separately with each client. One you should also do with whichever architect you decide to work with. Some individuals are not comfortable with an architect charging a price relative to the total costs of the project and it is understandable as it makes for a conflict of interests. It could be seen as an incentive for the architect to push to build as expensive as possible in order to relatively increase his or her total fees. At Augspach Architecture the choice of how you would prefer to work is up to you.

Who are the other agents involved and how much do they charge?

Depending on the scale of the project one would probably also need:

    - An expert surveyor
    - A safety and hygiene expert
    - An engineering office for everything related to the HVAC (heating and ventilation) systems along with the sanitary installation
    - A structural engineer
    - A PEB (performance énérgetique des bâtiments) expert
    - Interior designer

This should not be a cause for concern, but it should be taken into account the moment a contract is drafted with the architect. Many architectural offices include these services into their fees, but most don't, unless it is specified. Augspach Architecture includes the services for the engineers into their fees and is more than willing to provide interior design services for a supplementary cost.

Conclusions

For our hypothetical case, the total costs come up to:

The plot € 160.000
Building costs € 185.000
Fees € 20.000
Taxes and registration € 67.000
Total costs € 430.000

When setting out the programme requirements and budget it is far better to spread a small budget into a small surface than trying to spread the same budget into a larger space. When the later path is chosen the project tends to never be finished and neither the homeowner nor the architect are happy the results, sparking tension. If somehow the project is pushed through, it usually means it was done so by sacrificing in the quality of the finish materials, meaning that there is no real choice of materials anymore but rather it becomes a collage of the cheapest materials in the market which are then expensive to replace at a later stage. It is logical and encouraged to have a fixed budget for the different items and a sensible designer will know based on the project where it is important to allocate more resources and where one can spare. Nevertheless, this “choice” is part of the design process and should not be the end result of budget cuts.

Financing

If one should be so lucky so as to be able to enter this whole endeavour with 30% of the total project costs, meaning roughly about €120.000 that should mean that € 310.000 should still be financed. Divided into 240 months for 20 years the capital to be repaid on a monthly basis is of €1290 and if the mortgage is at a fixed rate of about 1.75% the interests would be another €450/month. Making the whole project cost € 1.740/month, after the initial down payment of €120.000.