How home builders are saving money building your house

How homebuilders are saving money

I just got my newest issue of SmartMoney magazine and there was an article that caught my attention. The article talks about some of the common shortcuts that some homebuilders are taking in order to cut costs. Interestingly, from what I have noticed so far, our builder has impressed me in the other direction. As we have been watching it all come together, there have been a few times when I was pleasantly surprised to see their thoroughness in an area and the quality of items used was a bit better than I had expected. That’s not to say they haven’t made some changes to save a few bucks, but I have seen any that were used to our detriment.

How homebuilders are saving money10 common cutbacks builders are using

17-foot Double Garage

The recommended width is 20 feet, but some builders knock it down to 17 feet. Apparently the builder can save as much as $8500 by doing this.

Textured walls and ceilings

A textured wall takes less labor to create than a smooth wall. But later on for the homeowner matching the texture will probably be difficult.

Reduced Central Air

Most homeowners probably won’t know until after they have moved in if the AC system is too weak for the house.

Missing water valves

This one is pretty desperate. The valves cost about $35 dollars each and some builders aren’t using any shut-off valves in the plumbing. I am not sure how this isn’t a code violation, but it just seems pretty silly to me.

24 inch stud intervals

Apparently you can frame the walls with 24 inches between the studs rather than the more common 16 inches and not lose any structural integrity. This seems like a good idea and would probably knock thousands off the cost of a home.

Centralized plumbing

Architects probably hate this idea, but builders save money by having all the plumbing stuff as close to each other as possible.

Fixed windows

I didn’t realize that windows that don’t open are that much cheaper. But the article says that builders can save as much as $200 per window.

No gutters

I guess there are parts of the world where this could work but with the 5+ inches of rain we have gotten the last week, I don’t think I would be too excited about that.

Squeezing the lots

There is a builder in Florida that squeezes 20 foot-wide dwellings onto lots that are 27 feet wide. I have always wanted to run and jump from roof to roof like chase scenes in the movies. 😉

Narrower driveways

Some builders save by, “narrowing the driveway from two car widths to one as it approaches the curb.” This just sounds so crazy to me, I think I can picture it, but it looks weird in my head. If anyone has a picture of what this looks like, please let me know – I am curious.

What else have you noticed?

I am going to do a little inspecting around the house this weekend, now that I am armed with a little more knowledge. Do you know of any other cutbacks builders are making to save a few bucks?

Photo by: Stangls

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  1. Ron

    Having been a homebuilder and having been involved in the new home and remodeling industry for 25+ years, I can tell you that 3 feet on a garage doesn’t save anywhere near $8,500. That one is exaggerated .

    Also, the thoughts of putting my own home on 24 inch stud centers is scary. The spruce studs that are typically used don’t meet code on 24 inch centers but yellow pine studs DO. The problem is that yellow pine tends to warp as it dries and causes your walls to become out of square. The average home takes about 400 studs at $2.29 each and spreading them out will save about 100 of those studs. Just not worth it to me.

    Textured walls, yes. It saves money but it is extremely difficult to match it later on. Everything else in the list is accurate.

    One thing I would recommend on the HVAC: send your plans to Doug Rye ( He is by far and away the best in the world at accurately sizing an HVAC system and in showing people how to save money on their energy bills. I will personally use him on every home I ever build in the future.


    Wow, I am not sure that I would compromise on any of these items. Of all of the places to save money, I am not sure that saving money by reducing the quality of your house is the best idea.

    However, if certain things really aren’t important to you, that is where you should save. For instance, if you don’t really want a huge jacuzzi tub in you master bathroom, settle for a standard bathtub. If you don’t have to have granite countertops, find a synthetic material that you like.

    But, building a smaller than normal garage seems foolish. If you feel crammed in your garage, you are going to regret it for a long time.

  3. Steph

    Bob, we live in a house that has too small of an a/c unit for the size of the house. Talking to my neighbors, everyone has this problem. I think it actually costs us more to cool our home because of this. We set it to 80 and it still runs and runs and runs. Never shuts off until we turn it off. Here in California, I think every cost-cutting trick in the book is used. There are neighborhoods here in town where the eaves of one house nearly touch the house next door’s eaves. Maybe 3 feet in between houses? They have about 6 feet in the back and 3 feet from the street. They call it “zero lot” homes. Even where we live, the homes are fairly close to one another. I would guess ten feet maybe and our yard is actually one of the bigger back yards and it is 30 feet or less. Not much yard to mow because the original owners put in a cement patio on one side and the rest is a wooden deck. At least they used double-paned windows which only started in the early 90’s here.

    • Bob

      wow! That is crazy! Being a midwesterner, I remember vacationing in southern cali and being amazed at how small the lots were and how close everything was. I guess that was the price paid for great weather!

  4. John Nail

    One thing that I have noticed is why there is only 1 outlet in the whole garage. There are 3 walls, I would love to see atleast 2 outlets on each wall.

  5. Michael

    This recent article on breaches of the “Architects Act” highlights the need to check the registration of Architects and building designers. Claiming to be “Architectually Designed” can add thousands of dollars to the price of a house.

  6. Michael