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I've been shy till now about how much Auerhaus cost, but I myself am often frustrated when I see reviews of homes that lack this essential information. In a society that can be shockingly open about so many details of life, this seems a strange taboo. So here goes...

I wish to make 4 points about the Auerhaus Cost v. Time chart:

  1. Your house will cost double your best estimate.
  2. Once construction begins, money will rush out of your account at a frightening rate.
  3. I suggest opening a separate account at a separate bank from which to pay expenses.
  4. It took a year from the time the house was legally done (final) until the house was complete.

1. Double Down

When I started building I was told by others who had been their own general contractors that the house would cost double whatever I had estimated. I dismissed this out of hand. Surely my budgeting and spreadsheet skills were as good as any and better than most. In fact, I budgeted $100,000 and the completed house came in at just over $200,000. Why?

First let me point out that I did all the drawings, plumbing, electrical and interior framing and finishing. Hiring this out might have added as much as $50,000 to $100,000 to the price. Second, there was extensive use of reused and salvaged material from the barns that cost little or nothing.

My best analysis comes from observing that the major elements (foundation, SIPs, septic, timberframe) were well characterized and except for the timber framing, exactly as budgeted. What was missing were all the small items that in a remodel one might not give a second thought to (a few screws, some wire, etc), but in a whole house accumulate to significant levels.

The roof, while simple looking on the outside, took a lot of time and material. The stainless roofing was $3,500 ( $2.85/ft.), only about twice that of galvanized in 2004. But there was $1,500 in flashing and custom metal work for the Sun Tunnels, and lots of labor to install them. Then the cost of fabricating the "tines," mounting them and covering the roof in 5/8" plywood.

Another element that was misleading was that my own estimate correlated well with the $80 to $100 per square-foot estimated building costs at the time for my location (800 sq. ft. x $100/sq. ft. = $80,000 + 20% cushion = $96,000). While the average 2400 square-foot home may indeed cost $240,000, it doesn't follow that a house of 1/3rd the size will cost 1/3rd as much. This is because the small house and the big house have to build all the same expensive items (kitchen, bath, electric, plumbing) while the increased size in a big house consists mostly of less-expensive-to-build bedrooms.

The "double-what-you-expect" rule doesn't apply if you contract for a house, but if you act as the general contractor, beware.


2. Rate of Cash Flow

As you can see from the chart there is a lot of waiting to begin, but once construction starts money flows like a dike breach. This is because you are simultaneously paying for the work commencing immediately and stocking the materials you will soon need. A house is a monster that must be kept well fed. The rate of flow can be particularly frightening if, as in my case, you exhaust your budget just 4-months into a year and a half long project.


3. Separate Account

This was one of the best things I did. I opened a separate checking account with its own credit card exclusively used for house construction. This is critical for these reasons:

  1. It's the easiest way to know what you are really spending.
  2. It's essential for proving how much you spent on the house should you sell.

Relying on tabulating your receipts may seem doable before ground-breaking, in the hurly-burly of construction there is no time for such niceties. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, "You think you will, but you won't." Receipts printed on thermal paper may turn into crumpled, illegible wads that blow away when you open your truck door. The faucet you charge on your personal charge card somehow never makes it into the pile of house bills. For these reasons I strongly encourage establishing a separate account.


4. "It Ain't Over Till It's Over"

There are many adages about this, but the one that I found the best fit was the following. There are two ways to not finish a house. One is to run out of money. The other is to move in before it is finished. I moved in the day I was granted preliminary occupancy.