What you should know about building costs & what you can afford

Even though it is well known within the building industry that costing per square meter is the fastest way to go broke, sales people do it, and builders follow to get the job.

Consumers should be extremely cautious for contractors using dubious calculation practices or quotations compiled using a price per square meter, as there is no fixed square meter rate for any kind of building. Client’s should always ask for a detailed breakdown of prices no matter how small or how big the project is. In fact, we will always recommend the services of a professional Quantity Surveyor if the client can afford the extra expense, as this professional will save you much more than what he/she got paid.

To illustrate this, take two shapes that are similar in area, but one is square and one rectangular. The square shape = 4mx4m and the rectangle = 2mx8m, so they both equals 16sq.m, right? But will they cost the same to build? NO! The rectangle has a sum- total wall length of 16 running meters, while the rectangle has a sum-total wall length of 20 running meters. So if the wall height = 3m in both cases, the rectangular building will require 1320 more bricks for a double skin wall! So the cost will be more due to more material and labour.

But in order to get an idea of what you can afford, it is common practice to use square meter cost estimating, based on reliable and recent statistics, and then adjust the cost up or down according to your particular needs. Architects usually keep statistics of previous projects, in order to advise clients on affordability. So, while steering clear from contractors who quote on a square meter tariff, it is still a useful instrument to calculate one’s own affordability. Having said that, if the square meter price is derived from sensible calculations, and then used as a ball park figure for the purpose of comparison between different designs for example, or to decide between building or buying, then there’s no harm done.

So, you are welcome to use the following figures at your own risk, but take note that it doesn’t include the purchase price of land, connection fees, professional fees, municipal approval fees, or the external site development. (Pool, screen walls, paving, pool, landscaping etc)

These figures are based on our own statistics for 2014 tenders in the Free State, and will increase sharply in Gauteng, Western Cape and coastal areas.

Adding on a double garage = R 3 000 – R 4500 /sq.m (Tiled roof vs IBR, flat or pitched roof, ceilings etc – will make difference)
Low Cost Housing – minimal finishes = R 1500 – R 2000/sq.m
Economical entry level houses = R 4 000- 6 500 / sq.m (Not town houses)
Medium sized house, with moderate finishes = R 6 500 – R 8 000/sq.m
Luxury Estate house > R 9000 /sq.m depending on the finishes and fittings.

Square meter tariffs should NEVER be used for alterations and additions, as there may be many hidden costs once the existing structure is opened up. After breaking through the connecting door to a newly added bedroom, one might find that the carpets, paint, tiles or ceilings don’t match, and then decide to redecorate the whole house – be prepared for a few nasty surprises!

Speak to your architectural professional who will be able to advise.