How to Create a Realistic Budget for Renovating or Building A New Home

If you’re like a lot of people, you may think creating a realistic budget for your bathroom renovation, family room addition, or new home means sitting down at the kitchen table with your spouse and figuring out how much money you’re comfortable spending. Run the numbers carefully – perhaps with input from your banker – and the ideal budget figure will emerge, right?


At Morgante Wilson Architects, we know creating a realistic budget is a process that extends beyond the narrow definition of what you can afford. We also know there are easy steps you can take to ensure your budget is realistic, adequate, and appropriate for your residential building project. Read on to learn more.


Price materials and finishes while you’re still in the drawing phase.

In our view, it’s critical to begin the pricing process while plans are still being drawn. Here’s why: overlaying the cost of materials and finishes as your project begins to take shape helps you understand whether those specifications are realistic given your budget – and still leaves you options galore if they’re not.

Let’s say an oversize island with a marble countertop is on your kitchen wish list. At Morgante Wilson, our team will draw that island into your plans, and then immediately begin pricing marble to top it. We’ll know very early on whether it fits into your budget. If not, you’ll have plenty of time to either scale back the size of the island, or begin the search for a less expensive countertop material.

Obtain preliminary pricing.

Once our team of residential architects and designers has created a fairly comprehensive schematic design, we’ll send it out to builders for preliminary pricing. This way, we’ll learn during the early stages of the game whether we may need to decrease the size of the house, lower the level of finishes, or increase the budget. With numbers in hand, we can determine whether we should take from one room to pay for another, pare down a $40 per square foot stone floor to a $15 per square foot option, or reduce finish quality in the kids’ bathroom to pay for the marble mosaic in the master bathroom. We feel it’s far more realistic – and far less frustrating - to work within the parameters of a believable budget process than to reach the finish line with final drawings and learn the budget can’t accommodate what’s in them. Just as important, it ensures our clients have control of the process, as they’re the ones who ultimately decide which option to pursue.

Don’t lose focus.

Believe me, I know first-hand how addicting Pinterest and Houzz can be. But the inspiration you discover there can lead to budget-busting purchases, “gotta have” ideas, and kitchen cabinets you simply can’t afford. Keeping both eyes focused on your bottom line will help reign in your creative impulses, limit costly change orders, and keep your budget intact.

Plan for contingencies.

That said, nearly every client we’ve ever had has gotten a little carried away at some point. Elissa and I have even done it ourselves!  That’s why we always recommend adding a contingency of ten to fifteen percent into your budget. We know first-hand there’s an undeniable excitement about pursuing your life’s dream, whether that’s building a new house or finally adding on the mudroom you’ve always wanted. Put a little extra into your budget, and you may be able to pay for those Pinterest-inspired cabinets after all! (Your builder doesn’t have to know the contingency is there. Rather, it allows you to splurge when you feel you simply must.)

Our talented team of architects and designers has been at this for nearly three decades. We understand how important it is to maximize every dollar in your budget, and the best ways to do so. Want to learn more? Give us a call! 

Fred Wilson
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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