The True Worth of a Home

Price per square foot isn’t as important as you might think 

 Building a custom home is a bit like buying a new car, right? Not exactly.

If you asked a car dealer how much he charges per pound, you’d get some very strange looks. Of course, there is some correlation between the cost of the car and its weight, but not significant enough to prompt that question. We all know car dealers don’t sell by the pound.
In the same way, I feel perplexed when someone asks me how much I charge per square foot to build a home. It’s not the right question.

–Sean Sullivan, from Building a Custom Home: What you Need to Know


On the surface, cost per square foot seems like an efficient way to assess the price of building a home. But if you dig a little deeper, you realize that this figure only tells you what someone wants to charge you. It doesn’t tell you anything about how much bang you’re getting for your buck.

It’s far more important to know the value of a product or service than its cost, and homes are no exception. The value of a home is determined by a number of independent factors that come together to paint a larger picture.


Location and Lot

Location is a huge factor when it comes to building costs. The Asheville area boasts pleasant weather, exquisite scenery, mountain views, and proximity to a vibrant dining, art, and music, making it a highly desirable spot to build a dream home. The more desirable the location, the higher the demand, and the higher the demand the higher the cost. There are also limited numbers of available lots in the most desirable areas, which causes prices to rise further.

The specific lot you choose can also factor into the price. In the mountains, the topography of your lot can make a great deal of difference in terms of cost. The slope of a lot can affect everything from pouring the foundation, to landscaping, to installing utilities. In general, the higher the slope a lot has, the harder the builder will have to work to develop the land and build the house. Mountain lots can also contain unexpected obstacles like rock, water, or colluvial soils, which take more work, and consequently more expense to correct.

Size and Complexity

A six-thousand-square-foot home is going to require more labor, more materials, more planning, and more time than a 2,000-square-foot-home, and that naturally translates to more expense. Similarly, a home with more features and greater complexity will require more time, more labor, and more expertise than a simpler home, especially if there are custom elements that require extra time to procure or added labor to produce.



Simply stated, highly-experienced trade partners with proven track records are going to cost more. Of course, the investment you make in hiring the right people the first time around will pay off in the end, as quality workmanship stands the test of time and ensures a low-maintenance home. This is why Living Stone only works with trusted trade partners with our same commitment to quality and the same uncompromising standards. They also know the area, and can guide you to the best possible partners for your project, at the best possible price.



Green Building

Green building in its truest sense requires ethically sourced, sustainable materials, low-VOC paints and finishes, and handmade furniture crafted with hardwood and natural fibers. All of these items cost more than standard items, not to mention the added labor and planning that goes into crafting a green home.

Many green builders are Energy Star-certified only, which is the bare minimum of green certifications. Living Stone is Energy Star-certified, EPA-certified and a Certified Green Professional, and our standard homes are high-level silver or gold certified. We believe the added upfront expense of building a green home will reap immense benefits in terms of a healthier home, a healthier life, and a healthier environment.

Level of Finish

Living Stone’s standard finishes are what others would call upgrades. Yes, you pay a little more, but your paint doesn’t fade, your siding and decking last for much longer, your furniture doesn’t break, and overall your home requires less time and money to maintain.

It’s not all about quality. The more ornate and intricate your moulding, siding, and fixtures are, the more they will cost. In addition, new, more innovative finishes are always coming on the market, often in high demand, and they tend to require more labor, as contractors need to take time to learn to work with them and install them correctly.



There are many layers to homebuilding. Choosing a builder isn’t so much a straightforward comparison of cost. It’s an assessment of your priorities as a homeowner, and a determination of where and how you’ll invest your money in order to have a house that will best benefit your lifestyle, your functional needs, and your desired aesthetics, while being made with the best possible care and quality, and offering you the most possible comfort and enjoyment. In short, it’s all about and getting the most value for your hard-earned dollars.


About the Author, Sean Sullivan

About the Author, Sean Sullivan

Sean got his start in the construction business in 1994. Today, he’s the President of Living Stone Design + Build, and is an Accredited Master Builder, Certified Green Professional, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, and author of Building a Quality Custom Home: What you Need to Know. He also teaches continuing education courses for builders and accreditations through the NC Builders Institute. Sean loves western North Carolina and the Asheville community, and lives in Black Mountain with his wife, Laura Sullivan.