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    Lots To Love: Building At The Beach

    Limited inventory and short timeframes for houses being on the market may seem like a hurdle to beach ownership to some; however, for others, it’s an opportunity to broaden their horizons. As more people look to make the Emerald Coast either a permanent or secondary address, looking for new ways to get exactly what they want or need is growing in popularity as well. 

    In the first six months of 2021, we saw the consumption of vacant land skyrocket when compared to previous years, indicating that families who are willing to take the time to “get the house right,” are skipping over the limited inventory of “already built” homes and electing to pair the perfect lot with the perfect home in a location that works for them. 

    “Our construction projects along the Emerald Coast have risen by roughly 40% this year compared to 2019 and 2020,” said Wylie Hutchison, general contractor and managing partner with Coastal Custom Home Building LLC. Specializing in custom resort-inspired homes along Highway 30A and in the upscale communities in Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Hutchinson also pointed out that demand is still focused on secondary and vacation rental properties, with a big focus on “maximizing the square footage on each project.” 

    While maximizing the size of a home on a parcel is an optimal way to increase possible rental income or even for setting up a speculative home for resale, others are finding that building a high-quality home that fits the needs of their family and having the flexibility to choose its location has been a great way to stay within a budget. 

    “Building prices and, ultimately, architecture fees are going to vary heavily based on the standards of the community you are looking to build within,” stated Phillip Todd, an intern architect with Chancey Design. “While certain communities are going to have very strict standards on roof height, siding materials and even foundation requirements, electing to find a parcel in an area with fewer requirements give you the flexibility to build exactly what you need while potentially saving money on design and building costs.”

    Flexibility can also be a factor in other aspects of the building process, especially when it comes to the needs of preparing the site for building. Tom Ledman, owner of Ledman Construction, suggests that for clients looking to stay on budget, starting with a lot that requires minimum land prep can save a lot of time in labor costs as well as give more flexibility in foundation selections. “A site that is high, dry and flat can quickly utilize a monolithic concrete slab, expediting building time, which, on average, is taking 10-14 months for most new construction projects along the Emerald Coast once permits have been issued. Aside from a monolithic slab, wood pilings offer cost-effective foundation solutions, especially for areas where stormwater run-off is something to keep in mind. 

    “For a traditional Florida raised Cottage on a lot with few community standards, base pricing begins in the upper $200-per-square-foot range,” Ledman informed us. “However, most people building within a pre-existing community should expect to find themselves in the low $300 per square foot range due to foundation, roofing and architectural requirements.”

    Hutchison shared similar sentiments, telling us that his projects usually start in the low- to mid- $300-per-square-foot range and go up based on finishes and amenities such as in-ground pools, lighting packages and flooring/tile selections. 

    Thankfully, local architects are very well versed in building costs and have good ideas on how to work with clients after identifying a budget. Todd stated that he normally starts his initial meeting with a client by finding out their budget and learning what “needs” they have for the home. “Once we know their bedroom and bath counts, and factor in additional needs such as HVAC closets, storage and HOA standards such as the pitch of the roof or porch size, we can find out the approximate square footage of the home based on their budget,” he said.

    “We will also figure out how to work any design fees into their budget following the initial meetings,” stated Todd, who shared that most people should expect to allocate roughly six to eight percent of their total budget toward architecture and design costs.

    Land, building and design fees are often the most important things to consider when looking to build your dream home; however, other factors such as sewer and water tap fees and even electrical connections can impact the overall budget of a project. Determined by the parcel’s location, elevation and the number of bathrooms within the project, sewer and water tap fees can range from $12,000 to $25,000 on an undeveloped parcel. Some communities will have initial tap fees paid by the developer, with a balance paid at connection for the new owner. 

    While there may be a lot to think about when it comes to building your dream home along the Emerald Coast, the end results of a bespoke property are truly unmatched. Perfectly tailored to meet the needs of your family, building a custom home can be a fun and rewarding experience; and, oftentimes, help you build quick equity in your home over a short period of time. 

    Interested in finding the perfect spot for your Emerald Coast dream home? Browse through this spotlight on some of our favorite vacant lots available for sale:

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    Escape. Reward. Investment. Legacy. Whatever having a Northwest Florida beach home means for you, we're dedicated to bringing your best life in view.