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Pesos and Sense: The Art of Budgeting in Construction Project Development

three construction workers, three men in hard hat and safety vests, construction workers planning

Budgeting in construction project development is a crucial step that ensures the smooth execution of a project from start to finish. It’s the backbone of any successful construction project, as it provides a financial roadmap that guides decision-making, resource allocation, and project management. Effective budgeting helps prevent cost overruns, ensures timely completion, and enables the project team to deliver quality work within financial constraints.

In short, a well-planned budget is the key to turning blueprints into reality without unexpected financial hiccups. Here are the important things to keep in mind when planning a construction project development effectively.


Property costs vary greatly depending on location and project scope. In highly desirable locations, land costs can account for as much as 60 percent of a construction project development’s budget, whereas in less desirable locations, land costs may contribute less than 10 percent of the budget. Regardless of land value, setting a realistic budget range for your property investment is essential. Land cost goes beyond just the lot price, encompassing real estate fees, financing, and taxes that make up your total investment. In accounting, land is considered a capital cost—a one-time expenditure that continues to contribute value over multiple financial years. Land acquisition expenses are crucial in a construction project’s budget as they impact the project's overall profitability. With new construction, land value typically increases, and calculating an accurate initial value shows the client how much the investment in the constructed asset has enhanced the property's worth.

Professional Fees

Construction project development consists of a wide range of professional consulting and other services, known as soft costs. Depending on the project's scope, dozens of professional services and approvals may be required to proceed with construction. Initial fees associated with pre-construction include building and occupancy permits from local governments, surveying, studying, and testing fees (such as geotechnical or environmental), architectural and design services, professional engineering stamps from various engineers, and accounting, banking, and real estate fees. Accurate and detailed design plans are essential to understanding total project costs, as project drawings define the scope of work and help mitigate potential budget issues. Once project drawings and permits are approved and all pre-construction services are complete, the construction phase begins, potentially introducing additional fees, such as local waste disposal fees for construction debris. Post-construction, the project will also incur inspection fees and final accounting services, ensuring everything is completed to standard and within budget.

Labor Costs

A fundamental aspect of realistic construction project development is predicting labor costs, which include tradespeople, subcontractors, equipment operators, and other professionals needed on-site. Estimating construction labor costs is challenging, as the exact hours required to complete the job are difficult to predict until the project begins. Nevertheless, labor cost estimates are crucial for maintaining budget accuracy and keeping production on track. Improving labor productivity is essential for sustaining the profitability of a construction project. When calculating your labor budget, consider the true cost of human resources, including hourly wages for employees and subcontractors, workers’ compensation and payroll expenses, vacation and sick time for employees, and non-productive time and re-work, which may also be accounted for in a contingency budget.

Project Management

Construction project development requires highly skilled and organized project management staff. These team members need their own equipment and supplies to perform their jobs effectively. The project management cost category includes the salaries of your project team members and their office expenses, as well as costs for security staff, safety supplies, and other support roles and materials. Expenses such as office rent, utilities, internet connection, phone expenses, and supplies like paper, ink, and computer equipment are essential to factor into the budget. While some project management costs are capital expenses—assets used for more than a one-time investment—it’s crucial to account for their use in any construction budget to maintain long-term profitability. Additionally, incorporating construction technology tools, such as project management, accounting, and scheduling software, is vital. These soft costs, though not directly related to physical construction, are critical expenses that enhance the overall productivity and efficiency of the project.

Liability Insurance

In construction project development, all projects are legally subject to insurance coverage and the associated costs of liability protection, regardless of size. Professional liability insurance is a mandatory soft cost that must be included in the overall budget. Depending on the nature of the construction project, a deposit or bid bond may be required to guarantee that your company will follow through with the project. Additionally, payment and performance bonds are often necessary, especially for government contracts, to ensure that all subcontractors, tradespeople, and materials suppliers are paid, preventing any liens on the project. Membership costs for builders or contractors' associations should also be factored into the budget to cover these essential legal and financial protections.

Nailing Down The Budget

Effective budgeting in construction project development is essential for ensuring smooth and successful project completion. From property costs and professional consulting services to labor and project management expenses, each aspect plays a crucial role in maintaining the project's financial health. Accounting for insurance and bonds further protects against potential legal and financial pitfalls. Through careful planning and careful consideration of all these factors, you can achieve a well-managed, profitable construction project that meets its goals and exceeds expectations.

Stay on track with your budget with JCVA! Send us an email at or visit to learn more. 



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