General Question

round_pie's avatar

How much does it cost to build a house?

Asked by round_pie (90 points ) December 26th, 2007

I’m interested in buying some land and building a house in the country. What’s a ballpark estimate for how much it would cost to build a single family home? How long does it take to build a home?

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10 Answers

robhaya's avatar

To get an estimate of the cost to build a home, go to Building-cost.net its a free online calculator that helps you get an estimate based on the National Building Cost Manual. What’s nice is that its free and the costs are based on your zipcode and building materials you choose. This is a good starting point and will help give you a better idea on the costs excluding the land.

Good Luck!
R

gooch's avatar

it depends where you are located. Different markets vary alot.

gailcalled's avatar

Check w. some of your local contractors. They have a general idea of $$$/sq. foot. But there is also the issue of quality of various materials and what you are going to pay yourself for labour.

And figuring out a time schedule is always difficult because there are so many variables-so many subcontractors, so many suppliers, so many weather conditions, so many people calling in sick, so many pieces of machinery breaking down. Just brace yourself and add 30% to every financial and temporal estimate (that’s conservative.)

bekasu's avatar

also depends on how much sweat equity you plan to put into the process. We are building our own cordwood house and other than the slab foundation and the roof, everything else is being done by us. The out-of-pocket expenses are 60 percent less, but the time sink of our discretionary time is at least 60 percent more.

nephrons's avatar

Depends upon your location, availability and type of materials to be used, and the size of the house you are planning to build.

freerangemonkey's avatar

In my experience, this question is much too complicated to answer without at least knowing your location, intended start date, rough house size, type of construction and level of finish. All of these things affect at least 10% of the cost of the house each.

Location and construction type will be the primary determinants of the final cost. Figure 4%-10% inflation per year, depending on the location. We use 8% as an aggregate, though some things (copper pipe, wood panels) move a lot more than others. If you bid something out now and don’t build for 3 years, it may cost 30% more to build. Are you in an area that requires special consideration for: high wind, earthquakes, heavy snow, flood-plains. Are house in your area typically conventional wood framed, masonry, brick (or even concrete or steel!)? All of these things impact costs.

I say this, not to tell you the answer can’t be found, but to emphasize that the best way to get an estimate for the cost of building anything is to speak directly to the people that do this kind of work in your area. This is what I do when we are estimating a new shopping center or apartment building. We call subcontractors who do the various work we will require and we get budget numbers from them. Then we validate those numbers based on the actual costs of previous projects and take into account the location, inflation, size, etc.

Since you can’t validate numbers against your own historical building costs, ask someone you know who recently built a house in area how much they spent per square foot for just the house (and underground utilities and building-related sitework, but not the land or landscaping). Then speak to several contractors in the area (At least 3) that you have heard good things about. Realtors are a decent place to get a referral since they know who the local builders are and should know which ones build houses that command above-average prices (per square foot) on the resale market. Usually this is a sign that that contractor works with good designers and builds sellable homes. I would also recommend, if possible, using good design-build contractors over hiring an architect directly and then bidding his plans. For one, residential architects are notoriously bad at estimating construction costs, so when you give him your “budget” there is little chance he will be able to design to it since he doesn’t really know what it costs to build things. Additionally, you will have to manage both the architect and the contractor, which doubles your pain.

The traditional (design-BID-build) process entails you hiring an architect and him creating plans (the design part) to give to you based on your desires and your budget, and then you hiring a contractor (the bid part) to build what is on the plans (the build part). Design-build simply cuts you out of the direct architect-manager role. You find a contractor that is adept at building the types of homes you like and he is responsible for the design (based on your requirements, of course) and for managing the designer. The design-build contract obligates him to give you what you have agreed upon up-front for the agreed-upon price (unless changes are made along the way). In this way, you avoid paying an architect 40k up front for a design that he thinks will cost 300k to build but which actually ends up costing 400k. You still end up paying for the architectural design (through the contractor), but the contractor knows how much it will cost to build things and can keep the project in line with your expectations, resulting in overall cost savings (as well as taking less time overall to complete the project). He can also better let you know if your expectations and your pocket book are out-of-sync.

So, to boil it down…

Step 1: Talk to friends and realtors and get the names of at least 3 (preferably design-build) contractors in the area known for doing good work.

Step 2: Ask friends that you know that have built homes recently what their houses cost to build (good friends should be willing to help you avoid a costly mistake!)

Step 3: Solicit proposals from at least contractors you would like to work with. Get references, portfolios of past projects similar to what you are looking for and general information regarding levels of finish/quality and cost.

Step 4: Based on the completeness of the proposals, the rapport between you, and the perceived ability of the contractor “getterdone”, select a contractor.

Step 5: Nail down the “program requirements” or the specific design characteristics that are important to you and finalize the design-build contract amount.

At this point you should have a very good idea of the final construction costs, schedule, and design elements. Before you sign the contract, make sure you have a third-party review it for scope (what is being proposed to be constructed), explict exclusions (what the contractor is specifically NOT going to do), implicit exclusions (typically, if it isn’t explicitly state that it will be done or if it is not necessary for something to be done in order to satisfy the “program” requirements, then it will not be done and it should be assumed that it will not be done). A lawyer is useful here, but not necessary. Friends who have been through the building process before can help you recognize pitfalls that they may have fallen into.

It’s a lot more work than just accepting someone’s word on a message board, but trust me, it will be worth it.

Good luck!

mghb's avatar

You really need to do some thinking first.
What kind of house do you want, 1 story, 2 story, more?
How many bedrooms, special rooms, secret rooms etc.
How big do you want it?
How many window, will they open, what brand (this is a huge thing)
What is it going to be made out of, wood, brick, metal, pre-fab, this list is endless.
Are you planning on just getting house plans out of a magazine?
Architect? this is about 15% of your build cost.
Where is the going to be Alaska will cost more than say North Carolina.

uno's avatar

In my experience, the answer to this question is always “Twice as much/long, at least.”

pekenoe's avatar

Do you want to know how much it costs or how much you are going to get charged?

I built 4,000 sq ft, 2 story, nothing fancy, probably close to renter quality, but money was spent where it was necessary. Insulation, wiring, plumbing, heat system, frame work etc. No fancy fixtures, frills nor luxurious carpets.

Also, this was in an area where I was able to do my own plumbing and wiring. This was in 1997 so building materials have increased some.

Cost, $38,000 turn key, if I would have contracted it out…. even at $50 a sq ft (unheard of) you would be looking at $200,000

StephenH's avatar

I’m a retired home builder. Youngest home builder in Texas during the mid-late 70’s.
I have and can and am planning on building my next/last home on a lot near a lake community in north central Texas. It will be an energy efficient home with all the bells and whistles in case I have to or choose to sell in the future. No handy man type home. The things I cannot do are as follows: Foundation, Roofing. I am not only a retired builder but a master plumber, was a licensed electrical contractor and was a licensed HVAC contractor here in Texas. I’ve been retired for 10 years now and am 61. I can oversee and participate as the GC in all phases of the construction and I can do my own Plumbing-Electrical-HVAC. These 3 phases will save me nearly $30,000 vs having the MEP done by a contractor. And this $30k is a minimum I will save. Installing my own windows/doors/fur-downs/pellet stove fireplaces/cabinets/trim/painting inside and out/exterior trim, will save me an additional $20,000.
My plan is for a story and a half, rectangular home with no attic above my second or half story. My home will be 1750 square feet on the first floor including a 2 car garage and a shop. Downstairs will be public areas. Kitchen/full bath/living room/dining room/laundry room/mechanical room/2 car garage/1 car shop. Upstairs will be 1050 square feet since my outside walls adjacent to the roof pitch will form triangular chases and storage. the upstairs will actually be 70×15. a bedroom at each end with a patio door and balcony for each. The center of the upstairs will have a sitting area, a full bath and a small third bedroom or office.
My cost, less land, will be $157,000. This is calculated on 3500 total square feet of build out. So my square foot cost will be $45 per square foot.
The appraised value of the final home will be $350,000. The bank is very happy. I am building out of my own pocket and will finance my actual end cost (hopefully less than the $157k for 30 years at 3.67%.
Hope this helps.
Stephen

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