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How Much Does It Cost To Build A House?

on 08/24/2023 | Reading time: 14 minutes
build a house
Photo by Scott Webb

Building a house is a dream for many, but understanding the associated costs is crucial. The price can fluctuate depending on various elements, including the site, dimensions, architecture, and building materials. Let's dive deep into each component.

Determining Factors of Cost

1. Location

The site significantly influences the expense of constructing a home.

  • Land cost: Urban areas tend to be more expensive than rural areas.
Location Average Cost per acre
Urban $100,000+
Suburban $50,000 - $100,000
Rural $2,000 - $10,000
  • Local building regulations and permits: Each municipality will have its permit fees.
  • Cost of labor in the region: Labor costs can differ vastly, with urban areas generally pricier.
  • Availability and cost of materials locally: Transporting materials can increase costs.

2. Size and Layout

The size of the house directly impacts the cost.

  • Square footage: On average, the cost per square foot can range from $100-$200+ depending on factors like design and location.
  • Number of stories: Multi-story homes can be more expensive due to structural demands.
  • Basement, attic, and garage considerations: Adding these features can increase costs significantly.

3. Design and Architecture

The complexity of your design can impact costs.

  • Custom versus pre-designed plans: Custom plans can start at $5,000 and go upwards, whereas pre-designed can be as low as $1,000.
  • The complexity of design: Unique designs require more materials and labor.
  • Special features: Features like high ceilings can add to costs.

4. Material Choices

Material choices can significantly vary the cost.

  • Foundation materials:
Material Cost per sq.ft
Concrete $6 - $8
Brick $10 - $12
  • Exterior materials:
Material Cost per sq.ft
Vinyl $2 - $7
Wood $5 - $10
  • Interior finishes: Choices like hardwood or marble can be pricey.
  • Appliances and fixtures: High-end appliances can add thousands to the budget.

5. Labor Costs

Labor is a significant chunk of the construction cost.

  • Professional team required: Architects (5-20% of total project cost), engineers (1-3%), contractors (25-50%).
  • Cost fluctuations based on demand and availability: Costs can rise during peak construction seasons.

6. Utilities

Utility connections are essential considerations.

  • Connection to public utilities: Costs can range from $1,500 to $20,000.
  • Off-grid utilities: Solar panels can start at $10,000 and go upwards.

7. Additional Features

Additional features can enhance the home but at an added cost.

  • Landscaping: Landscaping projects can start from $5,000 and go upwards.
  • Pools, decks, or patios: A basic pool costs $20,000.
  • Fencing or security installations: A basic fence can range from $1,000 to $5,000.

The Process and Its Associated Costs

1. Pre-construction Costs

Before building, several tasks incur costs.

  • Land surveys: $300 to $700 on average.
  • Soil tests: $500 to $1,200 on average.
  • Architectural designs and blueprints: Starting at $2,000 and upwards based on complexity.

2. Construction Costs

It is the bulk of your costs.

  • Foundation: $4,000 to $12,000 on average.
  • Framing: $20,000 to $50,000.
  • Roofing: $5,000 to $10,000 for a standard house.
  • Exterior and interior finishes: $50,000 to $150,000, depending on choices.
  • Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC: $30,000 to $50,000.

3. Post-construction Costs

Final touches and inspections.

  • Inspection and certifications: $200 to $500.
  • Landscaping: Varies based on choice but starts at $5,000.
  • Interior decoration and furnishing: Can range from $10,000 to $50,000+ based on preferences.

Cost-Saving Strategies and Tips

  1. Choosing economical designs and materials: Prefab homes or simpler designs can save money.
  2. Bulk buying or negotiations: Purchase materials in bulk for discounts.
  3. DIY approaches where feasible: Some tasks like painting can be DIY to save on labor costs.
  4. Exploring financial and construction loan options: Some banks offer better rates for construction projects.

Formulas to Calculate the Cost of Building a House

To estimate the cost to build a house, you'll want to sum up the costs associated with each stage and factor of the construction. Here are the primary formulas:

1. Total Land Cost:

Land Cost = Cost per acre × Number of acres

2. Total Design and Architecture Costs:

Design Cost = Cost of the design per square foot × Total square footage of the house

3. Material Costs:

Foundation Cost = Cost per sq. ft for foundation × House sq. ft

Exterior Material Cost = Cost per sq. ft for exterior × House sq. ft

Interior Finish Cost = Average cost per sq. ft for interior × House sq. ft

Appliance and Fixture Cost = Sum of each appliance and fixture

4. Labor Costs:

Labor Cost = (Total square footage × Average labor cost per sq.ft) + Additional fees (like architect and engineer fees)

5. Utility Connection Costs:

Utility Cost = Sum of connection fees for water, electricity, sewage, etc.

6. Additional Features Cost:

Additional Features Cost = Landscaping cost + Pool cost + Deck/Patio cost + Fencing/Security installations

7. Pre-construction, Construction, and Post-construction Costs:

Pre-construction Costs = Land survey cost + Soil test cost + Architectural design cost

Construction Costs = Foundation cost + Framing cost + Roofing cost + Exterior & Interior finish cost + Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC cost

Post-construction Costs = Inspection and certification cost + Landscaping + Interior decoration and furnishing

8. Total Estimated Cost to Build the House:

Total Cost = Total Land Cost + Total Design and Architecture Costs + Material Costs + Labor Costs + Utility Connection Costs + Additional Features Cost + Pre-construction Costs + Construction Costs + Post-construction Costs

These formulas provide a general estimate of the costs. Adjustments may be needed based on unique factors, unexpected challenges, or changes in the plan. Always keep a buffer budget for unforeseen expenses and consult local experts for more accurate and detailed costing.

FAQs: Cost to Build a House

1. How accurate are online house-building cost calculators?

Online cost calculators provide a ballpark estimate based on average costs and standard variables. While they offer a starting point, consulting local professionals for precise figures tailored to your specific project and region is always best.

2. How much should I budget for unforeseen expenses during construction?

It's a good practice to set aside an additional 10-20% of the estimated cost to cover unforeseen expenses. It can include unexpected labor or material price hikes, changes in the project, or unpredictable challenges like weather delays.  

3. Does building during a particular season affect the cost?

Yes, the season can influence costs. Due to demand, building during peak construction seasons might lead to higher labor and material costs. However, building in adverse weather conditions can lead to delays and potential damage, increasing costs.

4. Are there advantages to using pre-designed home plans vs. custom designs in terms of cost?

Pre-designed home plans are more cost-effective since they use standard designs that are tried and tested. While unique and tailored to your preferences, custom designs often involve more complex processes, requiring more time, resources, and potential revisions, leading to higher costs.

5. How does the choice of interior finishes impact the total cost?

Interior finishes, such as flooring, countertops, and fixtures, can significantly affect costs. High-end finishes like hardwood, marble, or custom cabinetry can increase the price substantially. Opting for more standard or budget-friendly finishes can reduce costs.

6. Can I save money by doing some tasks myself?

Yes, taking a DIY approach for specific tasks, such as painting, landscaping, or installing fixtures, can save on labor costs. However, jobs requiring expertise, like plumbing, electrical work, or structural installations, should be left to professionals to ensure safety and compliance with regulations.

7. How does the size of the house relate to the cost per square foot?

While a larger house generally means a higher total cost, the cost per square foot can sometimes decrease as the house size increases. It is due to economies of scale, where certain fixed costs get distributed over a larger area. However, this is a relaxed rule, and design complexities can affect the final price.

8. Is there a difference in cost between building a one-story vs. a two-story house?

Building upwards with a two-story house can sometimes be more cost-effective regarding the foundation and roofing, leading to a lower cost per square foot. However, the total cost might still be higher due to increased square footage, and there can be added complexities in the design and construction of multi-story homes.

9. How do I choose a reputable contractor without overspending?

Research is vital. Ask friends or family for suggestions, review online feedback, and confirm licenses and testimonials. It's also a good idea to get quotes from multiple contractors. Remember, the cheapest option is only sometimes the best; consider experience, quality of work, and communication when choosing.

10. How long will it take to recoup the investment in building a house if I decide to sell?

This depends on multiple factors, including the real estate market condition, the location of the property, and how well you maintained the house. In some booming real estate markets, homeowners see appreciation within a few years, while it may take longer in slower markets.

We hope this FAQ addresses some of your key concerns. Building a home is a significant investment, and it's essential to stay informed and consult experts when needed.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Home Building Companies

Before you embark on the significant journey of building a home, ensuring you're partnering with the right building company is crucial. Here are some pertinent questions you should consider:

1. Company Background and Reputation

  • How many years have you been in the home-building business?
  • Can you provide references from previous clients?
  • Do you have any industry awards or recognitions?
  • Are there any past or pending lawsuits against your company?

2. Experience and Expertise

  • How many homes do you build annually?
  • Can you show me examples of projects similar to mine?
  • What is your experience with building in this specific region or neighborhood?

3. Licensing and Insurance

  • Are you licensed to build in this state/region?
  • Can you provide proof of insurance? What does it cover?
  • Do you offer a warranty on your work? If so, what does it include?

4. Project Management

  • Who will be the primary contact person throughout the project?
  • How often will I receive updates or have check-ins?
  • What is the typical response time if I have questions or concerns?

5. Cost and Payment

  • Please give a comprehensive written quote for my project.
  • What is your payment structure? Is a deposit required?
  • Are there any potential costs that the calculation might not include?
  • How do you handle cost overruns or unexpected expenses?

6. Construction Process

  • What is the estimated timeline for completion?
  • How do you manage delays due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances?
  • Will you obtain all the necessary permits and inspections?
  • How do you ensure the quality of materials and crafts?

7. Customization and Design

  • To what extent can I customize my home's design, layout, and finishes?
  • Do you have in-house architects or designers, or do I need to hire an external team?
  • Can I provide input during construction if I want to make changes?

8. Sustainability and Efficiency

  • What energy-efficient features do you incorporate into your homes?
  • Do you offer any sustainable or green building practices?
  • Are you familiar with local energy codes and regulations?

9. After-Sales Service

  • How do you handle post-construction issues or repairs?
  • Is there a process for addressing any concerns once you finish the house?
  • What kind of post-build support can I expect?

10. Relationships with Subcontractors

  • Do you regularly work with a particular set of subcontractors?
  • How do you ensure the quality and reliability of work from your subcontractors?
  • Are they licensed and insured?

These questions will help you comprehensively understand potential home-building companies, ensuring you make an informed decision when choosing a partner for your project.


Building a house is an expensive endeavor, but you can avoid unforeseen expenses with thorough research and budgeting. Investing in quality ensures long-term value.

The opinions articulated in this piece are the guest author's and may not necessarily align with those of Crackerjack. Find more about staff authors of Crackerjack

About the author
Fancy House LLC
Fancy House LLC is a seasoned contractor and a prolific writer in the field of home improvement. With their extensive experience and expertise, they have earned a reputation for delivering exceptional results in construction projects of all scales. As a writer, they share their knowledge through well-researched articles that offer practical tips, advice, and inspiration to homeowners and DIY enthusiasts. With a friendly demeanor and a commitment to quality, Fancy House LLC is a trusted contractor who consistently delivers outstanding home improvement services and informative content.

Our Pricing Methodology

At Crackerjack, we assist many people each year with their projects. Our process involves collecting estimates from local professionals and conducting our own research, which we use to provide you with valuable price information. Please note that the prices provided in the current article are for informational purposes only and may change at any time. To receive a personalized cost estimate for your specific project, we recommend contacting a professional in your area.

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