How Much Will Your Project Cost? | Homebuilding & Renovating

Average cost of Building a new home

Build Custom Home / June 11, 2015

A new house will probably cost between $80 and $200 per square foot…

In one form or another, this question is one of the most frequent requests we receive from our visitors. Unfortunately, it is also one of the few questions that we simply cannot answer very specifically. Can you tell me how much it costs to take a vacation or send my kids to college? How much should I expect to spend on a new car? What is the “average cost” of a dinner for two, or a wedding dress, or a fishing boat, or a gallon of gas?

All of the above questions contain so many variables that it is impossible for anyone to answer them accurately without first asking several additional questions and gathering much more information. The same is true when calculating the cost to build a new home of a specific type or size or quality level, at any given time, on a certain piece of property, in a specific location somewhere in the world.

Let’s begin by considering what square foot homebuilding costs really are — nothing more than the total cost of a given project divided by the total number of square feet in that project. So, a 2, 000 square foot home with total construction costs of $250, 000 would cost $125 per square foot to build. Spend another $50, 000 on a gourmet kitchen, an elegant master bath, marble tiles in the foyer, a fancy curved stair, 10 foot ceilings, or any other combination of “above average” features or finishes and the price jumps to $300, 000 but the square footage didn’t change. So now, that same 2, 000 square foot house would cost $150 per square foot to build; an increase of 20 percent.

Now consider the structure itself. If the house in question is a rancher, with all of the finished area on one floor, the foundation and roof would both have to be large enough to cover the entire 2, 000 square feet of living space. Turn that single level rancher into a two-story colonial and the total size of both the foundation and the roof are instantly reduced by 50 percent because the two floors fit into the same foundation and roof spaces and the second floor system became the “roof” for half of the area on the first floor. Increase the roof pitch from 3/12 to 12/12 and the roof area (including framing members, sheathing, shingles) quickly increases by 35 percent. Of course, these examples are oversimplified because they don’t consider any other differences like the need to add the cost of stairs and take away the space they occupy, or in the case of a slab-on-grade foundation, the difference between the cost of a concrete slab verses a wooden floor system, but hopefully the point has been made. Costs of similarly sized homes can also vary considerably due to the shape of the building, the number of corners or offsets in the design, the type of foundation and required local footing depth, the pitch of the roof, and many other design characteristics that are not directly related to the size of the house.