July 6, 2014

floorplanThe number one question everyone asks about building a home is how much will it cost. Most folks want to know the cost per square foot to build a complete house or the foundation walls or the framing, etc. I NEVER quote costs per square foot for anything. There are just too many variables involved to state a “standard” price.

Why, you ask?

I’ve built homes that cost $100 per square foot and others that cost $200 per square foot. The difference is in the materials used and the finishes required.   You might ask, “What about a ‘standard’ basic house then?” Again, it’s all in how you define standard or basic. You might be able to build a 2,000 square foot home for $200,000 ($100 per square foot), but it will likely have a simple slab foundation with a modest kitchen and minimal baths and carpeting instead of hardwood floors…the list could go on and on.

The same 2,000 square foot home could cost double that if you select all upgraded materials and finishes and if you build on a basement foundation, etc.  For example, just consider the price differences between the various types of siding material used. Brick or stone can double the cost of siding costs over wood or other similar products.

The building site also is a big price variable. Grading and site costs can vary dramatically depending on the lot characteristics.  A steep lot with heavy vegetation will cost more to clear and grade and will require a more expensive foundation than a level lot with no trees.

Further, there are prices differences for materials and labor across the country and even in various areas of the same metropolitan area. So quoting a price in one area will not necessarily hold true for a different area.

So how are you to figure out the cost of building a home? The only true way is to complete a cost estimate for each element of the project.  While this may sound like a daunting task, it’s not so bad if you break each step down into digestible bites.  Begin by completing a take-off of materials and then start gathering bids from subcontractors. Your best bet is to acquire a good estimating handbook or software.