Cost to Build a House

Cost to build a house is a loaded title.
Mainly because anyone who makes a bold statement about what your house is going to cost has a huge amount of liability associated with that claim. For that reason, only a Contractor who is willing to build the house for the amount quoted should be making such statements.

 

Some people might think that the Architect should know exactly what the cost to build a house that they design should be. The reality: no they don’t. They probably have a better idea than their Client does (higher), but unless they have priced it out to the 50 subcontractors and suppliers that the Contractor has, they really can’t say for sure. And if they claim to know: don’t believe them. We have seen where very large architectural firms from New York City have attempted to estimate the costs of their projects and they typically are woefully inaccurate. Not for lack of trying; some of these firms have 1,000 people, with all sorts of experience and they design projects all over the world. But only the person who is going to sign their name on a contract to build the house knows for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that being said, there are ways of estimating costs to build a house, however such estimates will always be inaccurate. Why? Because the cost of a house is a moving target. Costs are changing all the time, and what the Owner wants is constantly changing: usually increasing in cost, as they begin to understand that this is where they are going to live. Also: manufacturers are constantly increasing their costs and not even the Contractors building your house will know those costs until they order the various items. Which is one more reasons that the Contractor is the only one who really knows the actual final costs. So what someone may think is the cost today, can and will change tomorrow.
There is one, big truth, however: your house will ALWAYS cost MORE than you every thought it would. Guaranteed.

 

With these understandings, here are some historic data from HOME ARCHITECTS ® regarding what some real-world costs are for a breakdown for a house these days, taken from a Schedule of Values that a Contractor, Owner and Bank are using to fund the pay draws. This particular breakdown reveals what many of % each cost category will be for 3 different total costs per square foot, along with the $/SF for each of these categories. That information, in and of itself can be very helpful when trying to understand how overall construction budgets breakdown for the various line items of the costs to build a house. And of course: any and all of these numbers can change for your particular situation, site, length of driveways, topography, size of garage, porches, decks, cost of specific finishes, appliance selection, design, and other circumstances:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……………………………..Percent of
……………………………..construction…$150…$200….$294
Item………………………..total cost……/HSF…/HSF…./HSF
Permits, Fees, Insurance,.5.95%……..$8.92…11.89….17.51
Surveys, Supervision

Sitework, clearing,………..5.71%……..$8.57…11.42…16.82
grading
Foundations, footings,…..8.18%…..$12.26….16.35…24.08
Slabs
Framing: floors, walls,…..12.64%….$18.95….25.27…37.21
Roof trusses, sheathing
Roof shingle, flashings,…..1.56%…….$2.34…..3.12…..4.59
tile, roof underlayment
Fireplace: insert…………….3.72%……$5.57….7.43….10.94
Fireplace: rock veneer,…….7.88%…..$11.82….5.76….23.20
mantel, hearth
Insulation: wall & attic…….5.33%…..$8.00….10.66….15.70
Gypsum Board:……………..3.27%…..$4.91…..6.54…….9.63
hang & finish
Plumbing: rough-in…………1.48%…..$2.22…..2.96…….4.35
includes setting tub-shower inserts
(owner providing tubs separately)
Electrical: rough-in………… 1.72%…..$2.58…..3.44……5.06
(includes low-voltage)
Septic system/sewer……….0.82%…..$1.23…..1.64……2.41
Water meter/well……………0.37%…..$0.56…..0.74……1.09
HVAC: rough-in………………2.97% ….$4.46…..5.95……8.76
Exterior siding:………………3.76%…..$5.64……7.52….11.07
wood, Hardie, vinyl
Exterior siding:………………1.82%…..$2.74……3.65……5.37
Stone, brick, stucco
Exterior trim:…………………2.75%…..$4.13……5.50……8.10
soffit/fascia
Exterior painting:……………1.26%…..$1.90……2.53……3.72
prime & paint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exterior porches………………………2.08%……..$3.12…..4.16…..6.13
deck (not in framing)
Exterior doors…………………………5.65%……..$8.47….11.30…16.64
& windows
Garage doors…………………………1.12%……..$1.69……2.25…..3.31
Driveways……………………2.38%……..$3.57…..4.76……7.00
Walkways……………………0.44%……..$0.66…..0.88……1.29
Interior trim……………………………2.23%……..$3.34……4.46…..6.57
& doors
Stairs: tread,…………………………0.74%……..$1.11……1.49…..2.19
Risers, railings
Interior paint………………………….1.26%…….$1.90…….2.53……3.72
prime & finish
Cabinetry &………………………………3.31%…….$4.97……6.62……9.75
shelving
Counters……………………..1.48%…….$2.23……2.97…….4.38
Wall tile…………………………….0.37%……..$0.56……0.74……1.09
kitchen backsplash,
bath walls (note this is mortar & labor only;
Owner is supplying tile material separately)
Flooring: wood…………….2.38%……..$4.01……5.35……7.88
Plumbing:…………………..1.48%……..$2.22……2.96……4.35
setting fixtures, water heater(s)
(owner providing actual fixtures separately)
Electrical:……………………0.45%……..$0.67……0.89……1.31
setting fixtures, switches, outlets
(owner providing fixtures separately: lights,
fans)
HVAC:……………………….0.46%……..$0.69…….0.93……1.36
exterior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HVAC:………………………..0.46%……..$0.69……0.93…..1.36
interior
Shower:……………………..0.15%……..$0.22…….0.30….0.44
doors, glass, toilet accessories, mirrors
(this is mainly shower glass only. Owner
providing other toilet access. separately)
Hardware:………………….0.18%………$0.27……0.36…..0.53
shelving, door hardware
Gutters,……………………..0.52%………$0.78……1.04…..1.53
downspouts

Finish grading…………….0.30%………$0.45…..0.59…….0.88
Debris,……………………..0.33%………$0.49…..0.65……..0.96
site clean, porta toilets
Landscaping………………0.74%………$1.11…..1.49……..2.19
ext.walls, ornamental

 

The main thing to try to understand is the relative ballpark cost of the house in $/HSF.  That’s the main Big Number to grasp.  And no one is probably going to be declaring any such number with much authority unless they’ve priced it all out to those 50+ subcontractors and suppliers.  Contractors are usually closed-mouthed about this until they have all the numbers; they’ve all been burned before.  The riskiest thing a Builder (0r Architect) can do is to spout off lowball numbers they know the Client wants to hear (to make them happy), then have to face their anger when the real price comes in.  To avoid such a circumstance, the businesslike way to proceed is to say nothing about the price until all the little numbers are added together to result in the big number.

 

Take a good look at the percentages and $/HSF of each of the line items.  There’s really not many line items that exceed 1% to 3% of the project.   But they all add up.  Exterior doors and windows is about 5% to 6% and that’s one of the larger numbers.  And in this particular analysis, those are vinyl framed, quality low-E double pane insulated windows.  The money’s in the glass, using economical (but durable and energy-efficient frames).  A high-end wood window with painted aluminum exterior cladding could triple or quadruple that one line item, so having a good Value-Engineering Architect like HOME ARCHITECTS ™ watching out for you can help, even though they don’t want to go out on a limb and promise you any specific construction price either.  Any Architect that does must want trouble.  No Architect has the machinery or personnel in place to be able to reliably estimate/price projects.  Just like no Builder should be designing houses, no Architect should be estimating them.  There’s a reason why those two professions exist: it takes tremendous skill to do each job and life’s not long enough to become really good at both.

 

Fireplaces can be costly.  In this example, they are 11.6% of the entire project, with the rock facing about double the actual fireplace itself.  So: having more than one fireplace can become a costly decision.  The entire rough framing of the whole house is around 12.64%, which means that this single fireplace is almost as expensive as the entire rough framing!  These kinds of things are good to know!  Now that’s the kind of cost information that a knowledgeable Architect can help you with: understanding the relative impact of various decisions a Client might make. For instance: what if an Owner casually said: “Hey: let’s put an outdoor fireplace on the rear porch, another free-standing one out there on the rear yard, and one in the Master Bedroom and another one in our Family Room, in addition to the main one in the Great Room.  The Architect may want to point out that the Client may have just added well over $100,000 to the project and that this line item just became the most expensive set of features in the entire project.  Something good to know, when you’re programming and designing a custom house.

 

Therefore, the intention of this article is not necessarily to help anyone quote an overall price for a new house, but rather, to give Contractors, Owners and other Architects a better understanding of the percentage costs of each line item and how those line items can influence the total.  This is more of a realistic “atomic” or “molecular” approach that informs everyone about where many of the line items will be for houses costing $150/HSF, $200/HSF and nearly $300/HSF.  Most custom houses these days are often somewhere in that range, although it can become more expensive, depending on particulars and location.  And the lower end doesn’t leave as much room for the more desired niceties.

 

If your desire is to understand the most Economical Ways to Build a House, you might want to click on that article.

If you need help Aligning Home Design Wish Lists and Costs, click on that article.

If you would like to see Reasons Why An Architect Should Design Your Home see that list.  Several of the reasons have to do with Value Engineering and obtaining long-term enjoyment and value from your house.

Another interesting article is: How Much Will My Home Cost?

 

 

 

 

 

 

tags: cost to build a house