Estimating your home building costs.

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Contact Local Builders

One way to estimate your home building costs is to contact local builders who build homes that are similar in size, quality and features of what you want to build. The builder can give you a ballpark idea of what it would cost to hire them to build a home.

Framed Garage

A builder can tell you around how much per square foot they usually charge for a home. However it is probably just as important knowing what is included at that price. Some builders will provide you a list showing the materials they use to build the home if you ask for it. Keep in mind, that a builder cannot give you an accurate price until they have a good set of plans and specifications.

Use Square Footage for Estimating Cost

Probably the easiest way to estimate your home building cost is to look at newly constructed homes that are similar in size, style, quality and features of the home you want. Take the price of the home, deduct the price of the land and divide that amount by the square footage of the home.

For example if the home is selling for $350,000 and the land cost $50,000 (You can find the land cost by asking a real estate agent or by looking at available tax records) then the construction cost is around $300,000. If the home is 3,000 square feet then the cost per square foot is $100.

Framed Stairway You should do this estimate using several new homes in your area to get a ballpark square footage price. When using other homes to calculate an estimate, be sure the home has a similar style and features of the home you plan to build. For example if you want 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths and a fireplace then try to find a home with 4 bedrooms, 3 baths and a fireplace to base your estimate on. Also the cost of the kitchen can vary greatly depending on the size, materials, and features in the kitchen. Try to base your estimates on homes that have kitchens similar to what you want. The most expensive areas in a home are usually the bathrooms and kitchen. The amount of windows, and the size and quality of windows can also affect the cost. Vaulted ceilings and high roof pitches can increase the cost of a home.

Estimation Software and Services

One free estimating software I found is from Craftsmen Books Company. It does a great job of estimating your home building costs. Keep in mind that it cannot be completely accurate, however will give you a pretty close ballpark estimate.

Several of the stock plan companies offer an estimation service and for a small fee will provide an estimate on what it will cost to build a specific house plan in your area. There are also several companies that sell estimating software and your builder might have this kind of software. However, estimating software may be too expensive or complex for the average homebuyer to purchase. Estimating software often takes into account the typical cost of materials and labor in the area you want to build the home and can give a close estimate of cost. If you get an estimate by using software or an estimating service keep in mind it is only an estimate and your finished cost will likely be a little different. Some estimating software actually over estimates the cost slightly. One company I spoke with said their estimates often come in around 5% over the actual cost. The estimating software may be allowing room for inflation, cost over runs, or other errors and you may be able to build your home for less than what the software tells you the cost will be.

Lumber Store Material Estimates

Most lumber store chains have sample plans on display and estimates on cost of materials needed to build the plan. However the estimation usually doesn't include the cost of labor to build the home and usually only the main materials (such as wood, roof shingles, drywall etc) is included in the bid. Usually other things such as the foundation, carpeting, and appliances are not included in the rough estimate shown for the sample plan.

Lumber stores will also give you a bid on materials if you take a material list to them. Some lumber stores will even take a set of plans and give you an estimate based on the materials they determine you'll need for your home building costs. However, if a lumber store does a take-off they usually don't guarantee that their material quantities are accurate and if you later determine you need extra wood or other materials then don't expect a lumber store to give you any compensation. Part of the materials needs will be based on framing techniques used and how efficiently your builder and the home design makes use of materials. If materials are wasted then the material needs may be greater than what a lumber store estimates.

You can use the lumber store prices to calculate an approximate price of the home building costs. To do this, get the price of all the lumber (including interior and exterior trim, and doors and windows). If you multiply that price by 5 you will get a ballpark price of what it will cost to build the home. This is a ballpark price that includes the cost of labor, overhead and profit for the builder. The cost of the lot will need to be added on to the ballpark price to get an approximate total cost.

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Building Tip

"A solid concrete foundation will out-perform any other type of foundation. It is stronger and more difficult for moisture to pass through it."

Solid Concrete Foundation

The basement is the preferred foundation of choice. It is inexpensive additional square footage that can be used as finished living space, storage, mechanical rooms, etc.


One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
“Which road do I take?” she asked
“Where do you want to go?” was his response
“ I don’t know” Alice answered
“Then” said the cat “it doesn’t matter.”

~ Lewis Carroll