5 Tips to Estimate the Cost of Building a New House

Many people looking to build a home often wonder exactly how much it costs and how much new home construction costs per square foot – but this is not an easy question to answer. There are many factors and steps to consider when estimating new home construction costs.

So, let’s break down the process piece by piece so you have a framework for better estimating your new home construction costs.

How to Estimate the Cost to Build a New Home

1. Determine Your Floor Plans

Start by selecting a floor plan for your new home that’s been completed by or adjusted by a local general contractor or architect, or search online or through books to find the plan of your dreams. Many builders will have a breadth of floor plans to choose from. These floor plans will determine the size, style, quality and features you desire in your new home and will be the baseline for your project from here on out.

Get an idea of your new home’s layout by viewing our featured floor plans.

Next, you should find the right local builder. The builder you choose should be one who routinely constructs new homes that are comparable in size, style, quality and features to the new home you’re hoping to build. Finding a suitable builder for your project is important in maintaining a proper execution, timeline and budget for your build. They should be able to tell you their cost per square foot to build a house that is similar to yours, and at the same time they should be able to give you an approximate idea of what your home might cost to build. It is always a good idea on your end to ask what exactly the new home construction cost includes.

2. Get an Idea of What Your New Home Construction Costs Per Square Foot

Arriving at an exact figure for new home costs per square foot might not be realistic, but getting a ballpark idea should be possible. To do this, take the total cost of your project, as outlined by your builder, and divide this number by the total number of square feet in your project.

For example, if your new home is to be 2,000 square feet and your builder estimated that it would cost $350,000 to build, then your cost per square foot is 300,000 divided by 2,000, or $175.

You can also compare your desired build to other newly constructed homes (again, those similar in size, style, quality and features) in your area, then take the price of the home – minus the land it is on – and divide this by the amount of square footage in the home you wish to build. By doing this exercise with a few homes, you can also determine whether the estimate for your new home that your builder has provided is competitive and reasonable.

3. Know What Style, Quality and Features Refer to in Relation to Estimating Your New Construction Costs

The final price of your new home won’t just be determined by the size. Style, quality and features must not be overlooked when determining new home constructions costs.

  • Style
    Style refers to the architecture of the new home. Homes that are more square or rectangular cost less to build. The same is true for a two-story versus a one-story home with the same square footage because a one-story home will require a larger roof and foundation. As well, homes that boast a deeper design (greater than 32 feet) might also require a roof with specially designed trusses. Essentially, the more angles and corners you add, the more labor, materials and price you will incur.
  • Quality
    Quality refers to the actual materials used for building. This can include a myriad of choices. For example: flooring, paint, insulation, shingles, cabinetry and built-ins, appliances, doors and windows. The higher quality you choose for each of these items, the more costs your new home will incur. It always helps to check out your options with your builder before making a decision, preferably in an interactive design center.
  • Features
    Features refer to design considerations, such as vaulted ceilings, roof pitches, curved staircases, etc. Each of these additions to a build can increase the price tag on your new home and elevate the estimated square footage costs.

Building a new home in New Hampshire? Here’s what to know first.

4. Leave Room in Your Budget to Accommodate Any Additional Construction Costs

When estimating the cost to build a new house, don’t forget to factor in some common expenses that are often overlooked in the excitement of a new home build. These include:

  • Site Preparation
    If you have to clear a lot of trees, haul in dirt, grade or remove large rocks, expenses will increase.
  • Permit Fees
    Local building codes, zoning laws and restrictions may mean permits need to be obtained for work related to sewers, electricity, occupancy, etc. Depending on the area, these permits can be pricey.
  • Time of Year
    When your build is scheduled can contribute to the cost of construction. When labor is in demand during times of low unemployment and economic growth, costs are typically higher as expenses to employ the many subcontractors and many other trades involved in building your home will be higher (due to simple supply and demand).
5. Be Proactive to Avoid Cost Overruns

Above all, it is crucial to prepare for cost overruns when determining a new home construction cost. If you can actively remember that the finished cost of a home is often more than the original bid price, you can work to avoid this outcome. For some, it can be too easy to get carried away and fall in love with higher-end flooring materials, vaulted ceilings, elaborate landscaping and so on. But every time this happens, the price of your new home build increases. When something is chosen that is outside the contract this is called a “change order” and if you are working with an experienced builder they should be able to quantify these upcharges for you so you can make an informed decision.

Start by working with your new home builder to create as detailed a construction contract as possible. The more detail this contact reveals, the more accurate your estimated new home cost will be, and the more likely you are to stay within your budget.

Some key components to identify in your contract should include:

  • Realistic allowances (Find out more about allowances here)
  • How you define heated or unheated spaces
  • How a garage or basement is might be included/handled in the contract
  • If land is included in the square footage costs
  • Liability insurance costs
  • Utility connection costs
  • Septic system costs
  • Driveway costs
  • Sidewalk costs
  • Landscaping costs
  • Subcontractor costs
  • Green material costs
  • Inflation for a delayed build
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