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How to Estimate Home Building Costs

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Most people wonder how to estimate home building costs. There are many different methods, but the one below is fairly accurate. While there is not much variation in the cost of building the shells or structures of different kinds of homes, it is the contents, the finishes and the luxuries that drive up the price. The average shell cost is about $25 per square foot, and in most cases the range of shell costs vary from $21 to $31 per square foot. This price does not include the foundation, the electrical work, the plumbing or any finish at all to the interior. A Shell is a bare bones home, without any extras yet, and these costs are fairly consistent, no matter where you live, or what sort of home you are building.

How to Estimate Home Building Costs: Shell Costs and Different Building Materials

Even the cost difference between different types of materials does not make a huge difference, unless you are incorporating a lot of stone work. Stone masons sometimes charge quite a bit for their complex and time consuming work. The difference between six inch wall studs and four inch wall studs might account for a dollar per square foot, and the same with insulated concrete panels or forms. They cost a dollar or two more per square foot than a budget style stick build home, but the difference is not significant enough to account for the difference in price we see in a vast array of different homes.

How to Estimate Home Building Costs: Labor

The cost of labor is a large part of the price of building a home. If you live in Massachusetts, NY, Hawaii, or California you will double the cost of labor compared to the price homes built in the Southern US. The further North one is, on the East Coast the more labor costs.

How to Estimate Home Building Costs: Add the Following to Estimate the Cost

o $25 per square foot – shell price
o $1 per square foot for energy efficiency of six inch studs, or insulated concrete
o $1 per square foot for superior R-value insulation
This price remains fairly consistent.

How to Estimate Home Building Costs: Now Add

o $2000 for grading a level lot or $10,000 for a heavily sloped lot
o $5000 for slab, $6000 for crawl space or $18 per square foot for basement area
o $5000 per standard bathroom for plumbing
o $8-10 per square foot for electrical
o $2.50 per square foot for drywall (mostly labor – Do it yourself and save.)
o Multiply this by two if you live in California, Hawaii or 80 percent if you live in the North Atlantic states. Decrease the percent the further down the coast you live. Midwestern prices are comparable to Southern prices.

o Add the cost per square foot for floor covering. Floor covering usually includes installation cost.
o Add the cost of special woodwork.
o Add the cost of paint and wallpaper
o Add the cost of any stairways, fireplaces, fireplace inserts or other costly extras.
o Add the line foot price for cabinets and counter tops times the wall space they will take up. This cost could vary from $65 per line foot, and 320 per line foot in most cases, though luxury cabinetry could cost quite a bit more.
o Add the cost of your appliances.
o Add the cost of plumbing fixtures.
o Add the cost of bathroom cabinetry and any other built in cabinetry in the home.
o Labor to finish the interior will cost an additional from $20 – $30 per square foot. You should double that price for California, Hawaii or the Northern Atlantic States. Or you can save this cost by finishing the interior yourself.

How to Estimate Home Building Costs: Luxury and Custom Homes

In addition luxury and custom homes will involve substantial architect fees which could be between $30,000 to $100,000 depending on the quality of your architect and the amount of time it takes to decide on the plans. It is possible that some situations might require even higher architect fees. It makes sense to adapt an existing plan in most cases and plans can be purchased on line for less than $1000, or your builder may offer you one which would be included in the price.

This article is intended to give a basic guideline, but actual prices may vary considerably. How much it actually costs is up to you and your home builder. Your home builder knows how to estimate home building costs, specific to your requirements and your location, in order to give you the exact price of building your home before you sign the contract.


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