Calculating Cost

How do I estimate the cost of building my house?

And…what’s the cost per square foot to build a new home?

It’s always the first question we hear: “How Much Does it Cost to Build a House?”

But answering this question is like asking…

  • How much does it cost to take a vacation, or send our kids to college?
  • How much per pound should we expect to spend on a new car?
  • What’s the “average cost” of a dinner for two?

These questions contain so many variables that it’s not very easy for anyone to answer them accurately without asking additional questions and gathering more information. The same is true when calculating the cost to build a new home.

Here at Envision. Home at Last., it’s our primary goal to take the stress and sweat out of big questions like “How much does it cost to build my home?” and “What’s the cost per square foot to build a new home?” Answering these questions are more manageable to answer when you work with an Envision. Home at Last. builder, because our expert design personnel will ask the right questions as you make your selections so it fits your lifestyle and your budget when we price your home.

When you work with us, you’ll be able to…

  • Choose from an assortment of plans, customize an existing plan or customize your own plan
  • You’ll have an array products for you choose from within our builder showrooms
  • Pricing will be made available to you quickly and accurately

Once you made these selections, an Envision. Home at Last. builder will have a price on your new home all within days, that’s not only quick, but accurate too.

OK, so you’re probably asking yourself, “Then, what will I need to do?”

The only way to be sure that your home building budget is reasonable is to identify every item that will be used to build your individual home and bid all of the associated subcontracts and labor costs. Of course, in order to do that, you will need to:

Have plan and specifications (did we mention we provide those?!)
Develop a complete and thorough estimate for your individual project (we have expert estimators on staff that can help with that!)

We understand that people don’t want to buy a dozen different house plans and then spend weeks or months pricing them in order to determine which one(s) they can afford to build. So, a more realistic approach to determining how much your new home will cost might be to simply work backwards.

Determine how much you can afford to spend
Be realistic about the size of the house you need
Decide what and where you can afford to build

OK, so how I can I get started?

There are plenty of financial resources on the Internet, including our very own web series video about financing your home, but we also recommend discussing your new home with a local banker that will help you learn more about mortgages and calculate monthly payments for a given loan.


After you have a good idea of your financial situation you can look in the real estate section of your local newspaper, online, or in real estate guides for land and lots that appeal to you, we can assist you in finding that ideal location to build your new home. A good resource to get you started is to view our very own web series video about selecting your lot.

But before you jump into that, let’s answer three more key questions that will help us determine the cost of your new home.

How does square footage factor into the price our my home?

Consider what square foot home building costs really are nothing more than the total cost of a given project divided by the total number of square feet in that project. So, a 2,000 square foot home with total construction costs of $250,000 would cost $125 per square foot to build. Spend another $50,000 on a gourmet kitchen, an elegant master bath, marble tiles in the foyer, a fancy curved stair, 10 foot ceilings, or any other combination of “above average” features or finishes, and that same 2,000 square foot house would now cost $150 per square foot to build. That’s an increase of 20 percent.

We also have to keep in mind that there really isn’t any uniform method of measuring square footage or defining what is included in those numbers.

  • Are you using exterior dimensions or interior dimensions?
  • How do you define heated or unheated space?
  • Have you included the garage or basement or unfinished loft areas in their calculations?
  • What about decks or covered porches?
  • Is the land included in the square foot costs?
  • What about building permits, liability insurance, utility connections, wells, septic systems, driveways, sidewalks, landscaping, etc.?

Price per square foot is a real variable that is really dependent on the selections you make to that home. A typical entry level finish can range from $90-$115 per square foot, Mid range finish level can range from $110-$160 per square foot, a high end finish can start at $150 per square foot and go well beyond $500 per square foot, again depending on the selections you choose. This would only be the home itself, in additional to that you would need to include: site development costs, land costs, well & septic (or water & sewer), and landscaping.

How can structure impact the cost of my home?

Now consider the structure itself. If the house in question is a ranch, with all of the finished area on one floor, the roof would have to be large enough to cover the entire 2,000 feet of living space. Turn that single level ranch into a two-story colonial and that results in a 50 percent reduction in roof size because the second floor system became the “roof” for half of the area on the first floor. Increase the roof pitch from 3/12 to 12/12 and the roof area (including framing members, sheathing, shingles) quickly increases to 35 percent.

Of course, these examples are oversimplified because they don’t consider any other differences, like the need to add the cost of stairs and take away the space they occupy, or in the case of a slab-on-grade foundation, the difference between the cost of a concrete slab verses a wooden floor system.

Let’s also mention that costs of similarly sized homes can also vary considerably due to the shape of the building, the number of corners or offsets in the design, the type of foundation and required local footing depth, the pitch of the roof, and many other design characteristics that are not directly related to the size of the house.

Green building products should also be an option you consider as you build your new home with Envision. Home at Last. because we offer many options to help save on energy bills down the road.

What other outside factors can affect the cost of my home?

Next, we have all of the regional, governmental, political, seasonal, and unpredictable human factors to add to our estimate. Development impact fees: more and more state and/or local jurisdictions are charging owners or land developers. This can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $50,000 per single family home. Labor and material costs can vary substantially based upon the time of the year, complexity or uniqueness of the project, good or bad economic times, jobsite conditions, regional markets, the unemployment rate, local building codes, construction moratoriums, zoning laws, covenants and restrictions, availability of supplies and workers, weather conditions, natural disasters, public or private water and sewer, and several hundred other factors.

Our final thoughts…

The choices you and your family make in terms of finished products in your home determine the cost to build your custom home.

For example, clad wood windows cost more than vinyl windows, tile costs more than linoleum, a glazed finished cabinet costs more than a stain, all these choices add or subtract from the overall cost to build your new home. Our web series videos on interior and exterior selections (how to select your exterior windows and doors product is here and how to select your siding and roofing products is here) can give a better idea of how windows, doors, and cabinetry can fit into your needs and budget.

We understand that tackling the “How much does it cost to build a home?” question is no easy feat. That’s why our team is here to assist in making the right decisions and selections along the way that will make this question feel not as overwhelming. Why? We have expert personnel on staff that can design and build to fit your budget.

Let’s face it. Building a home is one of the most stressful decisions you’ll ever have to make, because it’s one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll have to make. With our over 40 years of experience in the custom home building industry, you’ll be able to rest easy, because we’ll be with you every step of the way…so you can finally be home at last and on budget!