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Cost to Build a House Per Square Foot

Cost to Build a House Per Square Foot

If you are trying to calculate the cost of building a house, this article will be helpful. Such a project requires a lot of study and analysis of building and material costs. Read to get an idea about how you can get a rough estimate of house building costs.
Omkar Phatak
Building your own house is a dream of a lifetime, and it's essential that you calculate the building costs, so that you can ensure that your finances are adequate for the job at hand. How much does it cost to build a house per square foot? Sounds like a simple enough question, but quoting an exact numerical answer to it, will need a supercomputer for sure!

It will have to analyze all the prices of all houses ever built in the United States of America, will have to know the building costs, material costs, real estate prices in every area, the variable costs of labor in different regions and future market prices. From all this information, it will have to construct a formula, that can calculate building costs per square foot and then average it out over all these variables, to give you a number! Unfortunately, we do not have a supercomputer or the data and therefore it is not possible to give you an absolute number, as it's an unrealistic question to ask.

However, if you are willing to study and work out all the details that are involved in building your house and gather all the related information, then you can come up with a cost estimate. The method of estimating the total building costs per square foot, is to calculate the total estimated cost for building your house, according to current market prices (without including price of land purchase) and then dividing it by the total built-in floor area in square feet. Home construction is a satisfying, but hugely challenging job, that requires a lot of planning. Still, considering the rough price spread all over the country, you may expect the per square foot cost to be anywhere between $90 to more than $150 per square foot, depending on the quality of furnishing, degree of lavishness, house design and many other factors explained in the following lines.

Factors Affecting Construction Cost

Let us look at the factors that affect the building costs per square foot. The prime factors are as follows:
  • Total Size & Shape of House: The total size and shape of your house will affect the building costs per square foot. A box shaped house costs less while unconventional designs, with more architectural complexity will cost more. The number of floors and rooms to be built, will decide the roofing costs.
  • Land & Cost of Site Preparation: A major expense before even beginning the building of a house is the leveling costs of a land plot. The site needs to be dug, to build the foundation, which adds to the costs. A land with a slope is difficult to build on and needs a lot of leveling.
  • Building Material Costs: This is a very important parameter, which matters a lot. The kind of materials you use for building your house, affect the building costs.
  • Labor Costs: This is the money you need to pay for the labor involved in construction.
  • Quality of Furnishing: The cost of your house is of course directly proportional to the degree of lavishness you go for, in terms of furnishing and facilities. A swimming pool for example, will cause the building costs per square foot to sky rocket.
  • Location: An important parameter is the location of your house as it will decide the labor costs and prices of building material, which are subject to the local market fluctuations.
Tips on Calculating Building Cost

After that overview of factors affecting building costs, let me share some tips on how you can calculate the cost to build a house, on your own.

Be Clear About the House Design
Before you can make any estimates, you need to have a built-to-scale design of your house, made by a qualified architect. It needs to embody everything that you expect your house to be. Without a design, no estimation is possible. The design can help you in getting a realistic estimate of all the costs involved in building your house.

Gather Information About Current Market Costs
Next thing to do is consult your architect and make a list of the building materials involved in house construction. Gather information about market costs, related to every one of the above factors.

Take Help From Local Contractors
To get an idea about building costs, consult builders in your area. If possible, inquire about the building costs of houses, which are similar to the design of your house. All this information, which includes building, labor, material and architectural designing costs will enable you to come up with a realistic number of total cost to build your house. Then divide it by the total square footage of your house flooring, which will give you the building cost per square foot.

All that said and done, there are two ways of approaching the problem of estimation. Either you create a model of your dream home in excruciating detail and then estimate the cost, by calculating the price of each factor, or you decide the maximum amount you are willing to spend and find out what kind of house fits that budget. The latter approach is more realistic one. Make sure that your total building budget is 10% to 15% more than the estimated total cost of building. This precaution is to keep a margin for unforeseen expenses and inflation, arising out of changing market conditions. Planning in advance is the key.