Building a House – An In-Depth Look Into the Work and Cost It Entails
Given a choice between shopping around for a new home and building a house from scratch, with all things being equal, we’re guessing you’d rather build your house. This is quite understandable since finding a pre-built or existing home that ticks all the boxes in your list of must-haves can be difficult and time-consuming.
In fact, you may find one that looks picture-perfect but is way out of your budget, or a house that looks promising but whose price can balloon far out of proportion when you start computing for remodeling expenses and upgrades.
So, deciding to build your own home can come quite naturally. Building a house means you can get the plan drawn up based on your specifications and requirements. You’ll have full control over the materials used and can even help in finding good suppliers and getting discounts. Then again, not having a fair idea of how much you’ll likely spend on your home building project can get you into trouble.
Current average sales prices of existing homes are set at about the $300,000 mark. As someone hoping to build their own home, you might be wondering if spending the same amount on your home construction project can get you the house you want and save you a bit of cash in the process.
How much will it take to build a new house?
HomeAdvisor.com, a digital platform that enables homeowners to connect with home improvement professionals, says that to build a custom house, the average cost to build one is about $300,000. However, this estimate can vary greatly depending on a couple of factors, including the location of the land, the size of the home you want and the materials you’ll use. To stick as closely to your budget as possible, be on the lookout for opportunities to get discounts and save money in the process.
And with a bit of research, patience and some haggling, you just mind end up building your dream home well within your set budget.
What are the steps to building a house?
Building a house is a major undertaking you need to prepare for adequately. With the help of an architect and a trustworthy builder, house construction can turn into a gratifying and exciting experience.
Here are the basic steps you need to consider in building a house:
1. Determine what you want
For practical purposes, you need to know for certain the kind of house you want before allocating a budget and purchasing land. You need to decide what type of residential property you are after. Do you want a bungalow, cottage or cabin, or a multi-family setup you can share with your aging parents? Where do you want to live? How big should it be? What materials do you want to use?
Let’s say you’ve made a decision to build your home in a suburban location. You should then at least do some research and find out how much land costs in your prospective location. You can check listings in your target area or speak to a real estate agent who can help you with your requirements. Once you zero in on the land, find out whether the kind of house you have in mind can be built in that area. What zoning laws should you be mindful of? What permissions do you need to obtain?
As you try to get these sorted out, you can begin talking to an architect, so you can have a rendering of your dream home created. As much as possible, work with an architect who specializes in the type of home you want. If the land you acquire has an unusual or challenging topography, the architect you choose should be able to address these specific points.
Remember that custom homes tend to cost a lot more than the usual, so get a good estimate of the costs. But if you are open to other less pricey options, buying a unit in a housing development may be a good alternative. In this case, the builder or developer provides a certain number of floor plans and designs, as well as optional upgrades or add-ons.
Going for a home in a development can save you about 15 percent on construction costs, while also providing a certain level of customizability. You won’t need to worry about zoning and building permits either as the developer takes care of these.
Another option you can consider is buying a prefabricated home that’s manufactured off-site. Advancements in building technology now allow prefab home builders to come up with excellent home designs. Construction costs and time are also significantly reduced as the builder needs only to assemble the prefabricated pieces on location.
So, before coming up with a budget, make sure you think these over and do some research. Ask questions and see how you can reconcile what you want and need with what you can afford.
2. Set a budget
Now that you’ve taken care of the specifics, you can calculate a general budget. Here, you can refer back to your initial inquiries or research and make a note of the figures or estimates you received. You’ll need to review the costs you have and get more information as needed.
- Consider the land price: Let’s say you already have price quotes for prospective sites. Are any one of those within your projected land value? Is the lot well-situated and large enough for your planned home? What zoning laws and building regulations/fees should you be mindful of?
- Find an architect and builder: If you want a custom home, it makes sense to work with an architect and a general contractor, preferably those who are familiar with the area you’ve chosen to make your home in. Avoid hurrying through this process and ensure the professionals you choose to work with are properly vetted and have the necessary licenses in their respective fields. Don’t be afraid to ask for samples of their works and references.
- Get your plans together: Whether you intend to build a custom home, a prefab one or opt for a development home, you need to have clear-cut plans. Be sure to communicate these with the people you’ll be working with in building your home.
- Take care of documentation: Building a house is much like constructing a commercial building in a sense that you’ll need several types of permits to commence construction. There are different types of permits you’ll need to secure, such as building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits. If you hire a general contractor, they can take care of this for you.
- Get insurance: Although building contractors typically have cover, you can add a layer of security to your home building venture by purchasing your own insurance.
- Commence construction work: Depending on how large your house is, the weather and other factors, building work will take place in phases and may take anywhere between three to six months or more.
- Wait for final inspection results: Once construction work is finished, an inspector will come and check the newly constructed house to ensure there are no omitted or forgotten aspects of the project. The inspector will also look into possible problems that can emerge later, poor workmanship, design and material problems and latent defects. This inspection is crucial as it helps to ensure your new house is built to standards and according to the agreed plan. More importantly, they’ll let you know when your home is ready to be occupied.
- Work on the yard: This last step isif you have space for a small yard or garden where you can do some landscaping. Talk to a local nursery to find out which plants thrive well in your area.
Detailed house construction costs
Now that you’re familiar with the key steps you need to take in the house construction process, we’ll provide you with a couple of ballpark figures you can work around. Of course, when you set out to begin your home building project, you will find that actual costs may vary and be above or below the prices quoted here. Note that these are all averages, so keep an open mind.
There are several places in the country where you can buy cheap land. However, this all depends on where you want to live. Ideally, it would be somewhere close to work and any conveniences you simply must have. Or you may choose to live close to home to ensure you stay close to family while maintaining your independence. Location is key in pricing, and second to it is the size of the lot you want. With such a huge variation in real estate prices, the land you buy can cost you a few thousand dollars or easily reach five figures.
After acquiring the land you want, it still needs to be cleared in preparation for construction work. Depending on the condition of the lot or if there are existing ruins, clearing operations can cost anywhere from a thousand dollars to as much as $4,000.
You also need to allocate a budget for utility connections if there are no existing ones, and this can vary depending on your proximity to utility hookups. As each town or city would have its own average prices, you need to be prepared to spend an amount in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Getting connected to city water and sewer systems is another cost consideration. If you need to build a well and septic tank, you may end up shelling out $4,500 to as much as $21,000 for both.
To avoid unpleasant surprises, try to get these items sorted out early on by conducting research and getting quotes.
Enlisting the services of an architect can cost you about $5,000 to conceptualize your vision and produce a blueprint of your dream home. Working with an experienced architect who can easily translate your vision into working floor plans can be a worthwhile investment to ensure all the details are worked out before breaking ground. But if you have a clear vision for your home or need a simple, basic design, you can set aside a budget of around $1,800 and work with a draftsman or CAD drafter.
The amount you’ll end up spending on your home foundation depends on the type you choose, whether you go for a slab, crawl space or basement. Slab is usually the cheapest of the three and costs around $5,000, while a completely finished basement can cost as much as $100,000. Crawl spaces are recommended for houses built in dry climates as they help to improve insulation and ventilation, and are usually priced at $8,000 upward.
The frame functions as the skeleton of your house, and can set you back anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000.
Calculate for exterior finishing materials such as siding, roofing, lighting, shutters, windows and doors. Average costs are typically pegged at $40,000 to $50,000. These can cost you more if you choose specialty materials, such as custom windows and doors.
Making your home livable and aesthetically pleasing is what finishing work is all about. Depending on the quality of the materials you use, make sure to allocate between $70,000 and $80,000, plus a bit of allowance.
Interior finishing work includes insulation and drywall installation, paintwork, wallpaper, cabinetry, flooring and carpets. If you want a luxuriously finished bathroom, you may have to shell out a bit more.
Electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems
For a fully functional home, you need to have several systems in place. Getting your home wired and connected by a professional electrician can cost you $10,000. Plumbing work can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000, while HVAC system installation can set you back by around $4,000 to $12,000.
Work is not complete even after taking care of your home interiors and exteriors. You also need to budget for your driveway and garage, with a basic one costing around $7,500 — anything fancier will definitely cost more.
Landscaping is another expense you need to budget for. General sod installation can cost you a thousand dollars, but that’s the least of it. If you want an herb garden or a complex landscape featuring different types of foliage and water features, prepare to spend more. If you want a porch, deck or gazebo, your landscaping project can cost you an extra $10,000 to $20,000 or more.
So, can you afford to build your own house?
Just thinking about designing and building your home from scratch is already exciting. However, the purpose of this post is to ensure you are aware of the costs involved in building a house. If you want to push through with your home construction project, make sure you have ready financing to back up your venture.
You may find, after calculating and some soul-searching, that purchasing a home may be a more realistic, viable alternative after all.
If you decide to go the real estate route, you can contact us at RI Home Store, particularly if you’re eyeing property in Rhode Island. We’ll be happy to discuss the options available to you.