Real Estate

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House?

Imagine the possibilities—every detail just exactly the way you want it to be without having to settle for what’s already on the market. The opportunity to build your own house is exciting, but it can be a big investment, ranging from $158,572 to $478,600 and averaging out nationally at $100 to $200 per square foot.
Meghan Wentland Avatar
How Much Does It Cost to Build a House

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

  • Typical Range: $158,572 to $478,600
  • National Average: $303,373

Shopping for a new home based on existing inventory can be hit or miss: One house might have many features a buyer loves but be in the wrong neighborhood, while a home in the neighborhood the buyer loves may be more ramshackle than expected. House prices vary wildly based on which part of the country the market is in, which part of the state, and sometimes even the side of the street a home is on. Building your own house allows you to customize every detail and control the budget, as long as you’ve budgeted for the occasional unexpected surprise. In addition, building your house lets you deeply understand the inner workings of the place in which you spend most of your life.

This means, of course, that there are many components to learn about when pricing a potential build. We’ve broken down the different elements that go into building a house to help you understand how to afford a newly constructed home that best suits your style and budget.

Builders, Architects, and Contractors—All In One Place
Building a new home is hard. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from experts near you.

How to Calculate How Much It Costs to Build a House

How to Calculate How Much It Costs to Build a House

There are many variables when estimating the cost to build a house. Each category of construction and finish will be available in a range from economy to luxury, so the actual cost and budget for each category is dependent on the builder’s preferences.

While you can choose to serve as your own contractor, new construction building is a minefield of permits and ordinances and a grand dance of coordination. Unless you’re planning for this to be your full-time job for the length of the build, the next step is to consider interviewing several general contractors and hiring one to shepherd your project through from start to finish. Although you might be committed to building the house yourself, a good contractor should be able to show you how they can save you money and alert you to potential pitfalls. Hiring a general contractor will account for 10 percent to 20 percent of your total project cost, but it may save you from committing expensive errors. Once you’ve established that, the contractor should be able to help you with specific estimates.

To calculate how much it costs to build a house, start by choosing and adding up the following:

  1. To calculate the cost, you’ll need to know the size and footprint of the house. If you’re working with an architect, plan as much as possible before seeking estimates for materials and services. Last-minute adjustments can add significantly to the price. Calculate the square footage of the house and the dimensions of the footprint—for reference, the average cost to build a new home is $150 per square foot, but in high-end markets that number can soar, so seek multiple estimates as you choose your materials.
  2. Get estimates for how much it will cost to clear the property and prepare the site, including tree removal, excavation and grading, soil testing, and connection to city utilities.
  3. If your house will need a foundation, get several estimates for the excavation, soil removal, and material and labor costs to pour the foundation.
  4. Using the square footage and diagrams of the room division plans, a contractor will be able to help you estimate the cost of framing materials and labor.
  5. Decide on the type of exterior cladding (which includes insulation and choice of siding) you prefer, then get estimates or bids to compare. This is an area where you can save significantly on the material cost based on your preferences and choices, because there is a wide range of pricing from economical vinyl siding to mid-range wood siding, up to luxury custom finishes including natural stone and stucco. In addition, there is often space for negotiation on this cost based on the vendor and the amount of material you’ll need. Choose windows based on your design, and price out options.
  6. Consider the major systems of the home, including electrical, gas, HVAC, plumbing, and technology wiring. You’ll need to add the total cost of materials, including the foundation pieces such as the breaker box, meters, boilers or furnaces, and condensers, along with connection components such as wires, junction boxes and switches, pipes and connectors, and outlets. Labor costs to set and install these systems can be significant and variable, based on the systems you choose and regional variations of labor costs, so seek multiple estimates and ensure whether or not the estimates provide a flat project cost including materials itemize individual material costs and labor separately.
  7. Interior finishes, such as drywall, flooring, cabinets, and ceilings, will vary in material and labor costs based on what you choose and the size and dimensions of the surfaces you have to cover. Estimates will help you calculate this sum.
  8. Permits: New construction requires permits and inspections at almost every turn, and missing one can complicate the process later. Visit your local town assessor, survey offices, or town’s municipal offices to ask for a list of necessary permits and their list of costs.
  9. Other professional costs: A general contractor will add 10 percent to 20 percent to your cost. Architects, engineers, drafters, and designers are likely to charge an hourly rate that can be negotiable depending on the level of services. Interview and seek proposals from contractors before hiring them, then add the price to your total cost.
Factors in Calculating How Much It Costs to Build a House

Factors in Calculating How Much It Costs to Build a House

Once the basic systems and structures that need to be in place during a build are understood, home builders can begin to make decisions that allow them to prioritize those aspects of the house that are important to them and fit them into the budget. Remember that the national averages are just that—averages—and that everyone has different ideas about how to build a house. For some builders, the size of the house is the most important part, while others emphasize the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, and others look to maximize outdoor living spaces. The total cost will be based on these priorities and the local market.

Don't Do The Heavy Lifting Yourself
Hire contractors, architects, builders, and more. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from experts near you.

Size and Shape

It stands to reason that the bigger a house will be, the more it will cost. This isn’t a straightforward calculation, though. Sometimes adding a second story to a smaller footprint can be less expensive than spreading that square footage out into a larger one-story home, because the two-story house will save on land preparation, foundation, and roofing costs. The shape will also have a significant effect on the total cost: Every additional corner or odd angle on the exterior requires more framing, flashing, and finishing material and adds labor time and cost. A round library room on the corner of the house may be your dream, but the cost of framing and finishing that rounded room may mean you’ll have to sacrifice elsewhere, depending on your budget.

Design Features

Does your lifestyle include outdoor living? Will you need an outdoor kitchen, pool, patio, or deck? These features will obviously add to the design, material, and labor costs, but they also may be less expensive to include in the original build than to add on later. When labor and material are budgeted into the cost of a large project, the goods and services may be discounted. If these features aren’t at the top of your list, this is an area where you can cut back so you can spend the money on other elements that are more important to your lifestyle.

Number of Stories

Adding multiple stories to a home can add costs to design and construction work, but it can also be less expensive than adding the same square footage to a one-story design. Multistory houses require different levels of support framing on the basement and first-story levels to support the second or third levels, but larger single-story homes require larger foundations and more roofing. For many new-home builders, this choice is nonnegotiable, as the home they’ve envisioned has a particular style. For others, the cost is more important than how the square footage is distributed, and the less expensive option will win out.


Basements can add $10 to $100 per square foot to new house construction, depending on whether they are partial or full depth and whether they are finished or unfinished. It’s important to check with local regulations about basements, as many municipalities have codes that specify the depth of a basement and the number and type of egress points required. These considerations are important, because adding egress points to a completed basement can be an unexpected and significant cost.

Geographic Location

Some areas are simply more expensive to build in than others. Whether it’s the cost to transport materials, availability of skilled labor, or just the market value of those services, the city and state in which you plan to build will have an effect on the entire cost of the project. In addition, when building on a site that is very remote or difficult to access, expect to pay more for transportation and labor to cover travel time and potentially to stretch utilities to the new home.

Material Costs

All told, the materials to build a house will make up approximately 50 percent of the total cost. This means, however, that the builder’s selections have the power to influence that overall cost. For example, vinyl siding costs about $2 per square foot, while custom stone can ring up at more than $30 per square foot. It’s possible to make economical selections on materials without sacrificing safety or appearance to save money or spend it on other priorities. Lumber, concrete, drywall, flooring, siding, and roofing are all materials that come to mind, but don’t forget insulation, endless lengths of wires and pipes, and nails, staples, and other hardware.


The cost to hire workers to design, build, roof, power, plumb, finish, and decorate a house (and to clean up the debris after it’s built) is not insignificant. A full 30 percent to 60 percent of the budget will go to subcontractors and experts in their fields, but this amount will be tied, as everything else is, to the size and design of the house and the chosen materials. The labor to put down a simple hardwood floor, for example, will be less than the labor to lay an intricate mosaic tile floor in a custom design. Some finish functions can be performed by capable homeowners to save on labor costs, but others, particularly whole-house systems and framing, should be handled by professionals.

Additional Costs and Considerations of Building a House

Additional Costs and Considerations

A house is much more than its visible parts—beyond the basic construction of the house, there are other costs that need to be accounted for when building a budget.

Your Home, Exactly How You Want It
Let pros get it done for you. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from experts near you.

Land and Site Work

Building a house requires a clean, level site on which to pour a foundation. Site work can involve tree and landscaping removal, grading, and surveying the property, in addition to locating or placing utility supply lines. This can range anywhere from $5,000 to $38,000 and should be roughly 5 percent to 8 percent of the total build cost.

Lot Condition

Are utilities already in place on the land where the house will be built? If so, you’re in luck and will only have to identify their locations. Connecting to city sewers and water lines can add $1,300 to $5,000 each to the cost of the build, and connecting to electrical lines adds anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000, depending on how close the lot is to existing lines.


The average range for a foundation is $16,600 to $72,000, or 10 percent to 15 percent of the total project cost. This will vary based on the depth and size of the foundation; a slab foundation will cost less than a dimensional one. Local regulations often determine the type and size of the foundation based on soil type, weather typical for the region, and floodplain status.


Depending on the square footage, shape of the house, number of rooms, and number of stories, the framing will make up 10 percent to 20 percent of the project cost, averaging $16,600 to $95,000. This is an area where working closely with an architect or contractor can help save money; they will know which choices will increase or decrease the overall cost and can help guide your choices. It’s also an area where it’s important for you to think carefully about your preferences, because it won’t matter that you saved a bit on framing if the room layout feels awkward or too open or closed off for your living style.


If you’re building in a floodplain or coastal location, stilts may be a necessary part of the planning process. Your homeowners insurance may require stilts in a floodplain, so it’s a good idea to check before finalizing your design—building on stilts adds $20,000 to $60,000 to an initial build, but adding them later costs $25,000 to $100,000 and can lead to damage to other finish work, so if there’s any possibility you’ll need them later, it’s better to include them in the new construction plan.

Exterior Work

Another 15 percent to 20 percent of the cost will consist of the cladding (including insulation and choice of siding), roofing, gutters, and windows. Expect to pay $20,000 to $95,000 on average. If you’ve dreamed of a shingle-style home or a beautiful fieldstone chimney, these can be places to splurge, but there are also many choices that are economical and attractive. Quality materials and professional installation are key in this area: Poorly installed gutters can cause disastrous damage, and the exterior work has a significant impact on the home’s curb appeal and resale value.

Major Systems

HVAC, plumbing, electricity, smart home wiring, and lighting: These are the systems that let your house work and breathe. Elaborate setups aren’t necessary, but there’s a wide range of costs associated with putting these systems in place, and it’s an area where it’s good to keep the long game in mind during the decision-making process. Choosing a smaller-size water heater can earn you savings now, but if your family gets larger, you may be replacing it prematurely. These choices will also affect home value, especially in areas with particularly hot or cold weather. The major systems should be approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of the budget, or between $17,000 and $72,000 on average.

Interior Finishes

While individually easy to economize, interior finishing materials add up to a whopping 25 percent to 35 percent of the home building budget cost. Drywall, ceilings, floors, fixtures, cabinets, molding, and other finishes can cost as much as $167,000 and up, depending on the materials and finishes you select. Again, there are areas where you can economize; this is definitely an area to price shop. While you may feel that an interior designer is an unnecessary extravagance, the selections and purchase of interior finishes can be easier and less costly if you work with someone who has the experience to know how to make less expensive finishes look luxurious.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House? Types of Materials

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House? Types of Materials

Home-building materials have come a long way from the three little pigs’ straw, wood, and brick…at least structurally. Improvements in durability, rot resistance, and insulation have resulted in a wide range of energy-efficient options. Costs will vary based on the size of the home and the market, but each material offers benefits and drawbacks based on the location and style of the house.

Build A House That's A Home
Trusted experts at your fingertips. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from pros near you.

Timber-Frame House

Timber-frame houses are classic and traditional but come at a cost: Running an average of $200 to $250 per square foot, they require a special structural technique that is time- and labor-intensive. If the style appeals to you, however, it’s worth the cost, as timber-frame houses are durable and long lasting, with an timeless appearance and great appeal.

Metal or Steel-Frame House

Steel-framed houses are slightly more expensive at $10 to $15 per square foot than standard wood-framed houses, as the steel is cold-rolled into thin studs and I-beams to provide outstanding structural support that isn’t subject to rot or termites. It transfers heat and cold more readily than wood framing, so insulation costs may be higher.

Brick House

Brick was once considered a building material on its own, and brick houses have a solid feel and classic charm. Modern building codes, however, require insulation and structural minimums, so brick is now usually regarded as an exterior siding or cladding, and homes with load-bearing masonry structures are rare.

Concrete House

Insulated concrete forms, or ICFs, are an up-and-coming solution for homes in areas that need a lot of insulation. A home constructed entirely of ICFs will cost $5 to $8 more per square foot than a metal or wood-framed house, but it can result in a savings of 20 percent to 30 percent in heating and cooling costs during the life of the home. These forms can also be used to construct the basement of other styles of home construction and cost approximately the same as poured concrete foundations.

Prefabricated House

A far cry from the early Sears homes of the early 1900s, prefabricated homes can be as simple or as luxurious as the designer likes and come at a cost of 10 percent to 15 percent less than on-site builds. The pieces of the home are constructed off-site, then trucked to the location and assembled in their final position. Design options may be somewhat limited depending on the manufacturer, but labor and transportation costs are reduced, as is the actual on-site build time.

Wood Log Cabin

Log cabins are beautifully rustic and have a handmade charm, costing approximately $125 to $300 per square foot. The labor and material costs will vary, but the build requires expertise and training, so you may be limited in terms of finding a builder, or you may have to wait until one is available. Some companies offer complete log cabin kits that dedicated homeowners can use to build their own cabin, but the kits are predesigned and won’t allow for customization.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House? Types of Houses

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House? Types of Houses

The style of the house a home builder envisions may be set long before the process of design begins, but it’s always a good plan to consider the options and the cost benefits of choosing another style. Depending on where the building site is and what the conditions are, builders may have options they’re not even aware of. Homes built within a housing development, as well as custom homes and modular-type homes, offer different levels of customization, while different home styles allow builders to choose a shape and floor plan that meets their needs.

Housing Development

Some home builders find the web of choices to be overwhelming. Building in a housing development gives a home builder a fixed library of floor plans to choose from, but it allows home builders to customize the finishes and materials to create a semi-custom home. The costs will vary based on the development, but because developers receive such a large discount for buying supplies in bulk, home builders can save as much as 15 percent on building costs over building on their own lot.

Custom House

Truly custom homes can cost as much as the home builder has to spend. Custom and luxury homes will generally average out to $300 to $500 per square foot, and these homes tend to be larger, so building costs are high—as are the costs of fit and finishing. However, the results are a house that is exactly what you want that functions precisely the way you want it to. These homes require a residential architect, which will add 5 percent to 15 percent to the total construction cost.

Modular Home

Builders can save a significant amount of money by sacrificing some customization and choosing a modular home. Like homes in a housing development, modular homes have limited floor plans and also limited customization options. However, modular homes are created off-site and assembled on the building lot, saving time and labor costs. When combined with panel construction, modular homes can be an economical way to build your own home for 10 percent to 15 percent less than a comparably sized site-built house.

Ranch House

Simply styled one-story homes, ranch houses are favored by those who want to avoid climbing extra steps or prefer single-story living. Ringing up at $100 to $200 per square foot on average, modestly sized ranch houses fall in the midrange of housing prices, with an exception: Very large ranch houses can cost more than a two-story house with the same square footage because of the increased cost of a large foundation.

Modern House

Sleekly finished with expansive, beautiful windows to let in light, modern houses tend to be larger than average houses and have more costly finishes. As a result, the overall price of building these homes is likely to be higher than other styles. The real culprit for the higher cost of modern homes is the glass: Large-paned windows can sharply ramp up the overall cost of the build.

Row House

Sometimes called duplexes or townhouses, depending on your region, row houses connect two complete homes or feature common walls with other units. This can result in reduced exterior building cost when spread over multiple units, but it can also lock builders into required finishes or features that add to the price. Expect to pay between $100 and $400 per square foot.


Charming, quaint, and eye-catching, Victorian homes aren’t really built any differently than other homes—it’s the finish that adds to the final building cost. Millwork, trims, and flourishes, along with custom paintwork and richly stained trims, add to material and labor costs, as do custom peaked roofs, wraparound porches, and turrets. Expect to pay between $250,000 and $550,000 to build a modestly sized Victorian and more for an expansive home with hand-carved millwork and added details.

Dome House

Dome, or octagon, houses, are a quick way to build a permanent shelter. The plans usually include a shell and a floor, for which builders can pay as little as $50 to $75. Once in place, home builders can choose an open plan, closed-off rooms, or add temporary or movable walls to allow flexibility.


Cottages are usually small and quaint in appearance, but they can be surprisingly expensive to build. Authentically maintaining the cottage style requires a lot of detail, high-end materials, and custom building to fit efficient living space into a small footprint. Expect to pay about $250 per square foot and up, depending on the level of customization.


Saltbox homes are a classic New England style with a high, flat face and short, steeply pitched front roof that drops away at a wide angle almost immediately behind the peak, allowing snow to slide off more easily in colder climates and providing a large base for solar panels. Costing between $150 and $250 per square foot to build, they often feature timber or classic stick framing.


By combining the walls and roof into two sharply angled walls that meet at a peak, A-frame houses cut down on both material and labor costs. Averaging between $90 and $130 per square foot, these houses go up quickly, but they limit the usable space of the floor plan somewhat because of the angled interior walls.

Tiny House or Shipping Container House

Gaining in popularity and recognition because of their small environmental footprints and economical use of space, tiny houses and houses framed out with recycled shipping containers as the base can cost as little as $10,000 or up to and beyond $180,000. These provide an opportunity to experience minimalist living, can provide affordable housing to those who need or choose it, and save on materials and labor costs. More and more building companies have started specializing in the detail work that goes into creating a viable living space in a small footprint.


Not just for kids anymore, luxurious adult treehouses are an opportunity to embrace nature and express creativity. Whether they are used as dwellings, entertainment spaces, or as a vacation destination to escape from the tech-heavy modern lifestyle, treehouses can range in cost from $75,000 to $400,000. Costs will vary based on whether the house is a simple enclosed platform or a fully furnished house with electrical and plumbing services.

Pool House or Guest House

These add-ons to existing homes and properties add storage, entertainment, or guest space. Because they are not fully stand-alone houses, plumbing and electrical supply lines are often already present, so these houses can be constructed for between $21,000 and $70,000. Choosing materials that match the existing home or adding extra features can drive up the costs considerably.

Do I Need to Build a House?

With so many houses on the market at any given time, why would you want to take on the project of building a new house? Home builders all have their own reasons: Maybe there isn’t an affordable house available in the area where you want to live but there are great lots for sale. Perhaps you have particular requirements. However, there are several specific reasons why building a new house may be the right choice for you.

Building Experts, Just A Click Away
Don't leave your home in the hands of amateurs. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from pros near you.

You Want a New House

While older houses are charming and have years of rich history in their walls, they can also have years of neglected maintenance, problems waiting to happen, or problems already invisibly happening behind their walls. Often older homes contain asbestos, lead paint, or other environmental hazards. Sometimes the cost and effort of the upkeep of an older home are just too much and you want something brand new. Homeownership always comes with challenges, but a carefully planned new construction home offers a honeymoon period where everything is fresh, clean, and (usually) free of existing problems.


Perhaps your family needs lower countertops and windows or wider doors so that those with wheelchairs or walkers can access every room. Maybe you have a larger family and would prefer more bedrooms that are a bit smaller than average so everyone can have their own space, or maybe you have a particular style in mind and aren’t willing to compromise on a home that’s already on the market. New home construction provides the opportunity to make the house exactly what the builder wants, as long as the budget holds out. Frequently, the cost of building a new house to specifications is less expensive than retrofitting an older one.

Energy Efficiency

New-construction homes utilize modern construction materials and up-to-the-minute home systems and appliances that can minimize the carbon footprint. The house will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer simply because of the materials used to build and insulate it, and the systems will be more efficient than those same systems would be if installed in an older home. Residents of new houses will spend less on utilities in general, having invested in efficient building materials.

Better Technology

Wiring a house is easier before the walls are up—there’s no mystery there. By building a new home, owners can choose to install networking ports in every room, add charging ports to every power outlet, and add wiring channels for wall-mounted televisions into likely spaces without tearing apart existing walls and contending with fishing wire through old, clumped insulation in the walls. Wi-Fi home-management systems can be designed specifically for the home, allowing owners to control everything from locks to lighting and heating electronically without retrofitting. This is certainly an area in which to be cautious, as fully integrating the latest technology in the walls now means that in a few years you’ll be behind the times—but new construction allows for the structures to be put in place that can be updated easily as technology advances.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House? DIY vs. Hiring a Professional

The desire to be truly hands-on in the building of your own home is understandable: You’re making all the choices, and you want every detail to be just right. Who better to exact that precision than you? The sense of accomplishment and ownership that comes from doing any project yourself is incredibly satisfying, and the success of building the place where you’ll spend your life is second to none. But there are challenges, too, that are too big to be overlooked.

A home is an incredibly complex organism. Layers of material, interlaced with wires, pipes, and insulation, connected with braces and beams and hardware, sealants and caulk, and moving part upon moving part requires experience to design, plan, and assemble that most people simply do not possess. Nearly no one has all the skills necessary to complete all the jobs that go into home building, so hiring the people who do boast those skills is almost certainly a must. It is indeed possible to serve as your own general contractor, sourcing the material and hiring and managing subcontractors yourself, and save perhaps $20,000 to $60,000. The coordination required to manage those contractors and schedule the layers of the building process will be a full-time job, and any mistakes will cost time and money, so the savings may not add up. Home builders who already have a lot of knowledge and connections with other building professionals may be able to manage their own home build successfully, but for most, this really is a job for a professional.

The Perfect Home Is Within Reach
Trusted experts at your fingertips. Get free, no-commitment project estimates from pros near you.

For home seekers who are really committed to building on their own, there are several companies offering home-building kits that are shipped to the property as flat-packed or modular kits for handy home builders to assemble. A surprising number of style options are available from small guest houses to large log homes. Some of the kits come at a set cost, while others range from $29 per square foot to $300 per square foot and offer customization and add-on features. These homes will still require electrical and plumbing work, but they can save significantly on material and labor costs.

How to Save Money on Building a House

How to Save Money on Building a House

Watching the costs mount can be overwhelming: It can begin to feel like every box of nails is the box that will push the budget right over the edge. There are a number of places to save on your home-building process—and not all of them involve sacrificing the beautiful bathroom tile you have your eye on.

  • Quotes, quotes, quotes—get them. On everything. Seek out quotes from multiple lenders to get the best interest rate. Get quotes from multiple contractors. Obtain quotes for materials. Talk to multiple insurance companies. And get quotes for everything else you can. Remember, you’re not necessarily looking for the least expensive choice but the best one, and one that will provide the best value in the long run.
  • Respectfully negotiate everything. It doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you don’t devalue the expertise and knowledge of the people you’re hiring or the quality of the goods someone is selling.
  • Spend where it’s worth it. It doesn’t help to save on lower-quality cabinets if you use your kitchen heavily, because you’ll pay to replace them in a few years and spend more.
  • Choose which features are the best investment now. A deck can be added later, but a basement can’t. Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to finishing the basement, it will be there. Finishing or adding outdoor spaces can come later.
  • Go standard where you can and upgrade later. Lower-grade lights, window treatments, faucets, and other finish pieces can look elegant without being expensive, and they are easily switched out when you have more to spend. If you have pets or young children, you’ll be replacing the carpet in a few years anyway, so save by installing a lower grade now.
  • If you have some construction skills, ask your builder or contractor where you might be able to save on labor by doing work yourself. They probably won’t let you work on high-liability parts of the job like electricity or plumbing, but if you can install basic fixtures or cabinets or are great with a pin nailer or paintbrush, you may be able to shave some money off costs.

Questions to Ask About How Much It Costs to Build a House

First, you need to ask yourself some questions to decide whether you really want to build your own house. Then you’ll likely want to talk to and hire professionals, then make a slew of decisions. An experienced general contractor will be a gold mine of information for those who want to build a house. The best contractors have seen everything, dealt with roadblocks, and found creative solutions, and they’ll be able to help guide you. Finding the right one comes out of a combination of research, recommendations, gut feelings, and luck.

Before the project begins, ask yourself:

  • Can I afford this? While purchasing an existing house has a sticker price, new construction can blow budgets faster than you might think. Consult lenders and discuss how much you can afford to borrow, consider how much of that you’re comfortable borrowing, and then budget for less than that to allow for coverage.
  • What are the must-haves in my new construction? Think hard about what you really want, what you’d like, and what you can let go of before you meet with a designer or contractor. If you don’t know what you want, you can’t communicate clearly to those who can provide it.
  • Am I at a time in my life where I can handle this process? Home building requires a lot of decision-making, sometimes quickly, and a lot of expense and stress. Those who are entering a particularly busy or stressful period professionally or personally might want to wait.

During the process, ask potential contractors:

  • Are you and your crews licensed and insured?
  • Can you provide references and photos or tours of homes you have built?
  • Will you be managing the entire process?
  • What is included in the contract? Permits, material purchases, cleanup, warranties?
  • What percent of the total cost do you require as a down payment? Is it negotiable? How will the additional payments be structured?
  • How accessible will you be during the process?
  • How will plan changes be handled?
  • How often will you update me?
  • What kind of products do you use?
  • What is the time line for the build? Where might delays arise?
  • What challenges do you see in our planned construction?

After the build is complete, ask your builder:

  • What kind of maintenance schedule should I follow for these building materials?
  • How will I contact you if a problem arises?
  • Can I provide references or photos for you to use for future projects?


As home builders go through the process of deciding to build, hiring professionals, and making many, many choices, there will inevitably be questions. Here are some of the questions that are most frequently asked and their answers.

Q. Is it cheaper to build a house or buy a house?

The short answer is that it depends. It’s not the answer most people want to hear, but it’s true. Based on sticker price alone, it’s often cheaper to buy an existing house. Buying a house means the buyer can negotiate the price, choose from existing features, and move in fairly quickly. Building a house is more expensive at the outset, but it gives the builder freedom to choose precisely where and what to build so they won’t pay for features they don’t want or need.
Home builders won’t need to pay to retrofit, renovate, or demolish parts of a house they just bought, so the money paid goes directly to something new.

New houses will be less expensive to maintain and more efficient with heating and cooling, and they may have a higher resale value than older homes. However, home builders will have a longer wait to move in, so they’ll be paying rent or a mortgage on their current home for a longer period of time. So the answer to this question depends on what the new home-seeker is looking for: less immediate cash outlay and a less stressful process, or a slightly higher initial cost but lower cost of upkeep.

Q. How much does it cost to build a 4-bedroom house?

In most markets, a 4-bedroom home will cost between $200,000 and $400,000 to build. Costs can go up based on local and regional material and labor costs and choices made by the home builder.

Q. Can you build a house for $100K?

Yes. How much house that $100,000 will buy depends on the area in which it’s built, the size and style of the house, and the quality of the finish. A simple 1,000-square-foot home can be built in most markets for $100,000 if the builder is committed to the budget and willing to make choices to accommodate it.