How to Estimate the Home Building Cost Per Square Foot

In the U.S. in 2017, it cost an average of $237,760 to build a 2,776 square-foot home according to data from the National Association of Home Builders. This includes site work, foundations, framing, finishing, amenities and utility systems. The United States Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing follow that up with some good news: The average sale price of a newly constructed house in 2018 was $377,000.

Averages, of course, don't take individuality into account. Like you and your family, your new home is a unique creation. While big-picture figures can help you ballpark, boiling those estimates down to the square foot gives you a better idea of the costs in store.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Collecting national total home cost averages and utilizing different estimating tools on your home can give you a good idea of its cost per square foot.

National Square Footage Averages

The Craftsman Book Company's national average of $295,000 for a turn-key house at 2,470 square feet aligns pretty closely with the National Association of Home Builders' $289,415 figure. In terms of average cost per square foot, these estimates work out to $119.43 and $103.36, respectively. Taking HomeAdvisor's 2018 average of $286,277 for a 2,000 square-foot home – that's $143.14 per square foot – into account and averaging the three square-footage figures results in a rough national average price of about $121.98 per square foot.

Estimating Tools to Consider

Of course, national averages may not apply too closely to your own new home, and a difference of $20 or even $5 per square foot goes a long way when you're dealing with hundreds or thousands of feet. To get a basic grasp on what your future home might cost per square foot, use free, reputable and up-to-date construction cost estimators at sites such as Fixr and HomeAdvisor. These sites provide a local average total cost for homebuilding based on your zip code. They also provide the square-footage estimate for that average.

All that's left for you to do is divide the total cost by the square feet to get a ballpark idea of the cost per square foot in your area. You can use an online new home construction cost calculator that provides a cost-per-square-foot estimate based on residential and commercial projects in 160 U.S. cities, accounting for variables such as location, levels, finishes, extra fees and home features. Back in the analog world, you can also gauge costs by comparing your home to similar, recently built homes in the area or – perhaps the most reliable method – get an estimate from a local contractor.

Additional Cost Factors

Unless you just want a house floating in the void, the total cost of building a home extends well beyond square footage. You'll need to take lot cost into account, which averages $85,139 in the U.S. according to 2016 figures from Zillow. The NAHB's data from 2017 shows average figures of $4,002 for building permit fees, $4,850 for sewer and water inspections fees and $7,636 in financing costs.

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