Kitchen design in custom home, white cabinets and granite countertops

How much does it cost per square foot to build a house?

Building a custom home is a bit like buying a new car, right? Not exactly.

If you asked a car dealer how much he charges per pound, you’d get some very strange looks. Of course, there is some correlation between the cost of the car and its weight, but not significant enough to prompt that question. We all know car dealers don’t sell by the pound. 

In the same way, I feel perplexed when someone asks me how much I charge per square foot to build a home. It’s not the right question. There are three factors that contribute to the cost of a home, regardless of where it’s built: complexity, level of finish, size and components. 


A home with more features and greater complexity requires more labor, and therefore costs more to build. For example, a rectangular house with four basic corners is less expensive to build than a three-story home with 40 corners, angled walls, and steep roofs, because the latter is more complex and takes more time to complete.  

Level of Finish:

Obviously, vinyl flooring is much less expensive than wood or stone. Formica countertops are less expensive than granite. Twelve-inch baseboards cost more than six-inch baseboards, and a lot of molding is more expensive than no molding at all. The level of finish you choose for your home will have a significant impact on the home’s final cost. 

Size and Components:

Size matters in homebuilding costs. A 6,000-square-foot home will cost more than a 2,000-square-foot home. A 2,000-square-foot home would probably include a two-car garage, while a 6,000-square-foot home normally has three or four bays. So not only does the larger home cost more due to the size of the heated and air-conditioned space, but it also takes into account things like garages, number and size of porches, whether the home has a pool, boat dock, circular drive, and other costly components.

It’s a good idea to ask a builder what price range per square foot he builds at, in order to know if you’re talking with the right builder.