“How much does it cost per square foot to build a new home?” I can almost guarantee that this will be one of the first questions a builder is asked by a potential customer, and while it might seem to be a reasonable question to most, the answer you get can often be misleading for several reasons.

Using square footage prices to compare one home against another does have value if you are comparing the same size and configuration in the same neighborhood. It is nearly useless if you are comparing a smaller home to a larger home or a rancher to a two-story. For example, a 2000 sq. ft. rancher will always cost more per square foot to build than a 4000 sq. ft. rancher. Both homes will have similar costs for the kitchens and bathrooms which are typically the most expensive rooms in a home. The larger home likely will have more expansive living spaces with added footage in the great room and bedrooms. This increased square footage is in the least expensive areas of the home so as the square footage in these areas increases, cost per square footage decreases.

A two-story is less expensive to build per square foot than a rancher because the two levels of living space share one foundation and one roof. Like kitchens and bathrooms, foundations and roofing trusses and material are some of the bigger costs in home construction. A two-story compare to a rancher with the exact same square footage will definitely be less per square foot to build.

Exterior and interior finishes are additional variables in cost per square foot calculation. One home with extra exterior detail, granite kitchen countertops, a full masonry fireplace and full tile walk in showers will be more per square foot than a home exactly the same size and with the same configuration but with a simple exterior and few if any upgraded interior amenities.

Finally, the location of the home is another major variable. A home in one neighborhood may be more expensive than the same home in another area due to city impact fees, building permit fees, utility hook ups or CC&R requirements.

When estimating the value of a new project or selecting a company to build with, you need to account for factors like style, location and finishes. While price per square foot can be a consideration in your final decision, it is at best, a rough gauge.

About the Expert:

Radu Nicoara is a premier builder in Walla Walla, with more than 20 years building quality homes to fit the northwest lifestyle. Sonoma Homes, LLC is known for inspired designs and attention to detail. Their homes combine high-quality materials and the latest technologies with the talents of the most experienced craftsmen in the region. It isn’t all about the building fantastic homes; it’s as much about building lasting relationships with the people who choose to call this magnificent area home. It’s about building a stable, satisfying and family-centered community.