Building Update – The Estimated Cost of Building

We have been working closely with our general contractor to get estimates from subcontractors and to figure out the cost of materials for our home.  The estimated cost of building our house is WAY more expensive than we originally planned for, and we are totally freaking out.

Background on the Cost

After we got married (almost two years ago), Mr. Farmhouse Finance and I were trying to decide whether we should buy a starter home in the low $200,000 range, or build.  We thought that buying land and building a house would be out of our price range, so we began the hunt for a house we could buy.

After finding that most of the houses in this area in that price range needed a lot of work, we were quickly discouraged.

Around that time, family members bought a piece of land, and offered to subdivide it and give us a piece to build on, so the decision to build was an easy one to make.  We have done a lot of research and calculations about how much house we can afford, and estimated that our house would cost $270,000 to build.  We felt good with that number.

Originally we were estimating it would cost $150 per square foot to build our house, but it’s turning out to be closer to $200 a square foot (not including site work).

Labor and materials are really expensive.

Getting Estimates

My husband (who has experience in the family business) helped our general contractor (who is doing this job for free) by putting together a materials take-off list.  We sent out plans to subcontractors, and our materials list to our supplier to get estimates.  As the estimates started rolling in, we began entering the numbers into a table.

We sent out plans to get estimates to multiple contractors for each part of the house, and are either going with the lowest price or trying to pressure our preferred contractor to lower their price based on a competitor’s price.

Most contractors wanted a PDF of our plans in an email, but a few required printed plans.

Most of the contractors we contacted gave us a response with a price within a few days.

The Breakdown (so far)

Right now, the estimated cost of building this house is $357,940, and that does not include the garage.  The garage would cost another $28,000, so we decided to hold off on building that.  This estimate includes some buffer on things we are not sure about yet, and a few things that we are going to take off the list.  We are hoping to get down closer to $300,000, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to do it.

Once again, we live in New York, so the cost to build here is probably much higher than other parts of the country.  These numbers may seem very high to you depending on where you live.

The house will be just under 1,600 square feet above grade, and sits pretty far back on a five acre lot.  Our driveway is about 800 feet long.

Here is our current building budget breakdown:

Subcontractor Item and Materials



Permits and Fees


Site Work Clearing land, driveway, grading, excavation, septic






Framing/Rough Carpentry Labor only


Siding Installation


Roofing Standing seam metal roof with snow breaks




Mechanical/HVAC Forced air HVAC with LP boiler, 50 gallon hot water heater, air handler, HRV fresh air system


Plumbing Rough in for all plumbing, install fixtures


Electrical Labor and some materials, no fixtures




Millwork Cabinets, kitchen island, vanities


Counter Tops


Flooring/Tile Work



Finish Carpentry Mr. Farmhouse Finance will do himself


Additional Finishes Glass shower enclosure, medicine cabinets


Painting We’ll do this ourselves


Construction Materials framing materials, doors, windows, decking, paint, etc.




Plumbing Fixtures


Electrical Fixtures


Additional Fixtures/Finishes


Estimated Total


Where We’re Saving

You may have noticed a couple things were missing from the above list. These are things that we do not have to spend money on or are hoping to do ourselves.

Mr. Farmhouse Finance is very handy, and wants to do the finish carpentry himself.  He will do all of the trim work around the windows and doors and hang all the interior doors, so this will save us a few thousand dollars.

Our siding (Hardie board) comes pre-finished, so we won’t have to do much painting on the exterior of the house.  We will do all of the interior painting ourselves, so this will save us another few thousand dollars.

Another big expense that we won’t have to pay for is the general contractor. As I have mentioned before, our general contractor is a family member who is doing the job for free.  This is saving us over $30,000.  General contractors usually add 10-15% to the cost of the project.

Where We’re Hoping to Save More

We are still shopping around for subcontractors.  We are looking at other framers and trying to get other estimates on the mechanical/HVAC.

Some of the costs of materials are MSRP, so we overestimated what we will have to pay for certain things.

We budgeted for $10,000 for the well, but hopefully we don’t have to drill that deep and can save some money there, as well.

Where We’re Spending

Some things we could save more on, but don’t want to sacrifice quality or compromise the aesthetic of our house.

Our windows, alone, cost about $30,000 because they are high-efficiency, wood windows.

We are choosing to put in hardwood floors (white oak), instead of laminate.

We are choosing to put a metal roof on, instead of shingles.

We’re not choosing the most expensive materials and finishes available, but choosing high-quality materials costs a lot up front.

Next Steps

Now that we have our estimated cost of building, we are going to continue working on shopping around for better prices for labor and materials.

Our excavators are finishing up the driveway, so the well truck can get back to the site. Once we drill the well and get our Board of Health approval, we’ll satisfy the demands of the Planning Board and be able to file the paperwork to get the deed to the land in our name.  After we get the deed to the land, we can apply for our construction loan.  In the meantime, work will continue and our general contractor will just bill us for what has been done already.

Have you ever had to readjust your estimated cost of building or renovating?

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  • I came over to see what you’re up to with your home. Would you believe I have that same exact Dream Home Source plan in my computer folder of 2-story homes? We’re not going with it but I whittled it down to 4 homes so how weird is that? It’s a beautiful design.

    What’s the Board of Health thing? Is that new?

    It’s great that you’re working with family you can trust. We’ve found 1 builder so far that we like but we’re going to want 3 bids.

    • That is too funny! Imagine if we were blogging about building the same house. I can’t wait to see what you guys go with!

      We had to go through our local planning board to subdivide land, and since we were petitioning to have our own well (instead of hooking up to the water system in the adjacent neighborhood), they required Board of Health approval before we could go further. Typically, the Board of Health just has to approve the septic system and the well. It’s probably just a New York thing.

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