Per-Square-Foot Price: What Does it Tell You About Your Custom Home Construction?  

Published March 19, 2024

When considering the budget required for a new home build, homeowners often look at the price per square foot. This is a commonly used metric that can offer insights into the potential budget needed for a project, however, it also has its limitations. Here’s a breakdown of what the price per square foot of your new custom-built home does and doesn’t tell you.

The price per square foot does not tell you: 

Land Costs

The per-square-foot cost of a custom-designed and built home usually refers to the structure itself and doesn’t typically include the cost of the land.

Site-Specific Costs

These are costs related to site preparation, excavation, grading, and utilities that may not be included. Especially challenging or unique terrains might have additional costs.

High-End Finishes and Features.

The basic cost-per-square-foot quote you get from a custom-build contractor might not account for more expensive finishes, customized features, or high-end appliances. Upgrades and custom requests usually come at an additional cost.

External Structures

Additional structures like garages, patios, decks, fences, pools, or landscaping are often not factored into the basic per-square-foot pricing.

Soft Costs

Soft costs are costs related to design, permitting, architecture, and other administrative or professional services that might be separate.

Unpredictable Costs

During the construction of your custom home, unforeseen issues might arise that could drive costs up. Examples include discovering problematic soil conditions, encountering unexpected underground utilities, or addressing issues with an existing structure on a renovation.

Time and Delays

Time is money, and the cost per square foot price won’t reflect potential costs related to construction delays, which could arise from factors like weather, labor strikes, or supply chain issues.

Economic Fluctuations

Material and labor costs may vary over time due to market demand, global events, or economic conditions. The quote you receive at one point might not be the same months later.

Specific Builder’s Practices

Some builders may cut corners to offer a lower cost per square foot while others may prioritize quality over cost. The per-square-foot metric doesn’t provide insights into the builder’s reputation, workmanship quality, or past client reviews.

House Design Complexity

A simple one-story or rectangular custom home design will generally be less expensive than a complex design with many angles, curves, or unique features.

The price per square foot does tell you: 

Baseline Cost Estimate

Knowing the price per square foot of your new home can provide a general estimate of the construction costs for a home in a particular region or locality.


You can compare costs across different builders, regions, or designs. The cost per square foot can serve as a useful comparative metric when you’re looking at multiple properties or evaluating different builders.

Standard Features

In many cases, builders might provide a list of standard inclusions for the cost per square foot they’re quoting. This gives you an idea of what’s included in the baseline price.

In summary, while the cost per square foot can provide a useful benchmark for new home construction, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Always dig deeper, ask questions, and consider other factors to get a comprehensive view of the total costs and the value you’re getting for your money. At LaFollette Custom Homes, we prioritize transparency regarding the cost of your newly built home at every step of our signature process. Contact us today to learn more about our unique virtual walkthrough process.



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