Wednesday, July 12, 2023
This is the most asked question I get from new prospective clients, realtors, investors, architects… anyone interested in building costs.
Or similarly: “What does it cost per square foot to build these days?”
If I asked you, “What does a car cost today?” or “What does it cost per pound?” you might look at me a little funny at first.
If I was serious, you would ask dozens of qualifying questions just to give me your price range, even if you happened to own the car dealership.
Take two identical cars on the outside: one is bare bones, has the smallest engine and basic option package. The other is loaded with the biggest engine and every upgraded option. Your cost on the fully-loaded car could be 50% higher than the basic car.
As you know, there are so many more items that can affect the cost of a house—thousands of possible designs and finishes, local labor/material factors, location-specific issues, government requirements and environmental considerations.
It’s easy to imagine the exact same house floor plan on a difficult lot, with high end finishes in and out, and lavish exterior amenities costing more than double the same exact plan on a small, cleared subdivision lot with basic finishes.
Let’s clear up what Square Footage (Sq.Ft.) means when talking about ‘cost per Sq.Ft.’ — around the South Walton County area anyway.
Homes are listed and sold, and built by referencing heated and cooled square footage—they do not include unconditioned spaces like porches, carports, garages, storage, or decks.
Two houses with the same exact square footage, cooled, will be priced quite differently if one includes more of these ‘unconditioned’ spaces.
“Be careful that you know what your pricing includes and leaves out.”
Some builders may quote square footage prices and leave out many items you must have when building. Here are some:
Just a few of these can add up to a huge sum of money. This type of quote will make their square footage pricing LOOK much better, but it will not make your house cost any less.
Be careful that you know what your pricing includes and leaves out.
Many builders will not answer this question directly, but I will, because people first need to figure out a budget, and this is a great starting point.
Since our market here in South Walton, FL and the 30A corridor is mostly vacation homes and new move-ins, the vast majority of our clients are from out of town and even out of state.
My first response to that cost question is: “…a lot more than where you’re from.”
If you search our home prices in the area at all, you’ll quickly find the wide range in pricing, but definitely higher than most other areas.
Yes, some of that higher price is in the land—the values go up the closer you get to the beach—BUT we also have considerably higher labor and material costs for building. My best estimate is 20-50% higher, depending on the item.
We are in a relatively small populated area and the building and remodeling volume is very high, so our labor supply is very tight. So much of our construction labor can’t even afford to live here in South Walton and drive from surrounding small towns.
The vast majority of prospective building clients here build at the upper end of construction, meaning the design and finishes are above average, to very high end. Often, our designs are more detailed and costlier than traditional homes.
So many of our mid- to upper-level homes in South Walton are designed with a generous number of covered porches, often double or triple traditional homes.
This un- air conditioned space is not counted when calculating cost or price per square foot—that number you see from realtors or builders reflects ONLY the conditioned space.
But that unconditioned footage may be over half as much as the main house and costs $60-$200/Sq.Ft. to build. So, that extra cost goes into the square footage numbers for the conditioned space, making it higher than normal.
Location in a high wind zone dictates more costly construction methods to meet building code—more engineering, stronger framing, gobs of bolts and straps, impact rated windows/doors, etc.
Our heavy exposure to sun, salt and rain leads most good builders to take extra care to protect the house from the elements—stainless steel fasteners, waterproofed roof decks and porch decks, pressure treated or composite exterior trim, better paint products and waterproofing exterior sheathing.
We have extremely high water/sewer tap fees ($7,400-$15,000)—apparently it costs a ton to bring water underneath the Choctawhatchee Bay—impact fees, permit fees, planning fees, three elevation certificates if in a flood zone, energy form, wildlife lighting approval, lot survey with topo, Dept of Environmental Protection & Core Of Engineers approvals, soil survey, storm water plan—and I’m sure there’s a few more I’m leaving out.
All along the Santa Rosa Beach area there are potential unique issues with water, soil and protected critters that can affect your building site.
Throughout this area we have coastal dune lakes and their tributaries, and Walton County Development Code mandates special treatment of lots/land that lie within 300ft of those bodies of water, which restricts impact of that lot by markedly reducing the building footprint and requiring storm water treatment on the lot. The effect can be important and costly.
There are also many low areas in South Walton that rest in designated flood zones, or have natural wetlands. Both of these can affect soil stability, reduce building area and force time and cost to mitigate.
As you can see, we have multiple and significant issues that drive our costs up and up and up here in South Walton County, Florida. Having said that, all of these challenges have led to good builders really upping their game and building some of the highest quality homes possible.
Many of us that have been building here over 15 years have learned to navigate the many hurdles and incorporate crucial innovations that make our homes more durable and cost effective.
Note: Parts of your house could fall outside these ranges. This is just to give a general idea.
TOTAL ESTIMATE = $520,000 - $1,060,000*
*The prices provided are current as of 2019 and are subject to change based on a number of factors. For current pricing, check out the pricing on our custom home building page.
Established by Tate Watson and located in gorgeous Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, 850 Building Group has been custom building and remodeling fine homes for over 30 years.
Lic # CBC-1254315
850 Building Group, LLC © 2023
850 Building Group, LLC
551 Serenoa Rd
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Phone: (850) 270-8904