We know buying a house is a huge investment that requires careful consideration, planning, and saving. According to the United States Census Bureau, the average-sized home in 2019 was 2,509 square feet and the average cost was $383,900. That means that in order to buy an average size house, you’d have to save $76,780 for a 20% down payment. That’s a lot of money!
However, if we were to look at the average by region, there would be slight differences (in the case of the Northeast, there’s a significant difference!).
In the Northeast, the average sized home was 2,727 square feet and the average cost was $610,600 with a $122,120 down payment.
In the Midwest, the average sized home was 2,402 square feet and the average cost was $327,400 with a $65,480 down payment. .
In the South, the average sized home was 2,532 square feet and the average cost was $339,200 with a $67,840 down payment.
In the West, the average sized home was 2,450 square feet and the average cost was $470,000 with a $94,000 down payment.
What if you just want a modest home, and you don’t want to buy an existing home? What if you want a new construction home so you can build exactly what you want? What is the average cost to build a 1,500 square foot house?
That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this guide. We’re going to break down the regional cost per square foot and take a look at what percentage each step of the building process costs.
How much house is a 1,500-sq.-ft.-home?
It’s hard to picture what the floor plan for a 1,500-square-foot home looks like, isn’t it? The average home of this size typically has:
- Two to three bedrooms
- Two to two-and-a-half bathrooms
- A laundry room
- A decent sized kitchen
- A dining room
- A living room
You could choose a single-story layout or a split-level layout. Some layouts will feature a garage or carport, a porch or patio. All in all, it’s a good-sized home!
Average cost to build a 1,500 square foot house by region
The regional average of a 1,500 square foot home is going to depend on the materials used, the exact region you’re in, if you are going to build a home in a community, or if you want a custom home.
The average price range for this size home runs between $155,000 and $416,250, but the national average cost is around $248,000 — though building can cost a lot more if you want to go fully custom.
Regionally, the average price per square foot is:
- South: $90 to $125 per square foot
- Estimated total cost: $135,000 to $187,500
- Midwest: $100 to $149 per square foot
- Estimated total cost: $150,000 to $223,500
- Northeast: $125 to $150+ per square foot
- Estimated total cost: $187,500 to $225,000+
- West: $100 to $150+ per square foot
- Estimated total cost: $150,000 to $225,000+
“If I was a kid today and I had the money, I’d go to the south and buy lots of land and quickly build houses because houses get sold the same day you put the ‘for sale sign’ out front!” Russell Wing, a top-selling real estate agent who’s sold 83% more houses than the average agent in Union County, North Carolina, shares.
Keep in mind that these are just regional averages. The average price range per square foot for particular cities may not fall within even the regional average. For example:
- Southern cities:
- Asheville, North Carolina — $350,000 to $475,000
- Dallas, Texas — $200,000 to $650,000
- Midwestern cities:
- Chicago, Illinois — $200,000 to $750,000
- Denver, Colorado — $275,000 to $550,000
- Northeastern cities:
- New York City, New York — $175,000 to $550,000
- Washington D.C — $200,000 to $575,000
- Western cities:
- Seattle, Washington — $200,000 to $475,000
- Los Angeles, California — $150,000 to $500,000
Breaking down the costs by the job
There are a lot of steps to building a house, but how is that money used? We’ll use NAHB’s Cost of Constructing a Home study to estimate the breakdown of a 1,500-square-foot house that costs $232,000.
Land development and site work — 6.2% of total cost
Before building, you have to prepare the plot of land for construction. This will include obtaining building permits, an impact fee, water and sewer inspections, architecture and engineering, and other costs.
- Building permits — 1.7% ($3,944)
- Impact fee — 1.3% ($3,016)
- Water and sewer inspections — 1.5% ($3,480)
- Architecture and engineering — 1.5% ($3,480)
- Other fees — 0.2% ($464)
Total average cost: $14,384
Foundation — 11.8% of total cost
The first step in building a house is laying the foundation.
The cost of the foundation is going to depend on the type of foundation you’ll have — basements are more expensive than a slab foundation, and a slab foundation is more expensive than a crawlspace.
- Excavation, concrete, retaining walls, pour foundation, and backfill — 11.8% ($27,376)
- Other — 0.05% ($1,160)
Total average cost: $28,536
Framing — 17.4% of total cost
Once the foundation has time to cure (a chemical process the concrete goes through to reach maximum strength — this can take 14 to 21 days for the whole process), the construction team can begin framing the house.
Framing costs will vary depending on materials used, the layout of the home, and the number of stories.
- Framing and roof — 13.7% ($31,784)
- Trusses (if not included with the cost of framing the roof) — 2.1% ($4,872)
- Sheathing (if not included with the cost of framing) — 1.1% ($2,552)
- Materials (metal and steel) — 0.3% ($696)
- Other — 0.2% ($464)
Total average cost: $40,368
Exterior work — 14.1% of total cost
Exterior work includes wrapping the house, installing insulation, putting up the siding, and installing doors and windows.
The average cost for exterior work will depend on the materials used. For example, energy-efficient windows and doors are going to cost more than your run-of-the-mill varieties.
- Finishing exterior walls (wrapping, insulation, and siding) — 6.5% ($15,080)
- Finishing roofing (depends on the type of shingles/materials) — 3.4% ($7,888)
- Installing windows and doors (and garage door if applicable) — 4% ($9,280)
- Other — 0.2% ($464)
Total average cost: $32,712
Installing major systems — 14.7% of total cost
Major systems include the installation of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems.
It does not include hooking up light fixtures or other details. Those costs will be included with the interior finishes.
Total average cost: $34,336
Interior finishes — 25.4% of total cost
There’s a broad range of costs associated with finishing the interior, and each of those costs are highly dependent on the materials used.
- Interior insulation — 1.7% ($3,944)
- Hang drywall — 3.6% ($8,352)
- Install interior doors, install trim, hang mirrors — 3.6% ($8,352)
- Painting — 2.8% ($6,496)
- Lighting — 1.2% ($2,784)
- Cabinets, countertops — 4.6% ($10,672)
- Appliances— 1.6% ($3,712)
- Flooring — 4% ($9,280)
- Plumbing fixtures — 1.4% % ($3,248)
- Fireplace — 0.6% ($1,392)
- Other — 0.3% ($696)
Total average cost: $58,028
Final steps — 6.8% of total cost
The final steps include landscaping, laying down a driveway, building an outdoor structure (such as a deck or patio), and cleaning up.
- Landscaping — 6.8% ($15,776)
- Building an outdoor structure(s) — 2.2% ($5,104)
- Laying a driveway — 1.2% ($2,784)
- Site cleanup — 1% ($2,320)
- Other — 0.1% ($232)
Total average cost: $26,216
Other — 3.8% of total cost
Things that fall under this category include financing costs, overhead, and profit before taxes. To get a better understanding of what other expenses you will have, please ask the contractor for a thorough price breakdown.
Total average cost: $8,816
Is a 1,500-square-foot house worth it?
If you’re building a house, you can expect to spend between $100 to $200 per square foot. By estimating the average cost to build a 1,500 square foot house, you’ll have a better idea of how far your budget can go.
Just remember that the cost of labor and materials may be different in your area, which will affect your bottom line.
The cost of everything has skyrocketed due to the coronavirus pandemic. You’re going to have to take this into consideration because while you may have set aside $10,000 for high-grade cabinets and countertops, your $10,000 may only get you builder-grade items.
Wing gives his perspective: “It depends on what part of the country you live in. If you live in South Dakota, you can probably build a nice custom home without spending as near as much as you’d spend in Los Angeles — you’d spend five times as much!
“So for people who come down south from a place like New York City, a $232,000, 1,500 square foot house probably seems cheap.”
Header Image Source: (Roger Starnes Sr / Unsplash)