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Rather than saving to buy a house, you may be looking for the cheapest ways to build a house.
Should you purchase your home or do you want to build a house from scratch?
Which you choose depends on several factors, the most important of which is cost.
Money will always be the single most significant factor to consider when deciding which homeownership route to take.
If you’re on a tight budget, it makes sense to find the cheapest way to build a house and put your own labor and energy into a new home.
You know by now how crazy we are about achieving financial freedom and living a frugal lifestyle while still enjoying ourselves.
So, with that in mind, we’ve put together an in-depth guide on everything you need to know about building a house without breaking the bank.
Table of Contents
Building A House 101 – Know Your Numbers
Cheap is relative and doesn’t always mean the best quality, especially when building a home. But you want to save money where you can and not overspend when it isn’t needed!
No matter how much money you have available to spend, many people want to find the cheapest way to build a house. You can cut some corners and do a DIY house, but you need to know all about the prices of a good build.
There’s a lot more that goes into a new home besides labor and wood! If you want to build a home yourself, you need to know what you’re getting into!
Here’s a breakdown of some of the costs that come with house construction.
Before you can even think of building a house, you’ll need to acquire a vacant lot from a real estate company.
The exact cost of the land will depend on location and size. Depending on what you have in mind, costs could range anywhere between $3,500 and $150,000.
Believe it or not there are actually a handful of ways to find free land to get you started as well.
West Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee are three of the cheapest places to purchase land. And right now, real estate is booming so it may be better to build your home rather than overpay for houses near you.
It’s also a good idea to ensure the location you pick is close to a water supply and other utilities for your build. However, going off-grid is a feasible option if you’re into that lifestyle.
Once you’ve acquired your land, you’ll need to prepare it for construction.
It may involve clearing the trees and bushes, bulldozing any existing structure(s), or hauling away any ruins that might be on the lot. These can set you back anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000 depending on the amount of work required and if you hire local help for it.
While we advocate purchasing a lot that’s already hooked up to utilities, you may come across one that isn’t. The exact price of getting this done depends on the land location and how close the lot is to water and sewer systems.
You could spend between $1,500 and $10,000, not including a septic tank, which can be another $2,500-$9,000 depending on its size.
Do your due diligence beforehand to find out what services you’ll need, and then get contractor quotes for a precise estimate of how much all the site work will cost.
You likely already have a vision of the way you want your home to look and you’ll want the perfect floor plan to get started.
The average cost of hiring an architect is $5,000, and for some municipalities, you may be required to use them for your plans for a certain amount of square feet.
On the other hand, the vision you have for your home might be pretty easy to implement on blueprints and have fewer square feet- don’t worry we have some thoughts on tiny houses down below.
If that’s the case, we recommend working with a draftsperson instead. This option is roughly $1,500-$1,800 – a far cry from the $5,000 required to hire an architect.
Having a solid design before breaking ground will save you from having to change up something in the middle of your project. Unfortunately, this is often quite expensive to do.
There are three main types of home foundations: basement foundations, crawl space, and concrete slabs.
If you’re looking for the best building materials for the price per square foot, going the concrete-slab route is your best bet. You need one as your house will simply rest on it, and a simple concrete slab is roughly $4,000 on average- this is your cheap option of the bunch.
On the other hand, a crawl space foundation raises the house a couple of feet off the ground, leaving some room underneath to crawl, which also prevents some flooding in some areas. These types of foundations can be anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 but can make routine maintenance easier.
If space matters a great deal to you, a basement foundation might be just what you need. However, keep in mind that this option is the most expensive of the bunch, costing upwards of $50,000 depending on the size and finishing.
Once you’ve built your foundation, the next step to build a home involves the construction of the skeleton. This will give you the space and square footage you’ll be working with inside the house.
If you’re building a simple single-story home, expect to spend anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000.
At this stage, the main structure of your house should already be up. Now, you need to make it look like a home. It involves adding a roof, doors, windows, and siding. It could set you back $10,000-$60,000 depending on the size of your home.
Although the exterior of your home may look like what you had envisioned at the outset, you still have a long way to go to make it livable. To do this, you’ll need to hire a team of professionals to work on the plumbing, power, air, and so forth.
Plumbing installation may set you back $1,500-$15,000.
Getting an electrician to connect power in your home will cost around $5,000-$30,000. Again, it all depends on the amount of work required.
Setting up an HVAC system in your home will cost $1,500-$10,000, depending on the specific system you’re installing.
How you build your house can affect the work needed and drive up the cost of your build.
This is the icing on the cake that covers up everything that’s going on behind the scenes, or in this case, the roof, walls, and floor. It includes the tedious aspects of your home’s design, such as drywall and insulation, as well as the fun parts like flooring, painting, and cabinetry.
The precise cost of this stage of your designs ultimately boils down to the quality of the materials you pick and your taste. The expenses may range anywhere between $20,000 and $200,000.
So far, we’ve looked at the essential elements involved in building a house from scratch. If your wallet can handle it, here are some other additions you can make.
- Installing an asphalt driveway: $3,000 on average
- Building a garage: $7,500-$10,000
- Landscaping work such as porch/deck and sod installation: $5,000-$20,000
Something you may want to consider is getting a home warranty to protect you against any major defects and breakdowns your first couple of years.
Top 6 Money-Saving Tips When Building a House
Now that you’re aware of the money involved in building your own house, it’s easy to see how the expenses can mount up. We’ve put together our top six ways to build your house, keep the costs low and save a ton of money in the process.
1. Don’t Use a Contractor
Don’t get us wrong. If your budget allows for it and you’re not keen on getting your hands dirty, then go right ahead and hire a contractor!
However, this may not be a feasible option for everyone who wants to save money while building a home.
If you have prior construction experience or have friends and family with that expertise, building your home without contractors is possible. All you need is the right set of resources – reliable tools, skilled labor, and a clear vision for your real estate goals – and you’ll be able to put quite a bit of cash back in your pocket.
Keep in mind that having free labor or being cheap doesn’t mean cutting corners during the building process. We still recommend enlisting the help of a designer, architect, draftsman, or engineer to avoid making costly mistakes at the core of your build.
If you’re confident in your skills, there are plenty of resources available online. Hit up Pinterest and download floor plans if you need some inspiration for your new house and home building in general.
2. Go Tiny
This is a no-brainer when trying to find the cheapest way to build a house.
To minimize your budget, you’ll need to scale down your overall housing requirements- including the build size.
A tiny home means you won’t need as many materials as a larger one, but you may not get a discount on your supplies by buying less.
Tiny homes don’t need as many resources to cool, heat, and maintain them in the long run- you can save on your home throughout the future!
But before you go off and build a tiny house, you need to evaluate whether or not it is right for you.
Here’s what you need to ask:
- Is it flexible enough to accommodate a growing family, or is it just for you and your partner?
- If you or someone living with you develops mobility issues, can it accommodate such individuals?
- Are you okay living simply and, to some extent, frugally?
- Do you envision yourself living there well into your old age?
The answers to these questions will help you determine the size of a house to meet your overall needs.
There are other alternatives for a tiny home that you may not have thought of either- some people are buying a shipping container and making it into a cheap home. It may not sound ideal to you, but shipping containers are huge and don’t actually require you to “build” much- if you’re looking for cheap, this will certainly save on materials!
3. Use Reclaimed Building Material
When looking for the cheapest way to build a house, nothing will give you a bigger bang for your buck than using reclaimed building material. Seriously – you’ll be surprised by the amount of exquisite, high-quality salvaged materials out there. You need to know where to look.
Some great resources you can use to find roofing and flooring materials, cabinetry, bricks, lumber, and more include:
Be sure to check the item’s condition first to see whether it has signs of significant damage. If the damage in question is only cosmetic, that is repairable. On the other hand, if the damage impedes its function, don’t bother using it in your DIY plans. It’ll just cause problems down the road!
You also need to consider how cost-effective it would be to make repairs- if it’s really worth the trouble or will have you spending more rather than save you money.
4. Get as Much Done Cheaply or for Free
It is possible to get brand new items at massively discounted prices to build a house.
Look for crazy deals at your local builders’ surplus stores. We know of people who paid between 30 and 45 percent of the retail price simply because of someone else’s erroneous order.
Another way to get materials or services for free or cheaply is by asking around. Get friends and family to refer suppliers and professionals to you. Those relationships could end up saving you thousands of dollars on your project.
5. Keep the Design Simple
If geometry class taught us anything, it’s that squares are the easiest shape to work with. Keep things simple when you build your home, and that will make it affordable!
This means the first step is coming up with a square or rectangular floor plan and then building upward. Choosing an elaborate design that may require you to build outward is bound to drive up the price.
The same applies to choosing your roofing design. While multi-level roofs look stunning, the cost implication associated with their creation and maintenance is not feasible if you have a tight budget. Keep in mind as well that elaborate roofing structures are more prone to leaks and damage over time. When in doubt, keep it simple.
6. Skip the Fancy Finishes – For Now
One of the most important lessons you’ll quickly learn when you embark on your interior design plans is just how quickly funds tend to run out.
A seemingly simple home can turn into a never-ending money pit with some interior or exterior options. This is why proper planning is crucial.
You’ll need to account for every coin you have, making sure to channel your cash to the essential aspects of your construction. Focus on building a solid foundation and structure first, then install the essential amenities and major systems.
If you’re running low on your budget, those granite countertops and marble flooring will have to wait while you figure out some side hustle ideas to ramp up your revenue stream. On that note, DoorDash and Postmatesare some great platforms to consider if you’re looking for a part-time gig.
Don’t Rush the Process
Although we’ve explored several ways to save money when constructing your home, the truth is – there’s no single cheapest way to build a house. The idea is to save cash when you can and still end up with an excellent quality home.
Regardless of the type of house, make sure you’ve figured out every aspect of the project. From your construction budget, materials, and insurability to the building code in your area, get it right from the get-go.
Take your time to shop around for the best deals and remember – enjoy every step of the journey.
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