Cost to Build in North Carolina Too High

Hi Carl, We purchased our land in 2005 and are just starting to get prices for the construction of a new home in Hickory, NC on Lake Hickory.

We would like to build a ranch with a walk out partial finished basement and a 2 car garage.

We purchased the plans and would like to move forward.

The square footage of the home is 3000 sq. ft. including the partial finished basement.

There will be 4 bedrooms and 3 full baths, 9” ceilings on 1st floor, vinyl siding with partial stone front, 1 fireplace, wood floors except tile for kitchen & baths, $1,500 permit fees, $1,600 tap-in fees for water & sewer with a lift pump required for public sewer.

I have been in touch with 3 builders in the area and it appears that the cost of building on the lake is high.

I have come to the conclusion that since this is an upscale community the pricing we are getting reflects the area and not true cost of the home.

I have a background in construction and have compared the cost to build in Hickory NC to where I live presently.

The builders I have talked to in Hickory are saying that the cost to build this home will be between $140.00-160.00 per square foot. One builder stated $416,000 while another gave a range of $550,000 to $600,000.

Believe me when I say that we are not looking for a golden palace and feel that the cost per sq ft should be around $120.00.

There may be some upgrading but none that would justify there high cost per sq. ft. that has been given.

Do you have any suggestions? Laura

Hi Laura,

I think the builders are giving you realistic bids. This beautiful house, as stated in the description, is “overflowing with details’.

The Laurelwood - House Plan# W-5024
Overflowing with details, this home features all of the niceties that enhance family life. Ceiling treatments crown every living space on the first floor, and bay windows hug the screen porch, dining room and master bedroom. The lower level features two full bathrooms for each bedroom, making it the perfect retreat for overnight visitors or older children.

This home plan from Don Gardner has the following input criteria:

• 2016 Sq. Ft. finished first floor
• 998 Sq. Ft. finished walkout basement
• 3014 Sq. ft. Total Living Area
• 1018 Sq. Ft. unfinished basement
• Unfinished Bonus Room: 364 Sq. Ft.
• Garage/Storage: 661 Sq. Ft.
• Porches: 639 Sq. Ft.

This is an expensive home to build due to the complexity of design. Multiple roof lines, multiple bay windows, 9 foot ceilings, porches, and a large intricate foundation are but a few of the causes of a higher cost to build. While not a “golden palace” it is not a simple ranch.

Using the cost to build calculator found on my "Getting Started" page on, for Hickory NC, I ran 2 separate “cost to build” estimates, changing only slightly the quality of materials and interior design.

I used “Quality Class # 3 and came up with an approximate estimated total cost to build of $642,000, including a General Contractor Markup of $87,202.

Moving up one “Quality Class” to # 2 on the cost to build calculator, I came up with an approximate estimated total cost to build of $860,044, including a General Contractor Markup of $117,822.

I don’t see how you could build this house as designed for much less than the $642,000 amount, unless you acted as your own General Contractor, saving the General Contractor’s markup.

But as you said in a subsequent email, you have concerns over doing that as you are coming from a different area of the country.

You could modify the plan, eliminating some of the expensive design features, but then it would not be the same house.

Whatever you decide to do, it is imperative that you draw up very detailed specifications. There are many areas of any design that without careful planning material and labor costs could escalate quickly.

Specifications should be well thought out in advance and adhered to during construction.

While one can build a home of similar size but simpler design at a much lower cost, it will not be a comparable house.

Here is a cost estimate of the same size house, including the finished basement area, porches, unfinished bonus room, and garage...but simplifying the foundation, and downgrading the design details and materials.

I used a combination of "Quality Classes" 5 & 6 and came up with an approximate cost to build of $446,758 including a General Contractor Markup of $59,772.

You could pick and choose upgrades (or even downgrades) for different categories as you so desire.

It's a lot of work figuring out the cost to build a house but it's well worth it. The devil is always in the details.

Important Notice:
Keep in mind that these 2018 estimates are approximate and are just a guide. Until you actually start getting your own bids and estimates and entering them into your own spreadsheet (see my spreadsheet page for FREE spreadsheets), they will remain approximate.
Best of luck,
Carl Heldmann

Additional reading for high bids: