What Does it Cost to Build a House Today in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida?
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 (SF) means when talking about ‘cost per SF’ — around the South Walton County area anyway. Homes are listed and sold, and built by referencing heated and cooled SF — they do not include unconditioned spaces like porches, carports, garages, storage, or decks. Two houses with the same exact SF 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 SF prices and leave out many items you must-have when building. Here are some: lot clearing, site work, driveway, tap fees, plans, permits, utilities, landscaping, decks, and even appliances — hardware, lighting, and their builder fee. Just a few of these can add up to a huge sum of money. This type of quote will make their SF 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.
So, what does it cost to build a house?
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 a 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.
Some of the issues that REALLY drive building costs up in the Santa Rosa Beach area, that you may not have elsewhere:
Higher End Homes– 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.
Porches – 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 unconditioned space is not counted when calculating cost or price per SF — 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/SF to build. So, that extra cost goes into the SF numbers for the conditioned space, making it higher than normal.
Hurricane Zone – 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.
Harsh Environment – Our heavy exposure to the sun, salt, and rain lead 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.
Permits/Fees – 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, stormwater plan – and I’m sure there’s a few more I’m leaving out.
Site Issues – 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 the impact of that lot by markedly reducing the building footprint and requiring stormwater 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.
Semi-Custom Home to Mid-Range Custom Home Costs:
Construction cost = $175 – $300/SF
Note: Parts of your house could fall outside these ranges
- Plans, engineering, permits, fees, utilities = $30k – $50k
- Site work, drives, decks, landscaping = $15k – $70k
- Pool, fence, deck = $50k – $150k
- Foundation = $25k – $60k
- Framing, siding, trusses, roofing = $90k – $170k
- Plumbing, electric, HVAC = $45k – $75k
- Windows, doors, insulation = $25k – $60k
- Sheetrock, trim, painting = $55k – $90k
- Cabinets, tops = $35k – $60k
- Flooring, bath tile = $45k – $75k
- Appliances, lights, hardware, shelving, glass = $25k – $50k
- Clean-up, misc = $10k – $30k
- Builder fee, overhead, supervision = $70k – $120k