A Guide to Estimating the Cost to Build a House in San Diego

By Sean Canning

Are you looking to build a house in San Diego and wondering how to estimate the potential construction costs of your project? Accurately estimating the cost of building a custom home or modern ADU is essential for planning your budget and ensuring the project's success.

In this blog post, we'll provide you with a step-by-step guide based on our approach at Ten Seventy Architecture to estimating the cost to build a house in San Diego. By following these steps, you will be able to apply this knowledge to your own construction project.

Step 1: Understand the Home Building Design and Construction Process

It's important to understand that construction designs progress through a series of stages, from conceptual ideas to detailed construction drawings.

We use a proprietary four-phase process in our San Diego Architecture Studio, which has been refined through a decade of experience in designing, permitting, and building projects in the city. You can adopt a similar phased approach for your project, ensuring that you have a clear path from concept to completion to create an accurate budget for your custom home project.

Step 2: Price Per Square Foot Analysis

During the initial phases of the project, we estimate construction costs using a price-per-square-foot analysis.

To calculate this, simply multiply the project's square footage by the estimated cost per square foot. As the design progresses and becomes more detailed, you will be able to refine your cost estimates based on specific materials and construction techniques.

Step 3: Adjust for Current Market Conditions in San Diego

It's important to know that the home building cost in San Diego can vary significantly depending on factors like economic conditions and the current state of the construction industry.

For example, in 2021, we used a baseline cost of $250 per square foot for residential construction projects in San Diego. This figure reflects increased construction costs since 2019 when the estimate was $200 per square foot. Be sure to research current market conditions in San Diego and adjust your estimates accordingly.

Overall, it can be quite expensive to build in San Diego, but that is to be expected considering it is one of the best places to live in the US.

Step 4: Factor In Permitting Fees When Estimating Building Costs in San Diego

Remember that the cost per square foot estimate only covers the hard costs of construction, which do not include architectural or engineering fees or permit fees. At Ten Seventy Architecture, we advise our clients to factor in these additional costs when calculating their overall project budget.

For a more detailed explanation of what you can expect in regard to permitting + other project fees, check out this article.

Step 5: Consider the Level of Finish + Design Features For Your Custom Home

Your desired level of finish and design features will significantly impact the overall cost to build a luxury home or heavily renovate/remodel your existing house.  

For instance, a project aiming for publication in Architectural Digest or Dwell magazine will likely have a higher price per square foot due to the use of premium materials and more complex design elements. Be realistic about your expectations and budget when planning your project.

Step 6: Refine Your Building Cost Estimate with Material Costs

As your design moves from a conceptual stage to detailed construction drawings you can further refine your cost estimate by considering the specific materials and building techniques required for your project. This will help you transition from a price per square foot estimate to a more accurate material cost-based estimate.

So, What's the Average Cost to Build a House in San Diego?

Building a custom home in San Diego can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it's crucial to have a clear understanding of the costs involved to ensure a successful project.

The average cost to build a custom home in San Diego will vary based on factors such as the size of the home, location, design features, and finishes.

As a general guideline, the average cost to build a custom home in San Diego can range from $250 to $400 per square foot or more, depending on the level of customization and quality of materials.

This means that for a 2,500 square foot custom home, you could expect to pay between $625,000 and $1,000,000 for construction alone. Keep in mind that this range is an estimate and can vary based on your specific project requirements.

At the lower end of the spectrum, you can expect a more basic level of customization and finishes, with the use of standard construction materials.

As you move towards the higher end of the cost range, you'll find more elaborate designs, premium materials, and unique architectural features that contribute to a truly one-of-a-kind custom home.

It's important to note that the cost per square foot only covers the hard costs of construction. In addition to this, you should budget for architectural and engineering fees, permit fees, and potential costs for site preparation and utilities. These additional expenses can vary depending on the complexity of your project and local regulations.

At Ten Seventy Architecture, we work closely with our clients to provide a detailed and accurate cost estimate for their custom home projects in San Diego. By understanding your vision, needs, and budget, we can help guide you through the process of building your dream custom home while keeping costs under control.

We're happy to help you develop multiple budget estimates for your custom home building project. If you want to know exactly what it will take to build a custom me in San Diego County or the City itself, click here to book a free consultation.

Video Transcript

How do you estimate the cost of a construction project you're considering? This is a big question we get often and I wanted to make this video to explain how we estimate construction costs for our own architecture projects at Ten Seventy Architecture. By watching this video, you will be able to take this advice and apply it to your own project.

The first thing you need to understand is that as a construction design is being prepared, it goes through a series of stages.

In these stages, it moves from a conceptual idea (which is very loose) to a set of construction drawings (which is very tight) and should have almost everything explained.

In our San Diego Architecture Studio, we use a proprietary four-phase process that we have developed after a decade of experience designing, permitting, and building projects in the city of San Diego.

Generally, in phase one or two, we're looking at construction costs in terms of price per square foot analysis. So if you're looking to do a 100 square foot addition, we're looking at this in terms of 100 square feet, multiplied by the price per square foot. As you continue to develop the design and the conceptual idea becomes more solidified into an actual hard drawing (which could then be extrapolated into a series of building materials) then you can start to explore the construction costs from the material point.

Basically, there are two steps to estimating construction costs - the cost of the project from a square foot perspective + the cost from a materials perspective. You have to move through the initial schematic stage to get to the more hardline construction drawing stage where everything is engineered and explained.

So the next question you probably have is how much are we estimating on a per square foot basis? And this is a little bit of a vague conversation because it should be vague in the schematic design stage.

But right now in 2020, we're using $250 per square foot to estimate our project costs (when I say $250 per square foot, this is in San Diego in 2021, at the back end of this pandemic, when construction has increased since 2019).

Back then we were using $200 per square foot, but everything has gone up in price since then. So now $250 per square foot is your entry-level pricing for home construction in San Diego.

Note that this pricing does not include architectural or engineering fees or permit fees - it's just your hard costs of construction.

Now if you're looking to do a project which is going to be featured in publications like Architectural Digest or Dwell magazine, you're going to naturally pay a lot more per square foot for that project.

So you can look at $250 a square foot it's just your entry-level pricing for building a new home in San Diego or renovating your current one. At $250 per square foot, you're picking your materials from the bottom price tiers.

And in certain cases, the price is deciding for you because you may not be able to go with the giant retractable door system in that price range (for example). These are design features of a home that would increase the price from $250 per square foot.

In conclusion, using $250/square foot is the starting point you should use to estimate the construction costs of a residential architecture project in San Diego in 2021/2022. Start to use a price per square foot and then slowly move away from that price per square foot into an actual material cost. And then you'll be able to close in on the construction costs that you're looking for.

Ready To Build a Custom Home in San Diego?

At Ten Seventy Architecture, we work with adventurous clients who love modern architecture to help them make their dream a reality.

We offer free consultations, both virtually and in our North Park office, to help you plan and estimate the costs of your custom home project. During your consultation, you will get to speak directly with the owner of the studio Sean Canning to discuss your ideas, needs, and preferences when it comes to building a home.

By taking advantage of our free consultation service, you'll gain a better understanding of the steps involved in building a custom home in San Diego and receive personalized advice tailored to your project.

Our team of dedicated professionals is committed to working closely with you throughout the entire process, from initial concept to completion, ensuring your custom home is designed and built to the highest standards. Don't hesitate to contact us to schedule your free consultation and embark on the exciting journey of building your dream home in San Diego. Just click here to schedule a free consultation!

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