How Much Does It Cost to Build a House in Seattle?

Houses in Seattle range in value based on the rest of the real estate market. Landowners interested in building homes of their own can use basic forecasting to budget the amount of money they will need for the entire project. While building a house with land already owned can reduce costs in some instances, unexpected costs can creep in and make building a house in Seattle expensive. Owners should tally all related costs before making plans or trying to qualify for a loan.

Plans and Land

Plans include any architectural designs or basic drafts created by an engineering firm. Seattle does not require a true architect-based plan, but it does require a basic regulatory approval; owners can expect to pay a couple thousand dollars for plans that meet the required standards. In general, a customized plan by an architect will cost much more than a basic program-based plan, so plan costs can rise to several thousand dollars if they are complex or hired out to real architects.

If the owner has yet to purchase land to build on, then land prices also factor into the overall costs. Land prices in Seattle vary greatly according to location, so firm averages are difficult to come by. As of July 2011, vacant lots in Seattle cost between $50,000 and $75,000 -- much more for lots in affluent areas.


Seattle has some of the tightest and most expensive building regulations of all major U.S. cities, so owners can also expect to pay high prices in fees. While residential building is not as bad as commercial construction, estimates show that the total cost of fees may account for a third of the house costs. Seattle laws also require a building permit, which only registered contractors -- not do-it-yourself landowners -- can qualify for. This can add tens of thousands of dollars onto the cost of building the house itself.

Average Prices

Average building prices can be difficult to calculate, but in 2010 landowners could build a house for between $80 and $110 per square foot. However, square foot averages can be dangerous when so many questions of quality factor in. For instance, in 2008 the cost to build a two-story house around 2,500 square feet was at nearly $300,000 in total. Home building costs in Seattle vary accordingly.

Reasons for Variance

Location can have a large affect on housing prices in Seattle. For example, not all local councils require owners to pay the same fees; wage fees will also differ based on the median level in Seattle's prices. Timing can also play a key role -- lumber prices can change dramatically from season to season. Personal choices on quality of materials will probably have the highest impact, however. Stone costs more than wood, and wood costs more than plastic.

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