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Ever wondered 'how much to build a house on my land in Chicago'?

Building your own home is part of the American Dream, and gives you the chance to have the custom house you've always imagined. Whether you have a vacant plot in the suburbs or a huge tract of land out in wilderness, the ideal of building a new home on your lot is one that many aspire to. But where to start - cost is only one part of the equation.

In this guide we look at some of the key things you should factor in and give you some general ideas of costs based on national averages. As there are so many factors that go into planning and building a dream home it's impossible to say how expensive is it to build a house without all your exact details.

Choosing a contractor for your custom home

While choosing a contractor might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to build a home on your lot, if you choose the right contractor they can help you navigate all the steps when building a home on a lot from start to finish.

Here in Chicago there are many contractors to choose from, but at Fortress Home we have over 20 years of local experience so can help navigate planning, permits, advise you on the best house for your square footage and location, and source the highest quality, best value building materials to ensure your house is completed on time and to budget.


A good contractor can manage the construction dealing with:

  • Completing paperwork and obtaining permits
  • Managing all the different trades people and laborers
  • Purchasing all the materials and arranging deliveries
  • Ensuring the quality of all the work
  • Keeping the build on track and meeting deadlines

Plans and legalities

Plans

The first stage is to design your dream home. While you can purchase pre-designed blueprints which may save you some money, if you have specific requirements or an unusual shaped plot of land you'll probably want to work with a local architect or engineer to put together the plan that fits both your dreams and budget.

Working with a local architect who has experience in local zoning and planning laws will help ensure your plans are to code and building permits will be easier to obtain, helping you to build a house on your lot without too many hassles.

Permits

Once you have your blueprints and plans in place you can get all the necessary permits. Your contractor should be able to assist with this or you can contact your local government office to apply for your Building Permit. There may be additional fees for inspections as part of this process.

The average cost for all your plans, permits and inspections is around $18,000.

Preparing the land

Clearing the land

Before you can start building a house on your own lot you'll need to make sure the land is ready to build on. If there are any existing structures or trees they will need to be demolished and cleared. If the land isn't flat you may need to level or regrade the construction area.

Costs for clearing your plot of land can vary greatly depending on whether demolition or levelling is required. If no demolition is required it should cost around $1,500 - $5,000, but with demolition you could be adding on up to $25,000.

Foundations

Once the land is prepared you can start pouring the foundation. Good foundations are essential for a solid, long lasting house. The cost of the foundation will vary depending on many factors including the type of soil, previous land use and many other factors. If retaining walls are also required expect your foundation to cost around $35,000. While this figure may sound very large, remember this is a step where you really don't want to cut costs.

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Getting connected

If your plot of land is in the city and already had a dwelling on it, this will probably be a cheap and painless process. But if you're building on virgin land out in the countryside you'll need to get hooked up to all the local amenities. These include:

  • Water - we don't imagine you want a dream house without running water. So getting connected to the local water main is vital.
  • Sewerage- you probably don't want to spend too much time thinking about sewers, but getting rid of your household waste is essential. If you're in the city you can connect to the city system (and hopefully your land already has a connection). If you're outside the city you might want to consider getting a septic system, which will require a little ongoing maintenance.
  • Energy - unless you're planning on living off-grid you're going to want to connect to the electric grid, and possibly the city gas main too.
  • Communications - this may be one of the last things you need to connect to your new home, but don't forget to get an internet and phone hook-up.

Structural construction costs

Now the home builders on your lot will begin the real work of putting up the framing of the house. This is the shape and layout of the finished structure and includes walls, floors and roof trusses. At this point you'll have a much clearer idea of what it really means to build a home on your own lot.

At this stage the exterior windows and doors will be fitted and the roofers will put on the roof to make sure your house is safe from the elements. Your house will be sheathed, with a layer of boards being placed over the frame, and will finally look like a house.

This is one of the most expensive parts of the build with the framing and trussing coming in at around $51,000 and the exterior finishes, including the roof, windows and doors costing on average $42,000.

Interior Finishes and systems

When finishing the interior of your house, costs can vary wildly. Do you want high end materials or are you happy to reduce your total cost for now, with simpler finishes?

Home building can be an expensive process and you can always upgrade some of the interior finishes in years to come.


Major systems

At this stage all the plumbing and wiring will be going in, as well as the HVAC system, so keep in mind that this is not an area where you want to cut corners. You will want to ensure qualified professionals are installing these systems. And don't forget to get plenty of electrical outlets installed - we bet your family has more and more gadgets and devices to plug in every year! The cost of all these systems averages around $44,000 so a large chunk of the cost of building a home on your own lot.

Interior finishes

The interior of your house is one area where you can save a little now and upgrade later, but on average people still spend around $75,000 on interior finishes.

One area where you shouldn't try and pay less is insulation. Depending on where you live your needs will vary, but here in Chicago high quality insulation is important to keep energy costs down while keeping your house warm in winter and cool in summer. Getting this right will save you money on your utility bills in the long run.

Interior finishes include

  • painting and decorating
  • lighting fixtures and fittings
  • cabinets and countertops
  • fitted furniture
  • bathroom and kitchen plumbing fixtures
  • appliances - kitchen, laundry etc
  • flooring - floorboards, carpets, tiles
  • fireplaces

Landscaping

Now that the house is complete, don't forget about the exterior. Do you need a driveway? How about a pool or pond? Would a deck look nice?

All these features will help complete your dream home, but like some of the interior touches, if you're on a tight budget they can be added at a later date. According to the NAHB, the average cost of exterior work and landscaping is around $20,000.

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So how expensive is building a house really?

We looked at the numbers and came up with some average costs for you, both nationwide and here in Chicago, where, like most cities, land cost per square foot is more expensive.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the national average cost to build a house without land is approximately $296,000 USD, while, according to Home Advisor, the cost in Chicago is 55% higher, where you can expect to pay around $450,000. This is for a typical single family home and doesn't include the cost of land, so if you don't already own land and want to build a new home on your lot you'll need to think about those costs too.

The cost of building a house, if you do it all yourself, perhaps using containers, or salvaged materials can be as low as $18,000 in Chicago, but a more realistic range is between $200,000 - $740,000.

But don't let this put you off. Remember, for this price you'll get the house of your dreams, with all the rooms and amenities you've ever wanted, which you're very unlikely to find if you buy an existing house.


You can ensure the quality of the work, so you'll not just be building a house, but creating a home and a legacy that can stay in your family for generations to come.

FAQ

What does it cost to build a house on your own land?

One of the first questions that comes to mind when building a new house is 'how much does it cost to build a house yourself?' While we don't have an exact answer for you, according to the NAHB, the average cost of building a house in America in 2019 was $296,652. But how much yours will cost will depend on many factors including, location, choice of materials, size and style of house and fittings.

Are you going to work with home builders who build on your lot or will you manage the project yourself? How much of the labor will you be doing yourself? Labor costs are an important factor to consider and paying for skilled and experienced people can save time and money in the long term. While doing it yourself may save you some money in the short-term it may take years off your life, thanks to the stress that comes with managing a project this size. Unless you're an experienced builder we don't think the savings in cost of building a house by yourself are worth it. You also have to factor in what your time is worth, which you should always consider when working out the true cost to build a house.

Is it cheaper to build a house on your own land or buy an existing home?

Depending on where you are in the country, land can be a major cost when building a new construction, with an acre of land ranging from $4,000 in Arizona to $350,000 in Rhode Island. Here in Illinois it averages out at just under $30,000 per acre. So if you already own land in a state with high land prices it will almost certainly be cheaper to build than buy a house.

Other factors come into play when deciding whether to buy an existing home or build, including location, size of home and how exacting you are with your requirements.

If you own the land, then the average cost to build a house yourself nationwide is just under $300,000 but can be done much cheaper than this depending on the specific choices you make.

Can you build a house for 100k?

The cost of building a house can vary wildly, from tens of thousands of dollars, up to millions. It all depends on where and what you're building, and whether you need to buy the land or not. Some cheaper options for building a home on your land include prefab houses, cabins and shipping container homes. Not all of these types of houses will be suitable for all climates or properties but they are more affordable ways to build a house on your land.

How does buying land to build a house work in practice?

You have a couple of choices when it comes to buying land. You can buy land that is already subdivided and zoned for residential building. This will save you a lot of hassle in the planning and permits stage, and the land will usually be prepared ready for construction to start. Utilities and roads may also already be in place, all of which will make the process easier.

Alternatively you can buy a piece of unplatted (raw) land. This land will be cheaper but will require a lot more work and investment before it's ready to build on.

At this point you might also ask how many acres do you need to build a house? While an acre is a great sized plot to build a family home with a yard, the minimum lot size to build a house is less than an acre. An average sized house will fit on one-fifth of an acre and with the new fashion for tiny homes, your house may have an even smaller footprint.

Is buying land a good investment?

Generally buying land is a great investment. The price of land usually goes up over time, especially if an area becomes more developed. And if you are able to subdivide the land and prepare it for building, in a popular area, you may well be able to sell plots at a large profit.

But before you invest in a piece of land make sure to do a title search and see if there are any easements that might negatively affect the value of the land. Also be aware that you will still have to pay property taxes on undeveloped land, so plan for that when making your purchase.

Working with Fortress Home

At Fortress Home we are experts in new home construction with over 20 years experience in Chicago. We can help you every step of the way, from choosing the right design for your land to ensuring all the plans and permits are in place. We'll ensure you have a detailed budget that includes details like the price per square foot so you really understand the true cost of building a home.

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FORTRESS HOME

Fortress Home combines the roles of a general contractor, a construction partner, and a construction manager. Our talented workforce helps us professionally manage all aspects of on-site construction.

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