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House Plan Cost-to-Build Estimator: What You Should Know

Here’s How You Can Estimate the Construction Cost of Your Dream Home


Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to build your Dream Home. You’ve found and bought the perfect building lot, surveyed your family for their wants and desires for the new home, searched through hundreds (thousands?) of house plans, and found the perfect blueprints for your ideal home.

But you know that, when building a home, it’s important to stay within your budget. Sometimes, your dreams and plans align. And you can include every design, feature, and material that you’d like to. However, there is no way to really know if this will be the case without a close estimate of how much it will cost to build the house, from foundation to finish.

That’s where an accurate cost-to-build estimating tool comes in. You give the tool all of the variables for building your house, including house plan info, where you will build, and the quality level of the building and finish materials and fittings, and you end up with a close estimate of how much it will cost to build the home. Let’s have a look at the estimator that The Plan Collection uses.

Young couple looking over house blueprints

As you plan out the build of your dream home, like the couple above, its important that you develop and stick to a realistic budget. Consider using a cost-to-build estimator as a guideline for your construction budget. You can also refer to it as you get bids from contractors (photo credit: Syda Productions © Dreamstime).


Cost To Build Report

The Plan Collection is proud to partner with StartBuild, a residential home-construction expert advisory company, to provide you with an accurate estimate of what it’s going to cost to build your dream home.

We trust StartBuilds data because of their many years in the industry; they understand the importance of accurate and up-to-date cost estimates. The firm is well known in the industry for

  • Expert Planning and Construction Advice
  • Cost To Build Estimates
  • Construction Budgeting
  • Sub-Contractor Bids
  • Construction Loans
  • Land Loans
  • Project Management
  • Construction Information

There are many benefits to purchasing the Startbuild Cost to Build Report; however, what follows are just a few of our favorites.

Three-bedroom, 3.5-bath Luxury home with Rustic appointments

This awe-inspiring, luxuriously rustic home has 3 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, and a half bath. Among its many desirable features is a vaulted ceiling in the Great Room with massive timbers. Click here to learn how much this beautiful home will cost to build.


Quick and Easy to Use

You will receive your personalized Cost-to-Build Report just two business days after purchase. You will also receive 24/7 online access to your budget to change or update it for 30 days after purchase.

Plus, you can download your Startbuild Cost to Build Report at any time during that 30-day period, so you can share it with others, print it out, and refer back to it in the future.

Beginning page of Cost to Build report for plan #138-1315

Second page of Cost to Build report for plan #138-1315

These first two pages of a 5-page Cost-to-Build Report for a 1536-square-foot Ranch style home demonstrate the typical level of detail you can expect from the estimating software. The online version of the report, to which you can make changes and update choices youve made – and create hard copies as well – is available for 30 days.


Accurate Estimate

When you purchase the Startbuild Cost to Build Report, youll get a customized quote estimate based on the actual house plan, your location, your finish choices, and even sweat equity contributions. It gives you the best possible glimpse into a realistic budget.



StartBuild Cost-to-Build Report costs $29.95 per plan, but because it’s a no-risk offer, it’s a great investment: if you order one and let us know about the order when you purchase a house plan, $29.95 will be deducted from your plan order. (Limit of one $29.95 credit per complete plan package order. It cannot be combined with other offers. It does not apply to study set purchases. Credit typically takes 2-3 business days to show up in your account).


Frequently Asked Questions

Before our clients decide to use our paid Cost-to-Build estimator, they often have a few questions before committing. We’ve answered the most common ones here. If you still have any questions or concerns about the tool, please don’t hesitate to contact us about anything else you would like to know.

All-white Contemporary Farmhouse with metal standing-seam roof

Imagine yourself in this magnificent 1.5-story contemporary Farmhouse style home with a wrap-around porch, four bedrooms, four full bathrooms, and two half baths. It has an open floor plan downstairs and a large, open game room upstairs for when family members want to pursue separate activities. Click here for more information about the cost to build for this plan.


Where Does the Cost Data Come From?

StartBuild uses unique software in that it uses its own blended costing database. In order to project the most accurate pricing possible, they use published data from many different levels, including national, regional, state, and even down to 3-digit zip code (the area defined by the first three digits in a zip code) costing data. However, to further ensure accuracy, they have Builder Partners with whom they work and use actual project costing data.


How Do You Know the Data is Accurate?

According to StartBuild’s founder and owner, Rob Mackle, “the software is designed to be conservative in the reporting and accurate to at least 10%. To ensure clients have the best budgeting tool possible, all the available costing data is blended and reviewed weekly. We then update it all each month for the best results.

“It’s important to remember, however, that some of the most important components of the accuracy of the report are customer choices, changes, and adjustments to their online budgets,” Mackle says.


What Items Are Included in the Report?

To make sure that everything is covered when you’re budgeting your build, StartBuild provides 16+ major cost categories, including things like:

  • Site Work
  • Utilities
  • Foundation
  • Framing
  • Roofing
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC

To further improve accuracy, the online report also has over 30 major line items for clients to review, including building material and finishing choices (see more on this below). Most clients find this aspect extremely useful, as they can see real-time cost changes based upon their selections – for example, which type of flooring to use.

Finally, you can also add or subtract costing totals from bids and quotes that you may have obtained, which makes the report more accurate – and makes for a very personalized outcome.

Wall framing being erected on a basement foundation

Luxury Cottage home being built and almost finished with the rough closed-in stage

Everything from site work and framing to weatherproof closing in of the structure and finish work is covered in a Cost-to-Build Report from The Plan Collection (Plan #198-1095).


Are Contractor Overhead and Profit Included?

Yes, they are! You can use the “Project Management” section in the report to see the estimated fees that a builder or general contractor may charge you for your specific type of build. These costs are broken down and can be adjusted online if you prefer to build your home entirely on your own and not use a contractor.


Can I Make Changes to the Tool?

Yes, of course you can! We think that being able to customize nearly everything about the tool is one of its best features.

StartBuild has set up the tool so that you are completely in control. You can make choices, changes, selections, and adjustments to your report. You can adjust every line item cost on the report to make it more accurate for your building lot, geographic location, home plan, and material choices.

As mentioned, if you’re stuck between two types of materials or certain home features (like solar panels, for instance), using the tool is one of the easiest ways to quickly discover which combination is the best fit for your budget.

Home under construction showing framing and sheathing

The Cost-to-Build Report allows you to make changes like adjusting unit prices on lumber and the like, depending on the exact material you use and local pricing you can get. In fact, you can adjust every line item cost in the report if you want to (photo credit: Janece Flippo © Dreamstime).


Does the Tool Offer Flexibility on Exteriors and Finishes?

StartBuild has done its best to include as many different exterior finishing choices as possible. While using the tool, you’ll be able to pick from dozens of finishing choices, including vinyl siding, stone, brick, cement board, lap siding, and stucco. If you can’t decide, simply try different combinations and patterns as the possibilities are nearly endless.

“It’s important to note,” says Rob Mackle, “that we DO NOT have a specific list of good / better / best / custom materials and finishes, and we have good reasons for this.

“There are many different material preferences and material specifications across the country. Different climate zones and construction methods make this very difficult. The best example is foundation type: what is good/better/best/custom? It doesn’t make sense. Its more related to what is the right foundation for your lot: slab, crawlspace, basement, walkout foundation, pier foundation, etc.?

“We do have many line items where customers CAN make choices. In roofing, for example, customers can choose asphalt shingle, architectural shingle, basic tile, custom tile, or metal roof on their report. They see real-time cost differences on their CTB report.

“With appliances, as another example, our ‘custom’ appliance package is a stainless package budgeted at $15K. However, you could spend over $15K on just a cooking range, so our custom could mean $50K for appliances, and it’s possible to adjust the budget to reflect this.

“This flexibility can get complicated with plans that show a finished home with ‘show case’ pictures. Customers ask whether the CTB report estimates the house as shown in the pictures or not. We can adjust the reports based on these criteria if that is what the customer needs and wants.

“So what we are doing is providing a great starting point estimate and cost-to-build report. Yes, customers will still have many questions. This is part of the process and value of what we offer. Customers will need to ask more questions and make their specific material choices as they build up their real budget and as they talk to builders about their final material specifications.”


What Items Are Not Included?

While StartBuild goes above and beyond in including most new home construction costs to give you the best idea possible as you budget your build, it is still only a starting point estimate – no matter how detailed. Out-of-the-ordinary expenses like land development, for example, are not included as standard line items, and it should be understood that unexpected costs still can occur throughout the building process. To make the tool more useful and complete, however, the online report allows customers to add line items such as land payoff, construction loan closing costs, contingency reserves, special equipment needs, and more, even though they are not part of the standard report makeup.

Building site with special telescoping forklift to help erect a gable-end wall

Nonstandard expenses like land development are not included in the cost-to-build report. Still, items like special equipment requirements, contingency reserves, land payoff, and more may be added as line items (photo credit: B Toolan).


How Do I Actually Use the Report? A Helpful Cost-to-Build Video Walk-Through

If you are more of a visual learner, we think that this video explaining what we’ve discussed above is a beneficial resource.



Free Building Cost Estimate Calculator

If you’re not at the stage of the process to purchase a report but still curious about general building costs, then our free cost estimate calculator is a great fit for you.

To find the costs, it uses national and regional per-square-foot home construction data released by the U.S. Census Bureau along with the heated square footage of a particular house plan.

However, please remember that the estimated building costs shown for a plan are exactly that – estimates. When using this free tool, you need to keep in mind that actual costs can vary significantly from average and median cost estimates.

Things like the final materials and finishes chosen as well as specific local code and market conditions, can also really impact the final costs. In addition, the free cost estimate calculator doesn’t include site development and certain other costs.

These are things like:

  • Land Cost
  • Site Clearing
  • Excavation
  • Porches
  • Decks
  • Patios
  • Basement and/or Crawlspace Foundations
  • Bonus rooms

So if you are still in the very early stages of your build, it might be worth it to use the free cost estimate calculator to get a very general idea of the costs involved.

Beautiful contemporary Ranch style home with rustic aspects

Sample of free cost to build estimate for plan #161-1135

Top: Who wouldnt love this Contemporary Ranch style home with three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a half bath, and rustic characteristics? The house includes an open Great Room floor plan, split master bedroom layout, mudroom, and roomy kitchen with a huge walk-in pantry. Bottom: the free cost-to-build estimate shows a pop-up on the plan detail page when you click on the green "Free Cost Estimate" button on the page (Plan #161-1135).


Have you found a house plan you love and would like to start building a real budget for your construction project? Then our paid Cost to Build Estimator is the perfect fit for you.


Footnote: The lead image is a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath Luxury Cottage style home under construction, taken by a drone overhead. For more information, see Plan #198-1095.

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