Cost To Build A Custom Home In California

Building a custom home in California is a fantastic idea. Not only will you get to live in a home that is uniquely yours, but you’ll also be able to save money by building a custom home rather than buying one. When you build your own house, you don’t have to pay for the land or the foundation of the house, which can cost as much as $200,000. You also don’t have to pay any fees associated with having someone else build your home. This means that once all of these costs are factored into the price of buying an existing home, it’s actually cheaper to build your own custom home than it would be if you were paying those fees and buying an existing structure.

If you’re looking to build a custom home in California, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will go through all of the steps involved with building a home from scratch and give you an estimate of how much each step will cost. We’ll also show you how to save money by doing some of the work yourself and hiring less-expensive subcontractors.


Do you need an architect?

It’s not a question of “if” but “when.” If you’re building a custom home in California, then the answer is yes. There are two reasons for this:

  • To get your plans approved by the city and county before construction begins. In order to build your dream house, you’ll need to submit plans to your local government agencies for approval. Your architect will help make sure that everything on those plans conforms with zoning laws and other regulations in your area—and makes sure that it will be approved for construction without any modification needed (or costly delays).
  • To get building permits from local agencies like fire departments or public works departments so that they can inspect what’s being built as part of their process of approving permits (and hopefully prevent any safety issues down the road).

Architectural Fees

You will have to pay for architectural fees. Depending on the complexity of your project, architectural fees can vary from $10 to $25 per square foot. Some builders will include this cost in their quote and some won’t—so make sure you ask them what they plan on charging for this expense.

If your builder is charging an additional fee for architectural services, it means that he or she has hired an architect to design your custom home plans and oversee the entire building process from start to finish. The good news is that most builders include these costs in their quote so that you don’t end up paying extra at a later date.

Site Survey

A site survey is a detailed inspection of your property and land to determine what’s there, what needs to be done to make it suitable for construction and how much it will cost.

The person who should perform a site survey is an architect or engineer with experience in building homes in California. They will typically work with a contractor who has been hired by you (the homeowner) to construct your custom home.

A typical site survey may take about 2-4 weeks from start to finish, depending on its size and complexity. In some cases, however, this process can take longer if the land isn’t well suited for construction or if there are environmental concerns that need addressing first.

Soils Report

A soils report is required by the building department. The soils report will determine the type of foundation to be used. Determining if your soil is suitable for a foundation is also a part of this report. Soils reports can range from $300 – $1,000 depending on where you live and what kind of house you want to build.

Building Department Requirements

Building Department Requirements

Conformance with local and state building codes is essential. Your architect can help you determine the extent to which your plans must be submitted for approval. Some jurisdictions require that a site plan be submitted with the application for a building permit, while others may only require this if there is public use of your property (a restaurant or shopping center, for example).

The following typical fees may apply:

  • Building permit fees – these are paid to the county or city in which you reside when applying for a building permit. They vary widely depending on where you live, but typically range from $200-$800;
  • Plan review fees – these are paid directly by your architect once he/she has drawn up your plans;
  • Permits fees – these are generally charged by contractors at several stages during construction (such as foundation and framing), but can be waived if they’re not working on specific phases of the project themselves;

Inspector fees – similar to plan review fees above, these are simply charges associated with having an inspector check over each stage of construction before it’s complete

Permit and License Fees

  • Permit and License Fees

These are the fees you pay for the government to look at your plans, approve them, and stamp them with their approval. The cost of permits depends on where you live. You may have to get multiple types of permits depending on what type of project it is (single-family or multifamily) or what the building code requires in your area (for example, earthquake safety). There are also fees associated with obtaining licenses and certifications from various agencies such as electrical inspectors, plumbing inspectors, etc.


A great example of this is engineering. While it may seem like a cost that could easily be passed on to the builder, it’s actually critical to ensure that your home is built safely and up to code. Your engineer will be responsible for structural calculations, inspections, and plans throughout the project. Additionally, if you plan on doing any remodeling or upgrading in the future (and most people do), you will need an engineer for things like plumbing and electrical plans as well.

Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC Engineering and Plans

Electrical and plumbing work is a major part of the build.

Electrical and plumbing work is labor intensive:

  • Electricians have to wire all the electrical outlets, switches and fixtures, while plumbers have to install water supply lines, waste lines, vents and other parts of the plumbing system. Both professions require extensive knowledge that takes years to acquire. They also need special tools like electricians use meters or plumbers use wrenches or cutters for specific tasks.

Plumbing and electrical work can be dangerous:

The risk of injury from electrocution or burns from hot water seem obvious but there are other dangers as well such as falls from ladders or scaffolding around houses being built on sloping ground where you have no footing unless you’re constantly using your hands at all times while working overhead (which isn’t always possible because it gets exhausting quickly). In addition there are hazards associated with working around high voltage cables inside walls where they might come loose unexpectedly causing serious injury if touched without proper protection such as rubber gloves etc…

Excavation & Foundation Work

Excavation and Foundation Work

The first step of any home construction is excavating the site, which will determine how your foundation is constructed. This can be done by either a contractor or on your own. If you’re building a small or simple house, this is one of the areas where DIY may make sense. Depending on where you live and what your soil conditions are like, foundation work can cost $15 – $25 per square foot.


Concrete is the most common building material. It’s used in foundations, floors, walls and roofs. Concrete is made from cement and water. The ratio of these two ingredients determines how strong the concrete will be.

The best way to make a slab (or slab on grade) is by pouring concrete into a mold that has been prepared with rebar (steel reinforcement rods).

Insulation and Drywall Work

  • Insulation and Drywall Work

Insulation and drywall work can cost between $1 – $2 per square foot. This is usually done by a subcontractor, who may be hired by the general contractor or directly by you. It’s typically completed after framing is completed, but before any other finishes (plumbing, electric etc.) are included in your home design plan.

Roofing Work and Materials Cost

Roofing work and materials cost is one of the most important factors in determining the overall cost of your home. The roofing material you choose will affect both labor costs and material costs. For example, a slate tile roof requires skilled workers that are experienced in cutting slate tiles by hand. This adds to your labor costs, as well as adding time to the process of installing it on your house.

Roofing materials can be very expensive; however, there are some budget-friendly options available such as asphalt shingles or metal roofs like standing seam or corrugated metal roofs which require less maintenance over time than traditional wooden shake or tile roofs (which need new coatings every 5 years).

The average cost to build a custom home in California is between $200 – $450 per square foot. Your costs can be lowered greatly by building on your own lot and hiring a few skilled subcontractors.

The average cost to build a custom home in California is between $200 – $450 per square foot. Your costs can be lowered greatly by building on your own lot and hiring a few skilled subcontractors.

For example, if you are planning to build a 3000 square foot home and you’re getting bids from contractors that are telling you the price will be $500 per square foot for labor and materials, it could cost about $1 million dollars to build that house. That would leave no room for error or compromise with contractors who don’t do quality work or pay attention to detail.


Building a custom home can be an expensive endeavor, but with enough planning and preparation, you can save money on this project. In this article, we’ve covered some of the most important factors that will affect your final cost. These include: the size and scope of your house, whether or not you hire an architect or build on your own lot (or both), how much money goes toward materials vs. labor costs when building a new house from scratch—and what other expenses should be factored into these numbers as well (such as permits/licenses). We hope that this guide helps answer some questions about estimating costs so that you can better plan today for tomorrow’s homebuilding adventure.

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