The Cost to Build a House in North Carolina: Breaking Down the Numbers

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Homebuyers are flocking to North Carolina, attracted by its low cost of living, ample job opportunities, and temperate climate. During the one-year period ending July 2023, North Carolina ranked third in the nation for population growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Newcomers and longtime residents alike are increasingly interested in building new homes, and the state offers an amicable environment to realize that dream. In 2022, North Carolina boasted the sixth-highest rate of new construction homes, and 18.2% of its housing stock was built after 2010.

Whether you’re a young professional job hunting in the Research Triangle, a retiree seeking the rugged beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or a prospective vacation home-owner looking to escape to the Outer Banks, you may be wondering: What is the cost to build a house in North Carolina?

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Average cost to build a house in North Carolina

North Carolina can be an affordable place to build a house, largely due to the state’s low labor costs. According to a report by Today’s Homeowner, it costs about $141 per square foot to build a house in North Carolina. To put that into perspective, a 2,100-square-foot spec home would cost about $297,062 to build. Compare that to California at $173 per square foot or Massachusetts at $192 per square and you can see why North Carolina is such a desirable place to put down roots.

To help you navigate the ins and outs of building in North Carolina, we spoke with Thomas Wohl, a top real estate agent serving the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region. Wohl has 31 years of experience and specializes in new construction, first-time home buyers, and relocations.

Now that we’ve piqued your interest, let’s break down the steps and costs of building a house in North Carolina.

Step-by-step costs to build a house in North Carolina in 2024

No matter which state you’re in, the steps involved in building a house will vary depending on whether you’re buying a tract home — which is when a builder has bought a large tract of land to divide into lots and build out several homes — or if you’re building a custom home.

Keep in mind that the price ranges we’re providing are general estimates. Your agent and, eventually, your builder can give you much more specific pricing information!

Here is an at-a-glance look at the average costs of each building phase — we’ll go into more detail in the next section.

Foundation $4,028 – $14,469
Framing $14,000 – $32,000
Roof $5,848 – $12,916
Siding $5,075 – $20,300
Appliances $10,875
HVAC System $8,000
Plumbing System $1,500 – $17,500
Electrical System $3,200 – $12,000
Building Permits $1,200 – $2,000
Finishes and Fixtures $42,000 – $175,000

Buying a plot of land ($27,396 per acre)

U.S. land sales sunk to $445 million in the first six months of 2023, compared to an average of $735 million in 2021 and 2022, according to Farmers National Company. This means less competition for buyers searching for the perfect plot.

Currently, there are more than 13,500 land listings in North Carolina, at an average per-acre price of $27,396, Of course, the cost of land is going to be quite different from community to community. In Lexington, you could scoop up 2.7 wooded acres near High Rock Lake for $59,900, or, opt for a half-acre in a new subdivision in Mooresville for $150,000 (bonus: it overlooks Mallard Head Country Club).

Foundation ($4,028 – $14,469)

Foundation costs will vary depending on whether you’re pouring a slab or digging a basement, but the typical price range is between $4,028 and $14,469.

According to Wohl, only about 10% of new homes in North Carolina have full basements. “Most of the newer homes are built on a concrete slab,” he says. “For higher-end homes, they will add a crawl space for easier renovations in the future. But slabs are a far less expensive way to build.”

Framing ($14,000 – $32,000)

Framing is when the sticks go up and a structure starts to take shape. Expect to pay between $14,000 and $32,000 for this phase of building a house in North Carolina. Framing costs tend to vary due to both the size of the home and the complexity of its design — a one-story home with 2,000 square feet of living space will generally be less expensive to frame than a two-story home with the same square footage.

Roof ($5,848 – $12,916)

Roofing doesn’t come cheap — whether you’re putting one on a new house or replacing the roof on an existing property. The costs of a new roof typically range from $5,848 to $12,916.

In North Carolina, as in most U.S. states, asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material, primarily due to the ease of installation and the lower price point. But metal roofing and tile roofing are gaining popularity in North Carolina because of their durability, and most importantly, their ability to make the home more energy efficient. Here is an estimate of the different types of roofing materials available with data sourced from This Old House:

  • Basic asphalt shingles: $4.25 to $4.95 per square foot
  • Clay tiles: $12 to $24.75 per square foot
  • Concrete tiles: $11 to $19.80 per square foot
  • Standing seam metal panels: $10 to $17.05 per square foot
  • Cedar shingles/shake: $8 to $14.30 per square foot
  • Slate tiles: $12 to $22 per square foot
  • Synthetic materials: $5.50 to $7.50 per square foot

Siding ($5,075 – $20,300)

Siding is another big variable in the cost to build a house in North Carolina: Are we talking vinyl, wood, brick, concrete, stone, stucco, or something else entirely? Siding costs range between $5,075 and $20,300, with vinyl averaging $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot, and the other most popular option, fiber cement, costing $4.00 to $8.00 per square foot.

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, stucco and vinyl were the most common siding materials on new homes in 2022, accounting for 28% and 26%, respectively. However, the typical siding materials used in North Carolina include vinyl, wood, fiber cement, and brick.

Vinyl is the most popular siding used in new builds in North Carolina because it’s cost-effective and available in a wide array of colors — plus it’s easy to maintain.

Wood siding is preferred in some areas because it’s renewable and blends in so beautifully with the state’s many lovely, wooded environments. Unfortunately, it’s not always the best choice, given North Carolina’s humid and rainy climate. It’s often more expensive than vinyl and requires a lot of maintenance to prevent termite damage and wood rot.

Fiber cement siding is growing in popularity in North Carolina. This fairly recent and durable option is a composite of sand, cement, wood, fiber, and other additives that can be manufactured to look like wood, stucco, or other natural siding choices. It’s one of the most expensive options, primarily due to the high cost of installation.

And finally, another popular – but expensive – choice is brick siding, which North Carolinians love for its beauty and durability.

Here’s a rough comparison of various siding materials and their associated costs:

Brick $8 – $21
Fiber Cement $5 – $10
Metal $5 – $9
Stone $22 – $45
Vinyl $5 – $11
Wood $5 – $15

Appliances ($10,875)

You guessed it — appliance pricing also varies widely. Depending on brand, functionality, finish, and so on, you’ll spend an average of $10,875 if the home does not come with any, but you can easily drop up to $24,400 on high-end appliances.

HVAC System ($8,000)

The installation of a new heating and cooling system could cost upwards of $8,000 depending on the size of your home. Using the IRS’ Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, you could claim up to $2,000 per year for qualified heat pumps — meaning you could potentially recover up to 25% of the total cost in a single tax year.

Plumbing System ($1,500 – $17,500)

Installing rough-in plumbing in a new house can cost anywhere from $1,500 – $17,500 on average — that’s not including fixtures like sinks and toilets.

Electrical System ($3,200 – $12,000)

The cost to wire a new construction house is, on average, between $3,200 and $12,000. Expect to pay between $3 and $5 per square foot including labor, materials, and permits. It typically costs $2 to $4 per square foot for rough-in electrical wiring, which is when the wiring has been pulled through the framing but is not yet connected to the breaker box, outlets, or fixtures.

Building Permits ($1,200 – $2,000)

Permits vary by state, city, and county, but when it comes to building a new home, they typically range from $1,200 to $2,000.

According to Wohl, permits in North Carolina are issued through the county or the city, and those entities are tasked with conducting inspections throughout the construction process.

Finishes and Fixtures ($42,000 – $175,000)

Finishes and fixtures comprise everything from countertops to sinks, and lighting to flooring. Needless to say, pricing varies widely and depends heavily on your preferences.

Average carpet installation costs, for example, can start at several hundred dollars and go up to $3,000, while hardwood flooring installation starts at around $2,478 and goes up to $7,027.

A less-expensive countertop option, laminate tends to range from $840 to $1,732, while more luxurious quartz countertops typically cost $1,500 to $8,000.

Building a custom home vs. a home in a development

As a general rule, building a custom home that is tailored to your every need will be more expensive than buying a tract home from a builder. On average, building a tract home in North Carolina will cost $200-$300 per square foot, while building a custom home could be as much as 20% to 50% above that cost.

While building a custom home gives you more options, it will also require you to assemble a team of experts to design and build the home from start to finish. Here are the team members you will need and a breakdown of what they might cost you:

Architect (5% – 20% of the final build cost)

Hiring an architect will be integral to making your vision come to life when building your custom dream home. Before you start your search for the right architect, get clear about what you are looking for. Be sure to do your research and ask your network for recommendations for architects in your area with experience designing the kind of home you are looking to build.

The cost of hiring an architect could make up anywhere between 5% and 20% of the final cost of the build. For a 2,100-square-foot home in North Carolina with a final build cost of $297,062 (the state average), you could expect to pay between $14,853 and $59,412. Some professionals will opt to charge by the hour or per square foot of the build for their services, but this is less common.

In North Carolina, the average cost of a residential architect is approximately 9.8% of the construction cost, so a $297,062 build would equate to a $29,112 architect’s fee.

General Contractor (10% – 20% of the final build cost)

A general contractor will oversee the entire process of building your custom home — they will also be responsible for hiring and paying subcontractors, vendors, and construction workers. General contractors typically charge what is called a “cost-plus” fee arrangement, which accounts for the cost of the labor and materials plus a negotiated fee for the general contractor. This usually comes out to 10%-20% of the total build cost.

Additional costs of building a custom home in North Carolina

As previously mentioned, building a custom home usually comes with additional costs. Your real estate agent can help you determine more accurate costs — these figures are meant to give you a general idea.

Land survey ($376 – $747)

Land surveys, which identify your property lines and land features, range between $376 and $747.

Excavation and grading ($1,500 – $10,000)

If you’re buying a tract home, the land price will be rolled into the overall price to build a home. If you’re buying a lot on your own and then building a custom home, you must consider the cost of excavation and grading, which will vary depending on the size of your build and the amenities you want to add to your property.

General excavation for new construction typically costs between $1,500 and $10,000 but you may also want to consider the price breakdown for various aspects of your build.

  • Basements: $5,000 for smaller homes, up to $15,000 for larger homes
  • Patios or driveways: $1,000 to $2,500
  • In-ground swimming pool: $400 to $1,500
  • Land clearing: $1,400 to $5,800
  • Trenching for piping: $1,500 to $10,000

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Common styles of homes in North Carolina

From mountain log cabins to coastal beach homes, there are plenty of design choices when building a new home in North Carolina, especially if you are custom building.

However, if you are going with a tract home in a new development, your choices may be more limited by the builder’s offerings. Popular architectural styles for new construction developments in North Carolina include Coastal, Craftsman, Colonial, and Modern Farmhouse.

Within every architectural style, you’ll often find features designed for humid southern climates including:

  • Columns, supporting deep roof overhangs to protect from the heat in summer or snow in the mountain areas in winter
  • Long and deep porches, wrapping around the sides of the home
  • Massive trees, particularly oaks, which provide much-needed shade in the summer
  • Breezeways

During North Carolina’s humid summers, these architectural features can provide some relief from the heat of the day. Homebuyers should be on the lookout for these characteristics when choosing a floor plan or collaborating with an architect.

According to Wohl, the ranch-style home is one of the rarest architectural styles you will see in new home construction in North Carolina.

“We generally do not see ranch-style homes in the newer developments, with the exception of the 55+ communities,” he says. “One of the reasons is because we have such a huge influx of new homebuyers, that most developers are building homes on less than an acre of land.”

Wohl notes that even townhomes are rarely just two stories anymore. Most of the builders have gone to three-story townhomes to maximize the square footage on a smaller land footprint.

While it may be easier to construct a single-story ranch home, the larger foundation and more expansive roof may make a ranch home more expensive to construct.

Although the single-story ranch is less common, Wohl says he does see the raised ranch style quite often. “Because lots are so much smaller, you could consider a raised ranch-style home, which gives you the ranch-style look but affords you the greater square footage of a two-story home.”

More affordable options for building a home in North Carolina

While going with a bare-bones building strategy can get you into a new construction home for less, cheaper isn’t always better. Shoddy build quality will inevitably lead to problems down the road — anything from a leaky roof to poor sound insulation can be a frustrating discovery when you’ve only been in your new home for a few months — and there’s value in creating a home you genuinely want, not just one you’re settling for.

Alternative home-building options can give you more for your money and offer valuable flexibility during the construction process.

Tiny homes ($30,000 – $60,000)

A tiny house is usually 600 square feet or less in size. They’re not ideal for large families, but building a tiny house can be faster and more affordable than a conventional home if a smaller space fits with your lifestyle. On average, tiny homes cost between $30,000 and $60,000 to build.

Tiny houses are growing in popularity in North Carolina, especially in the mountain towns, where tiny home communities are springing up. They can also be a great option as a starter home — especially since prices for new starter homes have been rising in North Carolina.

One of the growing attractions of these communities is the added amenities, the costs of which are shared by the homeowners. At The Village in Flat Rock, North Carolina, where tiny homes are priced from $99,000, residents can benefit from a clubhouse, community pools, a fitness facility, a dog park, and much more.

If you want to build on your own or work with an accredited builder, the Acony Bell tiny home community may be right for you. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the community offers one-year land leases with water and electric hookups. When embarking on a tiny home build, it’s important to do your research as North Carolina has its own specific regulations concerning size and construction.

Modular and prefabricated homes ($55 – $75 per square foot)

A modular home is built in a quality-controlled factory in sections and then transported and assembled on the home site.

According to ModularHomes, at a per square foot price of $55-$75, you could build a new modular home in North Carolina for as low as $117,000, depending on where you choose to live.

Modular and prefabricated homes in North Carolina tend to be more budget-friendly because there’s reduced material waste, the homes are quicker to construct (cutting down on labor costs), and they’re built in factory settings that offer greater control and efficiency.

While the price of a modular home in North Carolina is less expensive than a tract home or custom build, the prices will vary depending on the style and square footage.

Because the science of modular building has gotten more sophisticated through the years, there is a surprising range of housing types and styles to choose from. This is true with manufactured housing as well, which is estimated to make up 12.7% of North Carolina’s housing stock.

Existing home vs. cost to build a house in North Carolina

In most states, buying an existing home is cheaper than building a home. In North Carolina, however, a 2,100-square-foot spec costs roughly $297,062, while the median sale price (as of October 2023) of an existing home amounts to $313,083. That’s a price difference of $1,6021, making new construction an enticing opportunity.

Building a home almost always comes with a higher price tag upfront, but there are some long-term savings that new construction homeowners enjoy:

  • Energy efficiency: Newly constructed homes are generally more energy efficient than older homes — homes built after 2000 use 21% less energy than older homes on average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This is partially due to stricter energy regulations as well as better insulation and windows in new homes.
  • New home warranties: New construction homes are often covered under builder warranties for a specified period. When purchasing an older home, most of the key systems, such as the HVAC, roof, and plumbing, will be older and no longer covered under any kind of warranty.
  • Fewer maintenance costs in the first few years: With a newer home, you can count on your HVAC, plumbing, electrical system, and more to be functioning properly with little required maintenance in your first few years of homeownership. Older homes will likely have older roofs and older systems, requiring you to pay for replacements much sooner.
  • New homes might be cheaper to insure: Many homeowners insurance providers offer discounts for new construction homes due to the lessened risk of damages common in aging homes.

“New construction will always win over an old home,” Wohl says. “Homebuyers like to design their kitchens, especially, and choose a floor plan that fits their needs. And the biggest advantage of building a new home is that it is maintenance-free.”

Get started on building your dream home

If you are hoping to build rather than buy in North Carolina, the most important thing you can do is your homework.

You probably know how much you can afford to spend on a home, and you will want to carefully consider the location and amenities that are going to best fit your lifestyle, and where it’s most important for you to invest those dollars. Some buyers will prefer a larger piece of land while others will want to put their money in high-end finishes.

An experienced real estate agent can be your greatest asset in identifying a property that meets your needs and finding a builder who can craft a home that fits your specific requirements and budget.

Header Image Source: (Roger Starnes Sr / Unsplash)