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How much will it cost to build my house?

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Construction projects are notorious for exceeding their budget, we often see it happen on Grand Designs and read about it in the newspapers. There are a plethora of reasons; an increase in scope, an increase in quality, adjustments to an optimistic estimate and/or an increase in construction inflation.

For clients commissioning projects it is an understandable concern that they want to feel they are in control of the costs of a project. Helping our clients achieve this is a primary role that our experienced Architects take on.

How much will my project cost?

At the very start of a project the simple answer is ‘I don’t know’ - but that isn’t very helpful and neither is it likely to win a commission.

It is one of the hardest questions for an architect to answer, if we say ‘I don’t know’ we appear unhelpful. If we say a figure that is too high we might put you off, if we say a figure too low we risk starting a project that you can’t complete.

Yet the problem for a client is that project cost is obviously one of the most important concerns. When starting out buying any other product you generally know how much it will cost before committing to it.

So what's the problem - why don’t you know?

Your home is unique, or at least we think it should be.

At the start of the project we don’t know what the finished design will look or feel like. We also don’t know; what level of engineering will be required, what the ground/existing building conditions are like and the condition or status of the existing services e.g. drainage, electrics etc.

There are so many unknowns at the very start, so how could a cost be provided for something that hasn’t yet been designed?

Does that mean I need to commit to a complete design of my home (and having to pay architects and other fees) without even knowing the full project cost?

No, it doesn’t.

But it in order to obtain an initial estimate you will need to know the approximate size of your project (approx. floor area and number of floors) and to do this you may want some initial input from an architect.

So you can give me some idea of the cost?

It is at this point that we must be clear that architects are not qualified to give cost advice, there is in fact a whole profession set up to do this; quantity surveyors.

However we work closely with quantity surveyors and we can relay their square meter costs (how much a building costs per square metre of floor area) that are based on survey data of similar projects in a similar location. 

How accurate can an initial cost estimate be?

This is nub of the issue. The accuracy of the cost is proportional to the accuracy and amount of information used to price it. The less information available, the less accurate the cost will be.

At the point where a square metre rate is used, very general assumptions will have to be made and this is often where there are pitfalls, particularly if you are dealing with an existing building or difficult site.

What use is this initial cost estimate?

The initial estimate allows clients the confidence to begin the journey into starting a project and a framework for all future decisions that have a cost impact.

When will I know how much my project will cost?

During the design process (as more decisions are made and there is more information available) we will advise obtaining further cost advice from a quantity surveyor.

Once a project gets to a certain level of detail a quantity surveyor is able to measure the proposed works and provide costs based on an elemental basis. They will measure and provide an estimate for the cost in materials and labour for each part of the building. This will provide a greater level of accuracy than the square meter rate and also provide a way of monitoring the proposed costs during the design phase.

Ultimately you will only know how much your project will cost when a builder provides you with an offer based on a complete set of design information.

How do you keep the project on budget?

When we have completed the design of your project we will work with you to get ‘tenders’ from suitable builders.

The quoted cost from a builder for your house if based on ‘complete design information’ will not change unless you decide to make any changes during construction. Even if you do think you might want to change something we will make sure you known how much it will cost before you make a decision.

Would you like to find out how much your residential or commercial project might cost? Book your FREE consultation with one of our experienced Architects here in Exeter, or in the comfort or your home or business.

Get in touch today to discuss your project; 01392 459777 or email

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