Whether you are looking to buy a fine country getaway in Upstate New York or build new construction in the city, there has not been a better time to move to the Empire State.
Attractive to both renters and buyers alike, New York happens to be the fourth most populous state in the U.S., with New York City holding the title of the most densely populated major city. As rent expenses continue to rise, it’s no wonder why residents are seeking to invest in the growing NY real estate market today.
If you are looking to build a new construction home in the expansive and easygoing countryside, land will be a bit easier to come by than in the city. However, it still ranges closer toward the pricier side in comparison to other cities. Homeowners considering a new build in the Big Apple are in for a trickier time.
First, finding land in NYC will be quite a challenge. It is considerably easier to buy an existing structure in New York City than to build new construction. However, if your heart is set on a particular design style, you might be better off renovating or completing a tear-down-and-rebuild with your design plan.
As you might expect, the cost to build a house in New York State is a bit higher than other major cities. Read on for more information on financing, climate considerations, and everything else you need to know before building a house in New York.
New Yorkers have the pleasure of enjoying warm summers and brightly-colored spring and fall transition seasons. The winter is characterized by freezing temperatures and frequent snow in the mountains and interior region of the state. Heatwaves are common in New York State, usually occurring at least twice during the summer. They last about three to five days and bring oppressive heat and humidity.
In New York City, the most populous area of the state, vehicular emissions can exacerbate the humid and hot temperatures in the summer, leading the city to issue the occasional ozone alert. Possible climate hazards include hurricanes or tropical storms, flooding, severe storms, and brutally cold winter storms. Homes in the Great Lakes region receive the highest annual rain and snow in the state.
It’s best for new homeowners to take precautions by weatherizing their homes with extra insulation from the cold and installing storm windows and doors. Regular maintenance checks on their HVAC and other appliances are necessary to ensure the systems work properly in the event of a snow or ice storm.
NYC Environmental Restrictions
Areas of New York City may be subject to unique environmental district requirements. It’s a good idea for homeowners to consult their builder for current restrictions and considerations.
New York City is highly vulnerable to flooding due to its 520 miles of waterfront and low-lying residential areas. As climate change continues to accelerate, flood risks will increase over time. Areas near waterways such as the Hudson or Gowanus Canal are at a higher risk. Homeowners can learn more about their flood zone risk by viewing the NYC Flood Hazard Mapper.
Homes built in flood zones may be subject to additional restrictions, permits, and may require flood insurance. To protect your home from flooding in these areas, be sure to elevate the structure using a pier-and-beam foundation, incorporate sufficient strapping and strong reinforcements, and install flood-ready supplies such as a backup generator and storm-rated products.
Special Natural Area Districts
Four Special Natural Area Districts in New York City are subject to certain requirements designed to preserve unique natural characteristics, such as forests, creeks, slopes, and a variety of botanic and aquatic environments. The City Planning Commission reviews any proposals for new developments and site alterations. These areas are mapped in various parts of Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx.
Special Hillsides Preservation District
The Special Hillsides Preservation District refers to developments in the steep slope areas of Staten Island’s Serpentine Ridge, which encompasses approximately 1,900 acres in the northeastern area of the borough. The goal is to reduce hillside erosion, landslides, and excessive stormwater runoff, thus preserving the area’s hills, rolling terrain, many trees, and vegetation.
Special Purpose Zoning and Landmarked Historic Districts
There are many special purpose and historic districts sprinkled throughout New York City, each with its own character and charm. To preserve the unique characteristics of these neighborhoods, the City Planning Commission has issued certain regulations. The Commission instructs special districts on zoning requirements and/or zoning incentives, which are tailored to the area’s distinctive qualities.
New York State Expected Cost
Depending on several factors including the location, size, and design choices, the total expense of building a home in New York can vary considerably. According to HomeAdvisor, new homebuyers in New York should expect to spend anywhere from $113,000 to $882,000 to build a house. The average cost is usually between $220,630 and $362,450, typically around $291,230.
However, it is important to note that this number varies widely across the state. Isolating data for New York, NY paints a different picture.
New York City Expected Cost
New York City operates a bit differently than the overall state financial picture, so it’s helpful to distinguish the potential expenses for homeowners looking specifically to buy in the Big Apple.
The real estate capital of the world took a solid punch at the onset of the 2020 pandemic. As the economy and real estate market recover, buyers are slowly moving back to the city. Even in a buyer’s market, the median sale price of a home in New York City hit $800,000 in February 2022. Buying a home in NYC remains to be seen as one of the greatest long-term investments, as home values continue to increase.
The average cost to build a new home in the U.S. is around $100 to $200 per square foot. In general, the average cost for new home construction in New York City can range from $300 per square foot for a value-conscious home up to $805 or more for a high-end luxury home. The average sale price per square foot in the city is between $575 and $600.
Demolitions and Renovations
In many areas, particularly in and around New York City, a fresh empty lot may be a rarity. Some homeowners choose to purchase a lot with an existing home to tear down and rebuild. It’s best to research these options in your area before buying to ensure that your plans meet financing and zoning requirements.
Many new homebuyers want to preserve the look and style of an existing home in its original architecture, but update the interior to fit a modern concept. Renovations are often popular among iconic styles such as the Manhattan and Brooklyn brownstone townhomes and among historic or special purpose zoning districts.
Here is a step-by-step guide for building your new house anywhere in New York.
If you choose to buy land (or prepare land that you already own!) for new development in New York, it may tack on between $20,000 and $50,000 to your final bill.
In New York City, land costs will vary by many factors, especially between the different boroughs. Sites located in the five boroughs may cost $30 to $100 or more per square foot.
As a general note, the land price in New York City is often significantly higher in comparison to areas outside the city. For example, an acre of farmland in New York is about $3,150 per acre while an acre of land in the New York City metro area is priced at around $5.2 million.
Permits and Paperwork
In New York, building permits are usually handled by individual municipalities. It’s best practice to consult your builder and architect to determine which types of permits must be filed and which permits are needed for your project.
In New York City, the vast majority of construction requires a Department of Buildings permit, which must be filed by a New York State Registered Design Professional (RDP). Applications are completed through the Department of Buildings (DOB) NOW: Build Public Portal, a self-service online tool. Your RDP must upload all required documents such as building plans, size dimensions, and any zoning objections. The online tool will calculate the cost of your permit based on the design plans as you go. Local Law 56 of 2016 outlines the permit fees for new buildings and alterations in NYC.
In general, for most new home construction, homebuyers can expect to pay an average of $1,200 to $2,000 for building permits and fees. This may vary by local regulations, so be sure to consult your builder for a more appropriate estimate for your site.
Upon completion of your project, you will need a Certificate of Occupancy to legally occupy your house. The home will need to complete and pass all inspections. Generally, these will include progress and energy code inspections performed by the architect, special inspections of the foundation or other project elements, and at least one Department of Buildings (DOB) inspection. Some inspections are included in your permit costs, but others may need to be paid separately.
It’s a good idea for new homebuyers to hire a licensed land surveyor to complete an initial “Architectural Survey” of your site at the beginning of the project and a “Final Survey” once the home is built. This is required in New York City.
Additionally, new homebuyers will need to obtain a geotechnical engineering report based on soil borings. The engineer will take soil samples and assess them in a lab to determine the best foundation options.
Before beginning the process to build, homebuyers must ensure that their site has the appropriate hookups to utilities such as electricity, water, and sewer. In cities, this likely will not pose a challenge. In areas further upstate or rural mountainous regions, however, it can be costly to get these connections. Be sure to ask your builder upfront what this process will entail for your lot.
Depending on your new home’s location, the type and cost of your foundation can vary widely. In New York State, the cost to lay your foundation may average between $8,650 and $18,430 with an average of $13,420, according to HomeAdvisor. Home foundations on the coastal region of NYC will likely cost more to adjust for flooding hazards.
In general, framing on a custom home typically costs between $20,000 and $50,000. This may be more or less depending on the home’s size, type, and cost of materials and labor. Lumber, the primary material used in framing, may cost between $3 and $6 in New York, plus the labor costs of $7 to $16 per square foot. Drywall, insulation, and siding will follow the framing installation, as well as the flooring. These steps are similar in price to the national average costs to build a new home in 2022.
In New York, the average cost to build a new roof is typically around $8,190 but can range from $800 to $45,000, according to HomeAdvisor. This is dependent upon materials, location, and labor cost relative to regional markets. New York homebuyers can expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for a roof on their new home.
General Contractor and Architect Fees
Most home buyers choose to hire a construction manager, also referred to as a general contractor, to oversee the home project from start to finish. This individual manages your team of experts in completing your new construction and usually files any permits and paperwork on your behalf to comply with local ordinances. For homes under $1 million, general contractors usually charge an average of 10 to 15 percent of the total project cost.
Some homeowners will need to hire an architect to draw preliminary plans. This may cost an average of $9,500 in New York but will vary based on square footage and style. Architects who are highly involved throughout the project may charge a percentage, similar to the general contractor, often 8 to 15 percent of the total cost.
Once the structure is standing, it is important to get the major systems of your new home buzzing. In New York, depending on your geographic location, rough-in plumbing costs may average between $7,000 and $15,000. The number of bathrooms, sinks, square footage, and sewage systems will impact the overall price.
Electrical work is critical to the efficiency and safety of your new home. New York homebuyers can expect to pay $175 per hour for rough-in electrical in their new house. The process usually takes up to seven business days, depending on the size of the home, number of outlets, and electrical hookups.
The HVAC system will also need to be installed to keep home temperatures in a comfortable and efficient range year-round. A new HVAC unit may cost between $5,000 and $13,000 but can vary depending on the size of your new house. Installation costs range from $500 to $2,500 in addition to the unit.
Finishing Features and Appliance Installation
After major construction is completed, the systems are running, and the exterior siding is attached, it’s time for the final touches that make your house feel like home.
Interior finishing features have different price points, depending on personal preference and style choices. Custom cabinetry, countertops, lighting fixtures, and flooring choices make a huge difference in the aesthetic and complementary tones of the home. In New York, these expenses are usually on par with the national average expenses. Appliances cost between $3,000 and $15,000 for a new home in New York.
Exterior elements can also go a long way in offering customization options. Driveways offer several material options and may even be heated to adjust for heavy snowfall. Landscaping also provides a lovely aesthetic to separate your home from the rest of the block. The average cost of a driveway in New York is approximately $4,240 and landscaping may cost between $1,370 and $5,300, according to HomeAdvisor.
Helpful Tips for Building in New York City and State
Finally, below are a few tips and tricks for building your dream New York home.
NYC Zoning and Land Use (ZoLa)
New York City has the highest population density of any major city in the U.S. with more than 27,000 people per square mile. This can create headaches for city planners. Tools like ZoLa can help new homebuyers to better understand zoning regulations in place throughout various parts of the city.
NYC’s Zoning Resolution divides the land into smaller districts where similar rules and regulations are in place, based on relevant land use issues, such as building shape, affordable housing, walkability, and climate change resiliency. Zoning determines the orderly pattern of development across neighborhoods by establishing what structure may be built on a piece of property.
In New York City, the land is divided into three simple zoning districts: Residence (R), Commercial (C), and Manufacturing (M). Districts are assigned a letter and a number, with higher numbers indicating a higher density of people is permitted. NYC Residence Districts include a range of housing types, from detached single-family homes in R1 Districts to residential high rises in R10 Districts. This is important for homebuyers to keep in mind when deciding on their housing type and location.
As you begin to research zoning regulations in your desired borough, the best way to find zoning for your property is to utilize New York City’s Zoning and Land Use Map.
Closing Cost Incentives for New York State
Most states and some localities will offer some form of new homebuyer program or other financial assistance for purchasing your new home. You may be eligible to save some dough by applying for closing cost incentives and down payment assistance programs in your new home area.
General Timeline for New York State
In New York, the general timeline for building a new custom home is in line with the U.S. average of seven to eight months.
Energy Initiatives for New York City and State
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New York State ranked as the sixth-largest consumer of natural gas in 2019. Changes in state and local leadership and a passionate citizen population have brought climate change reversal to the forefront of the state’s strategic priorities.
In December 2021, Mayor de Blasio signed into law a piece of legislation passed by the New York City Council banning natural gas hookups in most new residential and commercial buildings by first phasing in strict emissions limits beginning in 2023. New construction buildings of all sizes must be fully electric by 2027. This initiative was a part of Governor Hochul’s unprecedented plan launched in 2022 to achieve 2 million climate-friendly, electrified or electrification-ready homes by 2030.
These commitments should slow the progress of building emissions that cause more than 33 percent of the state’s climate pollution. By mandating these changes, state legislators are initiating a transformative investment that will ensure more than 800,000 low-to-moderate income residents can have access to clean energy upgrades.
New home buyers should take note that any new construction projects submitted for approval will be subject to strict emission limits and must use sources like electricity for stoves, water heaters, and space heaters rather than oil or gas.
Build Your New York Home
From peaceful escapes in the Catskills to iconic townhomes in Brooklyn, there’s never been a better time to build your dream house in New York State. The greatest city in the world is welcoming you home.
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.