When you’re ready to move to the Sunshine State and all you want is a brand-new house that no one else has lived in, then building a house is your best option. How much you’ll spend on the house depends on several factors, and where you choose to build your new home will have a big influence on how much you’ll spend. Florida is a large state with nearly 66,000 square miles and is well-known for its Latin-flavored nightlife in Miami, theme parks in Orlando, golf courses, and beaches on the Atlantic, and Gulf coasts.
In addition, the cost will vary according to the size of the home you build, the style, and the materials. Many homeowners in Florida prefer to add a private swimming pool to their property, which, of course, also adds to the cost.
The average cost to build a house in Florida in 2021 ranged from $240,000 to $350,000, according to HomeAdvisor. The overall average was $295,000. But if you choose to build near the beach or in a sought-after neighborhood in Orlando, Miami, or Tampa, your costs could be higher. Even still, Florida’s best places to live give you more bang for your buck.
Custom vs. production homes
One aspect of building a home to keep in mind is whether you are building what’s called a “production” home or a custom home. A production home is typically one of a group of homes in a community built by the same builder. With a production home, the land costs are included in the home price when you sign a contract. Sometimes, you’ll pay an additional premium for a specific lot because of its location or size. Personalization options vary with production homes. Sometimes, you won’t have a choice of options at all. In other cases, you’ll have a choice of packages with various color schemes and features. Other production builders, often called “semi-custom builders,” will allow you to make even more changes, including structural adjustments to the floor plan.
A custom home, on the other hand, is one in which you buy the land – either from a builder or on your own – and hire an architect or a design/build firm to create the house according to your specifications. Custom home prices vary even more than production home prices because they are unique. In this article, we’re referring to production homes.
Step by step process to build a house in Florida
1. Budgeting for your new home
According to GoBankingRates, Florida is one of the more expensive states to build a home, in part because of some of the structural requirements to make the home resilient during storms. The main expenses when building a home in any state are the land, the labor, and the materials.
Labor costs when you build a house in Florida account for about 40% of the entire project and average $118,000. Laborers include the general contractor, construction personnel, and specialists in electrical and plumbing work and roof installation.
In Florida, materials are about 50% of the cost to build, according to HomeAdvisor, at an average cost of $147,500. Lumber costs range from $25,000 to $65,000 and concrete costs $1,000 to $10,000. Insulation costs $0.10 to $1.00 per square foot and siding costs from $2 to $15 per square foot. Roofs average $2,000 to $3,000.
Your interior choices for materials, appliances, lighting, and finishes also impact the cost. If you choose to install hardwood flooring, for example, that can increase the cost. Luxury vinyl plank flooring can be more economical and is durable and attractive. Flooring ranges from $1 to $5 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor. Each sheet of drywall averages $10.
The cost to build a house in Florida ranges from $60 to $150 per square foot depending on whether you are building a house that meets minimum standards, an average home, or a luxury home. A modular home, which has parts built in a factory and shipped to the site, costs from $180,000 to $360,000, according to HomeAdvisor. The Mediterranean and Spanish-style homes are popular in Florida because their stucco exteriors and tile roofs stand up well in the climate. They range in price from about $82,500 to $206,350 on average. Ranch-style homes are also popular in Florida and range from about $137,500 to $275,000. The average house in Florida has 2,700 square feet.
Prices also vary by location, with the average price in some of the largest cities ranging from $177,500 in Orlando to $421,250 in Tampa to $558,333 in Miami, according to HomeAdvisor.
When developing your budget for your new home in Florida, remember that you are likely to be building a home in a homeowner association, which typically requires you to pay homeowner’s association dues. In addition, homeowner’s insurance is higher in Florida than in many other states because of the prevalence of claims related to storms. Florida’s average home insurance rate is $3,643, which is $1,338 more than the national average of $2,305, according to Insurance.com. Don’t forget to set aside money for an emergency fund and for closing costs. Closing costs vary by jurisdiction and average 2% to 5% of the purchase price of the house.
2. Choose your builder
To begin your home search in Florida, you can narrow your choices by the region or neighborhood where you want to live and then look at specific communities. Visit model homes and ask residents for their insight into the builders in that community. You can also check out reviews on a builder at TrustBuilder®.
3. Line up your financing
Many builders have recommended lenders they work with regularly or even an in-house lender partner to streamline your financing. You can also find a lender of your own, but it’s wise to choose a mortgage professional with experience funding newly built homes. The process is similar to borrowing money for an existing home, but you will need to discuss the details with your builder about when they need a deposit or a down payment. Some builders offer incentives to buyers who work with their preferred lender and title company.
The amount you’ll spend on optional features is typically built into the loan amount, but if you exceed that budget or choose any unusual options, your builder could require you to pay for some of those items in cash rather than as part of your long-term financing.
You may also want to look into homebuyer assistance programs for low down payment loans, down payment and closing cost assistance, and tax credits that can make building a home more affordable. Most homebuyer assistance programs in Florida are restricted to first-time homebuyers, but there are some special programs for veterans and members of the military who may be repeat buyers.
4. Choose your lot and your floor plan
Your builder’s sales professionals can help you match the floor plan you want with the lot you prefer, as well as any options you want to add that could change the configuration of the house. Not every floor plan can be built on every lot, so you may need to adjust your priorities for the lot or for the floor plan.
Be careful to evaluate the sun orientation of your house and any trees that may stay on the lot, since Florida’s hot summers may mean you want some rooms to stay out of direct sunlight. You can ask your builder about plans for the community to understand whether you will be close to planned retail sites, a school, or recreational amenities and whether your view could change.
Many communities charge a premium for a lot with a water view or other desirable features, which you’ll need to include in your cost estimates.
5. Climate considerations and options
Very few houses in Florida have a basement, mostly because of the proximity to oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, and swamps. Instead, Florida homes are typically built on a slab. Florida’s climate, which is hot and humid for much of the year, rainy in some seasons, and prone to hurricanes and intense sun, mean that homes need to be built for resilience. The climate also means that homes are prone to termites, so many homes have special materials or treatments to prevent them. When choosing windows, siding, doors, and your roof, be sure to opt for those with a Florida product approval number. That means the items offer better protection against high winds and intense rain. The closer you are to the coast and hurricane-prone areas, the more important it is to choose impact-resistant windows or to purchase storm shutters.
6. Permitting and inspections
Florida requires every new home to be inspected by an engineer to make sure the house meets the state’s standards for structural integrity. Given the high number of hurricanes in Florida, this is much-needed protection. However, it can add to the timeline for construction as well as the cost. Multiple permits may be required by your builder and range from $10 to $500.
While your home is under construction, there will be periodic inspections to make sure that each step is completed in accordance with the building code. While your builder will have a final inspection done, you can also hire a home inspector to review the home when it is complete.
Be prepared to wait six to nine months before you move into your new Florida home. Typically, it takes 90 to 120 days for construction to begin after you’ve signed your contract for your new home. How long yours will take depends on the local permit process, whether your lot is fully ready for construction, how many other homes are under construction in the community, and whether any labor or materials shortages may impact your house. Weather can also be a factor in construction timelines, such as intense rainstorms or a hurricane.
Once construction has begun, it typically takes 90 to 150 days for your house to be completed.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.