Building on the Big Island: Step 6 – Estimating Building Costs

This is the 6th installment in our series to help you understand what is involved with building on the Big Island of Hawaii. Please click here to see the previous posts that lead up to this one.

This post will help you to understand the building costs involved in your project. These will vary depending on the complexity and materials choices. The following provides some rough numbers to help with your budgeting. (Note: these do NOT include land costs and prices quoted here are subject to change.)

A package home might start at only $100/sq. ft. for basic materials costs. Add in the footings, permits, labor, and other costs, creates a bare minimum of $160/sq. ft. With some nice upgrades and contractor labor, building costs can be up to $230/sq. ft. A lot of upgrades and site costs, for example, including a pool, could push it up to $280/sq. ft.

Design fees are mostly included, however, it’s a good idea to plan for 15% – 25% contingency in your budget for unexpected changes and the required professionals to sign-off on them.

An upscale home selling in the $1-2 million range on a residential lot, (not an acreage lot), in the Kona area, including a pool, site prep, and basic landscaping, will cost $350/sq. ft. A resort home might be closer to $1,000/sq. ft. to build.

If you supply the house plan and don’t require a lot of details, design prices can be $15,000 – $50,000 for a higher end 3,500 to 6,000 sq. ft. home and $100,000 for a resort home.

The “contractor’s set” of house plans is all we require, and we will work with you on further details. You need to provide a fully detailed set of plans if you want multiple bids from multiple contractors and expect equal pricing comparisons for the job.

An interior decorator is not included in the pricing above. Using the examples above, they might charge in the $15,000 to $25,000 range to be available for the entire process and to create a complete specification book that includes fixtures, color boards, etc.

A note on calculating prices per square foot in Hawaii. Residential area calculations are computed differently here than in other places. Hawaii square footage includes lanai and garage, but not your roof eaves, (called “under roof” which is misleading). Measure out to the posts and beams holding up your lanai and porch roofs for an accurate measurement.

When building a house, there are a lot of decisions to make. The building process can be fun, but also very stressful. Decide how involved you want to be. Are you comfortable being “hands off” through the process? Or do you prefer to be more involved and “hands on?” What is your budget range? To help alleviate some of the time and money spent on finding tradespeople and designers, we have a contractor and very detail-oriented builder.