How to Break Down Your New Home Build Budget

Finding a pre-existing home is usually the top choice for homebuyers, but if you decide you want to build a brand new home, there are several budgetary items to consider. From buying the land to selecting materials, to finishings and furnishings, how much does building a home actually cost? Every state and city are different, but I’m going to show you a real life example of how to break down your new home build budget — with our current one in South Carolina!  

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What you see isn’t always what you get

Home builders try to lure you into their neighborhoods by advertising “Homes Starting At,” followed by a price that seems really attractive. That price is typically for the least expensive floor plan the developer is selling in that neighborhood, and may only include the home, not the land it sits on. There may be other floor plans that offer more bedrooms, bathrooms and other extras, which means the price will be higher for those floor plans. The base price of the home we picked was $436,900, but this was just for the structure; not the land or any other upgrades.

Location, location, location!

After you decide which house floor plan you like, you’ll then have to pick where you want your home to be located in the lots available. These lots are the plots of land that have been divided up in the neighborhood, and they may vary in size, shape, and location. Something to keep in mind for your new home build budget is the “must-haves” regarding location.

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Cannot wait to enjoy more of these sunsets at the lake.

We were drawn to our new neighborhood for a few reasons: the lots were bigger, there was more space between the houses, and it’s just outside where we currently live, which meant the homes were more affordable. The lots that were available ranged in price from $90,000 to the lot we picked at $150,000. Our lot was at the top of the price list because at .68 acres it was larger than many others, it was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and it backed up to the large lake, making it a more desirable location.

Putting down a deposit

After we selected our floor plan and land lot, we put down an earnest deposit of $5,000. This money was both an assurance that we were serious about this contract, and that the builder wouldn’t sell this lot to anyone else. At the end of the sale, the earnest money will be applied to the cash we’d need to bring on closing day. Keep in mind: while the earnest deposit locks you in, there are situations where you could be released from the sale and your money returned. Make sure you read the paperwork you sign!

(READ MORE: Why We Built a New Home, and What We Learned Along the Way)

Designing your home

You’ve picked your floor plan, lot, signed your paperwork, and paid your deposit; next stop on your new home build budget is the design center, where you’ll personalize your soon-to-be new home. Each home builder has a list of items already included as standard options. This could include everything from the number of bedrooms, flooring types, light fixtures, doors, windows, etc. But, this is the point in the process when you can add more bedrooms, bathrooms or bump outs, change the kitchen cabinets, add outlets, choose the trim, select doors and plumbing fixtures; anything and everything to make your house a home.

Walking through the model homes gave us a chance to better see design layouts of the home.

The extra design choices add up fast, and you may have to look at your new home build budget and decide what’s a must-have now versus something you can change later.

My advice? First, walk through any available models to get a feel for how things look first hand. Then, prioritize any structural items you’d want changed over something more cosmetic (ex: adding a bathroom versus upgraded countertops). Those more cosmetic items may add value to your home, but they’re easier to save up for as a future project; it’s much more of a hassle to change a home’s structure once it’s built. Once we added in all of our must-haves for our home, our total in the design center came to $91,000. 

Comparing pre-existing to the cost of building

When we compared what it would cost to buy a pre-existing for the same price, we could not find a pre-existing home that came close to everything we would be getting with our new home build budget. After all, we handpicked nearly every aspect of this home, including (and most importantly) the location. We would still be close enough to enjoy the beach and downtown Charleston, but have much more open space, proximity to water, and a home that wouldn’t need any updating. With the interest rates so low and the equity we have selling our current home, taking this leap made the most sense for our family. 

Have more questions about building a new home? is your one-stop resource for building, and budgeting for, a new home. From tips and advice, to checklists and step-by-step processes, the “How to Build” section is the perfect starting point for your new home build.

Brooke has a lifestyle blog called Cribbs Style and currently lives in Charleston, SC. This wife, mom of two almost tweens, and mom of three fur children enjoys all things DIY and organizing. When she’s not helping others tackle the chaos of life, she’s either working out, at the beach, or just enjoying time with family and friends.


Managing Your Money, Together

To learn more about how our Minters are achieving their financial goals, we reached out to everyday Mint users, just like you, to hear their stories. Whether it’s paying off student loans, or working toward buying a home, we’re so inspired by the dedication this community has shown in working toward your goals and dreams.

One of the Minters we connected with is Jordan. He shared with us how he’s used Mint to reach a number of his financial goals. Check out his #EmpowerMint story:

My wife and I have been interested in getting out of debt ever since the day we took on student loans. With the desire to pay those loans off, we strived to learn more about budgeting and personal finance.

As we grew in our journey, there were many financial things we questioned that felt ‘normal.’ We heard so many messages that emphasized the need to have the newest toys to be happy, that having debt is normal, and that most people live paycheck to paycheck. We realized that we didn’t feel comfortable with any of that, and that we found satisfaction in being content with what we have. 

Knowing that money issues were often a problem area for couples, my wife and I started using Mint shortly after we got married in 2010 to ensure transparency and partnership from the beginning. We found Mint to be a terrific tool for us to have a complete picture of our financial situation. During this time, I was working full-time and my wife was finishing up her last year in nursing school. Mint was an immediate help in keeping track of where our money was going and in starting budget discussions that have proved to be invaluable in our marriage. It also helped initiate discussions on both near-term and long-term goals, which have been so key in helping us plan both strategically and aspirationally. 

As time went on, Mint was instrumental in helping us achieve so many of our goals including:

  • Paying off student loans
  • Paying for grad school with cash
  • Preparing for kids
  • Starting a 529
  • Saving for a down payment
  • Buying a home

Our current goal is to complete our 15-year mortgage in under 5 years. A combination of Mint, aggressive savings, overtime shifts, and side hustles have helped put us in a position to achieve this goal within the next 12 months. Once that goal is complete, we’re excited to have a little fun and celebrate this accomplishment, and then prepare for the next chapter in our financial journey. 

In addition to this goal, we also have various net worth milestones we would like to achieve in the next 1-, 5-, and 10-year periods. We are very excited about the concept of financial independence, and would like to be in a position where we have the opportunity to focus our attention on things outside of work, such as further investing in our family and causes that are important to us. With Mint, we can see how the choices we’re making are helping move us closer to achieving these goals. 

Today, we check Mint on a daily basis in order to stay on top of our expenses and monitor for any fraudulent activity. Years ago, Mint helped me identify a fraudulent charge almost immediately, enabling me to notify our bank and get the issue resolved. Reviewing our expenses enables us to stay within our budget, catch fraudulent activity, and follow the ‘every dollar’ budgeting rules that have been so helpful for us. In addition, linking our accounts has automated what would otherwise be a very manual and time-intensive process. 

I have also loved using the trends feature to have full visibility into exactly how our money is being spent and to help ensure we’re always partnering as we work towards our financial goals, rather than feeling like one person is pulling the other along. We can budget with transparency and not feel any need to hide transactions for personal expenses and rewards or small splurges. 

The trends feature has also allowed us to get a sense of what our typical spending has been in different categories. We periodically review our budget, and being able to easily see our historical spending in different categories has helped us set realistic targets, as well as track our progress when we are attempting to change habits. Lastly, being able to see changes in our net worth over the years has been inspiring, as we have been able to see in real-time how decisions to save or forego immediate gratification can have long-term benefits.

Beyond that, we have found a great deal of joy in doing things ourselves, whether it is cooking meals for the week, doing our own car maintenance, or trying to fix something ourselves before calling someone. Additionally, the satisfaction has compounded as we’ve seen that making these choices has helped us not only learn new things, but also in achieving our goals. 

Knowing what we know now, we’re really excited to pass these values on to our kids, and we’re happy to discuss them with anyone who asks. Additionally, I can see a ‘life’ after work that involves volunteering in some form in the personal finance field, whether that is teaching folks about budgeting or just encouraging them in their financial journey.

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