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Lots of people dream of building a homestead from scratch, but worry about the cost to do so. Is it expensive? How can you reduce your cost? We’ll explore the cost to build a homestead from scratch, including our experience building a cordwood house on raw land.
If you’re like a lot of people, you might be dreaming of the opportunity to buy some land and build yourself a homestead. You fantasize about your home layout, the gardens you might have, and peaceful country living. But you hesitate do it it. Why?
You worry about the cost of building.
We get a lot of questions about how much it costs to build a home from scratch. While the answer to this question can vary wildly based on your personal choices, building your own homestead doesn’t have to break the bank.
To help you out, we’ll show you how we built our home and tell you exactly how much it cost to build it.
How Much Does It Cost To Build a Homestead From Scratch?
The answer to this question varies a lot depending on many different factors. What the cost ends up being for YOU may depend on:
- Geographic location
- Cost of land in your area
- Amount, type, and zoning of acreage
- Size of house
- Building method and materials
- Permitting fees
- Choice of home systems for power, water, and waste water
- Home design choices
- Building and hiring choices made throughout the build
Managing some of these factors differently would have saved us THOUSANDS of dollars. If you want to avoid shelling out some serious dollars read more here.
About Our Homestead Build
To give you a better idea of how much it costs to build from scratch, here are some details on our property and building project. Use this information to give context when you find out the total cost.
About the Land:
- 16.4 acres of raw land, partially wooded, hilly with a flat building site at the top
- Located in KY, not too far from major towns/shopping/infrastructure (so not the cheapest part of the state but not the most expensive either)
- Half mile long driveway with an easement (which likely lowered the cost potential of the land)
About the House:
- Cordwood construction
- 3 bedrooms (two on the first floor, one more in the loft)
- 2 full bathrooms
- Completely solar powered
- Cistern with rainwater catchment from the roof
- Septic tank and field for waste water
- 30’x34′ footprint with a loft (room-in-attic trusses)
- 1140 square feet of living space
What was the process, start to finish, to build on raw land?
The planning phase took roughly 1-2 years. We began looking for land in the spring of 2014, sold our old home in February 2015, and purchased our 16 acres of raw land in March 2015.
It took until April 2016 to actually break ground on our foundation, so it was basically one year from the purchase of land to groundbreaking. In that time we prepped trees for our cordwood masonry, planned our home’s layout, took care of all the permitting, and lined up contractors to do our excavation/septic and foundation.
We completed the vast majority of jobs by HAND. Also, we hired out select items when it was either safer or sometimes cheaper to do so.
We finished our home enough to receive a final occupancy permit in December 2017 and moved in just a few days before Christmas. There is still a LOT of trim work to do, but we’re taking a little time off to rest before we dive into all that.
You can view a complete listing of building update posts here. If you are seriously considering building a cordwood home you should read through our update posts to see exactly what building your own home entails.
Cost to Build
Here’s where things get tricky in most articles out there telling you how to build a home for some ridiculously low price.
Can you build a home for $5000? Absolutely! I’ve seen articles about building homes for $20,000 and $40,000, which is what got us interested in the first place. Those numbers seem realistic and attainable, and they certainly can be! I’m pretty confident you can build for even less than we did.
A lot of articles are simply listing the cost of building materials. They don’t necessarily include the cost of any applicable permits (if any), site prep, utilities or off-grid systems, labor (if hiring any contractors), etc. So when you see those articles, take them with a grain of salt. The price is meant to draw you in.
So what DID it cost us anyway?
We kept track of everything in a spreadsheet and scanned in all receipts. Below you’ll see our overall costs followed by a breakdown of costs by category.
Total Cost of Materials/Labor/Tool Rental: $80,204.98
Material Cost of the House: $67,076.37
Miscellaneous: $8,352.55 (includes our tractor, shed, tools, and related items without which our home build wouldn’t have been possible)
So while the house itself cost us $67,655.36 in materials, EVERYTHING from permits to labor, materials to tools and rental cost us…
Add in the cost of the land itself and the total cost is $148,557.53
Cost of Individual Components
I’m hoping to break this down in greater detail once I finish combing through the spreadsheet, but I at least wanted to address some of the big ticket items so you have an idea of where this cost is coming from.
Radiant Heat System: $7,500
Off Grid Solar Power System: $10,000
Soapstone Wood Stove: $5,000
Spray Foam Insulation: $6,000
Metal Roof: $6,000
Tongue and Groove Pine: $6,000
Excavation, Site Prep, and Septic: $10,000
Cistern and Rainwater System: $2,200
More coming as I complete the list…
Did we complete it debt free?
This was something we really wanted to be able to do. Aside from our land loan, we wanted to be able to complete the house without borrowing money.
We got about $55,000 into the build when we realized a few things.
First, that we wouldn’t have the cash on hand to be able to do all of the big systems we needed to in the time they needed to be done. For example, we needed to finish the septic and cistern installations while the ground was still in good condition or else wait another full year to do it.
Second, that for our son’s sake I needed to leave my job to be home with him. Maintaining our busy working schedules on top of building a home was taking its toll on his behavior and health. Unfortunately, we were living on MY income and using my husband’s to pay cash for the build as we went.
So we determined that taking a small construction completion loan was ultimately the best choice for our family.
Fortunately, things have a way of working out.
Not only was my husband presented with a raise some months later, but THIS BLOG has become an actual revenue stream for us that has just about replaced my old income. In a weird way, we’re back to where we started.
We had no idea when we made those decisions how it would all turn out, but we are grateful and humbled by the divine providence that lead us here.
I’ll be diving into all of this in more detail in subsequent posts. It’s something I haven’t really addressed directly because I know a lot of people were really hoping along with us to be mortgage free.
HOWEVER, I also know that there are so many different money situations out there.
I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t build their own homestead or feel like they have to be a slave to some idealized notion of freedom and self-sufficiency.
To do so ignores reality.
I want to help you on your path to self-sufficiency and for you to know that there is more than one way to get there.
How can we help you dive into your own building project? Let us know! Leave a comment below, shoot me an email, or join the discussion over on our Facebook page. We’d love to have you there!
If you’re serious about building your own home, grab our free quick-start guide for owner-builders to help you get started:
In the meantime, we’ve got a load of great financial information for the aspiring owner builder here:
Check out our homestead progress reports and find out more about our cordwood homestead project here. You should also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m always pinning lots of great ideas on Pinterest too! Thanks for reading!