Estimate Building Costs - Berkeley California

Summary: Estimate building costs for a New Home in Northern California. How Much Does it Cost to Build a House in Berkeley California

Hello Carl,

I'm wondering why it is so expensive to build in the East Bay Area.

Your rough estimate is $125 per square foot, yet I see $300 - 400/sq ft on many blogs about actual cost of building here.

Is it just the cost of land, or are there other sources of this incredible "mark-up"?

I'm looking to build on a level lot in the East Bay, concrete slab foundation, no hillside heroics.

Should I really count on $300 per sq ft?


Hi David,

For those who are unfamiliar with the East bay, suffice it to say that it is a humongous sub region the San Francisco Bay Area and comprises Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

The East Bay lies on the eastern shores of the San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay and is generally considered to include not just the shore front cities but the nearby inland valleys located on the east side of the Berkeley Hills.

It does cost more to build in this area, as well as the LA basin area, and that is due to more expensive (and bureaucratic) permitting and subcontractor labor. Subcontractors charge more because it costs more to live in these areas and people are conditioned to paying higher wages.

But, should not cost $300-$400 per sq ft for an owner/builder to build an average house, or even an above average house.

It shouldn't cost that much using a home builder or general contractor either.

Maybe the blogs you were reading did have the land cost figured in. Maybe they actually paid a General Contractor that much. Who knows? Who cares?

Using the Cost to Build Calculator on my Getting Started, the approximate cost to build in East Bay, in the zip code for the Metro area of Berkeley, CA, 94701, for a nice 2,398 sq. ft house, with you as the General Contractor is approximately $ 273,212, or $113.93 per sq. ft.

The same house using a home builder or general contractor is approximately $323,730 (including the General Contractor markup) or $135 per sq. ft. This cost figure came from the HDA “Cost to Build this Home Calculator”, which is a pretty neat feature that HAD has on their web site.

Here’s the Modern Stucco Design House from HDA.

Remember, these estimates are approximate, based on averages for the area.

Until you start getting actual contractor bids for either a turnkey custom home, or subcontractor bids and material estimates if you plan to act as the general contractor or owner builder, you won’t have an accurate estimate.

Best of luck to you, Carl Heldmann