See how square footage affects how long it takes to build a house

Industry Insights

When potential buyers think about building their dream house their two most common questions are what will it cost and how long will it take? Usually, the most common reply to both questions is also the least helpful: It depends. The size of the build, location, and materials used are just a handful of the factors that can affect the length of time and cost to build a custom home.  

Even with all these caveats it can still be helpful for prospective home building clients to get a general sense of costs and timelines to get fully onboard with their project. To assist in that process, we’ve analyzed over 6,000 custom built homes completed using CoConstruct between 2019 and 2021 to see how the square footage and location of a house affects the time it takes to build.

How long does it take to build a custom house? About 10 months.

How long does it take to build a house by square footage chart

The average amount of time to build a custom house in the US is 207 business days, or just under 10 months, from signing a contract to completing construction. There is, however, a strong correlation between the square footage of a new house and the time it takes to build.  

For custom houses between 1,500 and 4,000 sq. ft, every incremental 500 sq. Ft added to a house increases the time to build it by 8%, or roughly three more weeks. This trend flattens out for houses over 4,000 sq. ft where adding 500 more sq. ft only increases build times by 1%, or 2 more business days. This is likely a result of the economies of scale at work and more square footage allowing specialty contractors to work in unison at the same time in different parts of the house.

The median size of a completed single-family house in 2020 was 2,261, according to the United States Census Bureau, which falls in line with our analysis where the most common custom houses were between 2,000 and 3,000 sq. ft. The largest custom house built using CoConstruct between 2019 and 2021 was 5,991 sq. ft and took over 15 months to complete.

How long does it take to build a house using fixed-price or cost-plus contracts chart

The type of construction contract used also plays a factor in the amount of time it takes to build a house. Houses between 2,000 and 4,000 sq. ft built with open book, or cost plus, contracts took on average 10% longer, or 4 more weeks to complete, than similar sized houses built with fixed price contracts. One possible reason for increased duration on open book projects is the nature of the customization involved  as compared to less flexible fixed price builds. Notably, for projects larger than 4,000 sq. ft the trend reverses itself and open book projects take as much time or less time to complete than fixed price projects of the same size.  

The time to build a house has varied over the last two years

Average time to build a house by square footage 2020 - 2021 chart

It takes longer to build a house today than it did at the start of 2020. Houses finished in Q4 2021 took between 11 and 28 more business days to complete on average compared to how long they took to build in Q1 2020.  

On average larger houses have more variation in average build times over the past two years. The average amount of time to build a 4,000+ sq ft. Home was as low as 244 days and as high as 290 days while the average time to build a house between 2,500 and 4,000 sq. ft was as low as 204 days and as high as 237 days. That average build time range of 46 business days for 4,000+ sq. ft homes is nearly 40% greater than the average build time range for houses between 2,500 and 4,000 sq. ft. Houses between 1,000 and 2,500 sq. ft had an even smaller range of average build times of only 16 business days. The reason for this trend is likely that more square footage means more complexity and more complexity not only takes longer but can also lead to longer delays.

Custom built houses with 2,500 to 4,000 sq. ft and 4,000+ sq. ft had similar duration trends throughout 2021. Both groups saw a 6-7% decrease in duration to start 2021 followed by virtually no change from Q1 to Q2 and then a large spike in average build time from Q2 to Q3. Market factors and seasonality could both be impacting houses of this size more so than houses between 1,000 and 2,500 sq. ft which stayed relatively consistent over the last two years.

How long it takes to build a house varies by region

Average time to build a house by square footage and US region chart

The region that a house is built in has an impact on the amount of time required to build regardless of the square footage. Custom houses built in the West on average took 7%, or three weeks, longer to complete than the average US home building project while houses built in the Midwest take 4%, or just under two weeks, less time to complete. Houses over 4,000 sq. ft saw the largest impact of regional variation with houses in the West taking four more weeks and houses in the Midwest taking four less weeks to complete than their average counterparts.

Houses in the West could take longer due to their location and accessibility to materials or by feeling the effects of a constrained supply chain more than other regions. Notably, similar sized houses built in the Northeast and South take roughly the same time to build.

Where we got our numbers from

CoConstruct helps over 100,000 building professionals manage clients and trade partners, schedule work, track financials, and more. Aggregating and analyzing the data builders input into the system, CoConstruct can identify trends and highlight emerging issues in the residential construction industry. By using and sharing this information CoConstruct is doing its part to eliminate the chaos of project management and help create rewarding experiences for both home builders and clients.

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Harry Wahl
Harry Wahl

Harry helps create data-driven content for the residential construction industry including case studies, customer stories, industry trends, and more.