Can I afford to build a new home?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with 406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® RRE-BRO-LIC-75443

Your newly built home on the land of your dreams is getting closer to reality! You’ve decided what town you’d like to live in and you’ve been perusing the listings. You’ve made contact with your buyer agent (in Kalispell hopefully that’s me!) and you are in your four-wheel drive on your way to look at properties. While you are walking the land, make sure you are aware of the costs that might take a specific parcel out of the running.


You can build a home just about anywhere. A steep mountainside? Sure! Bedrock at the surface? Yes! A windy mountaintop? Ditto! A mile from the road? That’s doable also. Sandy soil? Sure!


That being said, the more difficult a parcel is to build on, the more it will cost. For most buyers, the money to do those things might not be available. If you will have a limited budget for site work, make sure you’re assessing the following before deciding on a parcel to purchase.  


Well Water:

Can I afford to build a new home? photo of well headIf your home will require a private well, you will need to estimate the cost for drilling the well and purchasing/installing a well pump. In our area, after a home owner drills a well, the well log is supposed to be filed with the county. Those documents provide records that are useful when estimating how deep your well might be. Specifically, obtaining copies of the neighbor’s well logs will help in that effort. You also might consider contacting an experienced well driller to get estimates of well depths in that specific area.


As of September 2020, estimated costs to drill a well in the Flathead Valley can range from $44 to $50 per foot. Obviously, the shallower the well the less expensive. A pressure tank and pump system to get the water up to the house is also needed. That can range from $3K - $6K, depending upon size and features.


If you won't be using community sewer and need to install your own septic system, costs will be dependent upon what kind of system you put in place. There are various options that may be dependent upon the soil, terrain, and building location, as well as your health department requirements.  


Most systems will include a septic tank, perhaps a pump, and drain fields. There could be distribution boxes, manifolds or other components as well. In order to install a septic system, you also might need to have a budget for permitting, perc testing, soil testing and the like.


Currently, costs in the Flathead Valley are somewhere around $8,500-$9,000 for a standard system for a four bedroom home, and perhaps $7,000-$8,500 for a three bedroom. It's important to include this estimate when deciding whether a specific parcel will work for your dream home.



Can I afford to build a new home? photo of electric panelAnd then there is the electric! The first thing to investigate is the location of the nearest electric company box. Is it right at the edge of your property? If so, you'll be responsible to pay to get electric from that point to your building site. If the power is further away, you might need to get it to your land first, and then to your building site.


At a minimum, in addition to any permit fees required in your area, you will need to estimate trenching costs to go from the access point to your building site. In addition to whatever it will cost to dig a trench, if your services will be underground, you will need costs from the the electric company to install the cable from road to house, and then to provide service at the home site.


Your electric company should be able to provide an estimate and additional information.



Selecting a specific house site can make a big difference to the costs of a driveway or access road. Not only will you need to pay to have the road site cleared of trees or brush, you will most likely need equipment to level and smooth the road. You'll need to make sure there are trenches placed along the road for runoff of rain and snow melt. And then you'll need to ensure there is sufficient gravel and/or pavement in place. A recent Internet search indicates the average cost to install a gravel driveway could be $1.25 to $3.00 per foot. If you are choosing a building site that will require a 1/4 mile long driveway that is 12 feet wide, you'd be looking to spend anywhere from $19,800 to $47,520 (if those Internet figures are correct).



If you are buying land and then hiring a builder to build a home, these are just a few of the costs you might need to cover. Often, the site work costs are not part of the builder costs. In theory, building anywhere is possible. But the costs to do so might mean a particular dream home would be better on a different property, or on a different part of the property.


If you need help purchasing land in the Kalispell, Bigfork or Lakeside Montana areas, call me at 406-270-3667. I would love to walk the land with you. I'll also remind you of these considerations!!


For more information on purchasing land, check out this link.  


Originally published at

Comments (47)

Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you Will Hamm !

Oct 01, 2020 02:51 PM
Kris Collis, Associate Broker
Smart Way America Realty - East Stroudsburg, PA
Professional Results you Expect 570-801-5525

Kat, oh, the challenges of land.  And how the solutions vary across the country.  I would probably add a land survey, perc test, paper road or developed to the list.

During the recession I'd get calls from out of state buyers who purchased a lot cheap, sight onseen.  But unaware that HOAs gave up their nonbuildable lots to the county to avoid taxes.  The usual problems with the lots included wetlands or no ingress/egress to property.  It was said, these internet buyers were desperate to sell.  The options were limited apart from referring them to appraiser or Army Corp of Engineers, or offering lot to adjoining neighbor.

How to make a well cap pretty? With a shiny blue well cap :), it stands out when surrounded by lush greenery.  Question:  what is next to it on the right- the grip? with dark hose?

Oct 01, 2020 08:37 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Kris Collis, Associate Broker - Good morning! The thing on the right with the grip is a water faucet. We've got the hose that goes out to the garden hooked up to it. You just lift that handle to turn it on. While we did want most things to blend into the woods, we kind of needed that to be visible since it's at the edge of the driveway and we didn't want anyone to back into it accidently. Although the placement of some big rocks has provided a nice border.

Enjoy your day!

Oct 02, 2020 05:16 AM
Kris Collis, Associate Broker

I love that it's easy to find a shiny blue cap.  Too many rusted metal caps turn into eyesores :)
Garden hose hooked to well was my guess. Not as prevalent with our year round rain esp Spring/Summer for growing season, farmers depend on that.  And winter snow helps the underground reservoirs.  No fluoride in well water:))

Oct 02, 2020 12:06 PM
Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Condo and Home Specialists

Nice sharing this information Kat. Most people have no idea about hidden fees that they may incur when buying a new home...

Oct 02, 2020 06:55 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

If you build a home yourself, the architecture plans are often not refined. Flow, costly mistakes. Most people can handle the interior finish well. But to construct a 24 tall downstair with soar ceiling, natural lighting, it takes a corp with lots of experience to refine the design.

Oct 02, 2020 07:28 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

True, Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400 - and they add up!

That's true too, Sam Shueh - maybe another post is coming!

Oct 02, 2020 10:08 AM
Anna Banana Kruchten Phoenix Broker
HomeSmart Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ

Hi Kat Palmiotti you rocked it out of the park with this really good post about building a home from scratch. So much to consider and understand, especially in rural areas.  And since you recently went through the building process in a rural area your clients in the Kalispell area would be really wise to call you and get your advice! 

Oct 02, 2020 11:29 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS AZ Top Banana! ! did recently go through this and was a little surprised at how much some of this cost. Although we did purposefully decide to build far from the road, so the 1/2 mile driveway was our fault! Haha

Oct 02, 2020 12:30 PM
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Alliance 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Alliance Cincinnati & Dayton suburbs

We're walking down that path now.  Resale or new?  And if new, do they have true high speed internet to support my engineering job needs?  Satellite isn't going to cut it, so I need a spot with DSL or better and we've found some great lots in the WV panhandle BUT they don't have the capability yet and not enough population density to expect it to happen.

Oct 02, 2020 12:34 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Liz and Bill Spear - Oh, I hear you loud and clear! We had to pay for a customized solution that sends internet directly from a nearby tower to our house. We wound up with a great solution for us, 50Mbps/15Mpbs and we don't share it with anyone. But before that I had a company tell me that maybe I could get 1Mbps. Maybe. Um... no, that won't work.

Oct 02, 2020 12:39 PM
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Nice list of things to be aware of while considering building your own house.

I found that the electrical panel on our house was keeping our insurance costs high as it was outdated and caused fires for many years.  Check a panel in an older house to find out.  Cost of replacement really isn't much, $400 but yes, things add up!  Thanks for writing this up, Kat!

Oct 02, 2020 04:34 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP

John Henry, Florida Architect - This is not only an excellent point because of the cost savings, it's a safety issue too! It cost me plenty when I had an electrical fire and discovered the hard way, my electricity in my older home wasn't up to code (a different state and not Texas) and my insurance company didn't pay enough for what it costs me, financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The wait was excruciatingly painful for me.  

You and Kat Palmiotti are the best and raising awareness!

Oct 03, 2020 12:11 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

John Henry, Florida Architect  - Great info about electrical panels. Do you have an old house? $400 is definitely worth staying safe!

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Oct 02, 2020 05:58 PM
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of the Manchester NH's area Leading Agents

New construction is my favorite segment of real estate. I have bbuilt my own home and then sold it. Now i count the days to do it again. 

Oct 03, 2020 05:19 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Scott Godzyk - I love the fact that constructing a new home brings a dream to life.

Oct 03, 2020 05:56 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Kat Palmiotti ,

You definitely are the resource to go to in Kalispell for all things real estate including building a home! Good practical advice.

Oct 03, 2020 06:02 AM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Hello Kat Palmiotti - there is nothing like speaking from experience which you definitely have when it comes to building a dream home!  I enjoy what you share on FB as well. 

Oct 03, 2020 12:34 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Thank you Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR !!!

Thank you also, Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist - Every so often I wonder if I'm too enthusiastic on FB. So I appreciate your comment!

Oct 03, 2020 05:59 PM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Soil studies are also very important. In coast which can be sandy soil one may not be able to put a home without some prestressed cable-held concrete foundation is not cheap. Need to do chemical analysis radon emission etc. 

Oct 29, 2020 08:13 AM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

Love new construction and selling build job packages ! Always looking for orphan lots in existing subdivisions for my builders 

Oct 29, 2020 12:20 PM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Sam Shueh - soil studies aren't a thing here, but that would be interesting.

Michael J. Perry - We have quite a few orphans here also.

Oct 29, 2020 12:43 PM