How Much Does It Cost To Build A House In Hawaii?

Cost to Build a House in Hawaii

Some people call it paradise. Others see it as Eden in the Pacific. Whatever your views, you will probably admit that Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Many people dream of living in Hawaii but wonder how much it costs to build a home in Hawaii?

It costs an average of $580 per square foot for construction in Hawaii. Builder-owners spend $120,000 to set up an approved septic system, and an average of $30,000 in initial electrical costs. An upgraded kitchen costs $85 per square foot, slab foundations cost $10 per square foot, and construction permits cost $7,200 in Hawaii.  

Toss out those home building cost estimators that use the basic US continental building numbers. Nothing fits the Hawaii mold, and you must make all new assumptions about land costs, building costs, labor costs, and administrative costs. In addition, your entire concept of construction time and construction management probably will be tested.

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Location and Land Costs

The costs associated with anything have a lot to do with scarcity. The harder any product is to obtain, the more it tends to cost. Land in Hawaii is one of the scarcest resources available. There may be plenty of space in Hawaii. However, the truth is that the quantity of useable property to build private residential property is an ever-shrinking pool.

Geographic challenges abound. Much of Hawaii is indigenous tribal land or in the federal government’s hands in national parks and wildlife areas. Some land that may be available is just not suited for building due to elevation, angle, or nearby problems such as active volcanos. All in all, land suitable for development is getting more and more expensive and harder to find.

Upper Range of Land Cost Lower Range of Land Cost
Raw Land $1,595,238 per acre $12,000 per acre
Suburban Development $2,200,000 per lot $174,880 per lot

The wide range of land prices reflects how location affects prices. It is often said that the closer to the ocean, the more zero’s you can add to the price of real estate. Unfortunately, this is true.

Buying Raw Land

It is possible to purchase raw land in Hawaii. There are still smallholdings, and some large landowners are breaking up their holdings into small one to 5-acre plots. As with any raw land purchase, some factors add to the cost of building a home on raw, undeveloped land.

  • Access and Site Preparation –Hawaii can provide some unique challenges when considering site preparation for building. Much of the island is a volcanic rock that requires special equipment and knowledge to manage. In Hawaii, this usually averages between $8,258 and $266,880.
  • Electricity – The terrain in Hawaii is one of the largest challenges to extending electrical service to new construction. You will typically be charged a per-foot fee for above-ground service lines from the closest available location. In general, you can expect these charges to average between $18,000 and $42.000.
  • Water and Sewer – Getting rid of your wastewater in a rural situation in Hawaii is not an easy proposition. The cost to install an approved septic system reflects the difficulties. Typically, an approved septic system for a residence in Hawaii costs between $20,000 and $30,000 for an average-sized residence. Getting freshwater offers challenges as well. Residential, domestic water wells in Hawaii can cost between $60,000 to over $180,000, not including any plumbing pumps or tanks.

Suburban Developments – The Typical Residential Building Location

If rural development is not your cup of tea, Hawaii boasts some of the finest urban and suburban real estate developments to be found anywhere. All the islands boast healthy residential development markets, and you can find something to fit your budget.

In general, residential development in Hawaii focuses on single-family detached homes. There is urban condominium development as well as semi-detached and multi-family residential opportunities. By and large, developers concentrate on single-family residences in a traditional suburban setting.

The median price of the houses sold in Hawaii in 2020 is $815,000. This price generally shocks anyone coming from the continental US and shopping for homes. Many factors affect this price, not the least of which is the overall cost of living in Hawaii.

Coming Up Out of the Ground – Task Costs on a Residential Build

Building in Hawaii is a different experience than building in any of the other 49 United States. Everything is more expensive due mainly to transportation costs involved in getting almost every product needed to build a house across a vast ocean.

Hawaii also tends to have more inclusive and stringent building regulations and codes than many other places, increasing the administrative costs.

Job or Task Percentage of Overall Project Cost Hawaii Average Low Costs Hawaii Average High Costs
Dirt Work and Site Work Preparation 3 to 8 percent  $8,250.00  $266,800.00
Foundation and Concrete 10 to 15 percent  $27,500.00  $500,250.00
Framing 10 to 20 percent  $27,500.00  $667,000.00
Dry in (Exterior, windows, doors, and Roof) 15 to 20 percent  $41,250.00  $667,000.00
Mechanical Systems (plumbing, sewer, HVAC, Electrical) 10 to 15 percent  $27,500.00  $500,250.00
Interior Finish (drywall, paint, flooring, trim) 25 to 35 percent  $68,750.00  $1,167,250.00

Very few homes anywhere are built to the very basic minimums. No one wants their dream home to be plain and lackluster. It is a given that upgrades and additions to the fixtures, finishes, and appliances in your home will occur, and you must consider those additional costs.

How Big and How Much

Estimating how much square footage you want in your new home can give you pause when planning your new Hawaiian dream home. If you are building in an established residential development, you will probably face minimum square footage requirements. Since many homes built in Hawaii are for retirement, many couples downsize, which can become an issue in meeting development minimums.

Total Square Footage of Home Lower Range of Cost Upper Range of Cost
800  $232,000.00  $624,000.00
900  $261,000.00  $702,000.00
1,000  $290,000.00  $780,000.00
1,200  $348,000.00  $936,000.00
1,500  $435,000.00  $1,170,000.00
1,600  $464,000.00  $1,248,000.00
1,800  $522,000.00  $1,404,000.00
2,000  $580,000.00  $1,560,000.00
2,500  $725,000.00  $1,950,000.00
2,700  $783,000.00  $2,106,000.00
3,000  $870,000.00  $2,340,000.00
4,000  $1,160,000.00  $3,120,000.00
5,000  $1,450,000.00  $3,900,000.00

Many other factors can affect the overall cost of a home in Hawaii. Prices vary from island to island. Location on the island, proximity to the beach and other attractions, and comparable building in the area can all impact the overall price.

Adding Bedrooms – What Does it Cost to Add Sleeping Space?

Many more traditional Hawaiian homes are constructed so that bedrooms are as much a part of the overall living space as a family room or kitchen. Locating bedrooms to take advantage of porches or lanais, ocean breezes, and spectacular views are all considerations. The cost of additional bedrooms to the primary functional areas of a home can range as shown.

Number of Bedrooms Lower Range of Costs Upper Range of Costs
One  $376,089.40  $1,011,550.80
Two  $474,735.80  $1,276,875.60
Three  $573,382.20  $1,542,200.40
Four  $672,028.60  $1,807,525.20
Five  $770,675.00  $2,072,850.00

Beyond the basic finishes and flourishes, making your personal bedroom space special can also add thousands of dollars to the cost of your new home.

Personnel Costs of Building a Home in Hawaii

Labor costs are a major part of any building project in any location. You can expect labor costs to be an even greater factor in Hawaii. Labor is as limited a resource as land, materials, or equipment. The demand for skilled labor keeps the market price high and the availability low.

Architect or Engineer

You will find that almost anywhere you build will require a set of plans drawn by a certified architect or engineer before permits will be issued. In general, architects and engineers in Hawaii work on a percentage fee basis. You can expect to pay up to 10% of the total estimated cost of your new home as an engineering fee. These fees can range between $35,100 and $121,500 per project.

Builder or Construction Manager

We always recommend hiring a home builder or construction manager for your project. A builder already has subcontractors and employees who are known and trusted. Construction managers may charge by the hour or a percentage of the project costs. In general, the costs and fees associated with hiring a builder or manager will add between $27,500.00 to $333,500.00 to your project.

Cost Estimate for Professional Tasks

Each trade or craft that works on your home building project will bill you or your builder separately. These costs may be on a bid basis or an hourly basis, depending on the way your contractor and sub-contractors work. We found that these hourly and bid rates apply to Colorado.

  • Electrician rates – Union electricians typically charge between $25 and $55 per hour in Hawaii.
  • Roofing contractor – Several factors determine the hourly rate roofers charge. Different roofing materials and the style of your roof contribute to these charges. Statewide, the average roof in Hawaii puts the cost of a roof between $265 and $430 per square of standard asphalt shingles
  • Framers – Framers typically charge by the square foot. However, this can differ based on the complexity of the framing and the number of stories in the plan. You can expect basic framing costs for a single-story residential structure to run between $35.46 to $41.41 per square foot.
  • Drywall, Trim, and Finish – Finishing the interior of your home is a big job and requires several different skills. Drywallers and trim carpenters typically charge between  $12.10 – $13.50 per square foot.
  • Plumbers and HVAC – Part of finishing your home’s interior is installing plumbing fixtures, kitchen fixtures, and the HVAC system. Overall, you can expect to pay $ $113.92 – $129.25 per hour to your plumbing contractor.
  • Administrative and permits – Local building permit fees vary from island to island and city to city in Hawaii. However, as an example, pulling a building permit on an $800,000 new home construction in Honolulu costs $7,200, and the plan inspection fee will cost $1,440.

Upgrade Costs – Adding Amenities to Your New Home

A new home is a blank canvass on which each family puts its unique stamp. Your families, interests, activities, and lifestyle contribute to what amenities you want to add to your beyond the basics. Some of the more common additions that families make to the basic home plan include the following.

Framing

It shouldn’t be surprising that metal framing has long been the preferred method in Hawaii. Because of the transportation costs involved in bringing wood framing to the islands, metal framing is cost equal if not slightly cheaper than wood framing materials. Metal framing brings other advantages to island-building, not the least of which is resistance to insect damage.

Concrete

Slab foundations are growing in popularity in Hawaii. The speed of building and the reliability of a concrete slab foundation makes this style of home building popular with contractors and builders. In general, a four-inch concrete slap costs between $9.58 and $10.65 per square foot.

Drywall and Trim Work

A finished home build project includes the trim, wall, and other finishes inside your home. Most decisions about the quality, style, and types of finishes for your home occur before construction begins. Most people opt for upgraded finishes in their homes for personal as well as resale reasons.

Adding appeal and livability to your home is often a function of your decisions about the finishes. In general, you may see additional costs from $15 to $17 per square foot for some of these services and products.

Upgraded Kitchens and Appliances

Upgrading your new home with top-of-the-line finishes, colors and appliances is the most common way families put their stamp on their new homes. No one wants to move into a new home with the most basic finishes, colors, and amenities.

If you specify your appliance and finishes, such as countertops, cabinets, and flooring for your kitchen, you can expect additional costs. Nationally, these types of additions can cost between $45 and 125 per square foot.

Adding Visual Appeal – Exterior Upgrades

Exterior finishes in Hawaii differ in many ways from those in the continental US. There is a long tradition of mimicking or adopting more traditional tropical finishes and designs for the exterior of homes to evoke the island feel. Many HOA’s and developments mandate some of these adoptions to maintain the look and feel of the development.

  • You may not be thinking of resale now, but eventually, it will enter the picture. Planning now for greater curb appeal for your home often translates to increased resale value in the future.
  • Exterior finish options can positively affect your home, making your home more energy-efficient.
  • Zoning restrictions and homeowner’s association rules can dictate to some extent your roofing decisions. However, many newer roofing options can lower your insurance premiums. Many of these new products are more fire-resistant, weather-resistant and have a longer life expectancy than older materials.
  • Consider choosing from the many new windows and door products to add elegance and solidity to your new home. Anything that adds a green component to your home will be money well spent, although you may not see the apparent benefits for some years.

The downside to these types of exterior upgrades is the additional costs involved. The benefits of these specialty products come with some exceptional prices that can add appreciably to your home’s costs. You may recoup the cost in time, but you must pay for them first.

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Building Your New Home In Hawaii

Beginning a new island adventure is an exciting time. Add to the excitement of a new location in a tropical paradise the challenge of planning and building a new home, and things can get complicated in your life.

Whether you choose to go the beachfront route, the mountain hideaway, or the option of a plantation-style plan, you can be sure that the process will be challenging and exciting. We recommend contracting with a builder or architect to oversee the process leaving you to enjoy your new life with a minimum of headaches.

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Dennis Howard

Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.

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