How Much Does it Cost to Build a House in Charleston, South Carolina?

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Charleston, nicknamed the Holy City, is the seat of Charleston County and the largest city in South Carolina. Condé Nast (CN) Traveler has included Charleston in its list of Best Small Cities in the U.S. for the past 10 years. Last year, Charleston took second place. CN Traveler described the city as having “stately homes, cobblestone streets, waterfront views, and an abundance of flowering window boxes only add to its welcoming vibe.” Charleston is home to several notable celebrities, including award-winning veteran actor Bill Murray, comedian and television host Stephen Colbert, and award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon.

According to BestPlaces, Charleston’s cost of living is 11.5% higher than the national average. While most of the city’s residents, around 15.7%, work in healthcare and social assistance, the biggest employer in the area is the Joint Base Charleston, followed by Medical University Of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Boeing Company. Ranking and rating website, Niche, places Charleston in second place of Best Places for Young Professionals to live in South Carolina and the top city in the same category for Charleston Area. When it comes to living in the area, the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore reports that 53% of Charleston’s residents live within a 10-minute walk from a park.

With that said, prospective residents and developers ask, “how much does it cost to build a home in Charleston?”


The Cost of Building a Home in Charleston

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Nationally, building a 2,000-square-foot home costs an average of around $300,000 according to Forbes. Homes of the same size in South Carolina costs around $301,840. In Charleston, permits taken from BuildZoom (BZ) place the average cost of new home construction at around $446,406. More and more people are relocating to Charleston because of its proximity to several beaches. The Charleston Regional Development Alliance reports that the city’s population grew by 2% from 2019 to 2020, which is equivalent to around 40 people moving into the area every day. According to Realtor, the current median home price in Charleston is $480,000, or $289 per square foot. 

The price of a custom single family home in Charleston varies with the materials, labor, and professional services required to complete it. New home construction usually includes factors that fluctuate independently from each other, such as framing, foundation, plumbing, interior, and exterior finishes. There may also be city-required documents to fill out before starting the construction. All of these can fall into either the hard or soft costs of building a home. 

Hard Costs


The hard costs are expenses that fund the physical structure and construction of the house. These include the materials, landscaping, labor, and even the total building value. In Charleston, basic or standard construction homes start at $257 per square foot, while middle-range or market homes start at $407 per square foot. Luxury or high-end homes are around $583 per square foot or higher.

Figure 1. Typical cost breakdown of a single-family home constructed using the conventional method, according to Home Builder Digest.

When it comes to forming the home’s foundation, HomeBlue shares that it costs around $125 to $161 per yard for concrete pouring in Charleston, depending on the material’s strength in pounds per square inch (PSI). For the exteriors, Manta reports that framing in Charleston costs an average of $4,479, while HomeBlue shares that a 1,500-square-foot standing seam metal roof may range from $6.30 to $9.80 per square foot, or around $12,100. Metal roofing may refer to the following materials: copper, galvanized steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and zinc. 

As for flooring, HomeYou adds that the cost varies widely depending on the material. For example, wood flooring for a 1,000-square-foot home can cost around $8 per square foot, while vinyl or linoleum flooring may range from $2.50 to $4 per square foot. As for laminate flooring and installation, these may cost around $5.50 to $6 per square foot. Lastly, a Charleston home’s landscaping starts at $3,000 but Homes & Gardens shares that spending 10% of the home’s total project cost is the correct ratio. Installing new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units may depend on several factors, including home footage, unit type, model, size, and complexity of the system. It may cost anywhere from $4,100 to $22,000 for HVAC installation according to Summerville-based contractor, Arctic Air Inc.

Soft Costs


Soft costs are the expenses that go beyond the actual construction of the home, such as architectural design, land development fees, building permit fees, engineering fees, and other miscellaneous expenses. 

Cost of the Land

Getting the ideal lot for your dream home is crucial. Generally, land prices may vary due to proximity to metropolitan areas, views, amenities, and topography. According to Redfin, the average cost of land in Charleston is $243,140, while properties have an average size of 23,609.35 square feet or around $17.28 per square foot. This value may still increase depending on the development status of the lot since some of the listed properties may be undeveloped for residential construction. 

Permits and Other Fees 

Permits applications may be submitted in person at the City of Charleston’s Permit Center, or online by sending a PDF copy of the construction-related documents to permits@charleston-sc.gov. Online permits will be available to the applicant after registering an account on the Charleston Customer Self Service (CSS) portal. Permit payments may also be made through the CSS portal.

The total building permit fees can be taken after adding the valuation-based permit fee, the application fee of $40, and the plan review fee, which is 50% of the valuation-based permit fee.

Total Building Permit Fee = Application Fee + Valuation Based Building Permit Fee + Plan Review Fee

The total construction cost from the new residential valuation table is then used to compute for the Valuation Based Permit Fee.

According to permits taken from BuildZoom (BZ), project owners in Charleston pay an average of $2,500 for new home construction. 

Architecture and Design Fees

Architect and design fees generally depend on the size, scope, and complexity of the project. The client’s preferences, needs, and lifestyle may also be taken into consideration for the final design. Some projects may be simple, but others may require extensive planning, attention to detail, and consultation with various industry professionals. The cost of architecture and design is usually taken as a percentage, anywhere between 5 and 20%, of the total project cost; however, some professionals may charge a fixed hourly rate. An architectural firm based in Charleston, shares that architect fees in the city cost around 6 to 15% of the total project cost


How do the custom home building costs in Charleston compare to other nearby cities?


Summerville is located in Dorchester County, South Carolina. It is known as the birthplace of sweet tea. Innovative Building Materials shares that building a home in Summerville may vary with the architectural style that the client may prefer. Craftsman-style cottages start at $114 per square foot, while middle-range homes such as low country cottages cost at least $189 per square foot. High-end homes usually have a plantation-style of architecture and may range in price from $415 to $603 per square foot. As per Realtor, Summerville’s median home listing price was at $370,000 last April 2022, or approximately $181 per square foot. 

Of the other cities near Charleston in South Carolina, Beresford Hall has the most expensive median home price at $2,600,000, while Shadowmoss is the most affordable neighborhood with its median home price of $349,900 according to Realtor. North Charleston’s average home price is currently $299,900, and homes in Isle of Palms are currently listed at an average of $1,800,000. 


What Leading Custom Home Builders and Architects that Serve the Charleston Area Say


According to Tyler Smyth of Tyler A. Smyth Architects, Charleston has a healthy construction industry. It seems possible that a reset may happen on the inflated numbers from the past three or four years, perhaps within the next year or so. Smyth believes that the construction costs could decline in the near future if the cost of some significant materials decline.

Travis Arnett of Arnett Construction and Arnett Custom Homes also shares that the construction industry will be active in the next two to three years. His firms currently have about 10 custom homes lined up for the next 18 months. 

Richard Jackson of JacksonBuilt Custom Homes adds that the labor issue is affecting the builders, suppliers, and manufacturers, making it difficult to set a fixed price on the materials. Jackson states that there should be a refocus on trade schools to help curb this need. The “work from home” and “live anywhere” lifestyle has definitely made pivotal changes in the demands of project owners, including larger gyms, offices, and outdoor spaces. It is also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how people view their homes because of quarantine and isolation, and this view may persist within the next 10 years. Homeowners are advised to take their time and choose an experienced builder that they can trust to look out for their best interests. Communication and customer service are essential in order to address concerns and reduce stress in any market.

As for Jenny Butler of SHELTER Custom-Built Living, she shares that the cost of custom homes vary with what the client wants and what the architect specifies. This is often discussed with every person involved in creating the home so that it falls within the client’s budget and ideal designs. As costs and lead times have been rising in the past year, it has become more important now to plan out selections and material purchases. Having an experienced contractor who communicates well with their partners and suppliers is a must to avoid delays and sudden additional costs. Butler believes that this may be the new norm for the home construction industry. 


The Future of Charleston’s Residential Construction Industry


With the increases in federal taxes since the beginning of this year, the Federal Reserve is looking at another increase for July and another in September. The said move is the biggest increase since 1994, all in favor of curbing the inflation rate in the country. For South Carolina, on the other hand, its lawmakers recently agreed to cut income tax and return around $1 billion of taxes paid this year. The reason for this is that many residents do not earn enough to owe the state after deductions and exemptions. This tax cut also comes with several outcomes that will benefit South Carolina itself, including but not limited to job and population growth. 

While South Carolina might be seeing more residents in the next few months, Charleston is still dealing with the lack of affordable housing. Charleston County even set aside funds to help ease the problem with affordable housing. In total, the county council has allotted $3,000,000 for the emergency home repair program and $20,000,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act for housing programs. Redevelopments are also in place courtesy of the Charleston City council for Charleston’s east side area, where the Henry P. Archer School will be converted into a housing complex with around 89 units for senior citizens and those with an income of 60% lower than the area’s median income. The project is said to cost around $42,000,000 and is set to be completed in early 2024. 

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