Derived from the French term belle vue meaning “beautiful city,” the city of Bellevue was repeatedly ranked as one of the best places to live in the country. Initially, it was only known as a strawberry farm down and a weekend getaway for Seattle residents. This quickly turned in the mid-2000s when its downtown area underwent significant redevelopment. Today, Bellevue is considered a major employment center in the Puget Sound Region and is home to some of the world’s largest technology companies. The downtown houses over 1,300 businesses and 45,000 employees and is still expected to grow by 30% over the next 20 years, producing an additional 35,000 jobs. This led to the city being recognized as one of the top places to launch a business.
The Cost of Building a Home in Bellevue
Home Builder Digest estimates it will cost about $400,000 to build a 2,600-square-foot home in the United States — about $155 per square foot. This estimate is within the average price range given by Fixr, which is $260,000 to $710,000 — about $100 to $270 per square foot. At any price point, homeowners will enjoy a standard-built home crafted with mid-grade materials. The cost increases in direct proportion to the size, level of craft, and quality of finish as the house is modified further. A more budgeted approach can decrease this estimate to about $140,000 or $55 per square foot, giving homeowners a prefab modular home without modifications. On the other hand, a luxurious approach can increase this estimate to about $1,000,000 or $385 per square foot, giving homeowners a custom-built home made with high-end materials and extra amenities.
Bellevue’s average cost of building a home is about $420 per square foot. A value-conscious approach could reduce this value to $375 to $420 per square foot. A more lavish approach, on the other hand, could raise the value starting at $650 per square foot and beyond. Aspiring homeowners in Bellevue should expect to spend between $940,000 and $1,625,000 on their project. This projected price covers every aspect of homebuilding, but could also potentially increase or decrease depending on certain factors.
Giving an accurate pricing on how much it costs to build a house in Bellevue is complicated. The final cost will still depend on the owner’s wants and needs. Aside from that, several factors must be considered in building a home. This includes the various issues the construction industry is still actively trying to solve, most notably the shifting cost of materials. Aspects that should be taken into account are classified into two categories: hard costs and soft costs.
The elements that go into the physical construction of a home are referred to as hard costs. Construction costs, materials, labor, and landscaping are all included alongside heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical, and plumbing systems. Additionally, this category covers extra amenities or home enhancements.
Bellevue’s average basic building cost is $140 per square foot. This includes labor fees, mid-grade materials, basic finishing, and site cleanup. Some projects may cost as low as $120 per square foot or as high as $260 per square foot, depending on the upgrades, such as increase in project size, addition of extra amenities, design and site complexity, level of finish and better quality of materials. Building a 2,500-square-foot home in Bellevue will cost roughly $300,000 to $650,000.
The cost breakdown is as follows:
The overall cost of building is significantly influenced by the cost of labor and materials. This is generally determined by the type, amount, and quality of the materials, which represent almost 50% of the building budget. On the other hand, labor costs vary from 30 to 60% depending on the location, size, style, and structure of the home.
Average labor fees per assignment, as per ZipRecruiter:
- Construction Manager: $43 per hour
- Framer: $20 per hour
- Roofer: $24 per hour
- Electrician: $27 per hour
- Plumber: $28 per hour
- HVAC Technician: $27 per hour
The term “soft costs” refers to those charges that aren’t directly related to the construction of a house. Land acquisition, permit fees and architectural or design expenses are all examples of these costs. The majority of these are agreed upon during the pre-construction stage, with some to be paid after the project is completed.
Cost of the Land
For Bellevue specifically, the average listing price is roughly $3,535,000 or around $95 per square foot, according to recent listings in the real estate marketplace Zillow. In terms of land size, the average plot available is 95,114 square feet or approximately 2.2 acres. The cheapest listing available costs $1,500,000 for a 306,053-square-foot or 7-acre land — about $5 per square foot. It is located in the Bellevue-Cougar Mountains and is already a partially cleared site with Bellevue utilities. The most expensive land, on the other hand, costs $9,750,000 for a 36,242-square-foot or 0.8-acre land — about $270 per square foot. It is a landscaped waterfront parcel of land located at West Bellevue, offering scenic views of the Seattle skyline.
Permits and Other Fees
Bellevue’s Department of Development Services assists project owners through the Permit Fee Estimator. It is a simple tool that gives a general knowledge of which permits are required, as well as their estimated costs. Values given by the calculator depend on the data provided by project owners, such as the total construction value and location of the project. However, keep in mind that the fees given are only a quote and not the actual total permit fees. For an in-depth view on how to compute the total building permit fee, these can be accessed through the city’s Fee Schedule for Single Family Construction Permits and Valuation-Based Construction Fees.
Once the required permits are ready, they can only be submitted online. Plans should be uploaded in PDF form and sent to the city’s MyBuildingPermit or portal for development-related concerns. After submission, fees can be settled online through MyBuildingPermit, in-person at the City Hall, or via phone at 425-453-6875. Permits will then be issued electronically.
According to data provided by BuildZoom (BZ), homeowners in Bellevue paid an average of about $16,700 for their home building permit fees. The most expensive permit fee costs about $32,380 for a $3,310,000 project. On the other hand, the cheapest permit fee costs roughly $5,000 for a $2,127,500 project.
Architecture and Design Fees
There are several approaches that architects and designers charge for their services. The two most popular methods are percentage and hourly. Other techniques can also be applied upon negotiation, such as the hybrid of the two. Aside from the workload and project complexity, the architect’s experience, knowledge, and reputation also affect the fees. Reputable designers are likely to charge more design fees than more recent ones.
In Bellevue, architects typically charge between 12 to 13%. As mentioned earlier, workload and complexity affect the price, as well as the level of detail and project size. These instances may cause the percentage to increase or decrease. Suppose the basic construction fee for a 2,500-square-foot home in Bellevue costs $350,000. The total architecture fee to construct a new single family home will land at about $42,000 to $45,500. This rate only covers the agreed-upon scope of work; any additional services are typically paid hourly.
In terms of hourly, residential projects are often charged $135 to $180 per hour. This rate is applied every two weeks plus the materials needed. To give context on how long it takes to complete the architectural aspect of home building, basic architectural services take 480 to 600 hours to complete. For a full service, a rough estimate is about 1,095 hours, but it can vary. This service demands more time and effort; thus, it will take longer.
How do Bellevue’s custom home building costs compare to nearby cities?
Data from the online contractor platform BuildZoom (BZ) shows that homes recently built in the Seattle Metro Area — Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA — have an average cost of $250 per square foot. More specifically, value-conscious homes cost $150 to $250 per square foot, and mid-range homes cost $250 to $340 per square foot. High-end homes cost the most at $340 per square foot and more.
BZ also reported that the median cost of building a home in Washington’s major cities ranges from $185 to $480 per square foot — around $465,000 to $1,200,000 for a 2,500-square-foot home. Among these cities, Bellevue is the most expensive, with an average home building cost of about $480 per square foot. The following shows the median home building value for each city, as well as the percentage difference from Bellevue:
- Seattle: $250 per square foot, 47.9% cheaper
- Spokane: $190 per square foot, 60.4% cheaper
- Tacoma: $185 per square foot, 61.5% cheaper
- Kent: $330 per square foot, 31.3% cheaper
- Vancouver: $210 per square foot, 56.3% cheaper
The Future of Bellevue’s Residential Housing Industry
Although job growth is particularly good news, it is slowly becoming another problem that the Bellevue local municipality and its residents need to address. The city is fairly popular with various tech companies, including industry giants Amazon and Facebook. Amazon recently decided to move to the downtown area bringing over 25,000 workers. Facebook, along with Salesforce, Microsoft, and eBay, are in the works of expanding their offices in the city. Joe Fain, CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, expressed his concern to the new employees on who can afford living in Bellevue. He explained that the city is already one of the most unaffordable cities in Washington. As of June 2022, single family homes in Bellevue are valued at almost $2 million — about 29.3% increase from last year. Incoming residents will need a considerable net worth if they plan to buy a home in the area.
Another issue that the tech boom produced is the worsening case of housing inventory shortage. Bellevue currently offers 150,000 jobs but only 63,000 homes. This statistical disparity will grow further once the tech giants mentioned earlier start their operations. The city would need to at least double its current housing stock to make up for the current demand and to prepare for the incoming influx of new residents. Failure to solve this crisis will increase housing prices to uncontrollable rates, as well as increase homelessness. Seattle, and more recently Austin, are currently experiencing this dilemma. Like Seattle, Bellevue offers around 75% of its residential land to single family zoning, but with larger lot minimums and no ADU allowance. This would be a big problem unless substantial zoning changes are implemented. Fortunately, city leaders and planners are looking into zoning revisions for three city neighborhoods that will allow more height and density. Experts also suggest reducing lot minimums in the suburbs and allowing the construction of row houses and quadplexes, which can double the area’s population.