If you have ever considered building a custom home, you have likely put a lot of thought into the design of your home and received an estimate based on the cost per square foot. However, cost per square foot estimates may only include the materials to build the home and not the costs involved with preparing your lot for construction. Lot costs can be significant depending on your property. It is important to factor lot costs into your total budget when thinking about building your new custom home, so you don't have any surprises that were not accounted for when it comes time to start the process.

Building your dream home and living happily ever after should be an exciting experience. We have created this guide to help you understand and anticipate potential lot costs associated with building a new home.

Purchasing A Property

The cost of a lot can vary depending on a number of factors including size, location, and demand. Let’s take a closer look at these three factors to consider when purchasing a property to build your dream home.

Lot size will play a major role in the total cost of the property and may limit the size and layout of the home you want to build. Lot costs are commonly calculated per acre and can range anywhere from $1,500 - $100,000+ per acre.

Lots in urban areas tend to cost more due to proximity of amenities, attractions, and accessibility when compared with suburban and rural areas.

Lots in highly sought-after areas of economic growth, warm climates, waterfront access, top school districts, and low crime rates will be more expensive due to popular demand with limited availability.

Land Survey

Having a plot of land surveyed lawfully and thoroughly is an important aspect of future property ownership. A surveyor will identify the boundaries of your property before you prepare to build, so you have a true record of your property lines.

Purchasing a survey for your land can cost anywhere from $500 - $1,000 depending on the size of the property.


If you are buying a lot for the first time, investing in a topographical survey will offer insight into what grading may be necessary to build a new home on your property. A topographical survey is an assessment of the terrain on your lot. This survey will show you the contours in elevation, height, depth, size, and location of any natural features on your parcel of land. The average cost of a topographic survey ranges from $350 - $1,200 for residential properties.

Depending on the elevation of your lot, you may incur costs for excavation, backfill, and retaining walls based on the degree of difficulty when it comes to building your new home.


Determining the soil composition of a lot is an essential component before building. A soil test will breakdown the composition of your land so your contractor can determine if the property is suitable for building. This process will also help dictate what materials and techniques will be best for your home build. Soil qualities vary significantly based on location, which can have an impact on the foundation's sturdiness. A soil test can cost $300 - $1,000 depending on the depth of soil investigation needed.


From a heavily wooded lot to a lightly forested area, your contractor will need to clear the land to prepare the lot for your new home. Lot clearing prices will vary based on the size of the area occupied by trees, brush, rocks, and other debris. Lot clearing can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. Once the lot is cleared your property is ready for leveling.

Site Drainage

Understanding your property’s drainage options is a critical aspect before breaking ground on your new home. In the case of significant snow or rain runoff, water can cause a lot of damage to your foundation if you don’t have proper drainage in place. Issues such as the slope of the lot, high water tables, and soil composition can affect your property’s drainage. However with proper grading and drainage techniques, these issues can be managed. Lot costs associated with site drainage can vary depending on your geographical location and may need to be maintained or adjusted over time. You can expect to budget between $2,000 - $6,000 for a proper drainage system.


If you are interested in purchasing a plot of vacant land, you may need to factor in budget for installing and connecting the proper public utilities. These utility services can include installation of a well and septic system plus connection costs to city sewer, electricity, and water lines. Costs for these services will vary depending on your location and proximity to public utility connections. You should always make sure you know exactly where utility access is before you purchase a property. Let’s take a look at these services so you can plan accordingly.

Municipal Water or Well
Most lots can be serviced by the city municipal system by installing a hookup to the water main, however if your lot lies outside of the serviced area, you will likely need to install your own well. Well installation can be a hefty investment and may range from $2,000 - $25,000 depending on how deep you need to drill to access water. Lot costs associated with well depth will depend on factors such as property elevation and local precipitation levels.

Municipal Sewer or Septic System
Much like water, you will either need to connect to the municipal sewer main or install your own septic system based on the location of your property. If you are connecting to a municipal sewer main, you will pay a connection fee, however if you need to install your own septic system these costs can vary based on the type of septic system. From a basic to an advanced septic system you can expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 - $20,000.

The local utility company should be able to inform you where the nearest power lines are located and if they are on public or private property. If they are on private property, you may need to get permission from the owner of that property. Lot costs for hooking up your home to the electrical grid can depend on factors such as the location of the service panel box, distance from existing poles or transformer equipment, depth of underground cable installation, length of line required, and number of circuits involved in the connection process. In most cases, if utility companies need to extend a power line to your property they will charge you $25 - $50 per foot.

Utilities are the vital everyday necessities to make life happen. Without these services correctly put in place, it can be very challenging to have a functional, comfortable, and habitable home.


The length and grade of your driveway and walkways are important factors to consider when deciding the placement of your new home on your lot. If you have a spacious lot, setting your home back from the road may seem nice, however you will need to budget to pave the distance from your home to the street. Even if you prefer an unpaved look, you should still factor in costs for a top layer of gravel or stone to be installed.

The average cost to pave a new driveway ranges from $1,200 - $4,000, depending on the length, slope, and material. For those who have long driveways or steep slopes expect to pay more.


Don’t forget to budget for the final finishing touch to your property: landscaping. Investing in beautiful landscaping not only adds value to your home but also improves its curb appeal. Landscaping costs can range anywhere from $5,000 - $20,000+ depending on the size of your yard, materials, plants, and features you desire.

Costs associated with landscaping may include:

  • - Sod Installation
  • - Lawn Grading, Seeding, & Curbing
  • - Topsoil
  • - Mulching
  • - Planting
  • - Landscaping Rock
  • - Fencing
  • - Retaining Wall
  • - Patio, Deck, or Water Features

Building Made Easier With Wausau Homes

As you can see, there are so many aspects to building a new home that it can be hard to know where to start. It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the factors to consider and costs to anticipate. When you choose to build with Wausau Homes, we're here to support you every step of the way. Our unique building process includes a lot visit to evaluate your property to ensure we take into account all of the costs associated with preparing your lot to build your dream home.

While the process of building a custom home has many steps along the way, Wausau Homes promises you can have the home of your dreams Your Way, with a Firm Price, and delivered On Time. With those guarantees in place, we make the journey from an empty lot to a finished home as easy and stress-free as possible. Contact your local Wausau Homes builder today to get started!

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