How To Save Money Building A Custom Home

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Building a custom home can be a rewarding but costly endeavor. Once you’ve done your research about building versus buying a house in Idaho and have decided to build, you’ll likely be looking for ways to save money building a custom home. With strategic planning and smart choices, you can significantly reduce your home building cost. Here are a few practical tips to save money building a custom home on your land.

7 Ways To Save Money Building A Custom Home

  1. Lower the Cost of Land & Land Prep
  2. Choose a Home Builder Wisely
  3. Be Smart When Selecting a Home Plan
  4. Consider the Size of the House
  5. Avoid Change Orders
  6. Stick with Standard Inclusions
  7. Understand DIY Options

We’ll cover these seven ways you can save money building a custom home, plus we’ll talk in detail about the areas you shouldn’t skimp on the cost in order to save money in the long run.

Save Money On The Land

The cost of land in Treasure Valley and Boise area is certainly rising. A recent BoiseDev article describing land acquisition prices for Idaho highway projects in the area, noted land acquisition costs have more than doubled since 2019.

To compare rising costs, ITD compiled data on the average cost per acre for properties zoned single-family residential it bought for roadway projects along Chinden and on the Highway 16 extension. From September 2019 through the end of 2020, the average cost per acre for this type of property was $88,666. It rose to $125,022 in 2022 and hit $189,882 by the beginning of 2023.

Source: BoiseDev

This is evidence of a dramatic increase in land costs in Southwestern Idaho, which will impact the cost to build a custom home on your land. With rising land costs, you can save money building a custom home by choosing your land wisely.

Flat Land Reduces Preparation Cost

Opt for land that requires minimal grading and site preparation. Flat lots are typically easier and cheaper to build on compared to hilly or uneven terrain.

Consider Cost vs. Prep Work

If you find a cheaper piece of land, make sure to factor in the cost of any necessary preparation work. Tasks like rock blasting, grading, and clearing trees can add up quickly. The less prep work required, the more money you can save building a custom home. Learn more and get our essential tips for buying land to build a house on.

Choose A Home Builder Wisely

Once you have the land, the next step in your custom home building process is choosing the home builder you work with. The home builder you choose is going to have a huge impact on your overall cost to build a custom home. There are a few things to consider about your builder that will help you save money building a custom home.

Work With An Affordable Home Builder

Some home builders focus on luxury products, others may focus on a certain style of home or a specific niche like building ADUs. When searching for a home builder to save money building a custom home, you’ll save more if you find a builder in your area that has the type of style you are looking for and that is also focused on affordability.

This doesn’t always mean the lowest-cost builder. Working with an affordable builder that can still provide you with a high-quality home will give you the best value and save you money in the long run. At Pathway Builders, our focus as an affordable custom home builder in Idaho is on maintaining high quality home construction at an affordable price. Learn more about working with us.

An affordable home builder focused on value products is likely to have standard inclusions that give you the most bang for your buck. This type of home builder is also more likely to offer things you may be able to DIY so that you can lower the cost paid during your build and save money building a custom home.

Leverage Builder Relationships

Experienced home builders have established relationships with suppliers and subcontractors. These connections can lead to cost savings on materials and services, which can be beneficial for your budget.

At Pathway Builders, we have developed relationships with our vendor partners that allow us to get better pricing on trade services like septic & well installation, which we pass on to our customers, helping them to save money on the overall cost to build a custom home.

Smart Home Plan Selection

Beyond style and square footage, there are a few other factors to consider when selecting your home plan that will help you save money building a custom home.

Use Existing Floor Plans

Many custom home builders have existing house plans for you to build on your land. By selecting a home plan that exists and keeping your modifications to a minimum, you’ll save money building a home. If you do require a truly custom floor plan, be prepared for higher costs. Designing and building from scratch can involve extensive planning and design fees.

Find A Home Plan That Fits Your Lot

Choosing a home plan that suits your lot can prevent expensive modifications later. Ensuring that the design works with the natural contours of your land can save you on excavation and foundation costs. 

Where you build on your land, can also have an impact, so considering the placement and footprint of your home plan design as it relates to your land will be beneficial in saving money when building a custom home on your land.

Consider the Size of Your House

All else being equal, a smaller home will naturally cost less to build. However, keep in mind that the price per square foot tends to decrease as the size of your home increases, so while you’ll pay less for a smaller home during the initial build, the cost to increase the size of your house with an addition later is likely to be higher than during your initial build. Before reducing the square footage, consider the amount of space you truly need and build accordingly to save money on building your custom home long-term.

Bonus Rooms

Adding a bonus room is a way to increase your living space when building without huge increase to the cost. As long as the room you add onto a house plan doesn’t require extensive plumbing (like a second kitchen or a bathroom), it’s a cost-effective way to add space when building than at a later date.

Avoid Change Orders

Change orders are one of those hidden costs of building a custom home. To save money building a custom home and avoid this extra expense, careful planning is required. 

Using an existing floor plan that closely matches your vision can get you most of the way there, but talking about any customization to the plan you choose before you start building will reduce the cost to build by reducing the volume of change orders.

It’s not uncommon to want to make a change or two after you’ve started the build process, but if you’ve planned appropriately, you can keep these changes, and the associated costs, to a minimum to save money building a custom home.

Stick With Standard Inclusions

Many custom home builders have designated standard inclusions in their homes for things like fixtures, appliances, flooring, window types, and more. If you work with a custom home builder that includes what you are looking for from the start, you are likely to save more when building a custom home.

These standard inclusions also include many things that are easy to upgrade at a later date. So if you want to save money upfront, you can wait to make these upgrades rather than including them in your initial build.

Kitchen and Bath

If you want to save money building a custom home, stick with standard kitchen and bathroom inclusions like fixtures and appliances that are not difficult to swap out in the future. When you are ready for a change you can easily make the updates all at once or room by room.

Flooring and Finishes

Choose standard flooring and finishes during the initial build. These can be easily upgraded in the future and will keep your initial cost to build lower. Learn more about choosing flooring for a new home.

Light Fixtures and Hardware

Hardware and light fixtures are simple to swap when you want to upgrade to a higher quality or a different style, but to save money building a custom home keep the standard hardware and fixtures during your initial build. 

Note: Pre-wiring for ceiling fans during your initial build rather than waiting for a later date will save you money, even if you don’t intend to install them in each room right away. For more details, check out these electrical considerations when building a custom home.

DIY Options

Some custom home builders allow you to take care of some of the pre/post build work, allowing you to save money building a custom home if you are willing to find and coordinate contractors or handle the work on your own. This includes items like site prep work, such as land clearing or ensuring road access, and post prep work like landscaping once your build is complete. 

To save money building a custom home, ask your builder if there are any options for you to take on any of this pre or post build work.

Spend Wisely On Essential Features

Lastly, there are a few areas where it makes more sense for you to invest during your initial build than to wait and add on or upgrade later because of the ease in which these systems can be installed at the start versus having to remove and redo elements like drywall when installed after your home build is complete.

Home Layout

Anything related to the layout of your home should be addressed during your initial build. If you don’t like a door in a certain place or the layout of the bedrooms, it will save you money to address this earlier in the process than when you try to make changes at a later date.


If you want to change the placement, size, or add on a few more windows, this is not something to plan for in the future when you may need to move around other systems in your home to install a new window. We recommend talking about adding windows with your builder and including this custom option before you start building. Waiting until later to change these items can significantly increase the cost.

Insulation & HVAC System

Upgrading your insulation or HVAC system after you’ve built your new home will cost much more than installing a system you want from the start. This is because most upgrades or changes require additional renovation as drywall needs to be removed to get to your insulation or HVAC system, which also means replacing the drywall and repainting, rather than doing these things once during the initial build.

Gas & Plumbing

Similar to insulation and HVAC changes, any updates to your gas or plumbing systems outside the initial build will have a higher cost. Thinking about these systems and pre-planning by including things like an additional gas stub for the BBQ or a laundry sink rough-in are worthwhile to invest in upfront to save money building a custom home in the long run.


By following these guidelines, you’ll know exactly how to save money building a custom home when you start the process. Smart decisions early in the custom home building process can lead to significant savings, allowing you to allocate your home building budget where it matters most to you. 

To get an idea of the cost to build on your land in Idaho, check out our instant quote tool, available on all our house plans. This tool allows you to estimate the cost to build a home on your land including the cost of any customization options you want to the plan to turn it into your dream home. If you’d like to talk with someone about building an affordable custom home in southwestern Idaho, contact us for a free consultation. We’d love to hear from you.