Construction Cost per Square Foot for Multifamily Apartments 2012

by Dean Dalvit on May 20, 2014

EVstudio has been involved in a significant number of multifamily projects, both for architectural design as well as engineering. All of these projects start with a pro forma and a fundamental question: How much does it cost to build a Multifamily Apartment building?

Because this is time sensitive data, we try to post as much information as we can on a regular basis in order to inform our clients’ programs. This post is relevant for 2012 and the data below is excerpted courtesy of RSMeans, the industry leader in construction cost estimating. These costs are for the construction of the buildings themselves, and do not include land costs, soft costs, financing costs or FF&E costs.

The Apartment buildings that we are studying in this post are 4-7 stories. Above is a chart, representing the construction cost per square foot for these projects, classified by region. Note, there are wide differences in cost depending on location, and New York City tops the chart at $232.14 per square foot while Winston-Salem is on the low end at $133.28 per square foot. The median falls around $178 per square foot.

It is important to note, however, that every project is unique, and index pricing cannot be relied upon solely for outlining your project budget. Many factors must be considered – not only geographic location. Building complexity, program, amenities and level of finish all serve to inform the estimated cost of the project and a qualified full service design firm like EVstudio can help design to your budget. If you would like to discuss your project, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we can help you with any phase from entitlements to architecture and engineering to final punchlist.

Originally posted 2012-08-01 13:02:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean Dalvit June 24, 2017 at 7:08 am

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for your comment. We are very familiar with what you are describing. Essentially, any time a for lease product converts to a for sale product, several things in the design and construction must be considered. As such, its critical to design for this strategy in the beginning so you don’t have to endure a costly (time and money) remodel in the future. The same goes for a strategy where you may want to make minor modifications to the units to recombine the unit mix or bedroom count for each unit. We do this often in resort development where the for lease units could have different combinations of lock off bedrooms for better rentability. The extension of this is if/when they convert to condos, simply replacing doors with walls enables the unit configuration to change. This, of course all must be considered in the original design in order to minimize downstream costs.

Also note, Apartments are NOT designed and built the same way as Condominiums. If you build a condo like an apartment, you expose yourself to all kinds of risk of future homeowner lawsuits. Condos require an elevated level of design from unit separation to acoustics as well as level of finish. A back of the envelope estimate comparing the two would result in approximately a 15%-20% premium in construction costs for condos over apartments. We know both products well, so if you are in need of a design team that can help you navigate the hurdles of cost and risk with a stunning design that sells, let us know and we’d be happy to discuss further. Thanks and best of luck on your project!

Jeff June 24, 2017 at 2:36 am

I have acquired 13 continuous 15′ by 90′ lots for up to 48 units, mostly one bedrooms that we are considering Passive House efficiency leaving the world a little better than most sadly. The sq. Footage is 17,550 ft. With 20% having to remain open space. The current zoning allows for 38 ft in height plus rooftop dog park and organic gardening. My strategy is buy and hold for at least 10 years zoned condo from the beginning allowing to sell pieces at any time if opportunity knocks. My due diligence has shown the majority of developers are building 2 bed 2 bath in the hottest section of Philadelphia and my gut feeling is that recent college grads and youth all don’t want to have a roommate. I realize if and when it’s time to liquidate and market conditions are favorable the marketability is much greater for the 2 Bend 2 bath model. Is it possible too sleeve the units( meaning during the buildout have all infrastructures in place for best use when combining units allowing for best design for rental time and by having the foresight for best use when combining units in sale mode. Are you familiar with any of this potential process?

Dean Dalvit January 27, 2017 at 9:42 am

David,
It sounds like you are preparing a line item budget for a bid. This data is inappropriate for that and does not get into that level of granularity. I highly suggest you go to RSMeans.com and you will find specific information on every trade, material and labor unit pricing based on construction and project type. It is a paid service that they provide, but it is very valuable – especially for preparing estimates. If you need Architecture or Engineering support, we have deep experience with senior living all over the country and would be happy to help you out there. Thanks and good luck!

David January 27, 2017 at 7:22 am

We are looking to bid on 200,000 sqft senior living apartment 187 units 3 story wood framing how much should we charge for subcontractor labor cost lancaster pa

Dean Dalvit January 21, 2017 at 11:59 am

Jeff,
Based on the RSMeans data, with escalations since this article was written, you should plan for a range of $170 to $190 a square foot in your location. Many factors will influence construction costs for a building, however given the level of detail in your comment, it sounds like you have a complete design in place. This of course would mitigate those uncertainties. Provided that is the case, you should have no problem having any number of contractors provide actual bids for the project. That is the only way to have certainty on what your construction cost will be for a specific project. I hope that helps – if you are in need of architecture or engineering design services for this project or any others, please let us know as our expert team can work with you to get the product that you need in a budget that you require. Thank you.

Jeff January 20, 2017 at 1:16 pm

We’re looking to build a 5-story apartment building outside of Baltimore. The building is 62′ wide by 271′ long with full parking below (54 parking pads or 16,802 SF) on 1st floor. 2nd floor has 1750 SF retail space, with additional 29 parking spots (10,044 SF) and 2 apartment units. Floors 3-5 have (14) apartments on each floor. There are (19) 1-bedroom apartment (758 SF) and (26) 2-bedroom apartments (1277 SF) for a total (45) apartments (47,604 SF). Any idea on a ballpark construction costs? We’re trying to decide whether or not to build this (1) unit. Thanks!

Dean Dalvit January 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

Michael,
It is important to note that these are indexed costs for new construction buildings. They won’t have any relevance to trying to assess the value or replacement cost of an existing building for a great number of reasons. If you were to build a new apartment building, you could expect the cost to be in the range of $170-$190 per square foot. But this would not include land costs, site improvements, finance costs, FF&E costs, soft costs and fees. I don’t know if this helps you in your objectives, but if you need any more specific information about design or construction, we’re happy to help.

Michael Lockett January 19, 2017 at 11:10 am

My foundation is attempting to purchase a 36 unit apartment building. What is the square footage cost for St. Louis, Mo. ?

Dean Dalvit January 10, 2017 at 10:55 am

Enrique – thanks for your question. While 2017 construction costs won’t be known until later in the year, I did compile some 2016 data in a separate article that you may find useful. From a regional index point of view, Miami is only slightly behind Denver, where this study was focused, so looking forward, would probably be a good starting point for you in your location in 2017.
http://evstudio.com/construction-cost-per-square-foot-for-multifamily-housing-based-on-construction-type/

We have an expert A/E team that specializes in MultiFamily projects all over the US and in Canada. We know the product, market and costs extremely well and excel at the delicate balance of great design within a stated budget. Let us know if you would like to meet or discuss on the phone and we can set that up. I will reach out separately by email as well. Thanks!

Enrique Lara January 10, 2017 at 5:03 am

We are an asset management fund seeking to buy multifamily land in Miami, Florida. For buildings low to middle rise what is the estimated construction cost with parking ( above grade) and without parking, for 2017. The buildings are for medium income families (no luxury finishes or detailing,but with high Building security features including impact windows).
Thank you.

Dean Dalvit December 31, 2016 at 10:47 am

Thanks Elizabeth for your question. Based on the indexed data, you should plan for $150-$175 per square foot for your project, depending on a number of factors such as level of finish and amenities. We design a great deal of apartments across the country and can help you zero in on detailed costs through a rigorous A/E design process that can get you the product you envision for the budget that you need. If you would like to discuss further in more detail, please call us at 303-670-7242 or email design@evstudio.com.

Elizabeth December 30, 2016 at 12:27 pm

I am planning to build a 200 unit apartment in buford Georgia, can you tell me what the average cost per square feet will be

Dean Dalvit December 13, 2016 at 8:02 pm

Thanks for your input Colum. Yes, the RSMeans data is based on gross figures. With % increases applied, it lands in the low end of your range based on your direct experience. The years immediately following the recession had some dramatic effects on the index, so the numbers get more difficult to validate. Direct experience is far more valuable and useful, so thank you for providing your information!

Colum December 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm

The reality of the Bay Area is 250 to 350 on the Gross BA for Mid-rise market rate apartments in the bay. Are these graphs based on Gross? Escalation is between 4 and 8 percent which if you apply to SF at $216 year on year you get $262 in 2016.

Dean Dalvit November 22, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Taha,
A number of factors will affect the number of units one can fit on a particular lot. Desired parking ratios, amenities, unit mix and unit sizes just to name a few. We provide site fit analyses free of charge for our clients and our team in our Texas office would be happy to gather a bit more information on the lot and the program and study this for you. Jim Salyer, our Regional Director in our Texas office will be reaching out to you separately and hopefully we can be a powerful resource you can provide to your client. Thanks for reaching out and expect to hear from Jim soon.

taha elhajj November 22, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Hi, I’m with champions real estate group, and have a client that might buy a 2.3 acres in Houston TX 77057 galleria area.
He would like to build 2 or 3 stories. He would like to know how many apartments can he build and what would be the average cost per unit assuming good finish and excellent area and how many possible parking spaces. Thanks. Taha.

Dean Dalvit November 11, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Myron,
Thanks for your question. You should expect between $160 and $200 per square foot with a median right around $180. I’m unclear what your unit mix is and there’s no information on level of finish. I assume by the size of the garage that it’s below grade and multiple levels, though I would question the proportions of the garage space to number of units for an affordable senior apartment building (you could fit over 400 parking spaces in 120,000sq.ft.!). If you would like to discuss further, please call us at 303-674-7242 and we would be happy to talk through your program and make sure the design elements all align with your objectives. Consultations of this nature are free of charge and if you need design services, we could propose on them after we learn more about the project specifics. Thanks!

Dean Dalvit November 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Raj,
Thank you for reaching out. You should expect between $130 and $180 per square foot for a typical range of quality of apartments in that location. Our regional Director, Jim Salyer, will reach out to you separately and he can help you get much closer with a little additional information. There are many factors that will affect construction cost and starting with a simple study for the project, you can get very close on cost forecasting. We provide that initial consultation at no cost to you so we can learn more about the project and your objectives. Then, if you decide to move forward, we can prepare a full scope proposal to get you all of the design services you need. Thanks!

Raj November 10, 2016 at 10:15 pm

Hi,

I am planning to develop an small apartment single building with 12 units of total 10,500 sq ft in small town near Dallas Texas, what would be the cost per square foot?

myron November 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I’m planning to build a 37unit4 story affordable senior apt bldg. on top of a 120,000 ad basement garage. also 2000sf common indoor room. everything lines up, common floor plans of 650 ad average. Est const cost?

Dean Dalvit October 21, 2016 at 6:00 am

Joel,
For that product type, I would expect a range of $150-$200 per square foot, with a median of $175. The range depends on many factors from site conditions to level of finish. The data we have does not differentiate between Seattle and Tacoma, so I would expect minor variations there based on availability of local labor and materials. These costs do not include land or entitlements, so you’re more likely to see differences in those line items based on specific location. Hope that helps!

Joel October 21, 2016 at 12:08 am

I’m trying to figure out how much it would cost to build a 4-8 unit townhouse structure with one car garages for each unit in Seattle vs Tacoma. Each home would be in the 1,200-1,500 square foot range.

Dean Dalvit July 12, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Firas,
Thank you for your inquiry. For construction costs, you should expect between $210-$240 per square foot, depending on level of finish and level of complexity. I won’t be much assistance with permit fees and utilities costs as I am not local to your area. However, we do have an affiliate of EVstudio who is not far from you, so if you would like assistance with your project or information in any more detail, please let me know and we would be happy to help. Thanks again!

Firas jandali July 12, 2016 at 8:32 pm

we are studying a project in Oakland, CA 21 unit apartment building on a flat lot
one level of parking semi- sunk 5 ft below grade parking + 5 stories living space above
total living area of 23000 sf
based on average what would be the range of the total cost for
1.City permits
2. utilities
3. construction

Dean Dalvit May 12, 2016 at 6:18 pm

Josh,
RSMeans doesn’t explicitly state how parking is handled in their data, though the numbers are an aggregate of all building costs. So if a building has above or below grade parking, the cost would be included in the overall numbers. We have more sophisticated methods for determining construction costs based on actual design program, so if you have a specific design program, we could assess costs that are more specific to your project. That’s a part of our full-scope multidisciplinary design services. Our job is to make your life easier, so just let us know how we can help. Thanks!

Josh Kaplan May 12, 2016 at 5:16 pm

Dean,

Do you know if the cost estimates per foot in the chart include sub or above ground parking or this simply just base building and parking is extra?

Thanks

Dean Dalvit February 18, 2016 at 6:58 am

Thanks for your question – The scope of this study does not get into specific unit costs for trades, but I’ll leave it to the forum to reply.
RSMeans would also have that specific trade information – it is a paid service, but they would have what you’re looking for and more. Good luck!

El Nino February 18, 2016 at 6:09 am

My Question is:

Does Anyone know how much it cost to do wood framing for Multi-Family In Washington state and other areas of the West Coast?
I was invited to Frame Several Multi-Family In Washington State and California.

Also does anyone know about how much it would cost to frame a Hotel In the West Coast?
I was also invited to frame hotels in these regions.

Most projects are ranging from 100,000 sq/ft to over 400,000 sq/ft.

Does anyone know how much the GC or Sub gets in these regions at 2016 current rates per sq/ft per GC or Sub rates with just labor only?

Dean Dalvit November 24, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Doug,
I think I generally follow your program. The numbers for the retail by square foot are quite similar to those for the multifamily piece. The additional loads for vehicles on the podium do not add much cost or concern, so I think they would still be relevant. For the retail and the multifamily finished space, you should budget between $180 and $200 per square foot. Then, for under-building/podium parking, we generally use $25k per parking space. So, if you add up the components of your project, that should give you a good starting point for a conceptual budget. For mixed-use projects, I highly recommend doing a level of Schematic Design in order to quantify measurable spaces that you can price much tighter. We have a team of expert Architects and Engineers that design mixed use projects all over the country and in Canada. We would be happy to discuss your project with you and learn more about it. Please let us know how we can help. Thanks!

Doug November 23, 2015 at 8:50 am

I’m trying to price out a mixed use development on 85,000 sqft. A 27,000 sqft at grade retail with 102 at same grade parking(58,000sqft)all with 17′ ceiling height. Above that will be a 70,000 sqft concrete podium which will have 50 townhouses each with their own 2 car parking garage and allies so the podium will need to handle the live and dead loads. I’m looking to determine the general and specific costs to construct. I’m in the Washington DC area.

Dean Dalvit November 22, 2015 at 7:38 am

Ivril,
Thanks for your question. According to RSMeans, the national average for restaurant construction is $275 per square foot, including A/E fees and contractor fees. The national average for Apartment construction is closer to $150 per square foot. For a mixed use building you described, those numbers, in proportion to the areas by floor would result in a $1.04M cost for a national average. While I don’t have an index specifically for Portland Maine, I would err on the conservative side and add another 10% for regional premium. That would give you a starting budget of $1.15M. At that point, it would be up to your design team to design to that budget. EVstudio has a team of Architects and Engineers who are experts in mixed use buildings all over the country. If you would like to discuss how we can help you with your project, please let us know. Thanks!

Ivril November 21, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Hi Dean, I am interested in purchasing a lot in Portland Maine which is zoned for business and residential use. The buildout would be for a mixed use 3 floor building which includes 2 apartments and 1 commercial (restaurant) unit. We’re looking at about 5400 square feet total not including a basement. Can you give me an idea on what the cost per square footage would be for construction?

Dean Dalvit September 27, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Nicholas,
I would expect these to fall between $180 and $200 per square foot – depending of course on the level of complexity and finish.

Dean Dalvit September 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Hi Nicholas,
Is this a bid solicitation for A/E design or for construction? If for design, we’d certainly be interested in discussing it with you. If for construction, I’d leave it to the blog forum and readership to respond.

Nicholas September 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

What is your estimated cost per square foot for Center City Philadelphia Town Homes 3/2.5 2300 SF?

Nicholas September 25, 2015 at 10:08 am

We are excepting quotes now for a 26 unit complex of 3 bed 2.5 bath 2300 GLA SF Town Homes in Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia PA 19123.

Anyone care to bid?

Dean Dalvit June 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Terrance,
Thanks for your inquiry. Winston Salem is among the least expensive regions in the country for construction cost across the board. The price per square foot would likely range between $120 and $150 per square foot, depending on level of finish and amenity. We design a great number of townhomes across the country and your program is very popular. In fact, we have a 28 unit project under construction right now in Denver that has a very similar program to what you described (see http://evstudio.com/evstudio-wraps-28-unit-near-denvers-curtis-park/) You would average approximately 1,200 sq.ft.-1,800 sq.ft. per unit and I assume you would want enclosed garages on the first floor. This standard program results in 42,000 total finished sq.ft., so at the average price per square foot, you would approach a total project construction cost of between $5M and $6M. Beyond that, we would really need to know more about the program and level of finish. I hope that helps. We would love to work with you on your project, so please let me know if you would like to arrange a conversation and we can discuss how we can help you with the architectural design and engineering that will make your pro forma look great!

Terrance Merck June 24, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I am looking to develop 28 unit town home complex on 2.5 acres of land near Winston Salem, NC. The site is zoned for town homes. This would be my first project of this magnitude and as well as my first development project. It is my intent to build 2 and 3 beds 2 bath multi levels. What numbers can I expect in terms of construction cost?

Dean Dalvit November 1, 2014 at 8:22 am

Thank you Ali, that is much appreciated! To answer your question, all of the data you see here is strictly finished building construction costs. It is exclusive of land, entitlement, finance, soft and FF&E costs.

Ali Amir November 1, 2014 at 2:17 am

Hi Dean

Just came across this site while browsing generally on construction cost estimates. Must recommend your firm for taking the time to answer the above, some very generic questions with so much detail!

My question is that the estimates per location you have provided for 2012, are they exclusive or inclusive of land cost?

Thanks

Dean Dalvit July 8, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Ranjna, Thank you for your inquiry. There are a lot of variables that would inform your project, but for the basis of creating a starting point, we would determine the square footage per unit in order to use the data we have available. Your unit description for a 2 bedroom, 1 bath and one kitchen may be as little as 800 square feet or as much as 1,200 square feet. If we took the median and figured 1,000 square feet per unit, then a 4-plex would be approximately $800,000 in construction cost for the building, using $200/sq.ft. from the data. A 20 plex would correspondingly be a 4 million dollar cost for the building. These costs are exclusive of land costs, entitlements costs, site improvement costs, finance costs and soft costs, so you would have to factor those in separately.

Your question about how much capital to put in will depend entirely on your financing options. Based on your circumstances, you may be able to secure a 20% down and 80% loan to value, which would be great in this market. The more you can leverage, the less capital you will personally require. There are a myriad of terms and conditions that go with conventional loans and there are other capital sources to consider as well, like hard money lenders or private equity partners.

We have a team of multifamily specialists that design projects all over the US and Canada. Our focus is on a successful pro forma and designing to minimize construction costs in order to maximize your return on investment. We would be happy to discuss your project in greater detail and help you with your architecture and engineering services moving forward. Just let us know how we can help. Thanks!

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