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


{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Ranjna Sharma July 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I live in Hanover, Pennsylvania. I’m planning on starting a rental business in future. I was researching and found this website and hope to find some answers from a real experienced person. I’ve been doing some research on buying land and building either a multi unit house (4 or 8 , depending on single story or double) or Building an apartment building. Could you please help me a little bit. How much would it cost to build 4 unit single story house and how much would it cost to build an apartment building with 20 units. I’m thinking about 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, I kitchen per unit. Also kindly suggest how much capital I should be looking at to put in. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Dean Dalvit July 6, 2014 at 7:29 am

Thank you for your question. We would need a bit more information about your unit size and amenities before we could inform your budget better because I am concerned that your $3M budget would fall substantially short of your objectives.

For example, if your buildable footprint is 9,000 sq.ft. and you have three 3,000 sq.ft. condos per floor and you have five floors of units, then your costs (not including the parking structure below) would be: 9,000 X 5 X $187/sq.ft. = $8.4M.

So, unless your building footprint is much smaller, say 1/3 of the buildable area of the lot, which would result in 1,000 sq.ft. units or less, you’re $3M budget won’t go much further in that location with the local cost of construction.

EVstudio has an affiliate in L.A. and would love to work with you on this project because it is in our specific area of expertise. I will email you separately with our L.A. affiliate, Kate Svoboda-Spanbock as well as our multifamily head of design, Rich Muller. If you have an electronic copy of the site that you can send us, or even a site address, we can look into it in more detail for you.

Please let us know your thoughts about unit size and what your next steps are for your project and we can go from there. Thanks!

Viet July 3, 2014 at 7:15 pm

Hi we want to build A five story condo on a 9000sq lot in Los Angeles CA , we want to build about 15 condo medium end
With parking structure in basement. Our budget around 3mil please advice

Dean Dalvit June 22, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Samantha, thanks for your question. Fortunately, your instincts are correct – those numbers are way too high. Our Texas principal, Gene Dane, will email you separately to help you zero in on the hard and soft costs for a mid rise multifamily project. We have a multifamily studio with specialists that have designed thousands of units and we would be happy to help you with a site feasibility study and conceptual pro forma budgeting to validate a successful project.

samantha June 21, 2014 at 1:16 pm

How much is the average price to build a 3 to 4 story mid rise in Texas with medium grade interiors, high level of sound insulation per floor. It will have a pool, gym, business center and some will have retail below.
About how much would that be? I am hearing 150 to 350 psf which as an investor that is way too much to me. I do have the ability to purchase the interior items such as tiles, floors, cabin, appliances etc. ourselves if it is cheaper. I was also told an architect could be 8-10% of construction costs and then Id have to pay 3 diff engineers 6-8% of construction costs also. In my opinion that is WAYYY too much. What is average or expected and I still make money for my investors off of it?

Dean Dalvit June 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Thanks for your question! Depending on your level of amenity space and quality of product (boutique apartments or lower end), you should be in the ballpark of $130-$150 per square foot. We will have our Texas team reach out to you directly and help you with more specifics.

Manish June 18, 2014 at 8:34 am

We want to build 25-30 units apartment in Dallas.
Area: Plano, Frisco OR Allen
Number of stories :- 2
it will be good if you provide generic estimate.


Dean Dalvit May 14, 2014 at 5:14 am

Thanks for your question. It is certainly relevant for time sensitive data like this. While we did not see an appreciable jump in costs on our multifamily projects regionally in 2013, we are now starting to see that shift due to the strong demand for labor and materials in all construction markets. So, for a better starting point with a ballpark budget, it would be wise to add roughly 5%-10% to these numbers to conservatively adjust.
If you would like to discuss your project further, we are experts in multifamily design with projects across the US and Canada, and would be happy to help you take the next steps on your project.

Robert May 13, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Hey im just wondering if the construction cost for detroit has changed per sf since 2012 and if so do you know what it is. Im very interested building a multifamily also using sustainable construction.

Dean Dalvit May 5, 2014 at 11:51 am

Stephen, The best approach would then be to assess the value of what is there – perhaps a raw core and shell cost. Then subtract that from a finished building cost to get a delta that would be close to the mark. With that said, the core and shell may represent approximately $80-$100 per square foot. With new construction being around $150/sq.ft. in Houston, you would be looking at around $50-$70 per square foot for the renovation/finish out. We do have a Texas office that does a fair amount of work in Houston and we have an expert team of multifamily project designers and would be happy to discuss this project in greater detail with you. I will have our Texas principal, Gene Dane contact you separately and we can go from there. Thanks!

Stephen T. May 5, 2014 at 11:09 am

Sure Dean,
Houston Texas, the windows, siding and roof are in good condition. Structurally it is sound but there is no electrical up. There is no abestos, or hazardous materials

It is as if the previous owner decided to gut the exisiting structure and ran out of money right after he/she rebuilt the roof.

Dean Dalvit May 5, 2014 at 8:40 am

Stephen, Any chance you can disclose your location? Tough to provide an opinion of construction cost without that information. What you’re describing is not new construction, so it would take quite a bit more in depth look in order to assess a ballpark per square foot figure. Salvage-ability of systems like Mechanical, Electrical, Structural etc. all play a major role in construction cost. Exterior siding, windows, roof – all in good shape or not? Any hazardous material mitigation required (lead paint, asbestos materials)? Any site improvements required? More questions than answers, but you’ll find that a project like this is an onion peel. We’re happy to help, but we’d need a lot more information to develop a cost basis.

Stephen T. May 5, 2014 at 6:00 am

Hey Dean,
I recently purchased a bare-bones income property. It has 3 1×1 upstairs and 5 1 car garages downstairs. Total square feet of the building is 2,900 so the 3 units are ~500sqft each. By bare-bones I mean the only thing that is there is the wood and outside paint. In the future I would like to convert 2 of the garages into another unit but for now, approx how much would it cost me to make the 3 units livable with regular finishes?

Dean Dalvit February 3, 2014 at 8:53 am

Hi Connie, Thanks for your question. While we do work all over the country, we do not have an office in the region surrounding the Detroit area and so I won’t be much help on a local financial institution there in your area. Among national banks that do have a good history with this type of project, I would suggest reaching out to Wells Fargo, however, be prepared for very conservative response given the slower economic recovery that you are experiencing in that region. USBank also finances these types of projects in the Western region and I believe they also have a presence there in Detroit as well. For difficult deals (labeled as “high risk” for a conventional bank loan), you would need to move to funding sources that are more flexible than a bank. A good resource would be a capital firm like Northmarq Capital ( They have access to other capital streams that you won’t find at a bank.

As far as design and construction documents for Architecture and Engineering (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical and Civil), you can expect anywhere from 4%-9% of estimated construction costs, depending on a wide variety of variables that influence the scope of work. If we know more about the project like specific site information, level of finish, number of stories, number of bedrooms in each unit and type of construction, we can prepare a detailed scope of work for you. That scope would include everything you need for permitting and constructing the project. The costs for the experience and expertise of design professionals not only will yield lower construction costs, higher quality design and fewer schedule delays during construction (due to the quality and coordination of the documents), the jurisdiction likely requires a licensed professional in each of the major disciplines to prepare the design and construction documents anyway.

Let me know if you would like us to assist you on your project and we can make arrangements for a brief programming discussion that would be the basis of the scope of work described above. Thanks!


Connie February 3, 2014 at 7:57 am


we are in the process to build a 4 unit Multi Family house also in Detroit and we have right now a very hard time to find a mortgage bank who is familiar and willing and able to give us a construction loan.

Because you are in this field with many projects, do you know a bank or can referral a broker for construction loans who are REALLY knowledgeable???

And another question, what are the costs for an architect to finalize our plans??And what is normally included in the whole package what an architect is doing for us???

Thank you very much,

Connie from beautiful Detroit 🙂

Dean Dalvit February 2, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hi Venkatesh,

The answer to your question will be found in the entitlements that run with the property. Assuming that multifamily is a use-by-right in your zoning, the number of units allowed will be a function of the allowable Dwelling Units per acre that is written in the zoning code for your property. 10 DU/acre, for example would allow 150 units and 20 DU/acre would be double that. This information is specific to each property and regulated by the local planning and zoning department having jurisdiction over your property. Also, building setbacks and height restrictions will also influence the size of the buildings you can construct, which will directly influence your number of units.

If your property is not a use by right, or you desire higher densities than currently allowed, then you have the option to rezone the property. That process is time consuming and can be costly, but would be necessary in order to get the entitlements you need for your development.

Finally, it is also important to understand that regardless of the entitlements, your property may also have other constraints to the number of units you wish to build. For example, topography or natural features like lakes or streams can constrain the buildable area on the property. Also, required parking is also often a major constraint, and can force decisions to go to structured parking in order to achieve a higher density of units. Garden style apartments, for example, require the most land vs a podium or wrap style product that provides more parking in less area.

I hope that helps. We are happy to help you in front end feasibility or entitlement work, as well as design for your project once you are ready to move forward. Just contact us any time and we can make all the arrangements.


Venkatesh February 1, 2014 at 10:16 am

Please let me know how many SFT we are able to build in 15 acres? The property is in Detroit, MI.
How many units we can consider?

Dean Dalvit January 11, 2014 at 7:15 pm

It’s not uncommon for multifamily projects to be built in phases, in order to ensure the building leases up appropriately before advancing construction. However, for a smaller project like yours, I would recommend building the entire complex at one time in order to capture the cost savings of a single construction operation.

Cost per square foot will depend on many variables – for initial projections, I would start with between $160 and $190 per square foot.

We have an architect in LA and we would be happy to discuss your project with you further. I will contact you directly by email and we can continue the conversation. Thanks!

Fariba January 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Hi Dean
I want to build a multifamily apartment in LosAngeles ,land is 28000sf and I was told I could build 45 units 1-2-and3bedroom units total of tthree stories.The land is three connected parcels.
Do you recommend to build in three stages each stage fifteen unit or to build it all at once.
Also do you have any number for mid town LosAngeles ,how much it would cost?

Dean Dalvit November 11, 2013 at 8:07 am

Hi John,
Based on a similar description, you would have a 12,000 sq.ft. building. At the RSMeans rates for your location, you would be looking at about the same ballpark of $2.5M-$3.0M cost for the building. We have a specialty studio in our firm that works exclusively on multifamily projects, so if you are in need of a design team, we would be happy to discuss your project with you in more detail and see how we can tailor our full service team to help you realize your vision. Please let me know how we can help. Thanks!

John Mack November 8, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Hello Dean,
I also have a question about estimate price which is pretty much the same as Adam Chambers ‘s as follows, except for I need it in Jersey city NJ, and without the the lower level of garages so it’s 3 levels in total with the same sizes, it’s just grass on the lot right now:

Hi Dean, I’m building a 4 story apartment block in San Fran, it’s a fairly level lot about 5000sqft. I can build 6 units in total, 2 per floor with a six car garage on the ground floor. Each unit internally will be about 1200sqft and the finish quality will be on the lower end. Each unit will have heat and air and the construction will be a very simple and straight forward. What would you estimate the total/turn key construction costs to be, including all finishes. Assume engineered hard wood flooring, low end appliances, Caesar stone countertops, simple bathrooms, windows and doors etc?

Dean Dalvit November 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm


Please see this post for construction costs relevant to a project closer in nature to yours: For your DC location, around $210/ square foot is the place to start.

As far as the lot size, there are many factors to consider, not the least of which would be parking and site amenities. If this is a school project, chances are that’s what they want you to be thinking about and determine specific to your project. Best of luck!

Chris Kapotes November 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Hi Dean,

I am currently working on a school project where we are designing an 11-story apartment complex in the College Park/ DC area. I’ve decided to make floors 2-10 into 5 units at 800 sq ft each, the top floor into 2 “penthouse” units at 2000 sq ft, and the first floor as a lobby. I am currently working on a budget for the project and was wondering if you could give me an estimate for building cost? Also, I need to procure a plot for this building and was wondering what size I would need for a building of this magnitude.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Dean Dalvit October 29, 2013 at 9:12 am

Hi Clara,
The question would be if your internal circulation is included in that 25,000 sq.ft.. Your description of 30 units at approximately 800 sq.ft. each leads to 24,000 sq.ft. of units alone. If the building is, say, 80% efficient, then the size of the building would actually be about 30,000 sq.ft. in order to include hallways, stairs, elevator core, mechanical and storage rooms, etc.. Will there be parking under the building or is that offsite? Assuming you won’t have additional building expense for structured parking, your project will be in the ballpark of $7 million. There are plenty of unknowns in that ballpark, so it would be a good idea to get a more detailed program put together for the project and identify any other needs for the project (like parking, amenity space, outdoor features, more details for level of finish, etc.). We would be happy to talk to you about the Pre-Design services that you would need to take the next steps – just let us know. Thanks and best of luck with your project!

Clara October 28, 2013 at 9:25 pm

HI Dean, I’m planning to build a small condo building in Queens, NYC. Land is vacant with area 8500SF, build about 25000SF with around 30 units. Each unit internally will be about 800sqft and the finish quality will be on the mid-high end. What would you estimate the total/turn key construction costs to be, including all finishes. Thanks a lot!

Dean Dalvit September 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hi Patricia,
RSMeans publishes this data on an annual basis, typically. So I expect the new information to come out very soon. In the meantime, this is the most current cost information we have available to us. I would not expect considerable changes to the average construction cost in any category in any region unless some major shift driving the local economy has occurred. In fact, we haven’t found that the cost information shifted significantly during the economic swings in the recession as these are averages and tend to be fairly stable in the analysis. If you have a specific project you would like to discuss in more detail, please let us know so we can arrange a meeting with our Texas team. Thanks!

Davis September 17, 2013 at 11:02 am


Great information on your site! We are a CM/GC in Atlanta,Georgia covering the southeast and the construction costs that you have listed are pretty right on. There are obviously many differences that can drive the cost up and down based on parking decks, levels of podium, etc… but all in all great information.

Kind Regards

Patricia September 17, 2013 at 8:42 am

Hi Mr. Dalvit,
The numbers shown on the chart in the article above are from May 2012. I assume the construction cost has increased considerably to September 2013. Do you have a current number for Houston Texas?
Thank you in advance for the information!

Dean Dalvit September 9, 2013 at 7:55 am

Hi Mike,
We’d be happy to help. Do you by chance have any as-builts of the existing building? Even photos? Site information would also be helpful – surveys or even aerial images. That would definitely help to inform how much work would be necessary to re-purpose the building for apartments. You can email that information to and we will follow up right away. Thanks!

Mike September 8, 2013 at 3:18 am

I have a 9000 sq ft commercial space in New Haven CT that I would like to make into 6 3BR apartments. I am just in the preliminary stages but am trying to put together a per sq ft price. I am trying to keep the apartments affordable as they will be rental units. What do you think a low end price per sq ft could be and is this something your firm can help with?

Dean Dalvit September 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Joe, Thanks for your question. I am assuming that you have an idea on the unit mix for those 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units so that you can arrive at total square footage per building. Typically, these projects are all master planned for all of the units, but built out in phases and leased up as you go, so I would recommend that approach. Obviously, you will need your amenities in with your first phase (club house, etc.). So, based on the RSMeans data, you can gauge your costs based on your total building square footage based on the unit mix you have in mind, assuming of course that these are garden style apartments. If you plan to have interior corridors and amenity space enclosed within the residential buildings, then you will need to add that to your square footage.

We have a specialty design studio that is focused only on multifamily projects and we would be happy to speak with you further about your project if you are seeking a full scope Architecture and Engineering team. You can read more on our website as well at: We would love to help you with your project! 303.670.7242, Extension 2.

Joe September 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I’m looking at building an apartment complex in Columbia, SC. It would be 3 stories ranging from 1-3 bedroom apartments. One bedroom approximately 890 sqft. Two bedroom approximately 1200 sqft. Three bedroom approximately 1500 sqft. How much would it cost to build a 50 unit complex and 100 unit complex? Would it be more economically to build 50 unit complex at once, then add anothr 50 or build in phases, i.e., phase 1 – 25 units, phase 2 – 25 units, phase 3 – 25 units, etc. Also, a club house willl be built, which includes office space.

Dean Dalvit August 19, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Hi Adam,
Based on your description, it appears that the building footprint would be fairly small, and not occupying the entire lot. At 2 units per floor, you would have 2400 sq.ft. of apartment space, but the additional required circulation space would take you to about 3,000 sq.ft. per floor. Four floors results in a 12,000 sq.ft. building. At the RSMeans rates for San Francisco, you would be looking at about a $2.6M cost for the building. We have a specialty studio in our firm that works exclusively on multifamily projects and we do have licensure in California as well, so if you are in need of a design team, we would be happy to propose on your project. Please let me know how we can help. Thanks!

Adam Chambers August 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi Dean, I’m building a 4 story apartment block in San Fran, it’s a fairly level lot about 5000sqft. I can build 6 units in total, 2 per floor with a six car garage on the ground floor. Each unit internally will be about 1200sqft and the finish quality will be on the lower end. Each unit will have heat and air and the construction will be a very simple and straight forward. What would you estimate the total/turn key construction costs to be, including all finishes. Assume engineered hard wood flooring, low end appliances, Caesar stone countertops, simple bathrooms, windows and doors etc?

Dean Dalvit August 18, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Jamie, we are having our Texas studio principal, Gene Dane, contact you directly to discuss your projects. Multifamily is a specialty of ours and we can help you take the next steps and beyond with your projects.

Dean Dalvit August 18, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Dorel, the proportion of HVAC construction costs for multi-family projects is 4%-7% on average. Multifamily projects tend to run on the lower end of the cost spectrum for HVAC because of the relatively simpler systems. Multifamily work is a specialty within EVstudio, so if you would like to discuss MEP engineering or any other design services, we would be happy to discuss that with you. Thanks!

Dorel Anghel August 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

What is the $$ or % value for HVAC and Plumbing – relative to total construction cost ? San Francisco Bay Area ? Thanks.

Jamie August 7, 2013 at 10:43 am

I am looking to do a multi family community with apartments, Townhomes and other miscellaneous buildings in Killeen Texas. What is a reasonable square footage cost?

Dean Dalvit August 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I am having our principal of architecture in our Texas studio contact you directly. There are a number of variables that will play into an informed response and there is no good answer without discussing unit mix, amenities, building type, site parameters, level of finish, etc.. Look for an email from Gene and you can go from there. Thanks!

Sam June 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

we are exploring options to develop condo in Dallas Tx. Any idea what would be a safe price to consider for construction gross.

what is the gross to net area percentage?

Dean Dalvit May 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm


The RSMeans numbers are for the buildings themselves, which would include any improvements to within 5′ of the structure (underground utilities or adjacent sidewalks for example). Site improvements vary considerably from one location to the next, and are not included in these numbers. So, exclusions to these figures would include site excavation, parking lot pavement, curb and gutter, on-site detention, site landscaping or outdoor amenities (pools, pavilions, gardens, etc.), underground utilities, fencing and offsite improvements to traffic control or access which is common to larger campus projects and higher densities. These costs should certainly be in a project’s pro forma, however, they’re not appropriate in a basic cost per square foot analysis such as this for the buildings because of the wide number of variables that would influence costs and skew the data away from the building costs as a function of their size alone. I hope that helps to answer your question. EVstudio specializes in multi-family projects and we would be happy to discuss a specific project in greater detail if you are looking for a design team. Thanks!

Ashleigh May 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm

On multi-family projects, what trades do you consider to be land development or off-sites, that wouldn’t be typical of SFD? Trades such as flatwork, fencing, landscaping, utility trenching, etc? What budget are they included in and why?

Dean Dalvit May 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm


Thanks for your inquiry. While a detailed response to your question would require much more information (unit mix, type, amenities, level of finish, etc), the simplest analysis would put your average unit size at 800-1000 sq.ft. including common space, yielding approximately 20,000 sq.ft. of building. A $3M budget would leave $150 per square foot for that, and you could get pretty nice units for that. Townhomes would not be as efficient in construction, but obviously, that is a different product for a different market, so may or may not look as good in your pro forma. But $3M for 10 Townhomes is a very generous budget. Let me know if you are working with a design team and we would be happy to discuss further. Multifamily projects is a specific strength within our team and we are licensed in most of North America. Thanks!

Dominic May 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I’m looking into building an apartment complex in NC. How much would it cost to build a 20 unit complex? Would it be more efficient to build 10 townhouses instead? And if I had a 3 million dollar budget, on average how many units could that generate? This is including the office and parking pavement.

Dean Dalvit April 2, 2013 at 8:40 am

Thanks for your question. The RSMeans numbers for Downtown Detroit hover around $180 per square foot for this type of building. You have fewer stories than the index data, which would tend to put upwards pressure on the construction cost per square foot, however your description of the project is that it would be simple, which could lower the cost expectations to some degree. With that said, I think you would fall somewhere between $160-$190 per square foot, or for 8,000 square feet, $1.3M-$1.5M project. Let us know how we might be able to help you move forward on the project. EVstudio has a multifamily studio which designs apartments across the country and in Canada, and would be happy to discuss this project further with you. Thanks!

Connie March 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hello Dean,

we are planning to build a Multi Family house in downtown Detroit. It will have 3 stories with 4 x 1-2 bedroom appartments for rent and one penthouse where we like to live.

All together the house will be around 8000 sq ft. The house is rectangular and will have a pitch metal roof. All in all it will be a very simple design.

What do you think will be the cost per sq ft???

Thanks and hve Happy Easter,


Dean Dalvit November 12, 2012 at 11:33 am

These figures are direct building costs and do not include land, financing, site improvements, soft costs or FF&E (for furnished apartments). The data does not consider rental rate as that is a variable that doesn’t affect cost of construction. Also, locale and type of product will considerably influence both construction costs (as you can see in the chart) as well as rental rates. We would be happy to discuss your project further with you and see how we might be able to serve your design needs.Just let me know how we can help!

john November 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Does this include land costs? Also, you give costs per foot. What is the assumption on rental rate per foot?

Dean Dalvit October 29, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Hi Brad,
All of these figures are based on gross square footage. Hope that helps!

Brad Mooney October 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

is the $/sf based on net-rentable (NRSF) or gross-sf ?

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