The critical first step of understanding the budget was addressed in the article last month. Now it’s time to consider all items that will require a financial investment as part of a home build.

Often a focus is placed on the cost of the home itself and the land, but other items, such as water, sewer and electric supply, excavation and other land improvements, can play a significant role in the cost structure of building a home. These “other items” should be considered before purchasing land to ensure enough money is left in the budget to build a home suitable for the required needs.

Water supply

Determine if the land will be supplied by a public or private water source. Public water sources will have a hookup fee, along with a monthly, quarterly or annual water usage fee. When considering a parcel of land, find out if this hookup fee has been paid. Hookup fees can vary in cost. One of the more common providers at the lake is Western Virginia Water Authority whose hookup fee is approximately $3,250.

In addition to the hookup fee, there will be costs associated with running the water supply to the house. This will vary depending on the distance from the public water supply meter to the water entry point of the house.

In this area, a private water supply typically involves installing a well. Well installation prices vary depending on well depth, casing type and depth, grout depth and the distance of piping needed from the well to the house. Most well drillers will provide a list of installation prices depending on well drill depth, which includes a complete well system – the submersible well pump, pipe, wire and offset piping from the well to the house and the pressure tank, pressure switch and bacteriological testing of water. An average well cost is $8,000 to $15,000 depending on those variables.

Sewer supply

Like the water supply, there are public and private sewer options. Public sewer hookups are normally found at the road of a parcel of land. The homeowner is responsible for running the sewer line from the road to the site of the home. Depending on the lay of the land, this can be a gravity feed or pump installation may be required. Like public water, public sewer involves a hookup fee and monthly/quarterly/annual fee based on usage.

For construction of a private septic system, talk with the local health department, a septic engineer or a septic installer to get a better idea of cost. Private septic systems can vary dramatically in cost depending on if the land accommodates a convention or alternative septic.

Electric supply

Getting electricity to the site of a home can be a large, unexpected expense. When inquiring about a parcel of land, find out if there is electricity available on the street side of the property. Newer or established neighborhoods with smaller lots typically have electricity available at the street and minimal costs associated with obtaining electricity at the site. The homeowner is responsible for paying the utility company to run power, either underground or overhead, to the property.

For larger tracks of land or large lots where the site of the home is hundreds or even thousands of feet away from the electricity access point, it is important to get in touch with the serving utility. At the lake, the two primary providers are Appalachian Power and Southside Electric. These providers handle new home installs differently, so it’s important to touch base with them to ensure the land parcel is serviceable and at what expense.


Excavation can include tree removal and disposal, driveway establishment, retaining walls and riprapping. In general, the steeper the grade of land, the higher the cost of excavation. Some steeper lots may require a retaining wall or series of retaining walls to create an area for the home. A driveway may require curvature or turns to minimize the steep grade. If the land is rocky, expect there will be a cost associated with rock removal.

Other land improvements

Other land improvements can include boat docks, riprapping the shoreline, walking paths, detached storage sheds, fencing, landscaping and firepits. While prices can vary dramatically by dock builder, expect to spend at least $70,000 on a two-slip boat dock, with prices going up from there depending on a dock’s complexity and materials used.

Considering the cost of water, sewer and electric access, excavation and other land improvements in addition to the land cost and home build cost will ensure a complete picture of the entire home build cost.

Sonya Weatherford serves as director of business development for Milstead Construction, a Class A general contractor. Weatherford received an MBA from Virginia Tech and lives in Moneta with her husband, Carlton.