Residential Architecture and Renovation Costs in San Francisco

Of the more frequent questions we hear from prospective residential clients, near the top is “How much will my home renovation cost?” — and reasonably so. If you’re like most homeowners, chances are you haven’t renovated or built before. And even if you have, you may be unfamiliar with recent changes (read: prices) in the marketplace.

Pacific Heights Home Renovation
Before and After: A reimagined, highly customized kitchen is the core of this Pacific Heights home in San Francisco.

There are many factors that will affect your build costs — location, terrain, type of construction, complexity, labor demand — which makes a confident answer to “how much?” somewhat tricky. Fortunately, you can gain a general understanding very early in the process to help you gauge expectations, and we’ve shared a few typical ranges below.

(Note: Construction is a marketplace like any other and prices can fluctuate considerably. The estimates below reflect our recent home renovation and construction experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, historically one of the more expensive real estate and construction markets in the U.S.)

Construction Costs

Semi-custom projects
If your project is at the lower end of the custom home design range, expect to pay between $300-$400 per square foot for construction. This figure applies to projects with relatively straightforward design solutions, and commonly available and easily sourced finishes, fixtures and fittings.

Mid-range custom projects
Quality mid-tier projects with tailored solutions and eye-catching architecture or interior design typically come in between $450-$600 per square foot. The majority of projects will fall within this range – including developer projects and highly liveable contemporary single-family residences.

Highly customized projects
The upper-tier design projects tend to see the most cost variation. Much of this is due to the expenses associated with the finishes and features used – many of which need to be specially sourced or imported, are artisan-produced in boutique quantities, or are simply more expensive to manufacture. (Think floor-to-ceiling windows versus drywall and paint.) In these instances we’d recommend budgeting between $600-$700 per square foot or more – and advise keeping an eye on the cumulative cost of your design choices, which can quickly escalate.

Design (and other) Fees

Construction expenses (general contractor, subconctractors, labor, materials) are easily the bulk of your investment, but they aren’t the only budget items.

Additional expenses include your consultants, such as architects, structural and environmental engineers, and planning/permitting fees. Adding an additional 10-15% to your anticipated construction costs for these services is a good rule of thumb, especially during your early budgeting.

And, of course, there are always the unplanned-for surprises and contingencies. We advise setting aside an additional 5% for the “what ifs.”


If you’d like to learn more about Martinkovic Milford Architects or discuss your upcoming project, contact us today.

Residential Architecture and Renovation Costs in San Francisco
Article Name
Residential Architecture and Renovation Costs in San Francisco
Most prospective clients ask us, "How much will my home renovation cost?" This article provides typical ranges for construction, design and more.
Martinkovic Milford Architects