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Rising Construction Costs on Nantucket


Building on Island

Liza Hatton
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What are construction costs on Nantucket and why are they rising?

This blog is from our seven part Year in Review series “Topics of Note Influencing the Nantucket Real Estate Market in 2021.” Read the comprehensive real estate analysis here.

Building your first home on Nantucket can be overwhelming, but understanding your options can help you become more comfortable with the prospect. Construction costs can vary from $450 per square foot if you build a modular home (Huntington Homes, Dreamline Modular Homes, etc) and start at $700 per square foot plus if you stick-build a home (the traditional method of building where you frame the structure on site). In each case you would likely hire a general contractor to run the project, but their level of involvement is less if you opt for modular construction, which is where some of the savings lie.

Some of the material factors that cause an increase in pricing are anything from the quality and type of finishes, to the complexity of mechanical and AV systems. Depending on your preferences and materials choices, you can easily get up to $700 per square foot or higher. For example, if you want each room to have it’s own zone in the HVAC system or if you want to use tile that is $20+ per square foot, then your costs will go up.

In addition, lumber costs across the board have been rapidly increasing. Between tariffs on lumber coming from Canada (which are upwards of 25%) and the subsequent rising demand for American lumber, prices have skyrocketed. For example, in the past, a large portion of the Western Red Cedar Americans bought was from Canada, but due to tariffs Americans are buying all their cedar from the Pacific Northwest. This has diminished the supply of premium length finish materials, which in turn has caused them to charge a much higher price. In addition, due to COVID and pandemic-related work stoppages, mills are not producing lumber at a rate that matches demand. This was seen prominently during the early summer in 2020 when it was virtually impossible to find pressure treated lumber of any variety. 

Other factors that have been influencing construction costs on Nantucket relate to the increase in demand and logistics in regard to our remote location. Currently there is a shortage of available professionals to GC projects who are based on island since the market is so active. In addition, the cost of housing has made it such that many subcontractors either cannot afford to live here with their families or their company cannot afford to house their employees on the island. This means that many of the subcontractors employed on job sites either commute from the mainland on a daily or weekly basis, and/or employers have to pay to house their employees on island. In turn, when a subcontractor is hired to work on a job, the cost of transportation and/or housing is usually passed on to the client or incorporated into the quote and invoicing. 

Another impact of our location is that transportation delays due to bad weather and high winds can affect arrival (or departure) of both materials and workers more frequently. This can cause timelines to be pushed out which in turn create cost increases (whether it be for paying a project manager, equipment you are renting, and other carrying costs). 

All in all, while building or renovating a home can be costly, it is worth it in the long run to create a space you love. Nantucket has a great crew of builders and contractors to work with who are knowledgeable and understand the idiosyncrasies of our island, which after all is the most important part! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about building here.  I’d love to help and offer guidance based on my experience in working for one of the premier builders on the island. 



Written By

Liza Hatton

A Lincoln, Massachusetts native, Liza has a long-running history with Nantucket as she grew up spending her summers in ’Sconset.