How much does it cost to build a house in the Puget Sound area?
Of course, the most accurate answer is, "It depends."
However, there are some rules of thumb. Right now, if you want to build a custom house or major remodel, in the Seattle area you can expect to spend about $250-300 per square foot. So, if you want to build a 2000 square foot house in from the ground up, say, Bellevue, then you probably want to budget about $600,000, in addition to the cost of the land. This "rule of thumb" is probably lower if you're planning a remodel of an existing home.
Construction costs are surprisingly local. Most contractors work in a small geographic area, and that creates very localized markets. Building in the City of Seattle or its surrounding suburbs, where the economy is very strong, will be more expensive than building in most parts of the rural Puget Sound area. Specific local factors also effect construction costs. Building a house on Lopez Island, for example, will be more expensive than one on Bainbridge Island because the only access to the former is via ferry.
A smart architect working with a client who knows what they want can work within any realistic budget to build an impressive, beautiful, liveable design. The factors that go into that $250-300/SF guideline can always be tweaked to bring costs even lower, but it often takes a skilled architect to know where it makes sense to cut costs and where you don't want to mess around, especially in Seattle's climate.
And, in a custom design, you should think long term. Usually, investing a little extra up front in items like energy efficient appliances and heating systems, or in surfaces that will last longer in the Seattle climate, make good financial sense after about 5 years.