Should you Build or Buy?

My first home was lovely. It was charming, quaint, spacious. It had all the things and more I could ever ask for in a home. Our family was started there, and there too, our family grew. To the point we outgrew the house.

Considerations taken when buying a home pre-family, vs. post family, are drastically different. Pre-family, it’s hard to even understand how much children will change your life.

We bought that first house based on proximity. We loved our little life with our dog and cat. Then, we had a baby, jackpot! Things were pretty sweet, and one day we got the exciting news baby number 2 was coming. Just like that we knew we needed to start talking about a new house. Having one child to tote on all the trips outside to walk the dog wasn’t ideal, but we did it. The thought of having an extra baby in tow soon on our multiple trips outside felt daunting. Plus the third bedroom in that house was in the basement meaning one kid would be really far away. When you know it’s time to move, you know right?

So then you enter a world of SO MANY QUESTIONS. Endless questions.

Proximity?

Budget?

Home type?

Market Conditions?

Build vs. buy?

New vs. established

Amenities vs. None

And so on.

We went through all the questions and for a lot of reasons we ended up choosing to build. The equation that we used to decide building was best for our family. It will be a totally different equation than the one you may use.

Building a house from the ground up was an extremely long and invested process, even for two people who literally lived and breathed construction. The decisions involved can be overwhelming, and sometimes there isn’t a clear answer until later you realized you would have changed things.

There are also a lot of unknown factors that can go into building that can potentially add up quickly.

The construction on our home was halted, and an unexpected investment had to be made in engineering for our lot. The basement was dug out, and the next day it was full of water. Sadly we were building a new home right smack on a live spring. The water had to be redirected so our foundation wasn’t constantly washed away underneath. That’s a major unknown that happened to us , but it’s simply one of the random things that could potentially happen when building. It cost us time and money.

The engineering solution to redirect the water under our house.

I have heard ABSOLUTE horror stories in construction. For someone who doesn’t know much about construction the importance of picking a knowledgeable and reputable builder is paramount. Where we live building usually requires permits and strict guides must be adhered to by local codes. New homes will usually be up to code, which to me is just a way of saying safer and better.

However, in other areas of the country I know sometimes building permits aren’t required at all. So just buyer beware, do your research!

If you’re not discouraged and are still wondering if you should build or buy, ask yourself these questions first.

Do I own land, can I purchase land?

As far as I know you have to purchase land in cash and can’t finance it. (I’m not an expert so if you can, rock on!)

I also recommend starting here because the shape and size of the lot factor so largely in being able to pick the right house plan. It’s wonderful to have a dream of a sprawling ranch, but if you have a small lot you may need to choose a plan that leverages building up vs. out.

Having land is the absolute first step to knowing whether you will be building your next house or buying. What if you plan on building and simply can’t find real estate where you want to live? If there is an existing older home you’ll be replacing with your new build, how much will the initial site work add to your home budget? So many things depend on the actual land the home will be built on so start there!

How do I go about picking a house plan? How will I know what finishes to choose?

As mentioned above the lot is most important in figuring out the realities of your building dream. In addition, choosing your builder will dictate some of the answers to house plan and finishes. If you have the freedom to choose the plan, then you’ll need to get some detailed quotes on what it’s going to cost to build. Or a builder will walk you through their plan offerings.

Costs can vary SO much builder to builder. Some may have a limitation on which finishes they budget for. I’ve heard of weird choices and just plain ugly choices through builders. They can sometimes charge an EXTRA pretty penny if you deviate from their product choices. Having a conversation with a real local builder will help so much. Shop around by talking and getting quotes from a few builders. Make sure you have a good working relationship. You will be working together for many months, and it’s one of the biggest investments you can make. You want to feel good about the process.

You also need time to check up on the process, do your own research and make sure you think they are doing best practices in their construction.

If you don’t have time to commit or energy, it may be best to buy for now. Buying an existing home comes with its own list of pros and cons. The fact it can be more easily budgeted, unlike construction many times, may end up being a deciding factor in itself.

Existing homes come with their own perks and quirks. Some people would never ever live in a brand new house because of they crave character of older established houses. Whoever you are, if you can’t get land and can’t find a qualified builder you’re totally out on building. It seems obvious, but I get asked all the time about where to start in the building process. Pinterest boards and dream plans are great, but the real planning will begin once you’re the owner of some dirt!


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