It's an age-old question: Is it better to build a home, or buy one that’s already on the market? The answer isn't always so clear-cut. Both options have their advantages. Building a house is the best way to get exactly what you want, right down to the kitchen tile. Buying a home might can mean compromising on your wish list of features, but it offers the immediate gratification of moving in more quickly. Before you decide whether to build or buy, ask yourself five important questions.
1. Do you love where you live currently?
If you’re not in love with your current home or neighborhood, it’s time for a change. If you’re looking to build a home, the first step is finding a suitable piece of land. Usually, builders will evaluate your land for a nominal fee (or, in our case, for free) to make sure it can safely support a home for decades to come. An on-site land evaluation or site assessment should cover soil conditions, utilities, zoning, proximity to flood plains, possible tree clearing, and other factors that can impact your home.
Depending on the availability of and demand for land in your desired area, you might find that buying an existing home is a better deal. If you have children, or plan to start a family in the next 5-10 years, it’s always a good idea to research factors such as the school zoning area, cost of living, transportation options, and crime rates before moving forward.
2. What’s your budget?
Whether you are building or buying a home, establishing a budget before beginning your search will help you stay on track and avoid impulse purchases. Of course, you can always adjust your budget after exploring options within that price range. However, you may have to spend a considerable amount of money to get exactly what you want — and that's true whether you're building or buying a home. If you're interested in building a home, it's important to remember the added cost of purchasing land, preparing the site for building, and, if you wish, selecting upgrades. Opting for stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, and custom cabinet colors over standard features can add up quickly. But you're paying for the luxury of personalization and long-term satisfaction. You might be willing to forgo a jetted tub now, but what about five, ten, or fifteen years from now?
If you don’t have the time and money to build a home, but still want to add your personal touch to a space, buying and renovating an existing home might be the best use of your resources. Prioritize critical repairs and indoor demolition projects, then tackle the rest of your remodeling projects as time and money allows. That way, you won't accidentally damage your home in the process of renovating it.
3. When do you need to move?
Depending on how soon you need to move, you might not have time to build a home. New homes typically take about seven months to construct before they're move-in ready. Building a home from scratch gives you complete control, but requires some patience. You may experience a gap in time between the end of your current lease or the sale of your current home and the projected move-in date for your new home.If you need to move immediately, buying an existing home is probably the right call. Most home-buyers move into their new place about one month after closing, on average.
4. Can you find what you want on the market?
In some cases, you might be able to find a home on the existing market that checks every box on your wish list. If you find the home of your dreams within your budget, consider yourself lucky. Often, buying a home that is already on the market means sacrificing certain qualities in favor of the best fit overall. For example, you might find a home in the neighborhood you want, but you may have to give up on the dream of a big backyard. You might be able to add those covetable features to your home down the line through renovation or landscaping, but some aspects are harder to change than others. Understanding what is and isn't negotiable or fixable will help you decide whether to settle.
Building a house from the ground up gives you the ability to customize as much or as little as you'd like – top to bottom, inside and out. Plus, when you finally move in, it will immediately feel like home. With a fresh build, you can create the space you've always wanted, but have never been able to find.
5. Are you willing to spend money on maintenance and improvements later?
As time passes, you may find that an older home requires more frequent repairs. Maintenance could include repainting walls, updating the HVAC system, replacing kitchen appliances, and repairing the roof. Many of these items have long lifespans, but depending on the age of your home, they may need to be addressed immediately. Left unchecked, small repairs can create even more hazardous and expensive issues. With older homes, proper upkeep is the name of the game.
It goes without saying that a new home with new appliances will be less prone to repairs. Newer homes also tend to be more energy-efficient than older structures. But it is certainly possible to add energy-efficient systems and appliances to an older home. And in the long run, those improvements will pay for themselves over time by lowering your bills.