There are SO many factors to consider when you are ready to invest in a new home! Buy or build? Turn key or fixer upper? Country or city? This became a big discussion in my life this year. My family recently got to a place in life where we were ready to find our forever home. My husband and I have both moved 8 times in the past 9 years, so it was time!
When we finally moved to the area where we would live permanently, we began the lengthy conversation about finding our home. We weren't sure if we wanted to build a house or to buy an established home, and there are so many pros and cons to each. After lengthy discussions and long drives checking out the area, we ultimately decided to build. Below I will walk you through pros/cons and each factor that played into this decision.
- Minimal wait time to move in
- House has settled into foundation
- Could be in desirable area or neighborhood that doesn't have room to build
- Living in an established area - don't have to endure construction
- Power to negotiate price
- Potentially mature landscaping and trees
- Potential renovations or required repairs
- Potential hidden problems (foundation, plumbing, etc.)
- May be outdated or not your style
- Could be less energy efficient
- A turn-key home could be out-of-reach financially
- You pick every finish to match your style
- Everything will be fresh and brand new
- You are the first to live there
- Up to current building codes
- Can incorporate up-to-date technology
- Usually more energy-efficient
- Builders can be known to cut corners
- Longer wait time to move in
- Must find housing for the duration of the build
- House is not settled into foundation yet
- Could live near construction for awhile until neighborhood is complete
- Not much room for price negotiation
- Fencing, grass, landscaping, etc. may not be included in price
As you can see, there are several pros and cons to each option! Another determining factor is location. The cost of living varies vastly across the country and can have a huge effect on your decision to build or buy a home. There were many homes for sale in our area (central TX) during our decision-making process, however homes in our price range with our desired square footage and lot size were all outdated. Meaning they would require renovations to transform them into the home we really wanted to live in. And when we found a home that met all of our desires, it was way above what we could afford. This is what ultimately led us to the decision to build. We couldn't find an established home that checked off all of our boxes, so we decided to build a home to get what we wanted at a price we could afford. We would be able to have a large yard, good square footage, and be able to pick each finish so the house is exactly what we want when we move in. The downside to this is that we are living in a tiny rental while our house in built, and a lot of our belongings are in storage until we can move. BUT, to us, this is a small price to pay in order to get the perfect house for us!
If you decide to build
There is a lot of research to do before building your home! Do you want a custom home or will you choose a neighborhood builder (builders that have standard floor plans and selections to choose from, rather than you coming up with everything yourself)? You'll want to do research on builders in the area. This is extremely important! Read a lot of reviews and possibly talk to homeowners before choosing a builder. As I mentioned above, builders these days are known to cut corners to build homes quickly. You want a builder that is well-known and has a good reputation. Consider visiting homes that are in the building stage to check out their work.
If you choose a neighborhood builder (our choice): Once you find your builder, check out any neighborhoods that they are building. Take into mind location, available lots, price range, standard finishes that the builder offers for that neighborhood. Is the plot of land included in the price of the home? Are you required to purchase it separately? Are the lots in this neighborhood up to your standards? Do you like the area? Is it by a highway or tucked away on a side of town? All things to consider! You can never ask too many questions when it comes to building your house. We chose a neighborhood by our builder that is further out from the center of town (less traffic) with spacious lots (not right on top of your neighbors) and nicer standards (granite, double oven, 3 car garage comes with every house). You have to consider all of this when choosing a builder and neighborhood!
If you choose a custom builder: This method can be a lot more expensive. You'll likely need to find a plot of land to purchase wherever you want to live, then work with a builder and architect to draw up your house plans. Design fees are often associated with this process (but not always). Oftentimes you will be responsible for sourcing your finishes, light fixtures, etc., although builders and contractors partner with local companies that they can recommend to you. You may also be required to get a construction loan while your house is being built, which will roll into a mortgage when your house is complete. All things to discuss and consider if you want to build a custom home!
During the Build
No matter which type of builder you choose, you will want to monitor your home as it is being built. Visit the job site as often as possible. This will keep you up-to-date on the status of your home, and you can also check for any mistakes that are being made. Make sure all of the finishes are correct, all dimensions are what you expected, and ask questions about things that make you nervous. Our house has been in construction for 6 months and I have already found many mistakes. Our porch was 6-7" shorter than agreed upon, a door frame was placed in the kitchen where a window should have been, the wrong back door was ordered, they forgot to add a second shower head to the master bath (we paid extra to have two), and they got our master closet design wrong. You'll want to stay on top of it to make sure you are getting everything that you paid for! And communication is key. If you see something that may be off, speak up about it! This is your home and it should be everything that you expect and pay for.
During your build you will also get to choose all of your finishes! This is the most exciting part of the process, but it can also be the most overwhelming. You'll be required to make decisions on features that you never considered before, like if you want your countertop edge to be squared off or rounded, or what color you want the grout to be between tiles. There are many details that you need to decide on for your home. It helped me to browse Pinterest and save house photos that I liked. I paid particular attention to kitchens and bathrooms, cabinet and countertop combinations as well as shower tiles and backsplash options. I also researched flooring options (laminate vs hardwood vs wood tile) and countertops (quartz vs marble vs granite). This made a huge difference when it was time to pick our finishes! I already knew the look I wanted to achieve, so I chose the closest options available to make that happen. If you do not research beforehand, you may become easily overwhelmed by the numerous decisions and options that will be set before you. Don't forget to research your light fixture style as well!
After the Build
And once the process is over, nothing is more rewarding than finally moving into your new home! You now have exactly what you dreamed of and can finally begin living your 'happily ever after'! Take advantage of the home warranty (quality builders should include one) and send the builder a list of any issues you find after moving in. This can be something minor such as a switch that does not work to a sprinkler issue. You never know what you may encounter, but don’t be afraid to speak up after moving in as well. The builder should want to correct any mistakes. Hopefully there won’t be any, but it is common to find a few things here or there. Find them, have them corrected, and enjoy that beautiful new home!