Should I Buy or Build a House?
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If you’re looking for a place to call your own, the thought of building a home may have popped into your head. Constructing a new home is generally more expensive and takes more time and effort, but it can also ensure you get a home that’s move-in ready and customized to your liking.
Here’s what to consider if you’re deciding whether to buy or build a home:
Is it cheaper to buy or build a house?
It’s generally cheaper to buy an existing home compared to a new-construction property, according to the National Association of Home Builders. The average cost of building a new home was $296,652 in 2019, but buying land and budgeting for pandemic-related price increases will drive up that price tag.
When you combine those costs in 2021, the average price of a new single-family home was $477,800 in October, compared to just $377,300 for an existing home.
Of course, the actual cost of each type of home could look different for you depending on location and what you’re looking for.
Cost of buying a house
You probably already know that you need to save for a down payment, closing costs, and cash reserves when getting a mortgage for an existing home — the same as you would with a newly constructed property. But there are some additional costs you’ll likely incur when buying a home:
|Type of cost||Estimated cost|
|Homeowners insurance premium||$1,478 per year for a 10-year-old home|
|Real estate agent’s commission||5% to 6% of the home’s sales price|
|Ongoing maintenance||1% of the home’s value per year|
|Property taxes||Varies by location. May be higher on a new-construction home because they’re often valued higher than resale properties.|
|Sources: National Association of Home Builders, RedFin, and The Zebra|
Shopping around for a mortgage can be stressful. Fortunately, Credible simplifies this process and makes comparing multiple lenders easy. You can see prequalified rates from our partner lenders and generate a streamlined pre-approval letter in just a few minutes.
Cost of building a house
There are lots of pieces that go into building a home, and your home designer or builder can help you create a budget. In addition to the costs that come with buying a house, you’ll need to budget for the following building costs:
|Type of cost||Estimated range|
|Land and site work||$5,000 – $38,000|
|Foundation work||$16,600 – $72,000|
|Framing||$16,600 – $95,000|
|Exterior work||$20,000 – $95,000|
|Major systems||$17,000 – $72,000|
|Interior finishes||$42,000 – $167,000|
Pros and cons of building a house
You’ll have to consider whether the chance to build the home of your dreams is worth the trade-offs. Some of the pros and cons of building a house include:
Pros of building a house
- Customization: Depending on availability and the builder’s options, you may be able to fully customize your home in the neighborhood of your choice.
- Maintenance: Because everything is brand new, you likely won’t have to budget for major repairs and maintenance projects until later on. The builder may also cover the home under a builder warranty.
- Energy costs: Newly built homes come with windows, doors, HVAC systems, and appliances that are designed to keep homes as energy-efficient as possible. Using less energy keeps utility costs down and lowers your carbon footprint.
- Toxic materials: Some older homes are built with toxic materials such as asbestos, lead paint, and formaldehyde. New builds likely won’t use these materials.
- Competition: In a seller’s market, a home listing might attract multiple offers. But when you’re building a home, you won’t need to compete with other buyers once you buy the land.
Cons of building a house
- Cost: When you factor in the cost of land, building a home is typically more expensive than buying an existing one.
- Effort: Although you’re not the one picking up the power tools, you may put in a lot of work making decisions as the home is being built.
- Time: It takes 6.8 months, on average, to build a new single-family property, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. You’ll need to budget for alternative living costs during this time.
- Contractors: You’ll need to work with the general contractor along with various subcontractors throughout the homebuilding process. That means you could encounter more delays and issues because more people are involved.
- Landscaping: If your newly built home doesn’t come with landscaping, you’ll need to spend time and money getting the yard you want.
Pros and cons of buying a house
Buying an existing home is the more traditional approach as it typically saves you time and money. Some of the pros and cons of buying a home include:
Pros of buying a house
- Convenience: Buying a move-in ready home is a quicker and more convenient process than building a home.
- Time: Building a home takes almost seven months on average, while the timeline for buying an existing house is much shorter.
- Cheaper: Nationwide, the cost of buying an existing property is generally lower than building a new home. However, that may change based on where you are and what you’re looking for.
- Landscaping: Older homes typically come with mature landscaping, so you won’t have to spend time and money on a new lawn and plants.
- More style options: Homes in older neighborhoods often have a variety of architecture styles and floor plans, and they may come with a certain antique charm.
Cons of buying a house
- Competition: The average home listing received four offers in early 2021. In a competitive market with low inventory, you’ll need to make your offer stand out when buying a home.
- Ongoing repairs: The cost of ongoing repairs varies with each home, but professionals say it typically comes out to 1% of the home’s value per year. So a $200,000 home may cost $2,000 per year to maintain.
- Not as energy-efficient: An older home may come with older appliances and internal systems, so you’ll either pay higher utility bills or pay to replace these features.
- You may get less for your money: Existing homes are generally smaller than new construction, which means they may cost more per square foot.
- May contain toxic materials: Some older homes were built with hazardous materials such as lead and asbestos, which could put your family at risk. If you’re buying a resale home, it’s a good idea to test for these materials during the home inspection.
Don’t Miss: How to Buy a House: Step-by-Step Guide
Should you buy or build a house?
Because resale homes are generally cheaper and more convenient to move into, you might want to start your home search with existing properties. You can target desirable neighborhoods and spend a few weeks checking out the inventory there. These homes may not be in perfect condition or have exactly what you want — so plan on budgeting for renovations, new appliances, and ongoing repairs — but you might be willing to compromise if the price is right.
If you haven’t found what you’re looking for, then a new-construction home might be a good bet. Check out the costs of building in your area and the price of available land. Building a new home is usually more expensive, but there’s a reason for it. New homes come with new appliances, less maintenance, and better energy-saving measures, and they’re typically larger than what you’d find on an older home.
Check Out: How to Know If You Should Buy a House