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Homeownership Options: Should You Build or Buy?

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If you’re at the point where you are finally ready to quit renting and start owning, you have an enviable decision point to make up your mind on — should you buy a ready-built home or hire an architect to have your own home designed and built? While either choice can produce very good results, specifics to do with your situation may lead you to choose one or the other method.

Choosing to build

The best argument for designing and building your own home rather than buying ready-made is that you get to have exactly what you want. It isn’t necessarily about achieving the aesthetics that you are partial to. In many cases, people simply have different needs. A homebuyer who needs a home with an extra-large garden and only a couple small rooms, a kitchen in the basement to save space (no matter what the feng shui experts say), or a large band rehearsal space with great acoustics, has genuine requirements that just wouldn’t be available in a ready-built design.

Many buyers who do prefer a customizable home but who need nothing as dramatically different choose to buy terraced homes. These are mass-produced, ready-built homes that do, nevertheless, offer a degree of customizability. Since these homes aren’t built to customer-specific designs, they are affordable, just as fully ready-built homes tend to be. You can have terraced homes built anywhere, not just in housing estates where they tend to be most commonly found.


There are other advantages to designing your own

When you build your own home, you get to exploit the latest in environmental protection and energy efficiency developments, advances that may not be available in ready-built homes. Investing in radon-free or asbestos-free home design and heating and ventilation standards that exceed current code requirements can be expensive. Ready-built designs tend to direct resources to things such as fancy kitchens, rather than great insulation.

The downside to building your own home is that in many ways, your choices become far more restricted. Since you need to buy a plot of land on which to build, you do not get to take advantage of the cost-sharing that multiple-unit designs offer. It can raise costs dramatically to have no more than one unit to a plot.

One-off homes can be difficult to plan construction costs accurately for, as well. Details as minor as a landscaping, window coverings, kitchen appliances and garage doors can be easily overlooked when architects draw up plans. You may need to be extremely cautious with your planning, aiming far lower than you would like.


Choosing to buy

When you buy ready built, nothing is overlooked in the prices of the homes that you are shown. While home quotes may not include extras like closing costs, commissions, fees and registration charges, they certainly do always include every article that goes into the making of a fully liveable house. When you buy ready-built, there is less room for the possibility that the need for unexpected extras will show up.

This kind of certainty can help when you obtain financing, as well. Since every extra that goes into the making of a liveable home comes with the home, it’s possible to have your mortgage loan cover it all (additional info at This isn’t true for a home that you build, though. Your mortgage will certainly not cover extras like kitchen appliances and curtains. There will be significant upfront costs for these extras as well as things like garage door mechanisms. You may find that it’s difficult to manage such expenses.


When it comes to the time it takes, it’s no contest

If you would like to not have to wait the six months that it usually takes to see a home designed, built and decorated to be ready to move into, the prebuilt course is usually the only way to go. With a good, well-connected buying agent helping you, it’s easy to locate the right house, arrange for mortgage, buy and move in in under four weeks. If you are buying with cash, as many buyers do now, the process can take even less time.

Certainly, buying prebuilt is easier by most measures. If you can set aside the need to go beyond current efficiency and environmental standards and the need for design customization, it is usually a far better choice than building. If these are primary to the way you envision your house, though, building your own home is the answer.


John McDonald works in property development and understands that homeowners often face a dilemma on issues like self-build. He is a regular online contributor for a number of relevant property websites and enjoys sharing his insights with an online audience.