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When you make the decision to head out and homestead, the choices definitely don’t stop there. There are a number of other decisions, with dozens more cascading down from each decision you make. One of the next most important, however, is whether it is better to build or buy a house and whether it is cheaper to build or buy a house.
Buying or Building
There are pros and cons to either buying or building a new house when it comes to your homestead. For example, an already established home will already have all the infrastructure in place that you’ll need. Access to electricity, water, sewer, and the internet is pretty much guaranteed. If you build, however, you may be responsible for some, or all, of that. Installing a septic system, digging a well, and trenching to bring in electricity from wherever the nearest access box is will all be your responsibility. Even if you plan to live off-grid, you’ll have to figure out how to achieve these things legally unless you buy a home that already has them established.
It’s also important to think about the age of a home when you’re buying as opposed to building. When you build a house you’re going to be using the newest, highest quality materials. You aren’t going to be dealing with potential issues like asbestos or lead paint. Depending on the age of a pre-built home there may be problems you have to contend with that will complicate everything from how you deal with it to getting financing. In a number of situations, it may be flat-out healthier to build your own home.
Is It Cheaper to Build or Buy a House?
Cost is one of the top concerns when it comes to choosing your new homestead home. It may be cheaper to buy a prebuilt home depending on your homestead location. The average cost to build is between $165,000 to $485,000. Plus land prep can add costs to building your home that you weren’t expecting. In addition, financing a pre-built home is much easier and less confusing than getting financing for construction. However, if the home you’re looking at is popular and it’s a seller’s market, you may find yourself in a bidding war with a climbing house price that is quickly skyrocketing well out of your budget.
However, a prebuilt home is less customized. This may mean having to make costly renovations to get your house into the style and condition that you truly will be happy with. Depending on the age of a prebuilt home, there may also be costly maintenance issues and chances are it is less energy efficient than something newly built. You may also end up having to replace things like appliances, repainting walls, or changing out other decor issues while building means buying what you want and like right from the get-go.
Hands down it is more convenient to buy a pre-built home even with all the steps involved: including financing, viewing, offers, inspections, and closing. These are way more common and there are many more resources dedicated to helping you walk through it all than there are for construction loans.
Furthermore, you don’t have to wait for construction if you buy an already built home. When escrow closes you can step right into your new life and get going. You won’t have to get out right away and tackle landscaping because it’s most likely already established.
However, if you’re looking to build just the right house and want the freedom of getting to put it almost anywhere you like, you can’t go wrong with building. Buying a prebuilt home means you’re limited to the property that’s already there. This could be in a neighborhood, and you can’t pick your neighbors. Building gives more customization, not just in the design of your home but the location as well.
Making the Right Choice to Buy or Build Your House
Deciding whether to build or buy the home for your homestead is a very personal decision. If you don’t plan to stay long or aren’t completely sure that homesteading is for you, then we recommend you buy something already built. This way, down the road, it will be easier to put back on the market when or if you have to leave. Save building a custom home for when you’re going to settle down in a place permanently. The cost of building becomes less of a concern when you are considering building a home to live in for fifty years as opposed to just ten.
If you decide that building is right for you, there are a few keys to building a custom home.
- Stick to a schedule – set this up with your construction team and agree on terms before construction begins
- Pick a house plan you like and plan for the future – you may not have kids NOW or think your parents will move in when they get older, but plan for it just in case.
- Plan for storage! One of the number one complains people have about their home is lack of storage. Make sure your houseplan has more storage than you think you could ever need. You’ll be surprised how much you accrue over the years.
- Research your contractor options and get honest reviews from anyone who has worked with them. Don’t just look for customer reviews either. Go to your local planning office and ask them for their recommendations and which companies they like to work with.
- Expect unexpected expenses. There will always be things that you didn’t expect that come up and aren’t included in your construction costs. Have a buffer set aside that you can pull from without hurting yourself financially.
- Buy fixtures that you like, not fixtures that are cheap. It’s tempting to cut costs by choosing cheap fixtures, but resist the urge and go with high quality fixtures that you like and that won’t wear out or break when they’re only a few years old.
- Have a hand in building your home. Even if you have a great construction crew, ask your builder for ways to be involved. Remmeber, sweat equity makes owning your own, custom home, just a little bit sweeter.
- Finish construction before moving in. Don’t just hustle in as soon as the walls are up. Finish the flooring, painting, and other details so that when you move in your house is ready to live in. This way you can truly appreciate and enjoy your hard work.
- Don’t go crazy with colors. Stick to neutral colors and ideas for wall-paint. Rely on accents such as furniture and artwork to bring color into your home. Bold, and especially dark colors, are expensive to correct down the line.