Do we build or buy a house?

This is my childhood home in Bosnia.

We listed our condo. Now, what?

Do we buy a house or do we build? That’s the question that has been giving us sleepless nights (no not our three month old baby) but the daunting dilemma of whether we should build our home or buy an existing one.

I have never looked into this until just now. What seems like all of a sudden to me, because the moment we listed our condo and showings started to happen is when I realized this was real. Like, we are selling our condo!! And then the question came about — what do we want to do? I have researched so much in the past two weeks that I feel like my brain hurts (haha!) and I have written so many notes trying to cover all the bases, all the questions, etc. And, let me tell you it’s a hard decision to make! But, here I am sharing some pros and cons of both — building and buying for anyone else that may be stuck in the same boat but also using it as a diary to document our process and our journey. This is a new chapter in our lives and I am being honest and open about it with you all.

I should mention that regardless whether we build or buy, there are a few things we are not willing to sacrifice when it comes to our dream home, such as:

  • Neighborhood
  • School
  • Big backyard
  • Minimum of 4 bedrooms
  • Split-level home
  • Finished basement

This will essentially be our forever home. Unless, we are forced to we don’t want to move again, at least not until the kids are in college, which omg! I cannot even wrap my head around the idea of them being in college. Anyways, we want a good neighborhood, good schools, big backyard for the kids, no cookie cutter houses, split-level is a must (not a fan of two story homes), minimum four bedrooms as the idea is that the boys share a room, the girls share a room, we have a room and one room would be set up as a playroom for them, a basement as that’s hubby’s dream, and a minimum of two bathrooms. We have four small children, our oldest being 6 years old and having a good schools for them is a must for us.

Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s see what makes this a hard decision on our end.

Building a Home

If we build our home, the advantages are obvious (to me!) — we get the house we want the way we want it with everything being new but the process is super long. There is a lot of cost involved — cost for the exterior, the “shell of the house” is one thing, and one could argue the least expensive part, but then the interior is where it gets costly. The plumbing. The electricity. You have to make sure you have access to city water and sewage or will a well be required. The dry wall. The floors. The kitchen and bathrooms are the most expensive in the interior part building. Granted you’ll have everything new, you still have to understand that you are spending an arm and a leg here. So a kitchen could cost you alone $20k, each bathroom you want is $10k – $15k. And, please don’t quote me 100% on this because this is what I came about after doing extensive research these past two weeks. I know I am missing some things but this is a rough draft for me too. You have to look for a land, and may not be able to find it where you’d like because it may be build up already. You have to find a reliable builder. And, where do you even start? How do you pick just one out of so many? These and a million other questions are going through my head.

Finding The Land

First thing is first, find the land and ensure you are able to build on it. This may sounds obvious but it’s better to be safe then sorry. Then the golden rule of you never know until you start digging. Digging the land, that is. You found the land, you got the okay to build there (because you’ll need a building permit) and then they come to dig the foundation. You never know what’s you’ll encounter until you start digging which is why this makes it the most variable cost of building a home. There could be boulders underneath. There could be bad soil. You may need to build your own septic and sewage. The average cost of excavation and foundation work is $33,447 according to this article I read. Then you can have all the costs of inspections of the land which are around, including waste removal .

The cost of building can quickly rise up if you don’t lay everything out. As stated above the exterior of the house is probably the least expensive part, which is the shell of the house. You have to be prepared to pick the siding, the exterior trim, etc.

The Cost of Interior

Then getting back to the cost of the interior. You have to keep in mind that you will have to budget for the cost of drywall, flooring, kitchen cabinets, countertops, bathrooms (most people will have more than one bathroom in their home which doubles that cost), plumbing, heating, architect and engineer drawings of it all. I used this calculator to come up with a general idea of the cost.

The more I researched, I found that a kitchen (not including appliances) would probably cost around $20k, then add in the cost of appliances based on personal preference again. Then the cost of each bathroom could be between $10k-$15k, which is just a standard bathroom. Obviously, half bathrooms will cost less. Then the flooring, if you want hardwood floors, etc., a rough estimate would be$15-$20k, depending on the square footage. We did hardwood floring in our 1022 sq. ft. condo and with labor and floors we picked it was $4500. Personally, I don’t want carpet in our home (whether we build or buy) but generally carpet costs less.

So, to summerize the disadvantages of building a house —

  • Cost (in general)
  • Finding the land
  • Not being close to town
  • The area you want being built up already
  • You never know until you start digging

Buying The House

Now, the process to buy an existing home is quicker and less stressful then building your own home. However, an existing home can come with some existing issues. One of the biggest disadvantages is that the home may not be to your liking but then again, you look for the one that will fit your statisfaction and budget. Sometimes, these don’t align so you have to make some improvements. Simply from looking at some of the houses, I have noticed that we would need to update the kitchen, replace the flooring (because most have carpets), and of course, paint.

You may need to replace the roof, the siding, flooring, update the kitchen and bathrooms, paint, replace HVAC (which costs roughly around $5k and lasts 20 years), replace furnace (which costs roughly around $4k and lasts 15 years), the roof should last about 25-30 years. Things like driveway may need work. The garage doors may need to be replaced, along with the windows. Speaking to a friend they spent around $15K on replacing their windows, and another $10k for the cement driveway. Again, it all depends on the house you select. The current seller may have updated a lot of things and the house may be truly a ‘ready to move-in’ house or you may find a fixer-upper and need to do everything. It is all personal preference, and personal ability aka budget.


If you buy an existing home a major perk is mature landscaping, and you would just do some upkeep and/or remove trees if you don’t want them there. If you are building a home, you have to incurr an additional cost for all the landscaping, because there won’t be anything but dirt.

Another major perk of building a home is that you have energy efficiency, but you can achieve the same with buying an existing home if you’re willing to and want to put in new windows, energy efficient lighting, etc. Again, it comes down to personal preference.

All in all, having looked at all so much information in these past two weeks it appears that buying an existing home and updating a few things would be less expensive than building a home.

The Move In Process

I didn’t mention that when you buy an existing home, you can probably move in right of away and do the updates at your conveience, which we personally wouldn’t do, we would update certain things first then move in. Those that have built, correct me if I am wrong, but generally it takes about a year or so to move into a home if everything goes smoothly.

I would love to hear from anyone that has experience with buying an existing home and everything you did to it, or didn’t do? Anyone that has experience with building a home and how much roughly did it cost you to do so? Was it worth it? Would you do it again? Leave me a comment below.

I will keep you updated as we navigate through this new chapter in our lives, so be sure to follow me on Instagram at @mrs.vesnatanasic as I share our journey with you all.

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