Deciding whether to build a house or buy an existing one is a big decision. While both offer a place to call home, the journey getting there and the uncertainties along the way can be very different.
Buying vs. Building
When I bought my first home, a 1970 model complete with orange and gold painted rooms, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into. I walked the floor plan, saw how the light filled the autumn-toned interior and got an overall feel for the home’s atmosphere. With that information, I was able to plan my renovation. But after too many hours in home centers, and too many weekends covered in remodeling dust, I decided to start from scratch and build a home that my current one could never be.
Shortly after I started the building processes, I realized the home-building experience was very different than the ‘buying an existing home’ experience. With the renovation, I could budget my expenses by doing a little at a time, and I could see the progress and tweak it as I went along. Building a home let me customize things to my taste, but oddly enough, I felt less in control and more restrained.
While part of me was saying, “just sell the lot and forget it,” I moved forward and identified three things that concerned me the most about the project. I created some safety nets that made the unknowns seem less intimidating and helped make the process more fun.
1. Digging the foundation
Oil is probably the only thing you’d want to strike when digging a basement. Unfortunately, most people don’t strike it rich, but hit water instead. My lot was in an area that had a lot of backyard ponds, so I was worried about hitting water and ending up with a flooded basement.
Solution: I hired a professional who completed a land/soil test or basement evaluation. The results revealed that I could have a pond, but fortunately, it wouldn’t be in my basement.
2. What if I didn’t like the design?
All I had was a drawing and some measurements. How could I commit to that?
Solution: Change orders! For the things I wanted to change, I could request a change order, which would either increase or decrease the cost of the home. Some home builders charge a fee for change orders. Luckily mine didn’t as I had over 10 of them by the time my house was complete.
3. Going over budget
There are horror stories about runaway costs, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage when it was done.
Solution: I discovered that there were only a few things that were uncontrollable expenses. To be prepared for a price hike, I budgeted 5 percent extra for things that neither I nor the home builder could control. For example, the excavation cost me a little extra because I was building in sand and it took extra “scoops” as the sand kept sliding back into the hole.
I also worked with my builder on ways I could save money. I shopped at home centers for my lighting and interior doors, resulting in a surplus in some of my allowances, which reduced the overall cost of my home.
Building my house had a lot of unknowns. But with planning and flexibility, I built a dream I can now call home.