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Build your own house

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Building a house from scratch is fun, but can be expensive.

Building a home can be one of the most satisfying – or aggravating – activities that homebuyers can undertake. The difference between building a dream house and a “nightmare on Elm Street” has a great deal to do with being confident that building a home is the right option for you and then following through with many of the details related to building a house. Still, how to be sure that constructing your own custom home is the right choice for you?

To help you out a bit on that, we’ve made a list of all the advantages, disadvantages, compared housing prices, as well as drafted a rough checklist of all the things you need for construction so that you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting into!

Pros and cons of building your own home

Before making any decision, especially one that is so financially important, it’s imperative that you do thorough research to see if what you’re going for is worth the time, effort, and money. There are many things to consider when building a house, and we’ve laid out a short primer for you below.

Advantages:

  1. Customization: The biggest benefit of building your home from scratch is that everything, from the ground up, will be custom to your choice, including the bricks, the materials, and their quality, the flooring, interior cabinetry, and exterior landscaping. You’ll have complete freedom over your house’s personalization in a way that considers things like any special needs, a proper separate place for a home gym, etc.
  2. New components that are of the latest design: Since you’ll be buying everything yourself, you can search for the latest trends in housing designs and get the best components for your house, both design-wise and quality-wise. This includes better grade wood, elegant marble for your kitchen, stronger and beautiful ceramic items for your bathrooms, premium glass for windows, etc. 
  3. More efficient, environment-friendly systems installed: Older homes have lead paint, asbestos, and mold, which is toxic for the environment, may require being removed or maintained and are bad for the long-term. However, when starting from scratch, you’ll have the opportunity to build with the latest, most energy-efficient ‘green’ systems, which mean smaller bills and better resource management.   
  4. No worries about renovations or replacements: When you buy a house, it will almost always need an upgrade and some changes to model it to your liking and just make it liveable. And if you buy a home that’s already been renovated, its sale price will be higher than like-properties nearby. But with a new home, you won’t (hopefully) have to worry about maintenance or changes for a few years, at the least.
  5. Personal satisfaction: Having the chance to build your own home is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a project that resonates with many. When all the hard work, time, and stress pays off, it leaves the homeowner with a sense of satisfaction and happiness that’s rarely felt through other things. 

Disadvantages:

  1. More expensive than an existing home: The total cost of all the materials for your house and the construction cost will most likely be more than if you buy an old house. The price gap could be as much as $100k, excluding any extra renovations required on the old house. So it’s up to you if your comfort and customizations are worth the money.
  2. Time consumption: It takes a minimum of 8 months and as much as a year (depending on the size and added facilities) to construct a house. During this time, you’ll need to make other living arrangements. This means rent for that time. If you have a family, this can be a considerable cost.
  3. Potential ‘new house problems’: There’s a chance that some of your new stuff will have working issues in the beginning, like the plumbing, the mechanism of functioning cabinets, etc., and you’ll have to spend money on it until it works perfectly.
  4. Stress and anxiety: The daily travel to the site of construction, dealing with the budgeting, negotiations with the architect, construction contractors, material suppliers, etc. can be quite strenuous and leave you exhausted, both mentally and physically.
  5. More complicated issues: Just like with most things in life, building your own vs. purchasing a pre-made thing includes a whole array of complicated issues. When something is already built, the significant majority of the decisions (and problems) are already figured out. But when starting fresh, each new decision brings its own set of problems.

Weigh both the pros and cons, consider each aspect carefully while keeping in mind your needs, budget as well as time you can spend on this life-changing project. It would be best to discuss it with your family or friends and decide that you feel sure.

New house choices

If you decide that building a house (or buying a new one) is your best option, you will be confronted with several choices–there is no “one plan fits all” for new houses! 

If you want a clean, blank slate in which you have a say in every little or big decision, an empty lot and starting from scratch is the way to go. This way, you’ll be getting precisely what you want in both design and quality. You can also budget the construction, and instead of having everything from the start, you can opt for the basics and optimize later.

Nevertheless, there are other options, and depending on what’s more comfortable or more feasible for you, you could opt for one of the following plans:

  • You can buy a house that is already standing or is currently under construction and then add renovation or other specs to customize it a bit to your needs, although, of course, these additions would be limited.
  • Build a house in a subdivision of new homes where a builder can give you a choice of plans.
  • Buying off-plan is also a great option since you can purchase a house or apartment before it’s complete in an area of your choice. This almost guarantees that the final value will be much more than what you paid after it’s finished. However, in this case, you can’t add anything yourself during construction, and any changes you want will be made once it’s complete.
  • If you want a clean, blank slate in which you have a say in every little or big decision, an empty lot and starting from scratch is the way to go. This way, you’ll be getting precisely what you want in both design and quality. You can also budget the construction, and instead of having everything from the start, you can opt for the basics and optimize later.

Finding Contractors

Unless you are buying an already standing house or in a subdivision tract, you will most likely need to choose and employ an architect or builder’s services. Choose wisely. When your home is being built, you will be spending a lot of time with these individuals!

How much does it cost to build a house 

The construction cost varies from place to place and depends on many factors like the materials used, the house’s size, and the site location. But according to various surveys, building a house on average costs $250,000. 

If your house is on the low end, i.e., smaller in size and in a newer, not that developed area, it would cost about $178,000. Still, a house on the higher end, considering custom designs and appliances, could cost anywhere around $420,000. These are the typical ranges for a single-family home, which means 2-3 bedrooms, and these are the actual prices for construction; the cost of the land itself, landscaping, finishing out the lot, etc. would account for another $80,000 more.

Factors affecting house costs

The major factors that you need to incorporate in any plan and account for when calculating the cost of building a house are:

  1. Number of bedrooms / Size of the home: Surveys by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development have revealed the following major points.
  • 46% of new houses have four or more bedrooms, which would require a minimum of $400,000, and of course, more square feet of land.
  • 44% have three bedrooms whose average construction cost may lie anywhere between $250,000 to $310,000.
  • Less than 10% have two bedrooms, and they come in a range of $93,000 to $155,000.
  1. Per square foot costs: The cost a contractor charges per square foot varies from region to region but can lie from $85 – $155, which includes any overhead. For different areas in the US, the per square foot costs averaged, as reported by the US Census Bureau, are as follows.
  • South Region: $100
  • West Region: $130
  • Midwest Region: $110
  • Northeast Region: $155
  1. Materials, finish, and furniture: The raw materials, their caliber, choice of bricks, and wood, the distance between the site of construction and where you get your materials from, has a significant impact on the total cost. After this, the light fixtures, the tiles for flooring, new furniture, and appliances can add more to the budget. It should be mentioned that the latter things are an issue even if you buy a resale house.
  2. Architecture and the architect: Reputable and experienced architects will meticulously design the home and give significant consideration to its details. This, of course, means that you should budget accordingly. Moreover, more complicated and intricate layouts mean more material: lumber, drywall, roofing, etc. will be cut with every curve and turn, hence wasted away, increasing the demand for more raw supplies. 
  3. Labor Costs: The hourly charges of construction workers fluctuate from place to place, but generally, these costs are much more in urban areas than in rural areas or big cities compared to small towns.
  4. Project Schedule: The contractor will give you an estimated time needed to complete the house. However, things don’t always go according to plan, and sometimes there are unprecedented delays or setbacks which can push back by weeks, which means a rise in indirect costs and compensation.

Compromises and tips when building your own home 

Building a house often involves compromises. Many home buyers consider building because they feel they can’t find the “perfect” place in the resale market. Be aware, though, that unless you have an unlimited budget, are building on a highly adaptable lot, and are a great distance from your nearest neighbors, you will have potential compromises you will need to deal with. Some examples are:

  • Cost: What you want may cost more than you want to spend.
  • Lot: The lot you have selected may not accommodate the type of house you want to build.
  • Building Codes and Regulations: How you want to build the house may not fit within the building codes of your locality.
  • Neighborhood Covenants: The neighborhood in which you want to build the house may have covenants or restrictions that limit the type, size, or style of the homes within the community.

Other than these compromises, we have a page dedicated to useful tips and hints to build your own home and now have a full experience of this endeavor are briefly discussed here.

  • Extensively plan each phase of your project and make sure you know what you’re getting into. Building a home shouldn’t be a spur of the moment decision; it should be made after much deliberation and discussion.
  • It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to get the right people for the job; people who know what they’re doing are skilled in their craft, and most importantly, people you can trust. 
  • Get your finances in order. If you have to apply for any loans, do so timely and adequately budget for everything. Have a rough estimate for each part before starting rather than just one singular final cost. Pro tip: Always over budget! If you think something will take $1000, consider $1100 in your estimates. This keeps you a step ahead of any overshoots or unpredicted costs.
  • Keep open communication with all the people working with you, including the carpenter, steelworker, architect or designer, etc. More importantly, be kind and respectful in your interactions as well as your contracts.
  • If you’re on a tight budget, cut down on extra things and decorations like a fancy chandelier or outdoor furnishings. This means that always be on the lookout for ways to save. For starters, some land sites or types require less hauling, leveling, or preparation to start constructing something on top; go for those. Wetlands or areas with a lot of soil can be hard to work on and may later lead to problems.
  • Hire an independent inspector who oversees each construction stage to ensure that all the building materials and designs meet the necessary codes and regulations. This is very important, could reduce a lot of stress on your part, and will help avoid any problems that may arise later on related to regulations.
  • On the off chance that something goes seriously wrong or things don’t work out with some of the people you’re working with, know your rights! This includes being aware of what you signed for in your contracts and deals as well as rights granted to you by the government.

Enjoy yourself each step of the way

The last and most important bit of advice is to enjoy the process as much as possible. Mistakes are made, mishaps happen, things never go the way they’re planned, but many of these mistakes are learning experiences that usually turn into happy accidents. Don’t stress too much on them and learn to not dwell on something for too long; move past it, innovate on the spot and trust us; the results will be worth the blood, sweat, and tears.