General Question

eadinad's avatar

Is it cheaper or more expensive to have a house built?

Asked by eadinad (1278points) June 30th, 2008

Say I bought some land and paid contractors/designers/professional people to build a house on it. Would it be generally cheaper or more expensive than buying a newer but already built, comparable house?

Has anyone ever had a home built?


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10 Answers

richardhenry's avatar

In guess in theory it can often be cheaper, but a lack of experience could be the factor that drives up costs. Dealing with builders, managing site activity and knowing your way around legalities are things that can potentially be problems for people who haven’t had to deal with them before. Not to mention that it could become particularly stressful because it’s your own house.

richardhenry's avatar

FYI, this could be a little helpful:

robhaya's avatar

There was a previous thread similar to your’s a while ago that would be worth checking out.

The cost to build a house is relative to where you live etc…

Good Luck

vectorul's avatar

My father, lives in FL, is doing exactly what you are talking about. He bought a piece of property and contracted it all himself. You can contract your entire house if you know somebody who has already done it himself the same way, kind of like a mentor.
The biggest problem is finding quality sub contractors. My father has been through two electricians, and two cabinet guys.
He is also 6 months behind schedule.

buster's avatar

Right now is a good time to buy a home if you have the money. Houses are selling for a lot less than they were a year ago. There are a lot of homes for auction that were foreclosed on now because of the economy. You could find a foreclosed home that needs some work and really get a deal. My sister recently bought a H.U.D. home that was a foreclosure. Its a 1100 sq ft house with a one acre lawn. She bid online for it and made two bids. It sold for $42,000. It needs a lot of work but it will be worth at least twice that when shes finished.

Building a new home will cost you more. Lumber prices are up because of the flooding. They went up the same way after Katrina because everyone is rebuilding. Everything cost more at the lumberyard than it did a year ago because of shipping costs.

boffin's avatar

I/we built our house…Had a contractor shell it and the wife and I finished the rest. It was a bit of a hassle since we live in a very small area that has few builders. We also were lucky as we had the bulk of it finished before the big building boom in 2002. The sweat equity we have gained was well worth the effort. Plus it was kinda fun. We have something that we both can be proud of. Plus many memories, good and not so good…. Good luck with your project.

stevenb's avatar

A good idea nowadays is to get in touch with an advisor. Ask your bank about one. A lot of banks around here use them before they will give out loans. They are like a contractor in that they can get you good, reliable subs, and help with the scheduling and bidding. They are a good way to go if you want to do it yourself, because you are still the boss. It is probably still more expensive than buying a prebuilt home though, because most good contractors get price breaks on lumber, concrete, etc, because they buy so much. You get exactly what you want when you do it yourself, but if you have expensive tastes, well, you get the picture. Good luck!

jvgr's avatar

I’m an architect.

Assuming you could find exactly what you what (site, design that fits, building quality, efficiency, etc). It isn’t likely that you will do better than buying the existing house. But it is unlikely that you would find a perfect situation.

In my location, the going rate for architects to design a custom house is 15% of the construction cost. I won’t do a custom house for less than 20%.

What you should be getting from an architect is:
Design that fits your family.
Design that fits your budget (assuming your budget is reasonable for your location) and meets the jurisdictional requiremenets (building codes, development by-laws, etc.)
Contract Documents (drawings, specifications, bid form)
Architect will issue tender documents, evaluate bids and review with you.
Administer the construction, visiting the site as required, to ensure that the house conforms to the design you approved; review contractor’s monthly draws to ensure you aren’t overpaying, and ensure that your house is lien free prior to final pay-out.

@boffin’s suggestion (do your own interior finishing in all, most, or some of the house) is good for saving money.

If you have no experience in construction projects, an architect will be your safest choice for a problem free building experience.

You do have to go through a reasonable interview process to ensure the architect is one you are comfortable with.

If you intend to build a house from plans you buy from a plan service, be careful of the plan service. Many don’t provide enough detail to prevent a contractor from making substitutions that may be bad for you.

In my 30+ years of experience, I have only encountered 1 contractor who didn’t intend to build what was bid (low contractor, government financed, project). But I have seen the fairly widespread disasters that contractor’s can inflict on their customers.

stevenb's avatar

^ I wish we had architects like that around here. I have yet to meet one like you, here or anyplace else I have been. Most good general contractors I have met do what you describe as your job. The architects around here just draw what the builder or homeowner wants and never come back, and most don’t care about what happens after the print leaves their desk.

jvgr's avatar

Are you sure they are architects? Lot’s of people make the false claim.
Check with the local chapter of the AIA (American Institute of Architects). It’s not a mandatory membership, but most architects belong. They often have “find an architect” help.
Interview architects, get references, review your requirements including contract administration. People do hire architects without wanting their contract administration expertise (not a position I’ve ever accepted).
There are good and bad in all endeavours.

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