To Build, Buy New, Buy Used Or Don’t Move?
Not everyone is meant to build their own home. I frequently see clients walk into our showroom and, within minutes, I can tell they’re not really good candidates for future home builders.
Maybe they’ve heard about how “great” home building can be from a friend or family member, or maybe their neighbor just built a home and they were impressed with how it looked. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to get excited about building a custom design home, but the reality is often very different from the “dream.”
Many people want to build a home for emotional reasons; and that’s fine. We’ve already talked about how exciting it is to build your own home, to see your dream come to reality. But, a lot of folks can’t see past the dream, that illusion they have of what it means to build a home, and I can tell as soon as I start talking to them that they’re just not ready for the financial, emotional and physical commitment required to turn a dream into a dream home.
Leave Your Options Open
The question you have to ask yourself is, “Can I commit?” Not everyone can. Again, why would a custom home builder dissuade you from building a custom home? I’m not! But, I want to work with people who are ready, willing and able to make that commitment to the process of building a home, not just the emotion that makes them say, we should build something.
Building a custom home is not the only game in town. Never was and never will be. You have options; several of them. The way I see it, in fact, you have four choices when it comes to your home:
- Build: You can build a new home from scratch, which is what we’ll be talking about in this book.
- Buy New: You can buy a new home that no one has ever lived in before.
- Buy Used: You can buy a home someone has lived, either directly from them or a Realtor.
- Don’t Move: Finally, you can stay put.
Naturally, some of these options are more glamorous than others. Let’s revisit a few:
Buying a new home has a lot of great benefits, including that wonderful “all new” factor that means you won’t have to turn right around and rip out the carpet or replace the air conditioner or fumigate the kids’ rooms. On the other hand, it’s “new,” not “custom new,” so you still have to abide by what the original designers built “for” you, not exactly “with” you.
Then, there’s buying a used home, one that could be five, ten, or fifty years old. Some people love to buy used homes, fix them up, work on them during all of their spare time and make the home an ongoing project. It’s a project for them, much the same way building a custom home is a project for my clients.
Others see buying a used home as a way to still get out of their rut, move into a new neighborhood, or maybe even get “more home for their money,” without the added expense of a custom or new home.
Oftentimes, buying a used home is the cheapest of these four alternatives, save from staying home. Materials, technology, property, workmanship, even craftsmanship was always cheaper once upon a time in the past than it is today, and so getting a great deal on an existing, “used” home can often satisfy those emotional cravings that make folks want to build a custom home.
Of course, used homes are not new and never will be again. It’s a lot like buying a used car. You could be buying a great deal… or a lemon. You simply just don’t know. You can take care to assure yourself that you’re getting a quality, “as is” home that won’t fall down around you the minute the former owners drive away, but a lot of people still aren’t comfortable with taking that risk. That’s why so many people buy new homes. They want warranties, new appliances, the latest energy technology, design- the works.
And lastly, I know it may not sound very “sexy” to simply “stay home,” but the fact is… timing is everything. If you’re not ready to build a new home, either for the expense, the compromise, the time, the energy or the collaboration, staying put could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and months worth of headaches.
Making decisions like these – to build a home, buy new, buy used or stay home – will never actually be easy, but there is freedom in choosing. Once you go through the process of deciding which path to home ownership is the right one for you, you can settle in, be content and do the work that needs to be done to make that goal a reality.
But first, you have to decide.
New is Better; Custom New is Best!
Let’s talk straight: New homes, in my opinion, are better than older used homes simply because the advances in technology, materials, skilled labor, etc. You can start fresh.
Questions Lead to Answers: Prioritizing the Process
At Whiteside Custom Homes, we run a showroom, not a sales floor. And, I think that’s a pretty important distinction. By that, I mean we don’t expect you to walk in, buy something, and leave on your very first trip. In fact, we don’t want you to! Yes, we have salespeople and we want your business, but not at the cost of your peace of mind, or ours, for that matter.
I’ve spent so much time talking about the mentality of building a custom home because I believe it’s critically important to have the right mindset before you start; even before you decide to start.
Here are five questions to ask yourself before deciding to build a new home:
1.) Do you have to be in control in all situations?
It takes a village to build a new custom home, and while you are most certainly the customer and eventual homeowner, you’re not necessarily the “boss,” if you know what I mean. The team we assemble at Whiteside Custom Homes includes knowledgeable experts, not just in the actual construction but the planning, organizing, implementation, design and facilitating aspects of such a significant project.
You will have people making suggestions on everything from flooring and landscaping to roofing and kitchen cabinets to faucets and all the way down to the nuts, the bolts and the pitch of the roof.
All of these people will be working for you, but they will all be working under their own steam and in conjunction with one other, meaning you won’t necessarily be in control of all situations at all times. Not everybody is okay with that, particularly when they’re spending new custom home dollars.
2.) Are you excited by change or something new?
I always say that building a home is first an emotional decision, then a physical operation. That’s because the desire to build a new home doesn’t necessarily come from the smell of fresh lumber or the desire to put on a hard hat, but the stirrings of change within a particular individual, couple or family.
Building a new custom home is exciting and it should be exciting. You should be excited about it. It’s also about change- a lot of change. You may be going from 1,500-square feet to 4,000-square feet, from single story to two-story, from apartment or townhouse to a freestanding dwelling. These changes are adjustments and require a particular level of energy to commit to.
3.) Do you need a new home?
Let’s shift from the emotional to the physical and ask, “Do you straight up need a new home?” This may seem like a simple question but the fact is many people who think they “need” a new home just want one. They want what their neighbors have, what their friends or other family members have, they want to keep up with the Joneses, or simply be the Joneses. That’s more want than need, and can lead to trouble when the design team start drilling down to details.
However, if the emotional want is matched with a physical need, then the motivation for building a new home becomes clearer and the process simpler. If you need a bigger house, a newer house, a smaller house, a different style of house, one with features you’ve always wanted and now can afford, such as a view of the setting sun, a better neighborhood for your family, a pool or garden or backyard barbecue outdoor living area, or lush landscaping, then the decision to build a custom new home simply makes more sense.
4.) Are you a perfectionist? Do people actually *call* you a perfectionist?
No home is perfect; there is always compromise. If you are a perfectionist who can’t understand, abide or compromise, then the build is going to be long, arduous, unpleasant and, ultimately, unsatisfactory. Not because everyone didn’t try to please you, but because perfectionists simply can’t be pleased.
5.) Do you and your spouse agree/argue most of the time? (FYI, most of the time is 80 percent.)
In the next section, I talk about your “building family,” but here I want to talk about your actual family, particularly your spouse. Do you argue most of the time? (And for the record, most of the time is 80 percent or more). If so, building a new home is probably not for you.
If you’re fighting under ideal conditions, before you start to design and construct a new home, then imagine what it might be like when the imported Italian Tile shipment is delayed by a few days, which sets back the schedule a week, which impacts the roofing team, and the tile crew, creating a ripple effect that ultimately creates stress, challenge and delays for all involved.
Building a new home can be challenging for all couples, even the healthiest, friendliest and easiest going. But for those who already argue a significant portion of the time pre-construction, the challenges can turn the construction itself into a nightmare, which bleeds into your enjoyment of living in the home once it’s actually built. Are you prepared for that? Is your spouse?
Or, think of it this way; if there is a screaming match every time you and your spouse and your family go out to eat, how much more intense are those battles going to be every time a decision needs to be made on a new home?
I ask these questions of every client, whether formally or informally. Look, we’re a small family business with an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. That’s because we really do treat your family like our family, to the point where we, a). Want to see your dream of constructing a new home become a reality but, also, b). Don’t want to sell you on something you don’t really want, need or are ready for.
Building for Success: It’s a Family Affair
Think of building a home like taking a long trip with your extended family. Not just your wife and grown kids, but their spouses, in-laws, stepchildren, etc. Now add your travel agent!
Building a home takes time; from planning to conception to construction to completion, it’s a months-long effort full of ups, downs and compromises. What you want is a team, a “building family,” as we like to call it, that you’d actually like to go on vacation with for an extended time.
All parties need to go along to get along, to understand each other, to enjoy spending time with each other and, ultimately, to make important compromises based on price, technology, tools, skill, resources, etc.
I’m not saying we have to be best friends, but there should be a certain level of respect, understanding, and yes, companionship if we’re going to build a house together.
Listen, not every home builder is going to run you through a questionnaire to see if you’re up for the challenge of building a custom home with them. Most likely they assume you’re grown, sane adults who can handle the stress of building a custom home and, if not, you’ll either sink or swim along the way.
But, we build showcase custom homes and that requires a higher level of commitment from you and equally from us. We also consider you a part of the Whitestone family, and like all good family, we want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you start the process, not midway through!
This is a book I want to be able to hand to my family; my brother or sister, parents or uncles, nieces or nephews. So, I’m speaking to you as I would speak to them. If I could tell them what I’ve learned after doing this for over thirty years, this is what I would say. I wouldn’t let my family rush into building a custom-designed home, so I’m not about to let you – my building family – rush into it, either.