Briefly exploring Building from Scratch or Buying Move-in Ready

The Easy Way, or My Way (or both)

You want to buy a new home, but you’re battling with a major decision -- should you build it from scratch or buy one that’s move-in ready? There are pros and cons to each that need to be weighed carefully before you make a final decision. After all, this is one of the biggest purchases of your life and you want to make the right decision:

Wants and Needs

Frank Sinatra had it right when he said, “I did it my way,” and when you build a home from scratch, you’re doing it your way. You get to pick out every design, every wall covering, every banister, every cabinet -- everything. The entire home is being built to your specifications of your wants and needs. It really is move-in ready for you. 

The not-so-obvious flip side of the equation that first-time builders often forget is the tremendous time and attention commitment this requires. It often sounds like fun, but having a team of builders waiting on your every decision turns out to be a lot more work than many bargained for. Remember, each tile choice, molding, door knob and fixture will have to be decided by you. 

However, if you decide to purchase a home that’s move-in read, it doesn’t mean that you won’t want to make some changes. You loved the clean, beautiful new granite countertops and can live with them for now, but you always wanted black concrete countertops. Even though what you have is perfect and the place is in good condition and move-in ready, you may have to invest money later to switch countertops. Your budget needs to accommodate that and any other upgrades you want to make. 


When it gets down to brass tacks, building a home from scratch does tend to cost more than buying a resale value home, even one that’s move-in ready. What size home you build, what appliances and decor you choose all depends on your budget. There’s also the cost of the land, the blueprint fees, architect fees, building permits, land surveys, building materials, and you might just price yourself right out of your dream home. Make sure you make a list of must haves before you begin so you don’t overdo it.

Another thing on budget is margin: this is essentially a margin of error on the budgeting leaving a full 10-15% extra funds available. No matter how much planning you do, even with expert planners and builders this fund almost always gets used.

If custom building isn’t an option, consider semi-custom modular or pre-fab, where you can choose a home layout that’s already made and just modify some of the things to fit your needs. This doesn’t save as much money as it does planning and building time.


How soon do you need to be living in your home? Custom building a home can take patience because it can take over a year to finish it. Sometimes there are delays with materials being delivered. A move-in ready home is just that -- move in ready, so it might fit your moving schedule a little better. 

Finding a Builder

If you decide to custom build, you need to find an experienced builder that you trust. Research candidates through the National Association of Home Builders and the Hudson Valley Builders Association. Make sure to ask for references, see a portfolio and that no one has filed any complaints about them to the Better Business Bureau. Once you have a new names, ask for detailed estimates on the job that you want them to perform. If you’re working with a bank to finance your new construction, asking them for recommended builders as a starting point, then vetting those can lead to a smoother financing experience since the builder and lender already know and trust each other.

Of course, there is a third option -- you could just renovate your existing home and stay put. This will save you a bundle on moving and building costs. If you’re interested in remodeling, you’ll have to hire a remodeling expert. Check NARI for a list of local remodelers and ask three for references and an estimate of the job to be done. 

Before you begin, weigh all of these options and decide which is the best for you, your time and your budget.