Having experienced the house building process, I have learned a lot and wanted to share a few thoughts here in case you ever face the dilemma of building vs. buying. There is an Armenian saying that every man must “plant a tree, have a child, and build a house.” I think the last one is questionable in the literal sense (though in the saying it’s really about making a home for a family).
The Emotional Dimension: The project of building your home is unlike any other project. It is an emotional project directly hard wired to your self esteem. After all your house may be one of your largest assets. Your house is also most likely one of the key elements in your external and internal image. As if trying to make this even more emotional, building a house is about your ability to take on a large, expensive, and complicated challenge and seeing that through to completion. You might be trying to make a statement to your spouse, your in-laws, many others but most importantly to yourself.
The Business Dimension: At the same time, building involves many business relationships where trust, money, specifications, deadlines, and quality matter a lot. This project comes with numerous interdependencies between many parties such as the banker, the builder, the subcontractors, the family, the city, the designers, the lawyers and the suppliers. In addition to everything else that you do (work, home, school, activities, etc.), you must make quick and correct decisions daily and sometimes hourly for months. Large sums of money are handled in legal transactions. There is significant uncertainty in all aspects at all times.
Should you build? Success requires the ability to balance these two separate yet intertwined dimensions constantly which is extremely difficult. Furthermore, the benefits are a bit overrated given the massive investment. By investment, I mean the financial, emotional, but more importantly time investments required for a successful house building project. As a result, I believe building a house makes little sense for most people who are not in the residential construction business already. If you are seeking the knowledge or the experience that comes with building a house, why not build a house for someone else or manage a few smaller house remodeling projects instead? Buying a house is generally also much more economical.
Should you buy? I think so. In good markets, you may be able to get a great deal on a house of your dreams. The buying process is far simpler with greater odds on your side. Given the thousands of homes for sale, chances are that you can find one that’s very close to your needs and need not build a house to satisfy the family. Also, given today’s dynamic lifestyles, you can sell what you bought easier than what you have built (due to amount of hard work invested) even though in the case of buying emotional attachment also takes place. If maintenance is your main concern, why not buy a recently built house.
Looking back at all of the details that we had to consider, all of the work that we put into the process, and all of the time that we invested, I feel the reasons to build hardly justify the price you pay.