If you are looking to buy a home but are intimidated by the costs, you may be wondering if it is cheaper to just buy land and build your own house.
Buying land and building a house can be cheaper if you have the patience to deal with the extra work and the knowledge to properly assess your finances for construction, as you can customize the location, materials, and design of the property to fit your budget.
Buying a home is one of the most exciting things that a person can do, but it is also one of the largest financial decisions that we will ever make in our lives, which puts quite a bit of responsibility and pressure on us to make the right choices. This can be greatly exacerbated by the ridiculous real estate prices that we have these days, as buying a home just isn’t what it used to be in our country. This has led many aspiring homeowners to consider alternative means of buying their houses - with many people opting for purchasing land to build their homes themselves. With that being said, you can save yourself a substantial amount of money by doing this but you need to make sure that you plan your development and planning very carefully so that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep reading to learn more about how buying land and building a house yourself is cheaper.
After decades of working as a real estate developer, I have had years of experience building houses and doing it as cheaply as possible. My experience has taught me that buying land and building a house can be cheaper - provided that you are willing to put in the extra work, carefully plan your project, and stick to your budget in the process.
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Buying Land & Building A House
The prospect of buying your own home is really what the American Dream is all about and while this is still so true to this day, it has become so much more challenging to achieve this in the modern age. For years, we have been watching the prices of rent and land skyrocket across so much of the nation, which is making this iconic dream much more of a fantasy for some. While buying a home has become more expensive and more complicated, it is by no means impossible thanks to the fact that you can buy land and then build your own house to save yourself money.
Building your own house is not something that most people these days have the knowledge and capability of accomplishing themselves, but with the right planning, budget, and construction team, this should be within the reach of any aspiring homeowner. This approach for buying a home is by no means new but many people are having to resort to it if it means that it will make them homeowners. And understandably so!
Buying land and building a house cannot only end up being cheaper in the long run but it could potentially work out in your favor. The reason for this is that you are given so much more freedom to develop your home the exact way that you want to. The most important thing that you need to keep in mind is that the responsibility of building your home as cheaply as possible will be in your hands, as you are the person that has to dictate the planning to lower the costs of development.
A failure to carefully plan your build and properly design your home can result in not only a house that is more expensive than market value but also a project that fails to meet your area’s zoning regulations, which can result in legal and financial complications. To avoid this you are not only going to need to invest your money but your time and your patience. To help you understand this further, we are going to take a closer look at buying land and building a cheaper house in more detail.
Budget & Pre-Planning
Before you begin doing any kind of location scouting or reaching out to developers, you are going to want to sit down and carefully assess your finances. If you want to buy land and build a house as cheaply as possible, you are going to need to be thorough and well-calculated with your budget and your pre-planning so that you have a solid foundation for every other aspect of your development and land acquisition.
To start, you should try to determine the absolute maximum amount of funds that you have for buying land and pursuing your build. This is not the ideal dollar amount for the project but just the cap that you set for how much you can afford to spend in case unforeseeable costs become a factor - which they often do. You should be sure to calculate this budget with precision so that you are not in over your head as you start to see costs adding up.
Many people in this situation opt for relying on a financial institution for buying land and developing their homes, as not everyone has cash on hand to commit to such a purchase out of pocket. Once you have established your budget, you should begin doing some basic pre-planning for your project so that you have an idea of what kind of land characteristics you are looking for as you begin scouting a location. More on this later.
You should be considering things like how large you want the property to be, how many rooms you want it to have, and what kind of natural setting you want to live in. Once your budget and pre-planning are in order, it may make sense to consult a developer with your plans to confirm if your specs are realistic for your budget. Whether you end up working with this developer or not, it never hurts to have the professional opinion of someone who is involved in the industry.
The first thing that you should recognize when wanting to buy land and build a cheap house is that location will likely be the most defining factor for the cost of your project. Any real estate developer will tell you that location is everything and while you may be able to cut costs on development, the price of the land itself is usually written in stone, which is especially true if you are wanting to develop in an attractive area.
If your initial planning for your development was realistic and within your budget, then you should be able to subtract this figure from your total budget so that you can get an idea of how much you have leftover for your land acquisition. The cost of land can greatly vary but you can expect there to be some common themes that dictate market trends which you should be aware of.
The bottom line is that the nicer the area and the better the local economy, the higher the price of land. In this situation, you need to ask yourself whether certain location features for your build are mandatory or if you have flexibility with where you end up living. This can prove to be quite challenging for individuals who still have their careers in front of them and are tied to a specific location for work. However, if you are not as location-dependent, you will find that this can greatly work out in your favor - given that you can choose to live practically anywhere - so long as it is cheap.
If you want to live in an urban area, then you will need to be a bit more careful with where you choose to set up shop, as urban areas, in general, will be more expensive. The reason for this is that most people prefer to live in cities as opposed to small towns and out in the countryside.
Urban environments have got a lot more attractive qualities to offer residents which would include things like schools, job markets, and entertainment. These factors all play into the value of the land and can greatly influence how cheaply you will be able to acquire real estate.
With that being said, if your calculations after your pre-development indicated that you do not have a lot leftover for buying the land itself, then you may want to be mindful of which city you develop your land in. Some cities will have significantly more expensive land on the market, but at the same time, some cities actually have reasonable land prices.
The best way to approach this is to go online and get some estimates for land figures across different urban areas within your state - or even the nation, as you will be amazed by how cheap some vacant land parcels can be for your development. Lastly, if you are considering a large city, be sure to check a variety of different neighborhoods and districts so that you can get a realistic price for land in the area.
To buy land and build a house as cheaply as possible, there is really no better place to do it than in the countryside. Land prices in rural areas can quite literally be dirt cheap in some areas, which is why this is one of the best options for building a house at a fraction of the cost.
Land prices in attractive urban settings can end up costing people hundreds of thousands of dollars just for a vacant property. Whereas you can buy land in rural environments for considerably cheaper than this and save yourself thousands of dollars on building your house.
What you need to keep in mind with buying rural land is that you may have much less available to you in your surroundings. If you do not mind living in solitude and away from civilization, then buying land in the countryside is going to be the way to go to save yourself cash on your home.
Design & Development
A major issue with buying a home that is pre-built is that you have no say or ability to lower the cost of the development. If a home has already been established, then all of the components and features of the property are already set and costs cannot be mitigated (except for on the negotiating table).
This can prove to be very problematic for a lot of aspiring land and homeowners, as there can be a mountain of costs that were added to the final value of the property that you could have easily avoided during the process of design and development.
Construction companies and real estate developers like to build cookie-cut houses that are predictable, identical, and priced in alignment with profit margins. By cutting out the middle man of your development (to a certain degree), you can have all of the power to dictate the terms of your build and avoid costs that are unnecessary for your home.
With that being said, you want to approach this part of your development with extreme caution, as you want to ensure that your project goes smoothly, does not violate any zoning laws, and is practical. Overlooking details during the design and construction phase of your build can be catastrophic for the final result of your home, which can greatly increase the costs involved.
Unless you are an experienced architect, then you will likely need to rely on professionals to get your project underway. The last thing you want to do is commit to faulty planning and jeopardize the construction of your house.
To avoid issues with this, you should hire an architect to assist you with the final design of your home. When you consult their professional help, you should stress that cutting down costs is a priority of yours so that they can keep this in mind when working on your design. The design of building projects can greatly influence the dollar value of a home.
If you want to have fancy architectural design inside and outside of your home, then you can expect the price to rise quite a bit. However, if you are okay with a modest design that is not flashy and overly complex, this can help reduce your costs significantly.
If you chose to hire your own architect for the project then you will have a design in hand to present to your construction company. However, if you chose to go directly to a construction company before working with an architect, then you will find that most developers have an architect that they work with. You should just be sure that the amount that they charge you for this is the same price or lower than if you hired your own architect (to reduce costs).
Once your design is laid out, you can begin establishing the nuts and bolts of your project by deciding things like what kind of materials that you want to be used. This can be a major factor that increases the value of a home - and choosing the right materials during your construction phase can help save you thousands of dollars on the final value of your build. Here are some examples of this:
- Paint - You are not going to want to have a cement-colored home, but what you can do is opt for paint brands that are considerably cheaper than some high-end options. Just make sure that they meet the quality standards that you want your home to have and are non-toxic.
- Roofing - A roof can be a major cost during your construction or it can be a minor one. The materials that you use for your roof, in addition to how large your property is, can greatly influence how much you end up paying. You can spend anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000 on a roof or you can pay as much as $10,000 to $30,000. Picking the right materials will be crucial to avoid unnecessary costs.
- Flooring - You can save yourself a lot on your construction costs by choosing the right flooring material for your home. There are some materials out there such as quality hardwood floors that can cost you well over $10,000. However, if you are willing to opt for carpet or laminate hardwood that can cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 (or even less).
- Kitchen - The cost of a kitchen can vary so much - with some costing as little as $5,000 and high-end kitchens amounting to $30,000 +. You can greatly lower the cost of your house by getting a modest kitchen with basic countertop materials and cabinets.
- Interior Design - If you work with an interior designer, make sure that they are on board with your budget. Interior design can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, but it can also be relatively cheap if you opt for lower design features.
Ultimately, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars on building your house, so long as you are willing to buy/use materials that are modest in price - or even low-end. At the end of the day, if you want to build a house considerably cheaper than a pre-developed home at market value, you are going to have to cut some corners to make it happen. However, that is not to say that you have to buy materials that are of poor quality. By doing the right research and adapting your standards, there is no reason that you can’t build a cheap house.
In addition, you should make sure that you are trusting a worthy construction company with your build. Some companies will try to charge you considerably more than others, which is why you want to be thorough when vetting organizations that you work with. Be sure to read plenty of reviews and look for organizations that have built a reputation for quality work that is reasonably priced.
Alternatively, you can always take a DIY with some (or all) aspects of the construction of your home. This is by no means the approach that most homeowners take with their residence but you would be amazed by the amount of money that you can save yourself if you roll up your sleeves and take care of some of the work yourself.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down because of COVID-19. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling