Sunday, May 29, 2011

Should you buy a house or build one?

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There comes a time when everyone of us wanted to own a house. Because, for most of us, this would mean no more monthly rent which is one of the biggest considerations in having your own place to stay. When you have your own house, you can do whatever you want with it, drill holes to your walls so that you can hang your state of the art TV (which let's face it, you will never be able to do on a rented place), put more lights on your ceiling or even paint a room with the most outrageous color you can think of.

So the question is, would you rather buy a house or build one? Which is more simple, which is more economical and which is more practical?

There is actually no straight forward answer to the question. But let me just point out some of the things to consider in building or buying a house.


First we go through with building your dream house. What you need to build your house.

Before you could actually build your house, you need to have a floor plan. What is a floor plan? To put it simply, it is a map of the proposed house showing where each room, toilet and bath, living room and every other places of your house drawn to scale. It is like seeing your house from above without your roof, it is like a top view of each floor or level of the house. Floor plans will also include your electrical (plus electrical load computations) and plumbing layout and structural design

So how to get yourself one? You can contact an architect to design one for you. You can then tell him or her exactly what you want like how many rooms and the size of each room, how much light you want coming in and every other details. Don't be shy no matter how outrageous it may sound because in the end you and your family will be the one to live in it. Just tell everything you need or desire in a home and your architect will translate those into the floor plan.

I must warn you though that these guys do not come cheap. I can not comment on the price since it varies from every location and the caliber of the architect you hired.

You must also tell him or her your budget for the house. This is very important so that, in designing your house, your architect will make adjustments and can give you advice what is best for you and won't be putting materials that maybe beyond your budget.

Ask also your architect not to finalize the plan but instead make one and have another thorough review with him or her before making the final plan. This way, any mistakes made or anything that was misunderstood will be corrected. Also, bear in mind that this may take sometime to finish one. It could take weeks or even a month before your architect comes back to you with the proposed layout.

Now that your floor plan is completed, what is next? Remember those electrical load computations and structural design mentioned earlier? An architect is not qualified to make one for you. Instead a certified electrical and civil engineers are the only ones who can do them for you. Actually, your architect can make these arrangements for you. So after you have approved the floor plan an electrical and civil engineer will make those magic numbers with some formula only them understands.

After that are you ready to build your house? Nope, not yet. What is next for you then? You need to have some soil tests of your proposed site. But what is  it good for, you may ask. In layman's term, the test will give you an idea whether or not your soil can support the structure you are trying to build which in this case your house. It will also tell the drainage rate for a particular soil. Without this report, your local government will not give you a permit to build your own home. It is a precaution necessary so that your house won't eventually sink or roll over all because your soil can not support the weight of your house.

How to get one? For this you have to do it yourself and contact a geologist. They will dig a hole as deep as necessary to get the data needed where your house can be supported. For residential purposes, they will dig 2 holes. And they charge each hole they dig. They will take the soil samples they have collected and send it to a lab for analysis. This could take several days to several weeks depending on where they send the soil samples and how swamped the lab is.

Now that you have your house plan and found your soil safe to build your house, you can start building! But wait, you need to have a permit first before you can start building. So what will you do? You have to submit all these to your local government office and they will start to study them. You need to watch out however for some people out there who would want to make quick money from you even at the city/municipal engineer's office. People at the engineer's office may try to tell you that you need to shell out more cash so that you get your permit faster otherwise they will hold on to it as long as they can. For this, I do not have an answer for you but if you are one of those people who hates corruption, then just say NO.

Tip: Your architect can actually handle this process for you as well.

If you are also building on a subdivision, then you will also have to ask a permit from your home owner/subdivision officials.

When your application for a building permit has been approved you can start erecting your house from the foundation to the roof. but it is easier said than done.

There are two ways you can do this, you can either have a contracting company to build it for you or you can do it yourself by hiring your own labor with the continued services of your architect.

If you choose to hire your own labor, you will have to deal with the excavation of the lot, to buying materials for the construction. Just make sure that your architect visits the project to make sure that everything is as per specification because let's face it you don't know that stuff yourself.

Warning: Before cutting down trees you have to get a permit if it needs one. Ask your local government's office where to get one or if you even need one. This will save you from a lot of trouble, trust me.

In a few months, you will have your dream house complete and you are ready to move in granting that you have enough money to finish it.

If you choose a contracting firm, you need to make sure that it will not run away when you give your money to them. You need to establish that it has a good reputation and can deliver. But most importantly, do not ( I repeat DO NOT) make payments when the job is not done. And make sure that everything is on paper. What I am saying is you need to have a binding contract with the company and always ask for receipts for payments. This way when things turn sour, you can run after them.


How about if you just go by your own house? Then you can just scan the papers or look at the internet for a ready made house and buy it. All you need to worry is sealing the deal with the current owner and the transfer of the deeds to your name. Or you can contact a real estate company to build your home. Just look at their models and pick the one that you like best. All the above mentioned are still needed but the nice thing with it is that all these are taken cared off for you by the real estate company. And in months your house is built, even faster than when you build it.

So why even go to the hastle of doing it yourself when you can have your home done for you in even less time?

I guess to answer this question we need to list down the pros and cons of each.

Build your house:
  • You can specify every detail to your liking.
  • You need to have to spend time ( a time you may not have) into planning and building your house.
  • You can choose the location where to build.
  • You can put provisions for further additions in the future.
  • You can make sure the quality of design and finishing.
  • If you do not have enough money to finish it, you will not be able to move in until it is done.

Buy your house:
  • Just contact a real estate company, sign the contract and watch your house get built.
  • Choices for location is limited to where the company is building.
  • For a previously owned house, you may like the house but not the location.
  • There might be some parts of the house you do not like and you might want to try to change it at your own cost (extra cost).
  • You can move in as soon as it is finished even if you have just payed only a portion of the total house cost which means money spent on rent can now go on paying for your house.
So going back to our question, should you buy a house or should you build one? If you have the means and you really want a specific design to your house then by all means build your own house. By "means" I mean money and time. Money in that you should have enough to pay for it from start to finish and you must put some time from your schedule to go over details to your house.

But if money is quite tight but have enough to pay for the initial payment and will be able to pay succeeding payments then buying one might be a better option. You will not be able to have everything to your specifications but should be close enough otherwise you will not be buying it anyway. This way, you can start living at a house of your own and instead of paying your rent, you can use that to add to paying your house.

Have you made up your mind so far?

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