floor plan on white paper

Should I Build a House?

Probably best to contextualize this question. If you’ve been reading along, you know that we are exploring the real estate journeys of different buyer & seller archetypes. Up first: The Eastwoods (read more about them here). They want wide-open spaces. They want to move to the country and start the homestead of their dreams as soon as possible. How should they go about this? Should they build, buy, or renovate?

Let’s test out the first option: building a house. What does that look like for the Eastwoods? What does it mean in today’s market?

architecture building a house construction daylight
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The Benefits of Building a House

The Eastwoods have some particular needs when it comes to their next house. Mr. Eastwood will be working remotely from home, and Mrs. Eastwood plans to homeschool the kids. It may be hard to find a home that accommodates these separate activities. 

“What if you build your home?” I ask them over coffee (this is a perk of being a Realtor- lots of coffee shop chats). 

They look at each other and laugh. Mrs. Eastwood pulls out an over-sized piece of notebook paper and smooths it out on the table between us. It features a remarkably detailed sketch of their dream house.

“We may have thought a bit about this,” they admit.

Their dream house is magnificent. Connecting the three car garage and house is a sizable breezeway that would act as a boot room. From the boot room, a person could enter the house, front yard, or backyard making it a perfect spot to collect all of the family’s winter coats, muck boots, sunhats, etc. Past the boot room is a square-shaped kitchen, open to the rest of the house. It has an island and a large, circular dining table which will also sometimes act as the classroom table. The living room is just beyond that. The family could do most of their after-hours living in this large connected space.

From there, the house splits off into three different sections. To the right is a hallway lined with bookshelves and built-ins. A half bath and a staircase are here as well. At the end of the hall is the study for Mr. Eastwood. To the left of the main living area is another similar hallway with a laundry room. At the end of this hall is a large four-season room– the classroom. Finally, the upstairs holds all of the bedrooms and two full baths.

The basement has both an interior and cellar entrance. It features a large rec room as well as pantry and storage.

“Wow, this looks perfect.” I am impressed (and let’s be real… a little jealous).

“We know,” they shrug.

The obvious benefit to building a house, is that the Eastwoods could make their notebook-paper dream a reality. And with their location flexibility (remember, they are open to living anywhere in the state), I feel confident they could find the perfect acreage on which to build. 

So far, this feels like the ideal option for the Eastwoods.

floor plan on white paper build a house
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Consider This Before Building

“Alright then, let me tell you what I know about the building process.” We turn now to the logistics– of which there are many. I remind them that as their Realtor, I am not the building expert. It’s important to consult with design and construction firms before beginning this process. 

I explain to them the vast difference between a production and a custom home build. If they were to choose a pre-designed production home, the entire process would be faster and less expensive. What they have outlined on their notebook paper is a custom home. They should expect a longer completion timeline, a myriad of decisions to be made, and a certain unknown element to the budget.

General steps, as outlined in this article from New Home Source, may look as follows:

  1. Choose an architect and have them design the home.
  2. Purchase the land.
  3. Vet construction firms and have them provide estimates- how much will your design cost on your particular land in this particular market?
  4. Stay available during the construction phase. There will be lots of decisions you will continue to assist with. Inspections will also occur throughout this phase.
  5. Close on your completed custom home!

They listen with interest, but I notice their eyes start to glaze over as I take them through each step in more detail. 

“So, how does that sound to you?” I ask.

Mr. Eastwood lets out a long sigh. 

“Honestly,” he says, “that sounds like a long process and a lot of steps. We were hoping to make this move as soon as possible.” Mrs. Eastwood nods her head in agreement.

“I’d like to be homeschooling the kids by fall. We just can’t do that in our current house.”

“Fair enough,” I reply. I give them the names of three architects I know, in case they change their mind. “Well then I suppose let’s start looking at houses!”

We turn the conversation towards buying existing homes, both move-in-ready and fixers. Stay tuned as we explore these next time!

Building a House in Today’s Market

Each market is unique. In real estate, we call markets ‘hyper local.’ No matter where you live or when you’re reading this, you will want to seek out multiple bids on both the design and construction of your new build.

In the Fox Cities (Wisconsin), we are currently seeing a slow down in new builds. New permits pulled in Calumet County, for example, are down 43% from 2021. However, it is important to note that the number of new builds has been steadily trending up since about 2011. While analysts say this upward trend is not yet enough to keep up with the demand from buyers, the data is still encouraging. 

And for those looking to build a new home in rural areas, you are in good company. Rural construction is actually up!

Cost to build is a big consideration. Again, these numbers will be very dependent upon when and where you are building. But, for a rough idea, check out this article from Sugar Creek Homes out of Verona, WI. To buy land and build a high end 2,000 square foot home, clients could pay $600,000. For comparison sake, here’s an article from Home Builder Digest that states the average cost to build in Madison, WI is $155 per square foot. 

Each market is unique. In real estate, we call markets ‘hyper local.’ No matter where you live or when you’re reading this, you will want to seek out multiple bids on both the design and construction of your new build.

Building your own home can be a fantastic option. The customization alone is what prompts many people to build. This was promising for the Eastwoods; they could put the house of their dreams on the land of their dreams! Ultimately, the scope and timeline of a new build discouraged them, as they hope to be settled into their homestead within a few months. 

Read along next time as we explore the “move-in ready” option!


Works Cited

“Building a Home in WI?” Department of Safety and Professional Services, 13 September 2018, https://dsps.wi.gov/Documents/Programs/UDC/UniformDwellingCode.pdf. Accessed 14 December 2022.

Diez, Roy. “How to Build a Custom Home (In 6 Easy Steps).” NewHomeSource.com, https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/steps-to-building-a-custom-home/. Accessed 14 December 2022.

“How Much Does it Cost to Build a House in Madison?” Home Builder Digest, https://www.homebuilderdigest.com/cost-guide/wisconsin-cost-guides/how-much-does-it-cost-to-build-a-house-in-madison/. Accessed 14 December 2022.

Lisignoli, Maria. “New home construction decreases in Wisconsin, but only in some urban areas.” NBC15, 15 August 2022, https://www.nbc15.com/2022/08/16/new-home-construction-decreases-wisconsin-only-some-urban-areas/. Accessed 14 December 2022.

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