To Buy or Build?

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Depending on your perspective, these could be the best of times or the worst of times to be house-hunting. Listings are selling fast and values are trending upward. This is great news for sellers as well as new buyers who are likely to see their investment appreciate. The downside, however, is that inventory is low. Buyers may become frustrated in today’s market when multiple parties are interested in the same home. Or worse – when there’s nothing on the market that even matches their interest!

It’s now that many buyers consider building versus the traditional route of buying an existing property. Existing homes, as well as new builds, each have their own set of pros and cons to consider. This blog will explore both options from the perspective of a home buyer in a low-inventory housing market.

Buy Existing


  • Time to close: If you purchase an existing home and are pre-approved, you can probably close within thirty days.
  • You can see the property and have it appraised and inspected before making your down payment.
  • You can purchase within an established neighborhood.
  • If you’re a fan of older homes, historic, unique, etc. then it usually makes sense to buy existing.
  • No waiting for landscaping or other weather-related items.


  • Wear and tear: It’s unlikely that everything will be in pristine condition even if when paying full price.
  • Lack of availability in the recent real estate market can be frustrating,
  • If other buyers are interested in the same home an offer may face some competition.
  • The new owner may not know the entire history of the home.

Build New


  • Get what you want: Buyers who choose to build often do so after multiple (and failed) attempts to find what they want on the open market. This is a huge pro for homeowners with a vision of their perfect home.
  • Purchasing a bare lot is an opportunity to develop the land to one’s liking. The homeowner can make sure the land is properly graded for drainage and that structures are placed in the optimal locations in relation to the street, utilities, and neighboring homes.
  • New homes are just that: New! No wear-and-tear or surprise defects.


  • Time to close: It will probably take between 6 and 12 months to complete a build project from foundation to finish work.
  • The closing date is dependent on many factors and could change. Weather-related delays, contractor shortages, and supply chain issues may result in a later closing date than originally planned. As a result, some buyers sign into short-term rental agreements or delay the sale of their current home.
  • Brand new homes tend to cost more per square foot. (source: Upstate Alliance of Realtors)
  • Weather-related items like landscaping, sprinkler systems, and some finish work can only be completed in-season. This may result in a requirement that the buyers put some cash into an escrow account and must wait to enjoy the final upgrades until some time after closing.
  • Construction loans may involve two closings which can mean extra paperwork and an additional credit check.

Option C: Somewhere In-Between

There is one other option: the spec home. Some builders speculate and begin build jobs before a property has been purchased. Purchasing a spec home will reduce the time to close since the foundation, framing, and even some of the finish work will likely be complete before the new buyer views the property and makes their offer. Buyers give up some control over the location and floor plan but still have a say in many of the details and upgrades. If this option interests you, ask your Realtor if he or she can contact builders in your area to set up showings.

Take the First Step

Are you ready to begin looking? Whether you’re leaning toward building or buying an existing home, Ruoff’s loan specialists can help. Visit for more on conventional, government, and new home construction loans. Getting pre-approved for a home loan is the first step toward owning a home you love!


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