It’s time to settle and buy some real estate for your family.
There are countless options to choose from, apartments in crowded city areas, houses in the suburbia, or even a nearby village or just purchase a plot and start building the house of your dreams.
Two years ago we decided to buy a house in a rural area, so that we can still breathe in some better air than in the big city we live in.
Our daughter was 2 and we wanted her to know how cows and chicken looked for real, not just as drawings or 3D rendering in various cartoons.
Since there are many villages near the city, we started looking at an old house, with some land preferably, to grow a garden, maybe plant some trees and berry bushes for the kiddo to enjoy.
We found such a ‘gem’ 50 miles from the city. It cost us about 10K, which is a pretty sweet deal, even if the house is almost a ruin and needed some serious work.
As soon as we got the keys, we started thinking about what to do next: do we demolish the shack and build something new, or try to consolidate it and then make it decent?
The house, while pretty old (from the 60s) has an awesome stone foundation, brick walls and the structure based on oak beams. It’s a wonderful construction, even if never finished (the brickwork is still visible).
Since husband is a civil engineer, he looked closely at the structure and told me the house is rock solid, so there’s absolutely no reason to demolish it.
There is a lot of work though: consolidate the walls, change the windows (they are old, so we need complete new ones), put in flooring, plaster and paint the walls, fix the roof, build 2 bathrooms, redo the electrical wiring etc.
It’s been 2 years already and we have saw some good progress, even if we don’t have too much money to throw at it (would be easy to just hire a team, pay them well and have the house finished in 2 months).
The house has now a septic tank, a working bathroom (with running water) and a big kitchen that’s also a living room for us. That’s also usable, with a gas stove, fridge, running water etc.
In the past months we were able to sleep here, cook and enjoy the outdoors, without having to sacrifice the comfort our city apartment provides.
As you can guess, daughter is in love with the house and we are spending some great times here.
After this personal experience, here are the pros and cons I could find for buying a house that’s already been built.
The pros for buying an existing house
While our ‘shack’ is still in pretty poor condition and was not inhabitable when we purchased it, there are some advantages we already noticed.
Lower purchase price and building costs
We got a pretty big lot with a well built house for less that my car cost me 10 years ago. It’s a big house (we’ll be able to have 2 huge bedrooms, a pretty decent living room, a big kitchen and 2 bathrooms (my husband’s dream).
It’s already more than enough, even if we actually plan on using the attic and convert it into a small office and maybe another bedroom (yep, that’s my dream).
Since the house structure is very good, this saved us a lot of money. We don’t have to pay for building permits, building the foundation, buying all that material and then building it entirely.
We do have to repair the roof, but the roof is there and quite well built. It’s less expensive to find a new oak beam to replace one that’s rotten than to do it entirely from zero.
Last summer, in 2 hours, husband and a good friend of his changed some shingles, removed the chimneys (we don’t need them for our current heating system) and the roof is perfect now.
The house is already built, so we also saved a lot of money, not having to buy all the bricks for it.
If we count the money we do need to spend (new windows, materials for the plaster, flooring, new internal walls, plus the work involved (or paying 2 friends to help us), we still come very cheaply, compared to building the house from scratch.
Less planning work
It’s pretty simple to renovate the building, we have the structure in place and that’s it. We don’t need expensive planning and we don’t fight over how the house should be built.
We take it as it is and work on it.
It can already be used
In our case, living here wasn’t possible in the first year, since we had almost nothing: no room with plastered walls, no running water, no stove etc.
But, as soon as we finished the kitchen – living room, we can already live here, spend 2-3 days in a row (or more, depending on our business schedule) and work more on the renovation.
You are saving a building and making it better
Our ruin has stayed empty for almost 20 years. Its yard overrun by weeds, the roof starting to break, the windows broken.
But it’s such a beautiful house. The over a hundred year oak beams and superb, the stone foundation is something few people know to make, we have a century old doors and some old furniture that can be used.
Even the shingles are from the beginning of last century.
I always felt bad about this house, never being fully built and properly finished. It’s a pity to see it look like a ruin, when it deserves something better.
We pride in the work we do and try to restore and finish it with care and respect. It won’t be just a regular weekend retreat for us, it’s shaping up into a beautiful family house.
You learn new skills
While we do employ the specialized help of 2 close friends (and, of course, pay them for the efforts) we do some of the work ourselves.
So, there you have it, lady web designer who’s capable now of laying tiles, put in the floors or even plastering the walls. Of course I’m not an expert and, to be honest, I dislike the work.
But, hey, if I need to, I can do some of this work as well.
The cons of renovating an existing house
Of course, there aren’t only advantages, when buying a house:
You are limited with your building/renovating ideas
It’s great to have a house that’s already built, but it also limits what you can do with it. Maybe we’d have loved to have another layout for the rooms, but we can’t possibly break the house apart and do as we wish.
This means we need to work with its current layout and adapt.
When you are building your house from scratch, you are in complete control over how it’s done.
Buying a house can be a sour experience because of hidden imperfections you find out about only after your become the owner.
We were lucky in this, since the house was clearly a ruin, so nothing hidden there. It needed a lot of work and we purchased it with this in mind.
Husband decided to re-do most of the stuff in the house, starting from plumbing and electricity, so there are no surprises.
If the house you are buying is not a ruin, it’s important to properly inspect it and see if there’s anything wrong with it. This way you can either choose not to buy it or can get a big discount.
To be honest, I don’t find too many cons for getting a house that’s already built, we love our ‘shack’ and it’s slowly turning into a very nice and cozy home.
Seeing the transformation in our house is so rewarding, so, if we’ll buy any new real estate in the future, we’ll probably go the pre-built route once again.
What about you? Would you rather build from scratch or buy an existing house?