What Does ‘Move-in Ready’ Really Mean for Your Home?

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Aug 162018

What Does ‘Move-in Ready’ Really Mean for Your Home?

You may need to adjust your mindset before walking into a house advertised as move-in ready.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer

What Does ‘Move-in Ready’ Really Mean for Your Home?
Latins gardening

What’s considered move-in ready varies from homebuyer to homebuyer. (Getty Images)

If you’re like many homebuyers in today’s market, you’re looking for a house that’s ready for you to live in right away. You don’t want to go through the hassle of making a lot of changes before moving your furniture in and calling the place home. Simply put, you want a move-in ready house.

But what does “move-in ready” really mean? Depending on who’s talking, it could simply mean that all the appliances work; for others, it means a freshly renovated home that reflects popular trends and styles. Or you may want a house that requires zero work – if the paint colors don’t match your tastes, it’s not move-in ready.

As a result, it’s hard to pinpoint what a listing agent means when the house is described as move-in ready online or in other marketing materials. To help you navigate the house-hunting process and manage your expectations when it comes to common listing descriptors, we’ve broken down how the definition of the phrase varies and how you can change your search to match the meaning you need to find your next home.

Take ‘Move-in Ready’ at Face Value

The technical definition of move-in ready, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is that the building can be occupied, meeting all local code requirements for living in it, including working plumbing and electricity and doors and windows that lock.

By this definition, how you see a property doesn’t really relate to whether it’s move-in ready. Freshly painted walls and a remodeled kitchen to match current trends may pull you in as a buyer, but upon inspection you could learn there’s structural damage that needs to be repaired before you move in.

When it comes to house hunting, however, move-in ready tends to take on a more cosmetic definition for homebuyers. Dan Galloway, a real estate agent and team manager for national brokerage Redfin in the District of Columbia, says some buyers get a wake-up call when they see what’s actually available for them to buy.

“It’s sort of the scourge of HGTV – [buyers] think that move-in ready means that it’s going to be completely to [their] taste, and fixer-upper means just change around some carpet, maybe some paint. And that’s not the case at all,” Galloway says. “Especially with the sort of nationwide inventory crisis that we have, you have to take what’s available. That might mean that you’re going to move into a place where you hate the green walls or you hate the shag carpet, but you’re not having to do any structural improvement, any systematic upgrades.”

While you may consider the space in need of updates or renovations to meet your needs and wants, you can’t assume a property description that includes move-in ready will adhere to all your personal preferences. Take claims of move-in ready at face value.

“Even [with] brand-new renovations, brand-new construction, there are always going to be minor imperfections in a home,” Galloway says.

Finding Your Move-in Ready Home

Since move-in ready can mean so many things for different people, it’s important to convey your preferences to your agent with plenty of specifics. Do you prefer to only see fully updated homes? Are you OK with remodeling for cosmetic purposes only? Does the thought of having to repaint a room disgust you?

By being able to better describe what you prefer in a home, your agent can discuss whether those expectations may need to be altered based on your budget and target neighborhood. For example, if the majority of houses going on the market in your preferred neighborhood are being sold by homeowners who’ve lived there for 30 years rather than investors who’ve renovated the entire property, you may have to consider a home that needs more work or look in a different part of town.

But if your determination for an interior with no work required means you have to live 40 minutes from your preferred neighborhood, keep in mind what you’re giving up. Joe Zeibert, senior director of products, pricing and credit for Ally Financial Inc., notes that in more recent years, homebuyers have been focusing most on the neighborhood, rather than all the finest details of the house itself: “People want something for their lifestyle, versus ‘I’m going to move somewhere for this house.’”

Keep this trend in mind when considering your ability to build wealth through your home – if you like a certain neighborhood, chances are other people do, too. The more desirable the community, the more likely you’ll see property values continue to climb over time and at a faster rate. Your ability to enjoy your home in the years you live there certainly takes priority over return on investment, but if your community preferences line up with trends in property value growth, sacrificing it for a brand-new master suite may not be the best money move.

If you’re struggling to find the kind of pristine, move-in ready condition you want in existing homes, it may be worth it to look at new construction, which allows you to either add your preferences to a house that will be built for you. Many builders offer brand-new homes that are almost finished with construction for those who don’t need the custom design or may be on a tighter timeline to close on a property.

If time isn’t a concern, you can always wait to see if a home that better suits your needs in your preferred neighborhood comes on the market. But if you’re going to wait, be sure what you want is a reasonable expectation – you don’t want to realize a year from now that the house you hoped to find simply doesn’t exist where you want to live.

Consider Living With the Ugly a Little

Budgeting to buy a house in a pricey neighborhood and make immediate renovations isn’t always as feasible as you’d like. As long as the house meets that technical definition of move-in ready and you’re not living in squalor – but simply have a dated master bathroom – wait and save up a bit more before you start planning for a remodel. And if the house isn’t move-in ready or in need of a new roof or furnace, focus your budget on those required changes before you make any cosmetic upgrades.

The neighborhood you buy in can also make waiting on upgrades a valuable decision. Zeibert says the primary focus for many buyers is to find “a community that matches [their] personality.” If you’re shopping in a unique, eclectic neighborhood for that reason, it may clash with that vision of a model home you have in your head. Wait to see if the narrow hallway or pedestal sink in the powder room that’s characteristic of homes in the neighborhood isn’t something you grow to love.

There’s a good chance you’ll learn to tolerate it. Galloway faced a similar situation with his own home: “I’ve bought a home saying, ‘I hate this kitchen. I’m going to rip it out the second I get in.’ And here I am, five years later, and I haven’t done a thing to it, and it doesn’t register to me anymore.”

How to Stage Your Home to Sell

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Aug 092018

How to Stage Your Home to Sell

Getting buyers to fall in love with your house requires more work than you may think.

By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer

How to Stage Your Home to Sell
Modern living room and kitchen in stylish apartment

Strive for a clean, neutral appearance when staging your home. (Getty Images)

You’ve made the decision to sell your home. But looking around your living room and kitchen, you’re not quite sure how to get from comfortable clutter to the camera-ready chic you see in competing homes.

Rest assured that you’re far from the only homeowner who doesn’t live every day like they’re in a model home, but you can get your house looking like it with a little staging.

Home staging is the act of cleaning, rearranging and remodeling parts of a property to make it more appealing to potential homebuyers. Professional home stagers are often brought in by real estate agents – or the agents practice a bit of staging themselves – to help homeowners make a house ready to show to potential homebuyers.

Staging ranges from simple decluttering to make a room feel a little less crowded to removing all the furniture and bringing in rented pieces for a more neutral palette. Not everyone is easily sold on staging their house in order to sell it, but it’s a key part of helping buyers picture themselves living there, with their own furnishings and decor rather than your belongings. Here’s your guide to staging a home for sale from top to bottom.

Hiring house stagers. Professional house stagers can come in to not only determine which of your belongings need to be rearranged and moved out of the house before putting it on the market, but also which projects could be taken on to help maximize the final sale price, from repainting the dining room to installing new cabinet doors in the kitchen.

Home service information site and marketplace HomeAdvisor notes that it costs, on average, $822 to hire a home stager or decorator for staging purposes, but on the high end this service can be as much as $2,500. While many stagers offer a flat-rate consultation to help give you some information, typically costing a couple hundred dollars, having a vacant property fully staged can cost a few thousand dollars.

Like everything involving your home sale, fees for home stagers vary based on location, demand and the amount of assistance you need; simple advice on ensuring your home is ready for an open house will be far less expensive than a thorough staging by a team of professionals.

Storing your extra possessions. One of the biggest lessons behind staging is to declutter your house – and that’s not just about removing miscellaneous papers on your kitchen table or cleaning up the kids’ toys scattered across the living room, but rather it includes reducing the number of books on a shelf, swapping out an oversized sectional for a smaller couch and taking clothes out of the closet.

If you haven’t moved out of your house yet, there’s not exactly room to hide your excess belongings. Lisa Morales, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker West Shell in Cincinnati, recommends renting a nearby storage unit “to put furniture and other things in there.”

Depending on the amount of stuff you need to move out and where you live, a storage unit can get pricey over a couple months. But you don’t have many options, as stuffing the garage or backyard shed leaves your hoard to be viewed by potential buyers, who may be turned off if they can’t view those spaces when touring your home.

Furniture rental. You’ve moved out that oversized sectional, but now you need to replace it with something that better highlights the space. Many professional stagers own furniture to be rented while a house is on the market, or you can rent from a local furniture place while your house is still being shown by your real estate agent.

Jay Britto and David Charette are the principals of the Miami-based interior design firm Britto Charette. When it comes to staging a house for sale, they say it’s typically best to utilize the professional’s stock of furniture because the home stager knows the furnishings that will appeal to buyers without detracting from the space.

“Use the stager’s furniture, not your own,” Charette says. “You need to be ready to move – plan on selling your house the first day you show it. Being in the mindset to sell immediately will help you purge all but the essentials.”

If renting furniture the entire time your home is on the market doesn’t fit in your budget, at least consider the more ideal, rented furniture for marketing photos, then either leave the space vacant or move your pieces back in with more low-key staging afterward for tours. Since pretty much all homebuyers start their search online, the pictures of your home are just as important as a tour, if not more so.

Which Rooms Should You Stage?

If you’re still living in the house, a touch of staging to every room where you’re living is necessary. Piling all the extra furniture and castoff belongings into a guest room won’t go unnoticed by buyers touring the property – and may even turn them off if they think that room is small and poorly maintained.

Since the front of your home will make the first impression on buyers, Morales recommends starting to enter through your front door instead of a side door or the garage. By getting in the habit of entering through the front, you’ll be more likely to notice extra shoes in the foyer, a door bell that doesn’t work anymore or porch lights that have burned out.

Britto echoes the sentiment: “First impressions are most important, so pay close attention to the first room that will be entered.”

[Read: How to Prepare for Potential Disasters While Your House Is on the Market.]

Here’s a breakdown of the most common rooms to stage:

Kitchen. Homebuyers largely view the kitchen as not just a place for cooking, but socializing as well. Keep the counters clear of too many coffee makers, mixers and cookbooks, but set up the kitchen table or breakfast bar like it’s ready for a snack or brunch.

Bathrooms. Guest and master bathrooms are important. Keep all toothbrushes, shampoos and soaps out of sight, so no buyers are thinking about you getting ready there early in the morning. Have clean bathmats and towels that follow a color scheme to pull the room together.

Living room. Common areas are important for homebuyers to envision how they’ll be spending their free time. Keep all furniture appropriately sized so the space feels large, even if it’s not the biggest room.

Master bedroom. Keep the bed made at all times and add a couple of pillows and a fluffy comforter to make it look like a comfy space. Never let your laundry pile up on the floor. Don’t even let it all stay in your closet, for that matter. Morales says you want to make storage areas in the house feel big, so “thin that closet out by at least half of the things that are in there.”

Tricky rooms. Even if it’s not one of the primary rooms homebuyers care about, a weirdly shaped dining room or tiny side room can benefit from staging to help buyers figure out how the room can be used well. Instead of a queen-size bed in a small bedroom, a double bed can help emphasize the space that’s there, for example.

When you’re still living at home. If your family is still living at the house while you’re marketing it, you can still stage the space, but it may need some extra organizing. Extra bedrooms in a vacant house may not get staged, but when you’re living there make sure to put kids’ toys away and consider repositioning the bunk beds or crib as far from the door as possible without blocking windows to make the room feel larger.

Home Staging Tips

Keep your own style out of it. You may have eclectic taste, but your buyer may not. “The suggestions may not be your personal preference or style, but that’s not the point,” Britto says.

More often than not, you’ll find recommendations on staging err on the side of classic and simple, with neutral colors and the occasional accent color, and a traditional sofa, love seat or chair style in lieu of a gigantic sectional or avant-garde seats that can be distracting. You may like a little quirk or find that bright colors make you happiest at home, but that’s not how everyone operates, and you want to focus on attracting the largest number of potential buyers possible.

Less is more. Decluttering isn’t just for those other messy people down the street. Even if your house is clean, there’s some decluttering you can do. The No. 1 home improvement recommendation agents have for sellers is to declutter, according to the National Association of Realtors home staging report.

Take coats out of the front closet, remove extra Tupperware from the pantry and don’t let magazines pile up on the coffee table. You may have hosted a Thanksgiving or two in your dining room, but there’s no need to keep all 10 chairs around the table when six feels like a complete set. Move these items to storage, a family member’s garage or sell them to lighten the load before your move.

Keep pathways clear. When you’re arranging furniture to stage it for sale, the goal is to make each room look spacious and highlight an easy, sensible flow from room to room. Make sure each room has a clear path for homebuyers to walk from doorway to doorway and there’s no tripping over side tables, chairs or rugs that are sticking out.

Rearranging for these pathways may mean your couch isn’t properly positioned for ideal TV watching, which is OK when people are touring the house. If you have to unplug the TV and move it elsewhere in the room or to storage to highlight a picture window that’s otherwise partially covered, it’ll help buyers remember the room’s best features instead of your furniture.

Remove personal items. Part of your decluttering process should include removing all family photos, religious symbols and other personal items from view. If you have your kids’ school portraits on the wall leading upstairs, a buyer will envision your kids enjoying the house rather than their own.

Not only that, but sometimes buyers have a hard time removing bias from their mind when they’re touring a house, so avoid all possibility of discrimination by keeping any hints as to your race, religion or nationality private.

Keep it basic. From wall colors to furniture styles, keep that same simple and classic theme in mind. “Accent walls should be repainted in a neutral so that the color doesn’t distract the potential buyer. You want to make your home look move-in ready, and a blank canvas is the way for buyers to envision how their own art and furniture will look in the home,” Charette says.

While neutral colors and a traditional look may seem boring, the point of staging is to make it possible to see the potential for a space, rather than offer a specific suggestion as to how a room should be. Every individual has his own style, so it’s best to avoid selecting a wall color that may seem too bright to one potential buyer, or include a large antique chaise lounge that makes it hard to remember the rest of the room.

Always be ready to show. Staging your house doesn’t stop once the stager moves in new furniture. The house should be ready for a tour at all times. That means no dishes in the sink, no homework spread out over the dining room table and no wet towels on the floor.

8 Inexpensive Tips to Get Your House SOLD!!!

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Jul 252018

Are you trying to get your house ready to sell?  Are you overwhelmed by trying to figure out how to do it without going broke?  My husband and I have sold two houses in the past ten years using these principals, and think they will help you in getting your house sold for top dollar!

8 Tips to get your house Sold

Selling your house can be very stressful, especially if you have kids running around.  Spring seems to be the time of year people are either looking to buy a house or are trying to sell theirs.

That being said, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how to get your house ready to sell without spending too much money.


Five and a half years ago, after I had just had my second child, we had a huge surprise in job situations  and needed to move. We were going to be moving from our 3,200 sq ft home back to family in New York State.

This was during the time in our life when we were in over $40,000 worth of debt and struggling to make ends meet. You can read more about my debt journey in my #1 best-selling book The Recovering Spender.

ANOTHER ARTICLE: Here are some other tips on how to get your house sold for top dollar.

Here are the 8 things that I did to get my house ready to sell, without spending too much money:

1.) Invest in a deep house cleaner before you list it

This is a HUGE deal. Having a quick sale of your house means having a ‘brand new to them’ house.  New home buyers will see everything that you don’t.

We invested $200 in getting the house professionally cleaned before our first showing.  This made it easy for us to keep clean, and the buyers knew they were getting a home that was well taken care of.

Have your windows professionally cleaned to give your home a lighter feel.


2.) Buy fresh white towels and bath mats at the Dollar Store or Walmart

Buy fresh white towels and bath mats for all of the bathrooms in your home.   You don’t need to spend a lot of money, and you can often find these items at the dollar store.

Lay out your towels on the sinks to give it a spa like feeling, and replace old bath mats with the new ones.

The secret tip is – keep these new towels folded up and safe in a closet, then take them out and put them out only for the showing. When the showing is over, fold them back up and store until the next one.

3.) Clear Clutter and Family pictures

Staging your home helps you highlight your home’s strengths, hide its weaknesses and helps it appeal to buyers. It’s important to remove clutter and depersonalize your home.  Start selling things from around your house that you no longer need – here are 11 apps that will help you sell the clutter from around your house.

Removing the clutter gives your home the feeling of having more space. Depersonalizing your home will give home buyers the opportunity to imagine living in your home and making their own memories there rather than taking a tour down your family’s memory lane.

Family Pictures on the wall aren’t necessarily bad, but when your walls are loaded with pictures it can turn a buyer off.  Take down clutter from the fridge, kids walls, and as many family pictures as you can. The buyer wants to see themselves in your house.


4.) Highlight accents in the house

When we were selling our house we had a huge master bathroom. The only downside was that it didn’t have the double sinks most homeowners are looking for.

It did have a huge bathtub with a separate shower stall.  I decided to play up the appeal of the bathtub and purchased fake rose petals from the dollar store. Each time we had a showing, I would fill the tub and pour the petals into the tub. Then set some candles around the exterior of the tub, making it look like a spa.

Instead of people seeing the downside of the missing sink, they saw themselves soaking in a tub after a long day of work.

5.) Bake Chocolate chip cookies right before the showing

You’ve probably heard this one before.  Bake some sort of baked good right before your showing. This helps people feel like your house is a home, makes it inviting and smells delicious!

They even have cookie scented candles, so if in a pinch you can burn one of those before the showing.

6.) Turn the heat up a few more degrees (especially in the winter)

Do not keep your house cold during a showing (unless it is in the summer). You want them to come inside and feel refreshed.

If you have central AC, make sure that it is turned on during the showing. If you are selling a house during a colder time of year, turn your heat up a few extra degrees. This will make them feel warm and right at home.

7.) Create a welcome note

Creating a welcome note is another way to add appeal to a buyer.  Type up a letter that tells the buyer more about your neighborhood, attractions, and more.

If I wanted to sell my current house, I would talk up our neighbors and how we all work together, have a yearly Christmas party, and garage sale.  This will add a sense of community and make your house stand out from the rest.

8.) Pack up unnecessary items into moving boxes

Last but not least.  Pack up things you don’t need and stage your home. Give your home a clean, minimalist appearance.

If you have a dusty bookshelf of old books, pack them up and put the book shelf into storage.

Declutter as much as you can before you sell it, and when it sells you will be well on your way to being packed to move.  Here are 8 ways to become a reselling rockstar.

Here is an easy All-In-One moving Guide  that you can use to help you get organized before the big day.

Bonus Tips:

  • Make sure your home has good landscaping- plant some flowers, paint the door, reseal the driveway
  • Get all of those little or even big problems fixed in the house.
  • Replace heavy bedspreads and tablecloths with lighter fabrics and patterns to continue the softer feel.

Looking for a Close by Adventure…The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

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Jun 062018



Officially dedicated Oct. 19, 2013, the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge blooms on the historic 1925 Rocky Broad River bridge in Lake Lure, NC. When the bridge was closed to traffic in 2011, the Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge came together to create gardens on the 155 feet of the bridge and along a pathway at both ends of the three-arch span itself. With an emphasis on native plants, the Friends mission is to create a “Gateway to Somewhere Beautiful” for the enjoyment of the public.

The Bridge and Gardens are always open, and there’s no admission charge to visit.
The vast majority of our gardens are wheelchair accessible.

Click here to enjoy a high-definition video of the Flowering Bridge from HD Carolina.

Click here to read the latest Lake Lure Flowering Bridge Newsletter.

Looking for your Pathfinder Brick on the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge? Click here to access the latest directory of brick locations.

Big News! The Lake Lure Flowering Bridge has now joined the Appalachian Mural Trail. We’re designated a “living 3D mural.” Click here for more info.

Here’s something new. Click on “Map” at the top of this page to access lists of the plants and flowers in all the gardens at the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge.

Here’s a reminder of a story “Our State” magazine did about the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge in 2015.

Click here to read about our beautiful bridge in the March/April edition of WNC magazine.

Ever wonder where the idea for the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge originated? Click here to see a TEDx talk that explains it all.

The Tar Heel Traveler has discovered the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. Click here to see WRAL-TV’s story about our gardens.

Click here to check out our “Bridge to Everywhere” in the July 2016 edition of Bold Life magazine.

Wow! Lake Lure and the Flowering Bridge are featured in a beautiful photo essay in the August 2015 Our State magazine. Click here to enjoy it.

From the bridge, visitors can look upstream to view the famous Chimney Rock, now part of Chimney Rock State Park. Downstream the river flows into Lake Lure, surrounded by the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains

We need your help. You can become a member of the Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge with your donation. We are also looking for volunteers.

Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge is a volunteer 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. Donations to help preserve and maintain the bridge and gardens are appreciated – and tax-deductible.

Friends of the Bridge, P. O. Box 125, Lake Lure, NC 28746

Click here to see a list of nurseries. local artisans, local construction firms and others who have provided invaluable services and assistance to the Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge.

Build or Buy…Which is the Better Cost Effective Option!!!

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May 112018

Is Building a New Home a Better Deal Than Buying an Existing One?

Just the other day, a friend of mine argued that building a new home is more cost efficient than buying an existing property.

Her new home is almost finished, and will be move-in ready in about three weeks — so she’s understandably excited. Plus, she said, she’ll be saving all kinds of money because she built.

While I understood her excitement, I found that part puzzling. Was building a new home really cheaper? Please say it isn’t so.

She went on to explain that her new home came with a warranty on its construction and individual components, which would save her money if her home had any structural defects.

“Plus, I won’t have to replace a roof or an air conditioner for a decade,” she said. Since everything in her new house would be straight from the box, she felt sheltered from many of the surprise costs of home ownership we all complain about.

Why Building Usually Costs More

I wanted to dig deeper, so I reached out to an array of experts on the topic. As I suspected, there is no hard and fast rule. Just like the “rent versus buy” conundrum, the cost of building versus buying depends on a number of factors – some of which aren’t even in our control.

Still, the numbers don’t really lie. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the median price of a new home in the United States was $301,400 in February of 2016, while the median price of an existing home was $212,300.

That disparity can be explained at least partially by the idea that those who build new are often investing in larger and more luxurious homes. The median age of an existing, owner-occupied home in the U.S. is 37 years old, according to the NAHB. Back when such a house was built, around 1979, the median size of a newly constructed home was 1,645 square feet. In 2014, the median-sized new home was up to 2,453 square feet. A home that’s nearly 50% bigger is certainly going to cost more.

However, most experts concur that building new simply costs more on the front end. Here are a few reasons why:

Builder profits: Any new build is going to include some expectation for profit, which is part of the reason building a home costs more than buying an existing one, says founder of Beacon Real Estate, Stephen Maury.

“One contributing factor is the profit margin that a homebuilder will necessarily tack on to their cost of construction,” says Maury. “Sellers of older homes are less concerned with replacement costs than they are with capturing a profit on their investment,” he says. “Also, those homeowners will have benefited from value appreciation in the years since they built or purchased their home.”

More stringent energy policies or building codes: One instance where building new can cost more is when codes and rules have changed over the years, says Maury. “Depending on the age of the existing home, new homes may be required to be built to a more stringent energy code, to withstand higher winds, or at a higher elevation based on new FEMA projections for flood risks.”

Then, there are upgrades that are voluntary. One current trend is building “green,” or environmentally friendly homes, says Andrew Leff, national builder executive for Bank of America. Many newly-built homes come with energy certifications covering everything from roofs to appliance packages, while many existing homes were originally built to lower standards.

Then again, investing in an energy-friendly home could be a better long-term investment, says Leff. “While environmentally-friendly homes may cost more upfront to build, it could save you more money in the long run in terms of energy bills.”

The cost of land: When you buy an existing home, the cost of land comes with it. Buying a new home, on the other hand, generally means hunting down the perfect plot first. And that can be expensive, says Yariv Bensira of real estate firm Hyde Capital and investment management firm Lennox Companies.

“From my experience, if you’re looking to buy or build in a high demand area, the cost of purchasing land and then having to build a new home is more expensive than buying an existing home,” says Bensira. “The cost of the land [by itself] might be comparable to or near the cost of an existing home, so if you add in the building costs, permits, and time involved, you’re looking at a much more expensive proposition.”

The rising costs of materials: Where an existing home – and especially an older home – was built with materials that were purchased long ago, new homes require new materials that can be a lot more expensive.

“Building materials and building costs keep increasing,” says real estate investor Mark Ferguson of Invest Four More. “Building permits get more expensive.” While these costs can vary from home to home, increasing supply costs have a tendency to drive up prices for new homes across the board.

The Hidden Costs of Building a New Home

In addition to the many known and common costs that make building a new home an expensive proposition, a slew of hidden costs can also drive up the price of building. While some of these expenses are obvious if you really think about them, they still catch people off guard from time to time – and can send your building budget straight out the window.

What are some of these hidden costs? The experts weigh in:

  • Window coverings: “These usually come with an existing home, but can add up quickly if you have a lot of windows or if any are custom,” says real estate investor and consultant Eilene Wollslager.
  • Landscaping: “Most new builds either do not include landscaping, or only include front landscaping,” says Wollslager. “Depending on the size of your lawn and the detail of landscaping, this can add thousands of dollars.”
  • Random incidentals: There are always the unexpected costs, says Wollslager. These “extras” can include things like picture hanging supplies, decorating items (your old ones never seem to fit the style of the brand-new home), additional cable and electric outlets (they never seem to be where you thought they should go), extra keys and garage door openers. “There are always myriad small expenses that if you add them together can mount to a sizable expenditure,” she says. “Since these don’t always happen all at once, they often get overlooked as part of the expense.”
  • Furniture: If you’re building a bigger house, you might be surprised at how much more furniture you need. And whether you really need more furniture or not, you might find that your old pieces don’t work that well in your new place.
  • Upgraded finishes: “The biggest surprise cost in building a new home in a city usually appears with custom upgrades,” says Oregon realtor Kim Crieger. Add in the fact that most builders put in the least expensive paint, plumbing, and flooring at first. Whether you want to upgrade those finishes now or down the line, you’ll need to pay for them.
  • Driveways: With a country property especially, the most common unexpected expense is road and/or driveway building, says Crieger. “This usually costs far more than buyers anticipate, and is often taken for granted.”
  • Fences: If you want any expectation of privacy and have close neighbors, building a fence might be a necessity. Depending on the type and size of the fence, this can add several thousand dollars or more to the cost of building a new home.

And the list goes on and on. Depending on the size, location, and geography of your home, you could be on the hook for anything from custom sprinkler systems to alarm systems. At the end of the day, there is no limit to the “extras” you might find you need when you build a new home from scratch.

The Bottom Line

As with anything else, the difference in cost between building a new home and buying an existing one depends on a whole host of factors. The size and type of home you’re interested in will surely play a part, along with the location you hope to end up in.

To weigh the pros and cons of each option, Maury suggests sifting through some of your options and potential costs with a real estate broker. Start by searching available homes for sale. Then, once you find one you like, look for available lots where you might be able to build a similar home.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of building a home, talk to a contractor and ask about having a new home built in a similar style to the one you like. Find out the price per square foot of the construction, add in the cost of the land, and then compare the total to the cost of similar existing homes. Just make sure you’re taking into account everything that might be involved, including some of the hidden and unexpected expenses people don’t always plan for.

Either way, don’t listen to realtors, builders, or even friends who say one way is definitely cheaper than the other. With so many factors at play, it’s impossible for anyone to know with certainty. Building a cheaper starter home might be less expensive for one person, while buying an existing home and then adding custom upgrades could cause another person’s housing budget to explode.

At the end of the day, it pays to err on the side of caution and run all the numbers on your own. Whether building or buying, the best decision you can make is an informed one.