The Pros and Cons of Buying Land Or a House in Southern California
No matter what way you slice it, buying real estate in Southern California is extremely competitive.
Many buyers struggle with the decision to buy an established home, or build a new one. The following is a quick summary of the pros and cons of buying land and building over buying an existing home.
Buying Land and Building Pros
Assuming you’ve done your homework on the approval of the land being purchased (more on that later), what you put on that plot is limited only by your imagination and budget. Indeed the biggest draw for most people who elect to build is the customization it affords.
According to Investopedia, older homes, depending when they were built often come with health hazards like lead paint, asbestos and mold that would not be present in a new home.
With a home being the single largest purchase most of us make in our lifetimes, the emotional attachment to the property we buy (or build) looms large. In fact often times building a home puts the “personal” back into personal finance. There is simply no replicating the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes with building your own home.
Continuing a bit further along the process the ability to sell your new home will likely be much easier should you elect to do so. New homes generally hold greater value and curbside appeal and often comes with a warranty. The latter piece needs to be considered strongly as it can often offset the cost of maintenance or remodeling of an older home.
Buying Land and Building Cons
We lead with the most problematic inhibiter of new builds. According to an article in the October 13 edition of the LA Times new home prices in and around Los Angeles peaked at around $538,000 in June of 2014. Orange County saw new home prices top out at $800,000.
The Article continued, as recently as January the gap between new and resale homes hit a peak of $151,000; a 41 percent premium. Historically that number has been closer to $38,000 over the last 25-years.
Mark Twain once said: “buy land they’re not making it anymore.” Indeed many homebuyers and investors have long wished more land would be made in southern California. Given this wish is unlikely to be granted anytime soon, available plots will continue to be competitive and costly.
The greatest advantage to buying an existing home, even for those with deep pockets, is the relative simplicity of it. What you see is generally what you get. Not so when buying undeveloped land and planning a build.
Building Advisor is a great resource for learning about and understanding some of the factors to be considered when building. A few of them are listed below.
- Is the site approved to build the size house you’re looking for? It is possible for a plot to be approved for a 2-bedroom house, but not a 3-bedroom.
- Zoning Laws: Know these before considering an offer on a plot of land. Local governments create zones to keep a balance of various community needs, not yours. Make sure the land you’re looking to buy is zoned or can be zoned for the purpose you intend to use it.
- Water & Septic Systems, the most basic of commodities. We all take the ability to turn on our faucet and flush our toilet absolutely for granted. When building a new home you should not do this. Find the local municipality, get a water quality report and ensure adequate sewage/septic functionality is in place before buying.
Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to the question of build or buy when it comes to your home. This is a personal decision that needs to be made with your spouse and a team of competent professionals, headed by a trusted realtor.