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shnelson

buying used vs building new?

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I'm in the market for a new (or new to me) house, my initial thoughts were to find an already established home and put some elbow grease into it to see what I could do... then I started finding what appear to be incredible deals on development lots (found a development that was foreclosed on, prices seem too good to be true for the area). There are already a few homes stood up in this development, and the remaining lots have utilities in place.

I have some experience with home building, and am not afraid of the challenge, it's very likely that I would try to find a home builder and see if they'd drop the price if I were to do some of the work myself.

With the market as it is, there are some killer deals on almost new homes already built, so unless you can stand up a new house for a comparable price - i'm having a tough time justifying it.

Does anyone have any advice or recent experience relating to this? Is it reasonable to expect a home to be constructed for $150k or less in the east central MN area (not including the land or required excavation) - I'm talking a typical split level 1200-2000sq ft floor plan.

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I'm sure you could, a buddy of mine just bought a foreclosed home in North Branch that was built in 2005, nice yard, needs nothing but new paint for 130k. Even with the construction remember the yard, driveway, sod, ect. We built our home and bet we had to dump another 10k into the yard, window treatments, paint, trees, bushes ect.

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I would do a lot of investigating before I bought a lot in a failed subdivision. Some of those places have been in the paper a lot (One in Ramsey, MN) and there were all sorts of liens, trouble with the roads, cities getting stuck for sewer and water etc. Then there are some concerns about the asthetics - area looks like it should have 20 homes and there are only two and all the rest have lots full of weeds and junk. The Tribune had some articles on it a month or so ago - see if you can find that series and it may bring up some issues and help you decide.

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I would tread carefully when dealing with foreclosed lots like that. Like mentioned above there can be alot of issues with liens and such. You should be able to do a title check before purchasing to determine if its clean. Our mortgage guy did that as part of the process when we purchased our house. He shared some horror stories of his past clients that refused to have it done (its wasn't free) and they ended up buying a home that had 100,000's of dollars in liens against it. Our mortgage guy now just does the check as part of the service without a charge since its cheaper for him to eat the cost then to have to spend time clearing it all up later if something goes wrong.

If you do end up buying a pre-existing house I would look at one that has not yet been updated.

An updated house will probably cost more and if you're like me you'll still want to redo some of it to make it fit with your taste and style. No sense paying for new tile in a bathroom or carpet in the living room if you plan on pulling it out and putting something different in.

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Thanks for the replies so far, all good information to be considered!

I tried running a search on the Trib's HSOforum, no such luck in finding the mentioned articles...

The possibility of lien's is my biggest reservation on the foreclosed subdivision lots, I've been told a trip to the county is where i should start my title research. The land i'm looking at has some significant tree coverage, I think i'd be more worried about the vacant lots being aesthetically displeasing if/when someone where to build on it. I anticipate clearing the lot of trees to be a somewhat significant cost in addition to the landscaping (sod), blacktop, etc.

You're exactly right nofishfisherman - the actual houses i've looked at so far have had some nice improvements, just not to my liking and I would probably end up re-doing it... which is where I got on the track of 'why not build it the way I want it from the beginning?'. I expect to remain in the home for 10 years +, so I lean even further towards the new build; but i'm not totally shut off from finding the fixer-upper and maybe turning it around in 5 years if it felt right.

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I just built a cabin, so not exactly the same thing, but something I learned since I have a 1945 house that we live in - when you build it you can do everything EXACTLY as you want it, and KNOW it is done right. You can get the garage the size you want, the kitchen layout the size and shape you want it. You can also choose to leave part of it undone and finish at your leisure (i.e. basement or deck, whatever).

I know you know all that, but just my two cents after redoing out bathroom at home, it is easier to do it from scratch, and cost isn't that bad now, especially if you can some yourself. Though with the desire for work these days, it really might be worth it for many of us to pay to have it done, especially if economies of scale are taken into consideration.

Good luck either way. I love our old place, but boy the "new cabin" (not big) is nice to go and feel like you are in "new"... smile

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I would tread carefully when dealing with foreclosed lots like that. Like mentioned above there can be alot of issues with liens and such. You should be able to do a title check before purchasing to determine if its clean.

I also saw something on a show like 60 minutes, where the bank might not even give a fair market loan for a house in an unfinished developement right now. The appraisals will be very low due to having no neighbors and the unsightly weeds on the undeveloped lots etc. The resale would be very low IMO.

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A slight twist on the subject, but you have to consider the 'emotional cost' of either a rebuild or a new build. Lots of friends have found that it really raises tensions in the family that get worse the longer it takes. A few have been stuck when B wasn't finished on time and A had been sold, ended up moving twice and having to rent a dump just to have a place to sleep. It can turn into a nightmare.

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