Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More real-estate dilemmas

Bad news: the tiny 2-bedroom house we own in Ottawa is worth a mere $30,000 - that's for the building alone. Basically, the house is a very cute, nicely maintained teardown. (Refer to picture at right of our 800 sq ft cottage.)

Good news: the 50' x 157' plot of land it's on is worth significantly more than that. The McMansion across the street is listed at $1.3 million!

Meanwhile we've been scouring the real estate listings for a bigger house in the same general neighbourhood that will meet our needs - with very little luck. Obvious question: should WE tear down the little house and build the one we want? I'm not talking about a McMansion (neither of us wants to pay for or clean the Taj Mahal), just a modest but bigger house. With a garage and a pool.

Part of me loves the idea of custom-building our own home. I'm a control freak and I have a creative bent, so the project suits me. Actually, Steve's a control freak too, so the project would undoubtedly lead to more marital friction as aesthetic and fiscal desires come head-to-head. But together, Steve and I have renovated (or partially renovated) three kitchens, two bathrooms, and two basements, either ourselves or with contractors, so we have an inkling of what we're in for (though I've heard horror stories from friends). We know what we like and what we do and don't want. Often I look at new or expensively renovated houses and wish I could simply erase parts and start over.

On the other hand, I estimate it would take at least two years before we could move in and, in the meantime, we'd be renting and stressing out. Plus, I have the patience of a newborn; I'm all about instant gratification. I would really like to just move into a house in August and have it meet all our needs. If we renovate/build, it means at least one more move of all our worldly goods. Not to mention the likelihood of cost overruns and the unpredictability of what the final cost will be; my guess is that it would cost more in the long run.

What do you think? Should we build or should we buy? Use the buttons at the top of the page to vote. What advice can you give us?


  1. Moving in itself is a lot of work and very stressful. I am reminded of this each time we have decided to move! And then it is nearly impossible to find the perfect house already built, so you have to settle for the house with the most positive attributes.
    Since you and Steve are experienced with renovating, what about buying that almost-perfect house and, once you get settled, do some renovating when you have had more time to think and plan for it? I think you've done that before, right?
    Well, that's my 2 cents!! Love, Mary Ann

  2. Thanks, Mary Ann. That's pretty much what we had been planning to do. But then this little bit of news came up. And I read somewhere today that you can save 30% to 40% on the cost of a home if you build it yourself. I have no idea how true that is, but I've put the question out to a friend of mine whose husband is a general contractor.

  3. I think you should just stay in Colorado! I have a couple of questions for you before I can vote. Is the land the size you want, does it slope, have a view or face the sun for snow melt where driveway would go? Are any of your old friends still on that street? In 2 years you might need a smaller place since your kids are almost grown??? Would you want a pool after retirement? Ken and I loved building, but it only took 6 months and came in on budget! It was stressful, I lost weight, but it was a fun exciting time even for undecisive people.
    Susan C

  4. Good points, Susan. There lot is narrower than I would like, though not as narrow as most of the lots in newer subdivisions. It faces east, which is fine with me - we won't get the harsh afternoon sun. I do want a pool after I retire (swimming is one of the few exercises I actually enjoy). Our friends are scattered around the city, though mostly downtown, so this neighbourhood is a good location for us. We're thinking of building a main-floor master suite (so we can stay there even if mobility becomes impaired) with some "guest" bedrooms upstairs or in the basement for when the kids come to visit or while they're still students.

    Six months, on-budget and weight loss to boot! You certainly make it sound attractive!

  5. Hi Wynn Anne,
    It sounds like you have a good idea of the 2 choices. I have heard that the building process can be very stressful and longer and more $$ then expected. Or in other words prepare for that. But the reward is great and wonderful. I like the points mentioned before. The plus of choosing a home already built is instant"gratification". Move in ready , no waiting. I think the chance to build your "dream" home would be awesome. Best of luck.
    Deena C


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