How to Decide: Build or Buy?

How to Decide: Build or Buy?

Private Property South Africa
Private Property Reporter

Getting into the real estate market can sometimes be a bit daunting. One only really understands the magnitude of the decision when you realise that you will probably be paying 30% of your salary for your investment over the next 20 or 30 years. Take the time to make an informed decision. You most likely already have an idea of the type of real estate you would like to live in. Whether you want a lock up and go type of home or a spacious property where you could entertain your guests, the decision should not be taken lightly. People often want to know if it would be better to build their dream house or buy an existing property. Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer – it will really depend on your personal preferences and considerations. Depending on market conditions, it is sometimes more expensive to build a property and sometimes more costly to buy one – ask an expert to make a few calculations on your behalf. Here are some of the pros and cons and other things to consider. Buying

  • You can save a lot of time by buying an existing property – building a house includes finding a vacant lot, a suitable plan (and getting it approved) and a trustworthy builder. At this stage the building hasn’t even started yet!

  • Buying an existing property will most likely be less effort than coordinating a building schedule and architects, builders, electricians and plumbers.

  • You will have a clear idea of what you are paying upfront – building is more likely to include unforeseen costs.

  • There is no set timeframe and you can take all the time you need to find what it is you’re looking for.

  • You will be able to move in much quicker after the paperwork is sorted out.

  • Most of the time existing real estate is situated in established areas and the neighbourhood will probably not change much in the next ten or twenty years.

  • You will be able to evaluate the quality and workmanship upfront – no nasty surprises. Consider asking a property assessor or building expert to inspect the infrastructure before signing on the dotted line.


  • You can build your house to suit your exact needs – that picture in your head is about to come to life!

  • You will have a bigger range of choices with regards to lights, tiles, frames and kitchen and bathroom fittings.

  • You don’t have to pay for the previous owner’s taste that you do not even like.

  • If the workmanship is up to standard, it is less likely that you will soon have to replace a geyser or pipe.

  • The exercise will most definitely be more time consuming and stressful than buying a house – most couples will tell you that building a house almost cost them their marriage!

  • While you could consider building the house in phases, most of the time the date of completion is set at the beginning.

  • You can eliminate most building headaches by finding a reputable builder – ask for references. The builder should also be registered at the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), an organisation that will ensure that building standards are met.


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