Should We Build Or Buy A House? The Story of Our Homestead | Pt. 1

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Our search for a new home began at the beginning of 2019.

After welcoming our 6th child into our family, we started to feel the confines of our space. It wasn’t that our old house was too small (1,300 square feet), but our outdoorsy loving children were yearning for more freedom to roam! 

A homeschooling family, with 3x the average number of children in our neighborhood, we drew attention to ourselves without meaning to.

Our 12-passenger Transit took up the entire length of our driveway, and our postage stamp-sized backyard, despite our minimalist tendencies, was littered with evidence of wild imaginations!

Salacious language on the playground behind our house, a stressful neighbor situation, the desire for more privacy, and space for the kids to adventure freely were the biggest factors in our decision to move. 

build or buy a house

Should We Build Or Buy A House?

Once we were sure the Lord was leading us to move, the big question on our minds was:

“Should we build or buy a house?”

Almost immediately after we purchased our home four years earlier, the housing market in our area went insane! Houses in our subdivision were now being sold for 40-45% more than what we had bought ours for. If we could sell for 40% more, that price, plus the equity we already had in our home, would enable us to afford a decent house on a few acres of land.

Or so we thought. 

The problem was, in the rural areas surrounding us, house prices had jumped far more than 40%. We could purchase a good house, or good land, but not both. 

We didn’t mind the idea of living in an older home on more acreage, but our family dynamics are a bit unique.

We needed a house large enough for 8 of us.

At the time of this writing, we’re living in a rental with a 758 square foot footprint. When the weather is nice, it suits us just fine, as the kids spend much of it outdoors; but the lack of personal space and elbow room becomes more apparent when it’s cold or rainy. 

Since we usually have snow on the ground for 5-6 months of the year, and we homeschool, enough square footage for each member to spread out a little would be ideal.

We wanted a place with a home office.

Brad works from home full-time for Human Proof Designs, a company that helps people earn money online through affiliate marketing, dropshipping, and local lead generation websites. He is often in meetings or creating video tutorials, so a quiet space, preferably away from the noise and traffic in the rest of the house, was pretty important for him to be able to do his job well. 

We wanted to be closer to our church and church family. 

Depending on whether we hit a red or green light at the major intersection before the highway, our current drive to church takes 25 minutes. Doable, but the further you are from church, the more challenging it is to be involved. 

Other House Considerations 

There were other things on our “wishlist” too, but we were flexible and didn’t consider a lack of them to be deal breakers if the acreage panned out. Ideally, our next home would also have:

  • 4 bedrooms (A master bedroom, and 3 for the kids to share. A 5th bedroom for overnight guests or any additions to our family would be over the top!)
  • 2 bathrooms (4 daughters. ‘Nuff said.)
  • An open concept living area (We love to have guests over; room to feed and fellowship with a crowd would be so welcome!)

It didn’t need a designated homeschool room. We’ve always done our book work at the kitchen table or on the couch anyway. 

It didn’t matter if the kids had to share a room.

It didn’t matter if there was no laundry room. I don’t even own an iron. As long as there was a place to hook up a washer and a dryer, I was happy. 

We don’t have a lot of “stuff.” With the help of our friends, it took just 1.5 hours and a 26ft UHaul to empty out our old house, drive to the rental only a few minutes away have a coffee break, and move into our rental. We didn’t need a mansion; we were just looking for privacy and freedom to adventure in the great outdoors! 

We couldn’t find a house.

Not one with a bit of land, in our budget, close enough to church, and large enough to accommodate us all anyway. 

Our realtor looked at every house within an hour’s radius of our desired location, and there was nothing to be found that made sense to us. Slim pickings meant sellers could ask an arm and a leg, and get it, too. 

The search for land.

After 3 months of searching for a house to buy and finding nothing, we started to entertain the idea of building a home instead. We loved the idea of doing a project like this with our family, and building a house that would perfectly match our family dynamics.   

Our search for land began in March 2019. 

You can’t get a mortgage for land, so we needed to find something we could pay cash for, and still be able to build a house without taking on a mortgage that would stretch us beyond our means. 

We found 3 different lots to investigate.

The first one was priced cheaply because it couldn’t be accessed from the road without a driveway going through the neighboring property. A previous neighbor experience had left a bad taste in our mouth and that was not a risk we were willing to take.

The second property was a gorgeous,  10 acres of woodland with a stream to boot. It was perfect for 6 adventurous kids who love to be outside! We toured the property and small, uninhabitable house that needed to be taken down or gutted completely at the very least. Upon further investigation with the city, we discovered that the entire property was zoned Conservation. No new building was permitted to be built on the land, and even if the original shack was renovated, a 6-month environmental impact study had to take place before permits would even be considered. It was a no-go.

Third time’s the charm. 

We found our lot somewhat accidentally. 

Actually, that’s not true.

We found it providentially.

God was in all the details!

I was looking for land online in an area we hadn’t really considered before, on the North side of the highway we take to church, instead of the South. It wasn’t listed on Realtor.ca, so I was actually surprised to find it in my feed. 

The first time we looked at our new lot, in early Spring, and fell in love with the view.

It was “only” an acre, but by this time, we had realized we could not afford much more than that. Despite it being a smaller parcel of land, it still had all the features we were looking for!

It was:

  • 15 minutes away from church
  • 10-15 minutes away from most of our family
  • flat enough for a skating rink, pool, and soccer field/volleyball court
  • enough room for a few animals and plenty of gardens

Plus, zoning regulations allowed a roadside stand or other home business, another dream of ours! 

Though the lot was deemed residential, immediately behind was a Conservation protected wetland and forest, which made the actual property for sale appear much larger than it really was. No one would ever be permitted to build behind us, and the Conservation land included all the things we love: a creek, a forest, a tobogganing hill, and wildlife.

2 minutes away was a lake with a beach, 10 kilometers of biking and hiking trails, swimming, kayaking, and fishing spots. 

The only downside was that it was located on a very busy road. We decided we would need to build a fence for privacy, protection, and as a sound barrier. It was still worth it to us.  

Pictured above: the lake down the road. 

The cost of the lot was within our budget, too, which first had us concerned. It was priced lower than everything else in the area.

Was there something wrong with it? 

Our realtor did a little digging for us, and discovered that it had originally been bought together with 3 other lots by the same person. At the time, the buyer wasn’t sure which piece of land she wanted to build on, so she scooped them all up. Now that her house was built, she wanted to sell the remaining lots quickly before wasting too many property tax dollars on them. She was only asking what she paid for them the year before, when the market was at its peak! 2 lots were already spoken for, and this was the last one left.

We realized just how urgent she was to be rid of properties that were of no use to her anymore, when she immediately accepted our offer of less than asking price! It was a win for both of us!

We knew that selling our home would cover the cost of the land, but we still had to sell it!

After 2 months on the market, we sold our house for asking price, and paid for our new property in full on August 23, 2019.

During the last week of July, we moved into a 758 square foot rental where we’re currently living until our new house is finished!

Now it was time to plan our first home build….and save like crazy! 

Next in The Story Our Homestead: Do We Self-Contract or Hire A Builder

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4 thoughts on “Should We Build Or Buy A House? The Story of Our Homestead | Pt. 1”

  1. Having done both, self contracting will save you a bundle of money; it just takes a few more months. If you have any questions feel free to talk to my hubby. We’ve learned a few things along the way!

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  2. If you want to build economically, be your own contractor. Get at least 3 estimates from each trade. We built for +/- $150/sq. ft., and did not use “contractor grade” materials. We found our best prices by looking west of here. If you are interested, feel free to ask for pointers.
    Another advantage is that every decision is yours to make. You prioritize where you want to spend you building dollars, rather than being held to a set amount. You’ll get far more bang for your buck!

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  3. Very exciting. I feel like we are in same boat. Just waiting on God’s direction. We have been looking for 5 plus years and nothing. Well, everything is too high or in area we don’t want. We have very large family and I hear everything you are saying! I want a home that we can live in for the rest of our lives. Not so simple in this booming market! And we don’t want debt again, so we are just saving and waiting… Love your story and including us in on details!

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