Buy or Build a House - Which is Right for You?

When you're looking for a new home you might be wondering whether you should build or buy a house, and there are many factors to consider. These include specific housing requirements, timescales, upfront costs, as well as ongoing and maintenance costs. At Fortress Home we offer custom home building services throughout Chicago and will be able to help you decide what’s right for you, and advise you on cost and time estimates for creating your dream home. Contact our team today for a free consultation at +773-770-8607 or [email protected].

Benefits of building a house

Fully custom

When you ask yourself 'should I buy or build a house?' one thing you should consider is if you want a custom-built home. If you know exactly what you want and have a very clear idea of your requirements and specifications then building your own house may well be the way to go.

Some of the many things you can customize:

  • Floor plan and layout
  • Number of rooms and square footage
  • Fixtures and fittings
  • Major appliances
  • Decor and color schemes
  • Construction materials

Lower energy costs

New houses are generally much more energy-efficient than older ones. Not only are more strict building regulations in place but there are also a lot of new energy-efficient technologies available nowadays. For example, the efficiency of solar panels has leaped from 15% to over 20% in recent years.

Having a greener house is not only good for the planet - you'll also see savings in your utility bills.

Lower maintenance costs

With all new appliances and well-installed fixtures and fittings, a new house is likely to be low maintenance for a long time, especially if you work with a reputable and experienced general contractor like Fortress Home in Chicago.

Better for your health

New homes are constructed with modern building and safety standards, so you know you won't have any nasty surprises. You can be sure your custom-built home will be free from asbestos, lead paint, or mold, all of which can pose major health risks.

Negatives of building a house

Longer wait time

Even when you work with reliable home builders the construction period can seem lengthy. Plans need to be drawn up and approved, permits need to be obtained and materials sourced and ordered. And that's before construction even starts.

Working with a well-established general contractor like Fortress Home, Chicago, can help mitigate the risks of overruns and delays.

With in-depth knowledge of the local planning policies and an experienced and reliable team on hand, your build will proceed on schedule and will be completed on time.

Hidden costs

Building a new home can have many hidden costs and it's always important to have a contingency fund in place for if and when that happens.

At Fortress Home we take that stress away from you by preparing meticulous budgets at the start of every project so you won't be hit by any nasty surprises.


Apparently moving house is one of the most stressful life events, but building a house can be even more stressful, depending on the construction company you're working with. Delays, site accidents, budget overruns are all risks when working with less reliable contractors.

At Fortress Home we know the stresses of building a home and we do everything in our power to take them all away from you. We are known for our excellent adherence to both budget and schedule. Our team is made up of expert craftspeople and laborers who we trust, like family (many of our team are family). So we take away the stresses of building, letting you enjoy the excitement of seeing your dream home appear before your eyes.

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Benefits of buying a house

Speed and convenience

If you are looking to move house quickly then buying a home will probably be a lot quicker than building. This can be especially important if you're relocating to a new city for a new job and need to hit the ground running. In those circumstances, you're unlikely to have the time or energy to want to build your own house.

Mature garden

Moving into an existing home you'll benefit from the years of work that have gone into the garden, giving you mature landscaping and well-established plants. If you're an enthusiastic gardener maybe having a blank canvas would be exciting, but for most buyers, the convenience of a well-established garden is hard to resist.

Established neighborhood

If you have a particular neighborhood in mind, perhaps because it's convenient for your new job or your child's new school then you may have no choice but to buy. Plots of land appear very rarely in established communities and the competition for them can be fierce.


Unless you're cash-rich you're almost certainly going to need a loan whether buying or building a house. Mortgages for house purchases are much more straightforward than those for construction and you can even get pre-approved by your lender and then shop around for the ideal house for you and your family.

Negatives of buying a house


Depending on the neighborhood, the time of year, and the house buying market there can be a lot of competition with other buyers for existing homes in good neighborhoods.

As we're currently experiencing a seller's market, this level of competition is particularly high. This may mean losing out on many houses to higher bidders which can be very stressful.

Rising costs

Along with the seller's market comes rising house prices. mean that it's more likely to cost more than building. According to the National Association of Realtors, the cost of a single-family home in 183 metro areas rose by 99% in the second quarter of 2021, pricing many people out of the home buying process entirely.


With older houses come more compromises. Maybe you'll have to forgo the master en-suite bathroom you've been dreaming of. Or perhaps your guest bedroom will also have to double as a home office.

If you have a specific floor plan or layout in mind you're going to have to say goodbye to it, unless you get extremely lucky.


An existing house may come with many quirks and oddities and you're likely to need to do repairs sooner rather than later. Perhaps the boiler is near the end of its serviceable life or the carpets are rather worn and shabby. All of these repairs and upgrades add to the additional costs that come with buying an older house and should be factored into the total cost.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cheaper to build a house in 2021?

Generally when asking the question of building a house vs buying a house the first question people ask is 'does it cost more to buy or build a house?' This is a difficult question to answer as so many factors come into play including the cost of land, the cost of materials, labor costs, and the current demand for new houses.

While the cost of building materials has increased in 2021, so has the demand for existing homes, so depending on where in the country you live and the type of home you are wanting it may well still be cheaper to build the home of your dreams.

Much will also depend on your requirements. If you're happy with a standard tract home then buying an existing house may well be cheaper. But if you are looking for a custom house with exacting requirements then building yourself may be the best answer.

Is it cheaper to buy your own land and build?

Many people ask us if it is cheaper to buy land and build a house and there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Much will depend on the part of the country you live in and the cost of land in your area.

The cost of an acre of land varies greatly depending on where you are in the country and whether it's a rural area or a city.

For example, an acre of land in Arizona costs just $4,000, but in Rhode Island, that price shoots all the way up to $350,000. Luckily here in Illinois, the average cost of an acre is just under $30,000 per acre, much more affordable than Rhode Island.

So if you're asking yourself 'is it worth it to buy land and build a house?' in a location with affordable land, this may well be a lot more affordable than building a house. But in other states, the cost of land may be prohibitively high.

How can I afford to build a house?

When asking yourself 'should I build a house?' it's important to consider the financial aspects. Hopefully, you've been planning for this for a while, but here are some factors to consider:

  • Do you have savings so you can afford a decent down payment and upfront costs?
  • Do you have a contingency fund to cover any unexpected costs or hidden costs?
  • Do you have a good credit score so lending services will give you a construction loan?
  • Have you spoken to a real estate agent in your area about buying an existing home to your requirements?
  • Have you got a clear budget for how much you can realistically afford?

And remember to always seek financial advice before embarking on a major project like a new construction project.

Can you get a loan to build a house?

Most people don't have enough cash to pay for the new construction of a home upfront, so will need to get some sort of construction loan. If you are looking for financing, working with an experienced, reputable, licensed general contractor, like Fortress Home, will make the process much easier and more straightforward.

If you are hoping to be your own general contractor it's generally much harder to get an owner-builder loan. You will need to prove to the bank or lending service provided that you are knowledgeable and experienced in the construction process and have a thoroughly thought-through construction plan, as well as a solid emergency fund for unexpected costs.

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Fortress Home combines the roles of a general contractor, a construction partner, and a construction manager. Our talented workforce helps us professionally manage all aspects of on-site construction.

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