Vail Daily column: Build a home or buy an existing one? |

Vail Daily column: Build a home or buy an existing one?

Dear Joan,

We have been looking for some time for a home that works for our family and now I am wondering if we should buy a lot and build instead of buying an existing home. What are your thoughts?

Dear Wondering About Building,

You have asked an excellent questions that will be answered automatically when you take all of the pros and cons of each option into consideration for your family.

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Right now in the Vail Valley there are some great buys on lots from East Vail to Gypsum. There are some particularly good buys in Cordillera, Eagle Ranch and Cotton Ranch.

There are also isolated good deals in other neighborhoods in the valley, if you have your real estate agent keep their eye out for an opportunity when it arises.

Also, we have a large number of excellent architects and great builders in the valley and many of them have more time available than they have in past years.

Once again your real estate agent can help supply you with a list of skilled people. By choosing this path, you will be able to build exactly what you want with only the constraints of your time and budget.

I do have a word of caution, however. Do not over-build for the neighborhood. It will be hard to get your money out when you sell (and you will sell someday) if your house is far superior to anything in the immediate area.

Right now is still a great time to buy an existing home, especially if the seller is motivated financially. Fifty of the transactions in the first three months of 2013 were bank owned.

There were also “short sales” and highly motivated sellers with real equity in their homes that sold for bargain prices.

Really good “deals” come up every week or so in many of the neighborhoods in the valley.

Vail, Beaver Creek and Arrowhead do not have as many “highly motivated” sellers as Cordillera, Eagle and Gypsum have had in the recent past, but they do exist in all areas.

I had clients look for two years and then got a great distressed sale in Eagle-Vail (with seven other offers on it) in the last few months.

If you are clear with your real estate broker, and your broker is willing to be a buyer broker for you, you will be able to find a home very close to your parameters, if you have realistic price expectation of what you can get for your money.

The reason lot prices are down is just for this reason. Buyers found, since 2009, that they could buy existing homes much cheaper than they could build.

That window of opportunity is still here, but not much longer, since prices in this valley have bottomed out and have started to slowly climb.

Therefore, if price (i.e. great value) is your most important criteria for buying, keep looking with your buyer’s agent.

If having a home exactly like you would like it to be is the most important criteria, have your agent find you a great deal on a lot, an architect and a builder and start the process this summer!

Joan Harned is an owner and broker for Keller Williams Mountain Properties and heads up Team Black Bear, her own real estate team of qualified experts. Harned has been selling real estate in Eagle County for 27 years, is a past chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors, past Realtor of the Year, past director on the Great Outdoors Colorado board and a member of the Real Estate Land Institute. Contact Joan with your real estate questions at, 970-337-7777 or

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