Ask a Realtor: Should I buy or build? |

Ask a Realtor: Should I buy or build?

Paula Fischer and Scott Marino
Ask a Realtor
Located at 31 Foxglove Lane in Eagle Ranch and offering views of Castle Rock and Sawatch mountain ranges, this half-acre cul-de-sac lot is within walking distance to schools and recreation paths. The lot sold for $95,000 in September 2020.
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Dear Paula and Scott: My wife and I have had our eye on the Vail Valley for many years and are looking to relocate. I have read and heard about the limited inventory and wondering if it makes sense to build or should we stay focused on buying? What would you advise and what are the pros and cons for buying or building in a seller’s market? — Buy or Build

Dear Buy or Build: Choosing between building and buying an existing home are conversations we have several times a year with buyers. It comes down to a decision of cost vs. finding a home that fulfills most of your needs. Even in today’s market of low inventory and increasing sales prices, it is still less expensive to buy an existing home over building.

Many buyers initially think building might present a cost savings, but once they start looking for land to build on and realize the cost, coupled with construction costs and delays that are even more common than in years past, they more often than decide to buy an existing or spec home.

We encourage anyone who is considering building to meet with an architect and a builder first, as well as an experienced real estate agent in land sales and construction, to get a realistic idea of the cost of building. Then add on the cost of the land, permit fees, tap fees, delays etc., all of which will come into play. Take that number as a starting point and then go see if you can find an existing home that fulfills your needs for less than that price. Also factor in that even in a tight market, you are more likely to find a home and close before construction even begins.

All this being said, your home is a very personal matter and choice. To further assist you in determining which might be the best option, following are some pros and cons for both building and buying.

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Pros: Move-in ready once you close, no waiting to build, construction delays or surprises. Most neighborhoods throughout Eagle County have mature landscaping on the streets, even downvalley where there are more newer neighborhoods (and more affordable pricing). This means you already have shade and screening from other homes. With new construction you will be waiting several years before your landscaping has the desired effect.

Other benefits include immediate move-in after closing, which are happening much more quickly than in the past, particularly if it is a cash deal. You also eliminate extra costs associated with building such as rent, moving multiple times, storage unit costs, schools for kids, etc.

Historically, Eagle and Gypsum see increased inventory every spring and summer. As we come into our “selling season” we hope to see more inventory and more opportunities. There are also several new developments currently being built or in the planning stages that will help with the inventory crunch.

Cons: Right now, the biggest challenge is lack of inventory, which also equates to higher prices. With a limited number of homes on the market, buyers are having to compete for every new listing that comes up. It is also very difficult to find a house with all of the items on your wish list. With the price of homes and current demand, it’s important you come in with an open mind and be willing to compromise on some things such as location, home layout, and other amenities in order to meet your budget and what’s available.


Pros: Having a custom home that suits your needs and lifestyle, including having something new and most likely more energy efficient, is always appealing. Most resale homes tend to have some outdated finishes, appliances and flooring. So, you may end up having to upgrade anyway. Having a newly built home means brand new appliances, clean new carpeting and a current finish level.

Cons: Cost. The cost of building never went down during past recessions and with the current lack of inventory, most builders are now very busy. If anything, the cost of labor has gone up. The cost of materials is also very high as we struggle to get caught up after the pandemic shutdowns.

Every year we come across clients who bought land with the hopes of building their dream home, only to find the actual cost of building is much higher than they anticipated. These people often try to sell the land they bought just to recoup the costs they put into it with architecture, engineering and permits. By the time they realize it is cost prohibitive they are already $50,000 into it.

The first step is to find the land in a location and price you want, including finding a real estate agent who has experience with how developer contracts and warranties work. As noted, it is more expensive to build than buy right now and depending on the final product, you can expect to pay 20 percent or more compared to buying a comparable home. This is before all the other factors such as renting, delays, storage, etc. Also remember the cost to build doesn’t include the purchase of land.

If you still want to consider building, downvalley is probably your best option. There are currently 33 available lots on the market in Eagle Ranch ranging from $130,000-$300,000. There are also several lots for sale in Gypsum in the Buckhorn Valley neighborhood and a few incredibly low-priced lots in the Brightwater neighborhood in Gypsum. If you can get a good deal on the land, that will make a huge difference in the overall cost of your new home.

Good luck with your decision.

Paula Fischer and Scott Marino are longtime Vail Valley residents and award-winning broker associates with locally owned Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties. Paula’s expertise is in the resort/luxury market based out of the Vail/Lionshead office and Scott, a partner in Team Marino with wife Kari, specializing in downvalley market in the Eagle office. Paula and Team Marino’s expertise includes micro-market knowledge to assist everyone from first-time buyers to second-home owners to the resort/luxury investor. Paula can be reached at 970-376-8400 or and Scott at 970-390-7406 or

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