Should I Buy a Custom or Existing Home?

Midway through designing a custom floor plan for new home.

We know a guy named Scott. He moved to Portland months back with his wife and 10-year old daughter. Like most people who relocate here, Scott wanted a quieter, more laid back lifestyle and a safer community to raise his daughter.

Scott and his family rented while they shopped for houses. Months went by though with little luck. For the coveted houses, there would be eight or nine offers and Scott’s would usually be in the top four, but the bids were so large (and in all-cash) that it wouldn’t make sense for him to move forward. Mortgage rates were also quite low, so him paying cash was not a wise move.

Finally, when he was ready to go into contract, his close was delayed over a month because an oil tank in the house had to be decommissioned.

All in all, the process took him seven months.

Such is why many people moving here look for custom homes as a way to avoid the stress of house hunting. We get asked this all the time, the advantages of custom-built homes versus existing ones, so we wanted to break it down for you.


You’ve heard it before: custom design brings your dream house. What that really means is you can tailor designs that are specific to your family. If your spouse works from home in the evenings, maybe you want a kitchen where you can cook and be within earshot of the office, while also keeping an eye on the kids’ play area. With custom design, there’s no need to “settle”.

On the other hand, not all couples are able to agree on a design. We know recently married ones who can barely agree on a dinner date, much less a floor plan for their home!


With new homes come new stuff. You can design your space to incorporate newer technologies, like smart home capabilities. You also get to install all the newest appliances, a huge cost saver in utilities (which we’ll cover more in a bit).

Downside is, you can’t pick up and plant a 100-year old oak tree in your new backyard. Existing homes, especially in Portland, can have landscaped areas and are already within established, storied neighborhoods.


In general, building a new home will be more expensive than buying one. Median price of a newly built home sits around $305,000 (as of November 2016), whereas that same data lists the median price of an existing home at $221,600.

Those numbers can be misleading, though. For example, an existing home might have a roof that’s on its last legs, or other hidden costs that could slide by initial inspections.

A brand new home will have the most modern materials that ensure energy efficiency and insulation. They are much easier to heat and cool, and can result in saved costs on utilities.

Your best bet is to meet with a realtor and examine your options. Often, people purchase a home pre-market, and include custom add-ons while it’s still in the final phase of development. Or, your broker might reveal an existing, newer home that meets all your preferences.

Be sure to get a full list of options. Start by getting in touch with one of our brokers.