Pondering – To Buy Land And Build Or Buy A House.


Ahhh decisions, decisions. Here we are, 2 weeks after getting back from our vacation, pondering quite deeply a move to Taos, New Mexico. We cannot seem to get it out of our heads! The scenery is beautiful, the air is clean, the people are great, and the real estate is reasonable. Oh, and there is no traffic. Although we cannot do anything until at least this summer, my wife and I are discussing how we could make this work for us financially, whether we should buy the tract of land that we really want right now and build eventually or if we should wait till we are ready to move and then buy a house that is already built. It’s a tough call.

Here in Los Angeles, a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house in a good neighborhood would run about $750-$800K. That is a big reason why we want to move…unless one of us triples our salary in the coming months, this is totally out of our reach. And besides that, who wants to pay that kind of cash for a smallish house on .10 acres? Not us. So back to Taos…the piece of land we want to buy is in an incredible place with restrictions about what you can and can’t build there, 1/4 of a mile from protected land with hiking trails down the the Rio Grande Gorge, and is on a “no through access” county road, meaning there will never be through traffic on that street. People are starting to build houses there, and everyone is far enough apart that you really feel like you are out in the open with plenty of space to breathe in. The lot is almost 4 acres and is totally reasonably priced for the area. It is about 15 minutes into town, and there is electric and phone out there, along with private wells. The problem? We would have to build our own house, and that takes up to a year to complete. We could buy the land now, but that would strain our budget here in Los Angeles, as we pay a fortune to live here at the beach. Building costs are about $150-$175 a square, and the minimum house size is 1200 sq feet for this area. So the house alone would be a minimum of $180,000…minimum being the key word. I am sure that would not include a roof or doors, but whatever. Here is an idea of the house we want to build there:


(click for a bigger image)

The other option is to buy a pre-existing house that is near the land we like…no headaches, no construction delays, no site problems. Someone else suffered that fate for us and we can move right in. Of course, we would have to be ready to go asap as soon as the house closed, as paying rent and a mortgage is not my idea of fun. But we could do that…and the houses run from $285,000 – $350,000 for a 3 bed, 2.5 bath on 1-5 acres of land. Views galore, everyone’s house is one story, and they are arranged to take advantage of solar gain from the south. Decisions, decisions.

Thoughts? Anyone go through a land purchase and/or building a house? What was your experience? Any thoughts on what is the better route? Our jobs are such that we can go anywhere, so that is not an issue. I work at home and the wife is a teacher, so we are ok there. Anyways, just wanted to see what people thought!

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Comments (6)

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  1. Chicky says:

    Why don’t you move to Taos, and rent until you decide? You would most likely be paying less in rent, would be in the area you desire (with all of the perks…no traffic, etc.), and you could really put as much time and thought into existing houses or potential land as you wanted (rather than having to make a special trip there, which limits your choices). Check Craigslist (they have a page for Santa Fe / Taos) rentals and real estate for sale for ideas.

  2. david says:

    That is another option Chicky, which we are also considering. The land we already have seen and love, so that can be done without going back. Buying a house is another story altogether. rentals are a lot cheaper there, so we might end up doing that. Who knows!

  3. […] and why we have not even really looked at real estate around here..and why we are considering moving to Taos. Scary. You might also like:Renewable Energy=The Next Job Boom?Buying Organic – It Is Worth The […]

  4. Cathy says:

    Keep in mind that salaries might be a lot lower in Taos! I live in Colorado, and the pay here for some jobs is abysmal. I freelance from home, however, so it doesn’t make a huge difference to me. You might be fine, but your wife’s pay might drop considerably.

  5. Cathy says:

    Still, Taos would be much, much nicer than LA!

  6. david says:

    Oh salaries will be lower…but I work from home so I would be ok, in fact it would feel like I was making more because living in LA is so expensive. My wife, well, she is a teacher and they are paid like crap anyway. Thanks Cathy!