Build or buy? Everything you need to know about owning your home

At some point in our lives, we all want to be home owners, whether for our own security and stability or as a tried, tested tangible investment asset. Whatever your motivation, the decision to own a residential property can be daunting with any one of the two clear ways of acquiring the asset – to build one yourself or to buy a ready development. Before coming to a final decision, it is important to understand both options and to settle with one that best suits your means, needs at the time of investing.

Renu Hunjan, an Accredited Independent Non-Executive Director and Consultant, explores some of the pros and cons of both buying a home, and building one from scratch, so that the information will help you in making a more informed decision.


First and foremost, the cost involved is a very big determinant of whether one will choose to buy or build. When considering building your own home, other than the cost of construction, it is important to factor in the cost of land purchase as well as relevant fees including project consultants, quantity surveyors, engineers, architects, contractors and county permits, approvals and licenses if you plan on getting a good finished product.

Buying a home on the other hand will cover all these costs in the final price, though you will still have to factor in costs such as mortgage finance, legal fees, stamp duty, insurance, service charge and even the furnishing of the house.


Today, many leading property developers working on scale projects consult field experts in various matters before making any decisions on design and finishes. These professionals include quantity surveyors, landscapers, valuers, feasibility study experts, interior designers and architects who are up to speed with current requirements, styles and preferences in the market. For example, these professionals will be able to advise a property developer on whether or not to have an open plan kitchen, and how this relates to social demographics in the urban residential market.

While a ready development offers a specific design, building your own single residential villa or townhouse means that you are able to personalise every detail from floor plan design, interiors to finishes according to your taste and living preferences.


The value of the home should be weighed against the location, proximity to workplace, schools, hospitals, total living space, amenities including security, access of property, gym, sauna, pool and quality of finishes like tiles, ready provisions like gas cooker with extractor and hood and so on.

Building a home from scratch complete with amenities like a gym and pool is more common in higher income individuals due to the high installation and maintenance costs.


In both buying and constructing a home, it is really important to understand your financial muscle. Have a clear plan on how you will finance the project.

If taking a mortgage to buy a home, do you have a stable and secure income? Is it a home that needs renovations or maintenance?

If constructing, are you using savings or are you taking a loan to finance the construction? Is the land price competitive? Cost and timeline of rent as your house is being built? What kind of tax benefits do you get? How will you factor in depreciation over time? What kind of timeline are you looking at for construction and repayment?

Involving the spouse in the decision is also critical as the financial commitments can be planned and met together as a family.

Ideally, reputed developers will manage their project costs, teams, timelines and construction progress so shopping for a house means you get to choose something that suits your lifestyle, your income as you plan for long term stability.


It is equally important to have done thorough research and be familiar with the developer you are potentially transacting with before you settle on buying a ready home. For example, what is their track record in project completion? You definitely do not want to deal with a developer who has many projects yet none or some are actually completed. Or one who promises to finish a project this year, but ends up taking 3 more years to complete the project. It is a disappointment you can and should avoid.

The same goes for contractors and teams should you choose to build your own home. How well do you know the people? What kind of terms and timelines do they promise vs deliver? How does the contractors financial model work? Do they have clear accountability and work plans?

Consult people who you trust and have experience. Plan, think and then make decisions that are not influenced by pressure or ‘easy way out’ hacks.

Should you decide to buy a home, especially off-plan, always visit the site to see progress. Visiting the site also gives you an opportunity to visualize the final outcome. We have many accounts of people buying non-existent projects because they never took the time to visit the project site. Get a lawyer to help you understand and negotiate terms with a developer, bank as there are currently no firm regulations protecting the buyer in Kenya.

The pivotal factor being cost when deciding on buying vs building, data shows that building a home costs 20-30 per cent more on average. When applying for a building or construction loan, the bank may have its own process when it comes to paying contractors.

Whether you decide to buy or build, always be clear on what you are looking for. Understand your financial strength and plan, and do your research about the developer, consultant teams and project itself.

Renu Hunjan, an Accredited Independent Non-Executive Director and Consultant.

Dr Pesa this week is Renu Hunjan (pictured above).

Renu is an Accredited Independent Non-Executive Director & Consultant with over 10 years’ experience in Business Development, Strategic Marketing, Brand & Digital Excellence Management. Her forte is supporting Boards of Private and Family owned companies in the real estate, retail, banking and luxury goods sectors.  [email protected] 

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