To many prospective home buyers, the thought of purchasing undeveloped land and building their own house is logistically—not to mention economically—daunting, especially for those who are new to the area. It may seem easier and cheaper to buy an older home on ground broken by a previous owner. But as those who’ve been looking Upstate and not finding what they want may be happy to hear, that’s not necessarily true.
The process is far less intimidating than one might think with the help of the right real estate broker. In addition to their usual search-and-sell role, experienced brokers can help a client source raw land, hire a construction company, and generally guide them through the building process.
“We’re able to help the buyer select potential lot sites, walk the land for them, research the market and resale values, develop a floor plan, and understand their financing options,” explains Regina Tortorella, licensed salesperson at Coldwell Banker/Village Green Realty’s Windham office. “And we can pair the new owner with the home style that’s right for them and their environment.”
The process makes sound financial sense, especially in Greene County. “Currently, houses here that are 15 to 20 years old are priced about the same as most newly constructed local homes,” says Tortorella. “Which means that it’s possible for a buyer to build a completely new home—based on plans they themselves approve—for the same price as an older one.”
For instance, the cost of land, site improvements (electricity, well, septic, driveway) and the building of a 2,000-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths starts around $389,000. In Jewett, an acre of land without a view can run $8,000 to $10,000 dollars, and up to $15,000 with a view. In Windham, where some 50 new undeveloped lots were recently listed, $50,000 buys an acre with a view, and $18,000 buys an acre without one.
A knowledgeable real estate agent can also help buyers choose an area to build in, one that will suit their lifestyle best, whether that means being close to a town or more secluded. They can also show them examples of local builders’ work. Compared to neighboring Ulster County, there is a wealth of affordable land and a low tax base in largely rural Greene County, which is about a two-hour drive from New York City. Many downstaters are attracted to the area as it makes building a budget-conscious second home possible.
“Many of the buyers I work with live in the New York Metro area,” Tortorella says. “They love the contrast that a property in Greene County provides to their urban home.”