Tim Barber House & Home | Blog | Build vs. Buy: A Guide to Building fr | A Guide to Building from a House Plan in Portland, Oregon

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Build vs. Buy: A Guide to Building from a House Plan in Portland, Oregon

To build or to buy, that is the question. Is it cost effective to build your own home in Portland, Oregon and surrounding suburbs? Or is it cheaper and easier to buy a pre-existing home?

Ultimately, you should decide what works best for you. Take into consideration the time, cost, and the neighborhood to determine which is the best option for your lifestyle and budget.

Based on our research of the Portland area, we believe the cost to build a home is comparable to purchasing a newly constructed home.

Cost to Build in Portland, Oregon

Average cost to purchase a lot in Portland and surrounding areas

Land and teardowns in Portland and the surrounding suburbs range from $40,000-$250,000+*.

Cost to purchase and/or modify an existing house plan

The price for a house plan varies wildly. However, if you choose to purchase a well-designed plan from a licensed architect, a 2,000 square foot house costs anywhere from $900 to over $5,000. If you choose to make custom modifications to a plan, tack on an extra $5,000-$10,000.  

Average cost per square foot to build

The average cost to build is $200-$450 a square foot. Therefore, to build a 2,000 square foot house at $300/sq. ft. costs approximately $600,000. Factor in an additional 10% for soft costs and hidden expenses to bring the total to $660,000.

Final total

If you purchase a $75,000 lot or teardown, buy a 2500 square foot house plan at $2000 with no modifications, and hire a contractor to build your home at $300/ sq. ft., the approximate cost to build your dream home is $737,000. 

2500+ square foot, newly constructed homes in the Portland area range from $600,000 to over 800,000. In addition, older houses of the same size in historic neighborhoods cost between $650,000 and $995,000.*

Therefore, for approximately the same amount, you can build your home for nearly the same amount you would pay for a newly constructed home of the same size. 

*Based on Redfin.com

Things to Consider

Before you decide to jump in with both feet, here are some things to think about before you buy land or purchase a house plan.

Neighborhood Context

Depending on where you purchase land or a teardown, maintaining the integrity of historic neighborhoods is important. If you decide to build, you should consider choosing a house plan that reflects the current vernacular of the block—otherwise, your house may stick out like a sore thumb.

Get What You Want

Building your own home, you have more freedom to choose a plan or collaborate on a plan to address your specific needs rather than altering a pre-built house to suit your needs/wants.

When you purchase a pre-existing home, what you see is what you get.  The layout is something you either have to accept or spend considerable funds moving walls, doors, and windows. Plus, the older the house is, the less likely it is to be laid out in a way that serves our modern way of living.


Building a home from the ground up takes a considerable amount of time. On average, from the moment you purchase a lot, choose a house plan, and start breaking ground, a new home can take up to 1 year to complete. So, you’ll need plenty of patience and resolve to see the process through to the end. 

However, purchasing an existing home in good condition allows you to move right in after the sale goes through, unpack your boxes, hang a few pictures and you’re in! That means you are not holding two properties and two mortgages simultaneously.  Even if you renovate before moving in, depending upon the scope of the renovation you may be moving in earlier than if you built a new home.


Existing homes can have hidden expenses lurking behind the walls - plumbing leaks that cause mold issues, antiquated wiring that can become a fire hazard, dry rot or termites that make for unfavorable foundation. Upgrades like changing your electrical panel to support all the technology we now use or adding air conditioning to house with no existing ductwork are not cheap either. If you built a new home, these upgrades are standard.

In addition, depending upon the age of the home, the materials and the building practices used to construct it, you might be in for some major upkeep. Ninety-year mahogany woodwork must the oiled or waxed regularly or it will become dry, brittle and susceptible to damage.  A roof typically lasts 30 or so years. Therefore, if the house is 60 years old, you will probably be shelling out a hefty sum to replace it soon.  In addition, if the house was built in a slipshod way, waterproofing and insulation might be insufficient and systems could breakdown even sooner than they are expected. However, if you build a new house with a reputable builder you might avoid many, if not all, of these headaches. 


Many people believe building a dream home is out of reach and therefore, they never consider how cost-to-build may compare to purchasing an existing home. Turns out in Portland, you might be able to build from a house plan for nearly the same cost as buying an existing home! With the freedom to choose the look and layout of your house and lower maintenance costs, buying land and building your own home is an very viable option. 

The only thing left to do is choose your plan! Take a moment to view our available plans and call us or email us your questions about building from a house plan.