Florida Real Estate Dilemma: Should You Buy New Construction or an Existing Home?

Gayle Kurtzer-Meyers

The sand, surf, and sun are reasons people want to call Florida home.Photo byDenys KostyuchenkoonUnsplash

Florida is the third largest by population and seventh fastest-growing state and remains one of the nation's top places to live. People love flocking to the Sunshine State, especially the vibrant cities like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. According to a NAR analysis, no state income tax, primarily pleasant weather, beaches, and affordability, made 319,000 people migrate to the state after the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Having lived here for almost 16 years now and having made that move down to Florida myself many years ago, I think the perception of Florida is changing from a place where people vacation or go to retire. Florida is a place where people actually live." - Will Tyson, a USF Associate Professor of Sociology. -

Florida is the third largest by population and the seventh fastest-growing state.Photo byDone By AlexonUnsplash

When you relocate to Florida, you will find many beautiful dream houses and captivating pieces of land waiting for you. But you can wonder whether buying an existing home or building it from scratch is less expensive. Here's a glance at the advantages and disadvantages of both processes.

Buying an existing home in Florida

The most significant advantage to buying a finished and ready-to-occupy home is that there is little or no wait time compared to a new bu ld. If you intend to move in a few months, purchasing a home may be in your best interest. Moreover, you don't need permits or contractors.

Advantages of purchasing a pre-existing home

  • Straightforward and quick process
  • When you purchase an existing home, you can move and live comfortably promptly. In addition, you will be free to soak up the sun and sand beachside in no time. Consequently, buying an existing home in Florida is a relatively routine process.
  • Cost-friendly
  • Buying an existing home in Florida is ultimately chea er. However, as it saves you money, you can spend more on upgrades or modifications to fit your family and lifestyle.
  • Convenient process
  • Building a brand-new house for yourself is not only challenging but stressful too. There is more to juggle between managing labor, constructors, site workers, and materials. Thus, when you buy an already-built accommodation, you don't have to cope with contractors, construction timelines, or city permits.

Disadvantages of buying a pre-existing home

  • Unfortunately, the existing home sometime fails to meet your demand for a dream house. You may compromise on many things and defects, making you lose enthusiasm for the move. Similarly, renovation can also be expensive. So, remember to factor that into your purchase price while deciding on a home that needs work.
  • Skyrocketing mortgage prices can also be a drawback of buying an existing accommodation. You must pay home inspection fees and loan closing costs when purchasing. Current mortgage closing costs range from 2% to 5% of the home's purchase price. However, these fees vary with your loan type and mortgage lender.

Average cost

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis stated that the median sale price is $327,500 in Florida, while home price across the country is $428,00. Remember, Florida is an incredibly diverse state. Your home value highly depends on the location, size, condition, neighborhoods, and the city you want to live in. For instance, the median sale prices in Florida's most famous cities are:

  • Jacksonville: $265,000
  • Miami: $420,000
  • Orlando: $320,000
  • St. Petersburg: $306,500
  • Tampa: $320,500

Pre-existing homes offer a quick turnaround time for anxious buyers.Photo byFlorian SchmidingeronUnsplash

Starting from scratch

Building a home is an excellent option if you want to customize your home precisely according to your specifications. Florida's average acre of land is about $29,000, which will vary greatly depending on the area and the turnaround times. New construction often ranges between $100 and $200 per square foot, depending on your building materials. For example, a 2,000-square-foot home could cost between $200,000 and $400 00. The cost of a new build includes permits, blueprints, utilities and major systems, interior finishes, floor plans, fixtures, cabinets, and much more.

Advantages of new construction

  • Fewer maintenance charges
  • Several aspects of your home (roof, HVAC system, appliances) will stay under warranty for many years, reducing maintenance costs. This is a substantial benefit.
  • Energy-efficient
  • Newer homes constructed with energy-efficient materials can save you money. In addition, updated building codes prevent you from dealing with hazardous materials such as lead-based paint, mold, and asbestos.
  • Affordability
  • Building a home in Florida can be cheaper than buying a pre-built home in some cases. New homes have modern appliances and high-quality building materials, so you don't need to repair, renovate, remodel, or replace them compared to a pre-existing residence.
  • Personalization
  • When you build your home, you can customize the layout, design, and finishes to your preference es. Therefore you have a complete say over the home layout and material quality. For example, you can add an extra playroom for your kids or design a luxury guest suite.

Disadvantages of custom construction

  • Building from the ground up is not for everyone. However, if you're considering building a home in Florida, there are some factors to consider.
  • Land availability
  • Finding a piece of land in Florida that meets your desires regarding size and location in your budgeted plan for the dream house can be highly challenging. An acre of land in Florida costs approximately $28,961 on average - however, in Maimi, the same land would cost around $681,024.
  • Time to completion
  • Developing a home from scratch takes a lot of time. The U.S. Census Bureau noted that the average completion time is 8-12 months. Furthermore, bad weather, labor issue, and unforeseen supply can cause significant delays, consequently increasing the future building cost.
  • Prices of building materials
  • Real estate experts believed that since the cost of lumber shot up after the Covid-19 Pandemic, home building costs increased by 8% ($34,000) on average for new construction over buying an existing place.
"Cement and concrete products are likely to have continuing shortages as the nation has not added any cement production since 2009 while demand is growing, particularly from infrastructure projects." – Ken Simonson, Chief Economist at Associated General Contractors of America.

Upfront costs

Your new home requires a significant upfront investment, such as buying land, paying permits, and hiring contractors. As the National Association of Home Builders said, framing and exterior finishes will take around 33% of your total construction budget. Likewise, interior finishes such as cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, and fixtures can easily break your budget by costing 30% of your building budget and are more expensive than buying a pre-built home.

The average cost of building your home in Florida

If you plan on building a house in Florida, you can figure costs between $100 and $200 per square foot. HomeAdvisor's Guide to Home Building stated that in 2023 the average home building cost in the Sunshine State ranges between $240,000 – $350,000, and this cost often reaches millions in bigger cities like Tampa. An important thing to take into account is this figure doesn't include out-door elements ($16,000 – $20,000), excavations ($25,000 – $35,000), permits ($15,000 – $16,000), and other expenses ($33,000 – $44,000).

As noted by Bloomberg Government, "Before the pandemic, a family making $100,000 a year could afford to buy 37% of homes in Florida. Today that figure is just 12 percent here compared with 34% nationally."


When planning a move to Florida or considering investing in real estate property, you have two options: buy a pre-existing accommodation or build one on your own. Buying or building truly depends on your needs, expectations, and desires. You'll need to compare your long-term goals against your short-term goals, what you can afford, and your desired schedule.

This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered Financial, Real Estate, or Legal Advice. The market fluctuates; therefore, not all information will remain the same. Consult a Financial or Real Estate attorney before making significant real estate decisions.

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I am a Licensed Community Association Manager for the State of Florida and a published author. My top articles are about Florida RE, property management, and the many beautiful venues and activities available in the Sunshine State. Thank you for reading my work and joining me on the journey.

Kissimmee, FL

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