When is the right time to buy or build a home?

Wednesday March 17 2021
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Potential buyers tour a home in Regina Estate in Lubowa, Wakiso District. PHOTO/Ismail Kezaala

By Roland D. Nasasira

The debate on the right time for one to buy or build a house, especially one on whether it should be before or after one is married is one that may never end. While there are those who decide not to marry until they own houses, there are others who have acquired homes even after marriage.     

Livingstone Mukasa, the chief executive officer of Four One Financial Services, says there is no definite time to build or buy a home.

A number of indicators determine when to own a home regardless of whether you buy or build.

However, he argues that when you own a home starts from your income.

“If you have an income that allows you save some money and you look at your monthly house rent and it is equivalent to owning a home in 10 years, it means you are ready to build a house.

The only thing to figure out is how to do it.

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The other best time to own a home is when you are married and have children before they cross into secondary school because it is more costly,” Mukasa says.

Nuruh Ashaka, a home owner, agrees with Mukasa, reasoning that anytime whether you are married or single is the right to own a home. It doesn’t have to be when you are married. It can be when you are staying with your parents and still single and have been renting all your life.

However, people are more motivated to own homes when they have family responsibility.

“When planning to build or buy a home, different people have different needs and motivations. Most people build according to desires and rarely build according to needs. Even if you build and you want a one unit room, it is because of resources but it may not be something you desire,” Ashaka explains.

Ismail Musa Ladu, a journalist differs from Mukasa and Ashaka, arguing that life is not a template where everyone, married or not, is supposed to fit in. Everyone has different opportunities and different ways of looking at life.

“Some people want to retire in their mansions while others want to live in their mansions.

If you carry out a lifestyle audit and find a person of 32 years with a house valued at Shs200m, it could be as a result of a deal or shady work. At this age, unless you come from a wealthy family, you have barely made this money to put up or buy such an expensive house,” Ladu explains.

Bigger or smaller house

Regardless of whichever time you build, there are incidences where you build a bigger house and later realise you could have built or bought something smaller. In such a scenario, Ashaka argues that it is desire that often times pushes you into bigger houses.

“As responsibilities grow, you realise you could have put up something smaller. It is better you build what you desire. If you build a three bed-roomed house, you will allocate the third one to guests or the house help,” she advises.

Mukasa interjects arguing that you may start constructing a big house and by the time it is complete, given the fact that some projects can take up to 10 or more years, your children never have a chance to live in the house because they went to university before you could complete the house.  “Build a house that your children can live in and enjoy when they are younger and they know it is their permanent home. If they grow and become independent and leave home, you can always update your taste,” Mukasa advises. 

Your lifestyle or class of house you want to build also determines whether you build or buy a home. Your first house, Mukasa advises, should be like your first car. Anyone who buys their first car wants a set of wheels that moves from one point to another, but not Ferrari or a Mercedes Benz. It should be the same with homes. You should own what you can afford to get you to the next point. 

 The land factor

Owning a home starts with acquiring land if you want to oversee the construction process yourself. If, according to Mukasa, you have land and a one or two bedroomed house makes sense for you, it is better to start with the least amount to get the landlord off your back.

However, there is an interesting aspect of forgetting that there is a goal of becoming the landlord after building your own home. If you have been renting, the tables can turn and you find yourself in a situation where you have finished buying land and have to start building. 

Number of children

The number of children you have before or after marriage may also determine when and how you build and the size of house you build. 

According to Mukasa, on average, the cost of looking after a child in Uganda from the education alone without considering other bills, is approximately Shs60m for each child you have, especially for the average lower class Ugandan family whose expenditure is not extravagant. When you go to the upper class, it could cost more because they take their children to expensive schools and normally have few children.

“The more children or dependants you have, the more difficult it becomes for you to have disposable income to build or buy a home.

At this stage, you do not only have a problem of money but also that of putting up a bigger house to accommodate your dependants,” Mukasa adds.

Building after educating children

When you have taken your children through school and you want to start building, it is important that you mind the size of the house you build.

For instance, when in your mid 40s, you need a big house because your children are at school and their true characters are setting in. Some would want to play loud music and others would want to play through ear phones and the two characters soon start to fight.

You will need a big home to accommodate children with such characters. However, in another five to seven years, you may need to start thinking of downsizing.

“This is when you start thinking of smaller houses, say with two bedrooms because you are nearing retirement, where a smaller house may make more sense.

It is not only easier to maintain but it is also easier to secure because you do not want people breaking into your home when you are alone when children no longer stay with you,” Mukasa explains. 

The unmarried

According to Charles Mugarura, one of the mistakes you make as an unmarried person is building a big house, especially when you intend to have many children and you later realise you should have built or bought something smaller because you had fewer children than you had planned .  Regardless of the size of house you choose to put up, Mugarura, like Mukasa, opines that the sweetest time to own a home is between age 30  and 35 because you will have enough time to live in it and realise value for your money.

“Do not go for the classic case of showing off with a big home. If you do, it will cost you a lot of money. Put up something you can call a home and is liveable,” Mugarura argues.

Building versus buying

You will argue that building is easier because you do it at your own pace until your house is complete. According to Mukasa, buying a home is becoming more realistic. For instance, if you are given understandable payment terms when buying a house and you validate the work put in from the foundation, onwards and you are able to conclude that the house you are buying is a good product, you can find good value in a home.

Urban versus country home

There are some people who opt to build bigger and more beautiful homes in the countryside and live in a less beautiful house in the city home where they spend most of their lives, and vice versa. Mukasa says an expensive country home is a waste of capital in most cases unless you are wealthy.

He says where one makes money from is where they sleep. Having a country or village house that costs Shs300m and you sleep in it for four days in a year is a waste of money.  You should build your country house with a view that it could also become an economic asset rather than dead weight. For instance, you can turn it around into a business venture such as a guest house or hotel for tourists.

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