Buying an unfinished house: Is it worth it?

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It might not be immediately livable, but unfinished homes in varying stages of completion can have huge benefits for home buyers.

"All they have is finish it off. Buyers can pick any paint colours and tiles, and put electric plugs wherever they want," said Kieran Fitzsimmons from Ray White Russell Island. "People complain about finishings and the inclusions not suiting their needs; that way they can get what they want at the end."

There is strong demand for these properties, especially from builders, mostly because they know how to complete the property and they can personalise it. A shell of a home with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a garage costs only $109,000, compared to a complete home with similar amenities that can set the buyer back $249,000.

But while it can be tempting to buy an unfinished home for a cheaper price, experts say that there are risks to consider.

"Potential downsides are you don't really know what sorts of problems you might be buying," said Warwick Temby, executive director for Housing Industry Association in Queensland. "A different builder would be as nervous as a homeowner, but that's depending on what stage the build is at."

Bernadette Janson of The School of Renovating in Sydney also warns that unfinished homes may not be all that economical.

"You're probably not saving much by having that shell because you're really confined to the original plan," she said. "It may need changes that aren't economical, which takes away the benefits of having purchased it for a cheaper price."

In the end, buyers have to carefully weigh the pros and cons before buying an unfinished home.

"You certainly need to go into the project with eyes wide open," Temby concluded.

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