Is It Better to Buy a New Home or an Old Home

By: Ted Gaurnero

Like many aspects of real estate, buyers need to weigh out whatever valuable information they can muster, and in the end decide on what is their preference. This being said, although preference can tell you a lot, there are aspects to the purchase of both new and old homes that should be considered.

The key is to have a clear idea of what you want and need in a home- to heck with the Jones'. Everybody will have different needs and preferences and all you can do is strive to figure out your own.

One aspect to a solid purchase in real estate is of course, "location, location, location". Keep in mind that older homes are likely to be located in more established neighborhoods, often with proximity to a town's center. These areas usually offer established landscaping with mature trees, gardens and in some cases these older homes sit on much larger pieces of land. Subdivisions and newer homes have a tendency to be located on the outskirts of a city with homes on smaller pieces of property, and with less established landscaping. Just one thing to consider as you look into the older home/new home dilemma.

Older homes do often, but do not always have the advantage of being more affordable than newer developments. As the cost of land surges it becomes more and more expensive to build new subdivisions. This being said, the ownership costs of a newer home are certainly more predictable and obviously lower. Also, some older homes of character heritage will not always be less expensive than a new home given their niche market demand.

A subdivision neighborhood tends to be more homogenous and offers very particular elements that may suit your needs. Many subdivisions are suited specifically for families, while some are specific to retirees. Older neighborhoods tend to be more about diversity, offering homes with a blend of older and younger folk, families, retirees and renters alike. Again, your preference depends on what you're looking for.

If you're an amenity junkie, then the newer subdivision lifestyle may be the best choice for you. Many of these complexes offer clubhouses, playgrounds, swimming pools, internal bike and walking trails. While most older neighborhoods do not offer such things, many will have the advantage of proximity to urban shopping centers and amenities that are located in or near the downtown core.

Lower building costs in the past meant more home for your money. Many older homes are built on a much larger scale by today's standards. On the flip side, this can be a real energy drain unless the older home has been fully updated to increase energy efficiency. Newer homes have the advantage of being built with new building materials such as glazed Energy Star windows, improved insulation, and oftentimes newer homes are equipped with geothermal systems which are highly efficient and cost effective conditioning systems.

"Character" is one of the major draws to any older home. And the fact is, many new homes cannot reproduce the specific character of homes from a given era. Well, it's not so much that they can't, but the cost in many cases would be very high. And, if you're looking at subdivisions, these new homes are generally built based on a template. Many newer subdivisions offer some elements that have some character reminiscent architectural design. There are whole subdivisions built in Cape Cod style, or others that include certain character elements like crown moldings, or over sized windows. But a house of a particular era, truly has a character that cannot be replaced or reproduced. If this is what you know you want, than by all means go for it!

What newer homes can offer is customization vs. character. If a house is in the process of being built you will have the option to pick your own color schemes, cabinets, flooring, appliances and there are often may upgrade options available as well. With older homes you are relying mainly on the previous owners tastes, unless you are prepared to throw a lot of money for upgrades and changes.

So take all these elements into consideration as you weigh out practicalities and also your preference towards a new or and old home. And, to end the tale of the dilemma between old and new, here's a little story:

A young couple was looking to purchase their first home. In the beginning of their search the couple had in mind a true character home in the old city quarter of a medium sized town. They had a specific budget, and were looking for something of at least 1500 sq feet and in the age range of 70-100 years old.. Well, soon into their initial walk throughs the couple realized that the majority of these homes had some serious draw backs. These were mostly structural, electrical and energy concerns. They looked at some beautiful houses, but in order to get these puppies up to snuff they'd of required major monies worth in repairs. Suddenly their dream of owning a character home shifted as they added other practical concerns. The couple ended up purchasing a west coast style home built in 65' that needed some updates but that was structurally sound and needed no major overhauls. Basically their definition of an older character home shifted about 40-50 years into the future! But, most importantly they were very happy with their purchase although their scope had shifted.

So, yes, know what you're looking for as you begin your home search, but remember there is no harm in being open to shift gears a bit as you learn more about the older and newer homes available in the market you're looking in.

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