The hunt for a new home most often begins with the answer to one simple question. Do I want to purchase an existing home or new construction? Retro and quirky versus a blank slate? Consider these eight trade-offs before making your decision.
Purchase price. Statistics show that buying a new house may cost 20 percent more than buying an existing home, though circumstances in your market may be different. New construction tends to be further from urban centers. Existing homes in the city center will be higher than comparable houses in the outskirts. But not all cost increases are in the house itself. Commuting costs are much higher in the suburbs.
Floor plan. New homes are built with current tastes in mind, which means new construction will offer open floor plans with few walls in the main living areas. Also in new homes, windows are larger, allowing more natural lighting. Vaulted ceilings create an expansive feel. Bathrooms are larger and walk-in closets are commonplace.
Existing homes, depending on age, may have smaller, more defined rooms, smaller windows and lower ceilings. Homes from a couple of generations ago did not have walk-in closets and spacious bathrooms. To open things up will require remodeling, which should be figured into the purchase price.
Architectural style. Part of the appeal of existing homes is the retro look of the architecture. Some older designs have a character that cannot be found in contemporary houses. In neighborhoods from generations past, homes were customized. Or enough time has passed that tract homes have been remodeled.
Builders in new subdivisions may have only a handful of designs. While they will try their best to keep identical homes from being built side by side, a house three doors down might be your home’s identical twin.
Features. New homes offer upgrades, which means buyers may choose to buy more expensive cabinets, counters or tile. In an existing home, update will have to be done after closing, which means dealing with the construction hassle. Electronic features, such as wiring for home theater and smart home technology, can be easily built into new construction. However, retrofitting an existing home is more difficult and expensive.
Lot size and landscaping. Unless you are building a custom home on your own, new subdivisions build houses very close to one another. Older homes have more spacious lots. Trees and landscaping on new construction lots are usually young and sparse, whereas older homes have the beauty of large mature trees and other established greenery.
Timing. With a new construction home, unless construction is underway, buyers must wait up to six months for it to be finished. With an existing home, sales typically close in a month or two.
Maintenance. With new construction, everything is fresh. It will be years before you have to replace or repair even small items. With an existing home, an inspection is vital so the buyer knows the condition of the house and knows when items will need repair or replacement. Any expensive items that will need work soon should be used in negotiations for price concessions from the seller.
Energy efficiency. Newer homes are far more advanced than older homes when it comes to energy efficiency. This is true not only for the structure itself, but also for the systems. Unless they’ve been upgraded over the years, the insulation, windows and doors of older homes will be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer. Heating and air conditioning systems today operate far more efficiently, using less gas and electricity than even just five years ago. The same is true of appliances. An older home may need to be upgraded to get energy bills to a manageable level.