The Pros and Cons of Old Homes vs. New Construction
Choosing the best home to purchase can be a complicated decision. Is it better to buy a new home, or is an older home the smarter financial decision? What are the trade offs? To help quantify that decision, here are several advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Homes For Sale: Location & Maintenance Issues
- Older homes tend to be in neighborhoods closer to metropolitan areas even though they are considered “in the suburbs.”
- An older home probably comes with a larger piece of property and established landscaping. Older homes offer the advantage of mature landscaping and well-established trees and lawn. But often an older landscape can mean higher maintenance. Check for sprinkler systems with timers and automatic watering maintenance, otherwise you may be maintaining those giant trees, shrubs and lawn by hand.
- Older neighborhoods will likely have established shopping nearby and other basic services within easy reach. They may also offer more choices in grocery stores, gas stations and other services.
- Cities expand outward. Newly constructed developments, with new homes, will usually be further away from metropolitan centers. This is OK if you want to get away from it all. But it does mean longer commutes to work and additional time spent on the highways and freeways, sometimes adding hours to the workday and increasing your gas bill. If considering a new development also note how far away the shopping centers are and check for other support services. Where are the restaurants, dry cleaners, and the other services needed each week? Are they close by? Or, are they far away?
- New planned communities will offer a smaller lot for new homeowners. Does that fit with your current family needs? Or, will it be too small in several years?
- What about security? Are you looking for a gated community, or a wide open space.
- How much hardscape and landscaping will the developer provide as part of the sale? Will the lawns and landscaping be finished? Or, will there be additional work that needs to be done to be able to move in and enjoy the property?
New vs. Old Floor Plans
Architectural taste has changed over the years. Newer homes offer fewer, but often far larger rooms, including spacious kitchens and open area family rooms.
Older homes, by contrast, tend to offer more rooms, but less spacious rooms, including functional kitchens with less storage and a separate, smaller formal dining room. Older homes do have unique architectural elements such as large crown moldings or ceiling medallions, which is often missing on newer construction. Personal preferences and lifestyle will help decide which type of home and layout is most appealing.
If a large kitchen will become the hub of the family and friend’s activities, then a new home will most likely be the better choice. In contrast, if you want a cozy, traditional bedroom or library tucked away from the hustle and bustle of an active family, an older home may be better suited for private spaces.
Today, new home plans are easy to find on the internet, and construction plans have really come down in cost. Companies like Barndominium floor plans come with prices that are affordable to anyone looking to build. The options are many, you just need to do some research.
Older homes that have been updated can provide up to date appliances and amenities. Frequently it is better to pay slightly more for a property that has these upgrades than to absorb the expense of buying them after purchase.
- Bathrooms and kitchens are the largest expense when it comes to upgrades. A new kitchen remodel can easily cost $25,000 to $35,000 for appliances, counters and cabinets, and often several months to complete.
- Modern amenities such as spa tubs, skylights and top-of-the-line kitchen appliances are usually more common in a new home. Purchasing a new home that includes these can save tens of thousands of dollars.
- Cooling and heating are another big expense that you’ll need to be aware of. Be sure to get an HVAC technician to look over your furnace and AC unit. Older homes often don’t have central air systems since these homes never included the necessary ductwork. Think about the cost to replace or maintain an older system.
- Oversized garages are also an amenity that most new homes will feature but that many older homes do not. Older homes that do have garages also tend to have smaller, one-car or tight two-car garages. And convenience features such as automatic garage doors and gates are more consistently found in new homes.
- Do you need a finished basement? If you’re having a new home constructed, it’s easy to budget this into the cost of a new home. But on an older home, basement remodeling or a complete renovation can quickly become a hassle and get more expensive than originally planned whenever dealing with old construction.
Most builders of new homes will warrant their homes for at least the first year, or offer an extended warranty. If anything goes wrong, the builder will cover it. Also, new homes come with new appliances and they normally have warranties as well. If the furnace or dishwasher were to fail within the first couple of years, the warranty would cover it, saving you an out of pocket expense.
New Construction vs Older Homes – Energy Consumption
Energy costs will continue to increase year after year. Older homes’ windows, doors and lack of insulation are more prone to increased operating costs. In the past, some homes were built with inferior materials. Always check older homes for additions that altered the original home’s structure, or were construction with code violations or without building permits. Can you handle the increased cost of heating and cooling an older home?
New homes will be compliant with current construction codes for double pained windows and doors, insulation, weather stripping and fire retardant materials. They will offer lower energy savings construction.
Negotiating The Price Of Old & New Homes
Cost will have a large influence on the home’s selection as much as personal preferences. Newly constructed homes generally have low contractor or developer margins, so there is less room to negotiate. The owner or agent of an older home may be willing to make price concessions if motivated to quickly sell the property. Keep this in mind, particularly if the older home will clearly require maintenance and repairs that a new home would not.