Debating between an older home and new construction? With benefits and drawbacks to each, the decision isn’t always easy. Fortunately, we’re here to help you choose the one that best fits your needs. From an older home’s fun character and not-so-fun maintenance needs to a newer build’s great finishes and not-so-great new construction costs, here are several pros and cons to weigh before buying a home.
The construction materials may be better quality – There’s a reason why that older home is still standing: it’s made of quality construction. While not all older homes are made of A+ construction materials, many are. These well-built older homes are often composed of traditional, solid lumber which has stood the test of time. Newer homes, on the other hand, are typically made of engineered wood. In many older homes, this traditional lumber was handcrafted and specifically designed to withstand treacherous weather conditions.
You’re inheriting a labor of love – Oftentimes, moving into an older home means inheriting a labor of love. The house may have been kept up and maintained by dozens of families in past decades. The history (and the history of its prior owners) makes living in an older home a special experience for current residents. If you’re a fan of history or simply love the idea of a house with “good karma,” then an older home’s charm will appeal to you.
The neighborhood may be better preserved – Moving to a historic neighborhood? If it’s designated by the city as “historic,” then there’s a good chance you won’t have to deal with new development. Living in a historic area also ensures that neighbors won’t be able to make drastic (read: ugly!) changes to their homes or yards without going through the preservation office first. This will usually prevent a drop in your home’s property value.
They have character and charm – Older homes come in a variety of beautiful architectural styles that you won’t find with new homes. From Mid-century and Colonial to Victorian and Spanish, these construction styles are stunningly unique – making them a far cry from a cookie cutter new construction house.
There are possible financial benefits – If an older home is designated as “historic,” owners may qualify to receive certain tax benefits from the state and local government, according to porch.com. Owners typically receive these benefits when they maintain an older home and/or renovate it as needed.
They require more upkeep and maintenance – The older the home, the more upkeep it requires. Unfortunately, one of the main drawbacks of owning an older home is the amount of work needed to keep it up. Water damage, electrical issues and structural problems are just a few of the common issues experienced with older homes. If you decide to buy an older home, be prepared to pay for the upkeep.
They may require expensive renovations – Is the electrical up-to-code? Have the kitchen and bathrooms been updated? Does the plumbing need to be replaced? Be prepared to make renovations and necessary changes to an older home.
There are strict rules in historic districts – If the older home is located in an official historic district, you may not be able to make all renovations or changes to a home that you would like. From the interior to the exterior, many historic districts have strict rules and guidelines for homeowners, making it difficult (if not, nearly impossible) to change a home’s aesthetics. For more information about a historic district’s rules, check with your city development office.
The house may contain toxic materials – Given that older homes were built before many government-issued construction regulations, there may be toxic materials inside the home. This likely includes lead-based paint, which was banned by the EPA in 1978. Make sure to ask your Realtor about any possible toxic materials in the home when purchasing an older house.
Insurance costs could skyrocket – Given that older homes tend to have structural issues and/or are more prone to weather-related damage, your homeowners insurance rates could be higher than if you owned new construction.
Low maintenance and limited upkeep – Looking for a low maintenance home? New construction may be the right choice for you. Since these homes are brand spanking new, you can expect them to need limited upkeep.
Renovations won’t be necessary – When purchasing new construction, you won’t have to worry about wonky, broken appliances or outdated finishes. Everything from the flooring and countertops to the crown molding and light fixtures should be up-to-date, making expensive renovations completely unnecessary.
Everything is up to code – Oftentimes in older homes, the electrical wiring is not up to code. This can be a potential fire hazard. Fortunately, in new construction homes, you won’t have to worry about this. All electrical wiring in a new construction home should be up to code, making it a particularly safe place to live.
They have larger rooms and modern floor plans – If you’ve house hunted recently, you’ve probably noticed that older homes tend to have small rooms and closed off floor plans. For those who prefer the popular open concept floor plan, they’ll likely find it in new construction homes. Rooms also tend to be larger and ceilings higher in these newly built homes.
You may be able to customize the home – When purchasing new construction, you should be able to customize the interior and exterior of the home to your liking. This includes kitchen finishes, bathroom hardware and paint colors. New construction costs also include pricey upgrades, which are typically optional when buying new construction.
Lack of character – If “character” and uniqueness is important to you in a home, then new construction might not be the right choice for you. In many new construction developments, the homes tend to look very similar. Those looking to avoid the “cookie cutter” look would do best to purchase an older home.
You might have to pay HOA fees in a new development – Oftentimes (but not all the time), these new construction costs include mandatory HOA fees. While expensive, these fees usually pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the area’s landscaping, pool and recreational facilities. Before purchasing new construction, be sure to ask the development about all HOA fees.
New construction upgrades can be pricey – Buyers of new construction are typically given the option to “upgrade” their finishes. These top-notch finishes may include hardwood floors and high-end countertops. As you can imagine, these luxuries cost more than your standard, run-of-the-mill home finishes. If you’re planning to purchase these pricey upgrades, make sure to take these additional new construction costs into account when budgeting for the house.
You might have to wait for it be built – If you’ve ever experienced a renovation, then you know that construction almost always takes longer than originally estimated. So be prepared to wait a good six months (if not more!) for your new construction to be completed.
The price isn’t usually negotiable – Unfortunately, prices for new construction homes aren’t usually negotiable. In fact, the builders of these homes or apartment buildings rarely lower their base price for the initial buyers. However, the good news is that buyers who purchase new construction in an up-and-coming neighborhood may be getting in at a good price.