If you are considering purchasing a home, you have likely already asked yourself the question, “What’s better, a brand-new house or a house that has been lived in.” This is a question that most prospective home buyers ask themselves, and it is a topic that has been discussed time and again.
It’s difficult to say ‘this’ is a pro of a new or old home, and ‘that’ is a con because what’s seen as a plus to someone could be a deal breaker to someone else. So, let’s talk about what to expect with each and you can decide for yourself if it’s something that you want or not.
Before we get started, let’s define old and new. Remember that “old” homes are often called existing, used, or resale homes, but for this article we will just refer to them as old to keep it simple. For the purposes of this discussion, I will define an old home as anything older than 20 years old, and a new home as anything newer than 20 years old. Yes, I realize that 20 years is not that long ago. Someone who is 20 years old is certainly not old; however, on a home, there are things that begin happening in this time period that set it apart from a newer home.
Costs: New House vs. Old House
According to one source, the median cost of a new home in 2019 was about $330,000 and the cost of an old home was $240,000. That is almost a $100,000 difference! In instant savings, $100,000 is a lot of money- enough money to make people think twice about buying that perfect, never-lived in house. However, something to consider is the amount of money that will be sunk into a home after you buy it. If you are buying a new home, repairs and renovations should be minimal (if any), whereas older homes usually require more repairs and renovations to suit your taste. We will talk more about this next.
Upkeep and Maintenance
If you are buying a new home, repairs and maintenance should be very manageable, at least for the first several years. New homes typically don’t require any major repairs for at least 7 years and in many cases would still be under the builder’s warranty. Older homes will require more time and money to upkeep. The older the house becomes, the more repairs will need to be done to keep it in good shape.
Doing routine maintenance helps prevent major repairs, but some pricey repairs are inevitable as the house ages. This being said, ALL HOMES NEED MAINTENANCE, regardless the age. Some sources suggest that new homes may even need more attention to keep it looking brand-new. So whether you purchase a new or an old home, be prepared to do routine maintenance on the house.
It’s not common for someone to buy a brand-new house and immediately start renovating. Most people who are investing in a newly constructed home are doing just that- investing in something they like and aren’t looking to change it right away.
One of the perks of buying an old home is saving a large sum of money on the initial purchase, and being able to use some of the ‘extra’ money for transforming that used house into your home. The cost of renovations that are required vary from person-to-person and house-to-house. Some people enjoy simple features and others have more extravagant taste. A home that is only 20 years old probably requires less remodeling than a house that is 60 years old.
Additional Costs of Ownership
New homes are usually built to be energy efficient. They are built with newer materials, better insulation, and quality, state-of-the-art tech. Ideally, this will decrease the cost of energy bills, but that may take time to add up to anything significant. Older homes typically are not as efficient, but is it worth spending thousands of dollars on fancier appliances and technology if it takes years to just break even? This article uses the example of replacing 10 windows with new double-paned windows. To get quality windows and installation, you’re looking at $750 a window; so you’re at $7,500 to replace all the windows. Best case scenario, you’re saving $300 a year on utilities, but that is still 25 YEARS until they pay for themselves. Is it worth it?
Some additional costs that are often forgotten are insurance and property taxes to be paid. Homeowner’s insurance typically costs less for a new home because the building shouldn’t acquire problems any time soon. Because older homes tend to have more issues, most people find themselves paying more for insurance. When it comes to property taxes, keep in mind that a less expensive, older home could fall into a different tax base than a pricier new home, meaning you pay less for an older home. Also, look into current rates in the area and see how it’s changed over time. While these probably won’t play a big part of your decision, they should be something to think about when buying a house.
Building Code/Safety Features: New vs. Old House
Something to consider when in the market for a house is the code compliance of the home. Building codes have changed a lot over the years, and all of these changes are designed to protect both you and your home. In a never-ending attempt to improve safety, the “code gods” look at the principle causes of failure, such as house fires, electrocutions, plumbing issues, air quality issues, etc. Using this information, they determine what changes to building codes are necessary to prevent/minimize these issues in the future.
As a result of these changes, new building codes are born and existing homes are now out of compliance, while new homes will be built in compliance with the current codes. This means that newer homes will have more of the latest and greatest safety features, better sealing against air and water intrusion, etc. If you purchase an old home, sometimes lenders will require some issues, such as the absence of certain electrical safety features, to be updated but often there is nothing that will require all of the out-of-compliance issues to be brought up to today’s code. As a buyer, it is normally not reasonable for you to expect the homeowner to bring these issues up to today’s standards for you because the price of the home already reflects the fact that the home is not new.
Having said the above, I want to explain one more thing. While the code issues discussed above are an advantage to purchasing a new home, allow me to add one about really old homes. We’ve all heard “they don’t build them like they used to.” Having inspected more than 5000 homes, I can testify that this saying is true. I have inspected many homes that are 80 – 100 years old, and these homes are definitely well built. They are better built than the large majority of homes that are being built today. If they weren’t well built with durable materials, they wouldn’t still be standing. I doubt that many of the homes being built today will still be around 80 years from now. So there are definitely some advantages to buying an older home when it comes to the quality of construction.
Location: New Home vs. Old Home
If location is important to you, it may really tip the scale. Old homes are often found in the city near entertainment, shopping, schools, and businesses. These homes are closer to everything in town and are located in well-established neighborhoods. You can buy into an area that you know, an area you know offers what you are looking for. If convenience and confidence are important to you, you might consider looking for a home in these areas.
In towns and cities alike, empty lots are hard to come by, making contractors build outwards. You find a lot of new homes in the outskirts of town or in suburbs surrounding the area. It’s likely that if there’s an area with a brand-new home, there are/will be more of them. This means that the area is still developing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These new homes are often built with the intent of well-planned communities nearby. If you enjoy less commotion than a city offers and don’t mind the commute, then maybe one of these newer homes is a good fit.
Size of a New House vs. an Old House
Though not always the case, many old homes are small in size compared to what we see built nowadays. We live in an age where ‘the bigger the better’, but don’t forget that good things come in small packages. If the size of your home is important, keep this in mind when deciding.
When it comes to the yard and lot as a whole, this scenario is the opposite. Because an old home is smaller and was built years ago when land was more available, the yard tends to be larger. It doesn’t help that the cost of land has increased drastically, driving people to buy smaller lots to build their home.
Architecture: New House vs. Old House
Another difference you will see is the style of the home, both inside and out. Unless remodeled, old homes will have a more vintage and traditional feel. On the other hand, new homes will most likely be modern and sleek. While old homes can be redone to fit basically any style you want, many people find these houses have an unparalleled charm to them.
Landscaping: New vs. Old
Trees and other vegetation take years to reach maturity. A house built in the 50s probably has beautiful, large trees, whereas a house built this year is likely to have few (if any) small trees. When new homes are built, contractors often don’t include landscaping or will only do the front to be presentable. If a beautiful yard is a must-have, it could cost you thousands of dollars and years to achieve.
Conclusion: Should You Buy a New House or an Old House?
There is a lot to think about when buying a house and everyone will come up with their own list of pros and cons. The most important thing you can do is make an informed decision about the home you buy, new or old. Consider all the advantages and disadvantages to make sure it fits your financial and lifestyle goals. After all, it’s probably one of the biggest investments you’ll make and you want it to be one you’ll be happy with for years to come.
© 2020 Mike Morgan
This article was co-written by Mike Morgan, owner of Morgan Inspection Services, and Kayla Perdue, Digital Marketing Manager. Morgan Inspection Services has been providing home, septic and well inspection services throughout the central Texas area since 2002. He can be reached at 325-998-4663 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Mike Morgan.