If you’re shopping for a new home, there are a number of factors you need to consider in order to narrow down your search criteria. Because before you can get too deep into your home search, you need to identify your needs, figure out your wants, and decide if there are any deal breakers that don’t work for you, such as the age, style, and location of your dream house. As you weigh the option between a new build or an older resale, here are six differences to note.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.
Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy access to mass transportation, restaurants, and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.
New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer above ground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.).
Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation, and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways, and freeways), and new construction homes are usually found on the outskirts of city limits where there’s more land available for the development. The main exception being new townhouses on lots in the middle of established neighborhoods.
Design and Layout
If you like Victorian, Craftsman, or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.
Have you given much thought to what type of floor plan you want? If you have your heart set on an open-concept layout with an entertainment kitchen, spacious primary suite, and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more closed floor plans with structural separation between rooms.
If you have a specific home décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s typically best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.
Materials and Craftsmanship
Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship like hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.
However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes, such as copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, and so on.
The condition of a home for sale is a top consideration for any buyer, whether you plan to do a little work or not. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost. But if it’s a home built before the 1970s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead-based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be re-coated.
On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.
Regardless of the age of the home or the apparent condition, it’s important to get a home inspection from a professional.
One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature trees and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you have the patience and interest in building the yard you want, or you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.
Like it or not, most of us are dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes.
Newer homes in developments almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. Some new construction even includes electric vehicle charging stations as electric and hybrid cars become more mainstream. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one small or mid-sized car. For people who don’t want to leave their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.
Finalizing Your Decision
While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.
If you have questions about newer versus older homes or are looking for a real estate agent in your area, we have professionals who can help you.