Buying New Vs. Resale

Dated: October 1 2019

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Buying New Vs. Resale

Is It Better to Buy New or Old in Today’s Market and Which is Better for Me?

One of the very first steps of buying a house is sitting down and weighing out whether buying a new build or a resale home is a better investment for you personally.  At the end of the day the choice is going to come down to preference, but there are a number of things that should be considered along the way.  When it comes to vintage vs. modern design, you are always going to have a give and take, including the quality of the build itself, energy efficiency, attention to detail, and tradition vs. modern amenities--but the truth of the matter is it’s hard to find a property that has it all (aside from doing a complete demo/renovation on a resale.  But that’s a topic for another day. When deciding between buying new or old, it’s best to look at four primary factors as to what makes one a better investment over another—including affordability, overall maintenance, overall investment, and style.  Looking into the advantages and disadvantages for both new and old in each category can help to narrow down what option works best for you, your budget, and your needs.

Affordability

Affordability tends to to be one of the most imperative factors to consider when buying a home.  What you can pay and what you should pay speak to the type of investment you are looking to make.  The money factor manifests in a handful of ways you may not think about aside from the base price of a home.  Here are some of the factors to consider when looking whether a new build or a resale will be more affordable for you:

New Build

  • Advantages:
    • Energy efficiency is a major factor to consider between buying new and a resale.  Newly built homes are required to fulfill much tougher national standards than the homes that were built years ago.  Between windows and doors, insulation, and even appliances, builders today have to ensure everything is to code, as well as hitting national requirements for conserving energy.
    • Mortgages are a huge part of buying a home.  While we will get into the national average cost to buy a newly built home in the next section, it’s important to point out the leverage you have as a buyer when purchasing new.  Most builders and the companies they represent have their own built-in mortgage divisions.  It is much easier to get a loan via a builder’s mortgage division than it is a traditional bank or credit agency.  
  • Disadvantages
    • As is the case with most things in life, paying for something brand new means you’re going to pay a bit more than if you were to pay resale value.  Estimates show that the national median cost to buy new is 30% more than buying an older home--but, as we will cover in the “maintenance” section, buying new means there will most definitely be less issues with overall, as most homes comes with a minimum of a ten year warranty on almost all appliances, finishes, and features.

Resale Homes

  • Advantages
    • The base price of a resale home tends to be lower than a new build (in most cases), with a national median cost of $240,500--nearly 30% less than buying new.  
    • As a buyer, you are paying for quality.  Older homes are built with care and a kind of craftsmanship that, frankly, rarely exists anymore.  In historically old homes, a buyer can find moldings and hand-crafted built-ins that you just will not find in a new construction property. 
    • Most older homes were built to be centralized and in close proximity to their nearby cities and downtown areas.  This means that with an older home you will likely end up with a larger property, closer to the center of town, with a far better commute.  
  • Disadvantages
    • Overall, it tends to be harder to get approved for a loan for an older home.  Passing the inspection is the first hurdle but ensuring everything is up to code and won’t cost an arm and a leg to replace is a whole other monster to battle.  Many banks don’t want to take on the risk, or they are more than willing, but at a much lesser cost.  
    • While the base price of an older home may be lower, the updates and improvements that need to be invested in add up.  When it comes to replacing outdated essentials, like windows and doors, an extra cost often pops up as the buyer has to consider new regulations in regard to energy efficiency.  

The affordability factor is important to consider before choosing between old and new because different buyers have different goals.  Some are looking for a lower cost home with good bones to renovate.  Some are looking for an older home that has been slightly updated but fits their financial requirements.  And some just love the idea of having everything in the home that surrounds them come brand-spanking-new—knowing they will have no major worries about repairs and replacements for at least a decade.  Affordability to one person can be completely different than affordability to another.  Weigh out your needs, wants, and goals before searching for a mortgage to figure out what affordability means to you.

Investment

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments we make in our lives.  It’s not just a willy-nilly decision made on a whim, but a well thought out process in which the return on the investment is often just as important as the investment itself.  Buyers need to know they are not investing in a money pit that will never show them a return.  Most buyer want to go into their investment knowing they will come out, at the very least, even.  Here are a few things to consider when thinking about one of the biggest financial undertakings of your life:

New Build

  • Advantages
    • New homes are virtually always more energy efficient by nature.  There is more thought put into modern regulations in terms of how energy can be saved and where.  Most newly built homes come with certifications and warranties that cover the roof, walls, windows, doors, and appliances.  This means that not only will your necessities be covered for X-amount of time, but your bills will likely be much lower as well.
    • Builders put a lot of emphasis on air quality in today’s market too.  By adding better filtration systems to the air and water, a certain level of quality is added to the home as a whole that is, frankly, better for our overall heat
  • Disadvantages
    • Purchasing a newly constructed home with a return on investment in mind can be a bit of a gamble/risk.  It’s very hard to predict how certain neighborhoods will do in an established market.  The price could skyrocket if the appeal for the neighborhood is there--but if not, the price could drop in comparison to what you paid.
    • New construction neighborhoods tend to be in slightly less desirable and more suburban areas that offer smaller and smaller lot sizes.  A tried and true return on investment will always include the proximity a property has to the centralized area of the city or town.  With many new construction neighborhoods having to be built up outside of the desired boundaries of a city, it is likely that the neighborhood will be less desirable to those who love the vibrancy of the central part of a city.

Resale Home

  • Advantages
    • With a resale home, there tends to be a clear and concise history of appreciation or depreciation over the years.  A buyer can find a clear layout of how the home has fluctuated in price over time, and furthermore, how the comps in the area of fluctuated as well.  
    • If renovation is your thing, buying an older home tends to be much more desirable because the buyer is investing mainly in the bones of the home.  If the investment of replacing windows, doors, and appliances is no object, an older home can provide a certain level of craftsmanship and resale value that a new build just won’t have.
  • Disadvantage
    • A major downfall of buying a resale home is the investment in energy costs.  Most older homes do not come with energy efficient finishes, including windows and doors--thus, the overall price of running the home tends to be more expensive.  A lot of the efficiency with windows and doors comes down to construction, so a simple replacement doesn’t always equate to equal efficiency.  
    • There is an unadvertised cost that comes along with a new home, in that much of the time, a buyer will have to replace household failures at an unforeseen cost.  From furnaces to air conditioning units, and refrigerators to washers and dryers, there are many things that could begin to break once the new owner moves in.  
    • It’s important to keep in mind that older homes were built with different layouts too.  Many floor plans and blueprint layouts are outdated and cannot account for modern wiring and plumbing.  A great deal of work often has to be done when the interiors of the house start to falter.  

The overall investment you get out of a property should eventually override what you put in.  It is imperative to think about how your personal investment will play out.  Whether you want to put money into updating an older home to see a major return on investment, or you want to buy new to ensure you can put very little into the property but still see a sizeable return, there are many factors that need to be considered before taking the dive.

Maintenance

Maintaining a home is really important if you want to see a return on the investment you made in it.  Letting things crumble and dilapidate is going to ensure you have to pay out more to fix the issue later.  Keeping a steady stream of maintenance going at all times is the best way to go about it.  There are quite a few factors to consider when thinking about the maintenance a property will entail—here are a few:

New Build

  • Advantages
    • Theoretically, there will be a good 8-10 years before any major repairs or replacements pop up in a new build.  Buyers can go into the purchase with a peace of mind knowing their investment in buying new will come with warranties and contracts ensuring the life of the finishes and appliances that came included with the purchase.  A builder’s warranty is usually required to cover at least ten years beyond the purchase date.  
    • New homes also come with the peace of mind that everything in the home in untouched and completely clean.  When you buy a home with brand new appliances, windows, doors, moldings, and cabinetry, you know everything is as sturdy as the day it was installed.  
  • Disadvantages
    • With energy efficiency comes maintenance and repair.  Many newer homes come with solar panels and other green energy installations that cut down on overall costs of energy but can require major repair at some point in the future.  The good news is, there is a good lifespan on most green energy, and the overall amount of money you save on energy costs can help to counterbalance any repairs that might come up.
    • Many new homes come with smart technology capabilities as well.  We are definitely living in the future in terms of how we can equip our homes to respond to our needs, but many of these technologies come with a required subscription in order to use them to their full advantage.  This is a cost that might not be considered upon purchase but becomes very real when it’s a constant extra bill to be paid each month. 

Resale Home

  • Advantages
    • Obviously, an older home is going to have less advantages than a new build when it comes to general maintenance.  There are going to be built in issues that come up unbeknownst to the new buyer.  Keeping up with general maintenance after purchase can make all the difference in the world. 
    • Giving great attention to maintaining an older home can have its own benefits.  Ensuring the work is put into an old home to maintain its historic influence can qualify a home to be on the national registry of historic homes--better yet, it can quality the owner for a number of tax breaks!
  • Disadvantages
    • With an older house comes repairs on older items.  It’s just the way of life.  Many resales will have been slightly or fully renovated, but there may still be underlying issues that are impossible to foresee until a problem arises.  
    • In many cases, if a problem arises, the solution can be more expensive than one would expect.  The wiring and piping in older homes didn’t account for how wiring and piping would change as time went on, and frankly, in extremely old homes, wiring wasn’t even a thought.  This means when something goes awry in those cases, the cost might end up a bit higher than an owner might account for.

The issue of maintenance comes easier with newer builds because the interiors, appliances, and window and door units are all modern enough to ensure major overhauls won’t be necessary if anything breaks.  The maintenance of an older home will always be a bit more difficult for a time than with a new construction property—it’s just nature.

Style

Style is a vital component to choosing a house.  Even if all the other marks are checked off, and you find a property that feels like the right investment, at the most affordable price, with the right amount of maintenance, it can still feel off because it doesn’t match your personal style.  There are a handful of finishes that are common in older builds that would never be thought of in new construction—here are a few common examples of what sets resale styles apart from new construction:

New Build

  • Advantages
    • A new construction home will usually come with more built-in conveniences than an older resale.  It is standard in today’s age for a new build to come equipped with dishwashers, built-in microwaves, and large stainless-steel refrigerators. 
    • On top of the modern appliances coming standard, most new properties are also designed with larger, multi-purpose rooms.  Most modern homes are planned with rooms that are purposefully designed to make modern life a little more luxurious.  From master suites to media rooms and finished basements to solariums, the modern floor plan is vastly different than that of those just 20 years ago.
  • Disadvantages
    • New construction homes rarely offer the uniqueness that you’ll find with a resale.  Most new homes have similar floor plans with little to no variety.  While the homes may come with larger and more spacious rooms, there will be very little variation from one home to the next in a new construction neighborhood.  Meaning the comps around the property have little individuality.
    • The finishes in a new home will be beautiful but will likely not be created or built with the quality you would find once upon a time.  Modernized kitchens are all the rage, but many new cabinets are not the same solid wood you would find in an older home.  The quality of the building materials will always be a little less when it comes to newer builds.  
    • The plant life around a new home will be less mature, or often non-existent.  Landscaping may come included, but in some cases, a new construction home will not even have mature grass.  That means there will be a necessary investment in sod, if you are not willing to wait for the grass to grow naturally.

Resale Home

  • Advantages
    • The quality you find in older homes is unbeatable.  Homes built decades, and even centuries ago tend to have a meticulous attention to detail that you are very unlikely to find in a modern build.  Historic resale homes will often come with gems like stained glass windows, hand carved moldings, and sturdy hardwoods.  
    • Location!  Many older homes will sit on slightly larger lots that are close to the central part of town.  More often than not these homes will be in established neighborhoods with a clear-cut comp system in place that allows for owners to see how a property has appreciated or depreciated.  
    • The overall style of a property is a major draw too.  Older homes tend to have very unique exterior structures.  Resales come in styles ranging from Victorian to Greek Revival to English Tudors and Colonials.  The unique exteriors are often jaw dropping in terms of detail and offer a style you just don’t often find in new construction.
  • Disadvantages
    • The biggest drawback in terms of style when it comes to resale homes tends to be the size of the rooms, closets, and bathrooms.  Renovations can help expand the sizes of these downfalls, but at a massive cost.  Most older homes just don’t have the closet space that a new build will have, and closets are a vital part of modern life.  The bathrooms can be difficult too as it takes a major amount of renovation to create anything close to a modern-day bathroom with a soaking tub, shower, and toilet space.

Style will always come down to personal preference, and at the end of the day, that’s what a potential buyer will have to consider before taking the leap on a new or old home.  Does the style fit the personality?  Your home is your sanctuary and it should match your eccentricities—or lack thereof. The reality of buying a home is that there are always going to be hard decisions to make—even from the very beginning.  There will be pros and cons of buying new and buying resale, but they will be different for every single buyer.  While one buyer may love the idea of spending a little more to get a property that is brand new in all ways, move-in ready, full of new technology, and easier to finance, a new construction build is the choice for you!  But if spending less money up front, a centralized location, unique style, and better quality overall is more your thing, a resale is probably your better choice!  It really comes down to the individual, which is why you should follow your gut when it comes to these decisions. Don’t let anyone else try to sway you away from your choice if you know it is what’s best for you.   Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so make it worth your while!   

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