When making the foray into real estate, have you thought about whether you’d buy a new house or an older home? Does it matter? Here are some pros and cons.
Thanks to the present housing slump, potential home buyers are finding some great bargains, if they have the patience and the savvy to haggle the final price. Many houses in the market have been erected during the last 5 years and should be pretty much trouble free.
But, as they say in the construction business, they don’t make them the way they used to. Experts also say that a house increases in value over the first 20 years, and then the only valuable property is the land. Land almost never decreases in value, unless there is a toxic landfill underneath. So the important question for potential buyers is: is it better to buy an old house or one recently made?
Why You Should Buy An Older Home
Size is not important, but it sure helps. One of the big pluses in buying an old house is the property size. They used to build houses on larger lots. If you have a large family, the opportunity to live on a larger piece of property seems like a wonderful option. In general, the square footage for the average single family home has increased over time, while land size appears to have shrunk. A home built in the 50’s and 60’s has a typical living space of around 900 to 1,600 square feet but it wasn’t uncommon for land parcels then to be larger than what it is today, especially in the suburbs.
These days, larger plots of land would be considered prime real estate and will cost you a fortune. Not to mention the type of wood and materials used in the past, redwood instead of pine, and the size, 2 x 6 instead of 2 x 4. It’s true that some old homes still cost a fortune in some areas, so you’ll have to be patient and search for the great opportunity.
They can’t see us and other goodies. Aside from the size, old homes give you some privacy from the neighbors. The new subdivisions tend to build a new house right next to a nosy neighbor who could crawl through your bedroom window from his own. Think about the area where older homes were built; their zoning preserves the neighborhood and may afford you more agreeable neighbors, with protection from noisy businesses setting up shop in your vicinity. Trees may also be an advantage; they’ve had time to grow and form a beautiful canopy on the streets where you might jog every day. Finally, there is the distance. Older homes may be closer to the city and give you less commute time. Wow, that’s worth a lot. Think of the gas and the frustration you save.
However… here are some (perhaps obvious) reasons why a newer home could be better for you.
Why You Should Buy A New House
Of course, there are disadvantages to buying an older home. I can think of five areas that should be thoroughly vetted before you make an offer on a house that’s more than 20 years old:
- Electrical System
- Structural Integrity
As you check out an older home, note that if the house had good owners, then they would have probably replaced the heating and cooling systems recently, including the boiler. Check for signs of good maintenance. But watch out for asbestos; have an expert check the pipes to see whether they were covered with asbestos as insulation.
An older home may also have lots of areas that may need repairs and a lot of stuff may require replacement. Also, many things may not be “up to code”. These days, newer homes have many more amenities — fire sprinklers built in, yard sprinklers installed, built in HVAC systems, and a lot of modern features just not available in older residences.
Additionally, newer houses are built with a lot more forethought, and understandably, address the many requirements of today’s homeowners. They are built with more storage, additional rooms, and a “flow” that represents the modern family’s lifestyle. Many new homes are erected today with a “green” designation.
How Do You Decide: Old vs New House?
What it boils down to is location, location, location… and cost. Is it possible to fix the old home at an affordable price and still get a bargain? Do you like the old house so much that you must have it? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
That feeling of yesteryear. Old houses have a certain feeling that’s non-existent in newer homes. The walls talk to you from generations past (as long as they don’t include some grisly murders or have a sordid reputation). Are you willing to sacrifice some of the modern conveniences, larger bathrooms and modern kitchens, for the pleasure of large trees and gardens, pleasant neighbors and proximity to the work place?
The tradeoff may ultimately boil down to that mature garden vs cool bathroom fixtures and low-flow plumbing!
Contributing Writer: Jacques Sprenger, a former college professor in psychology and English, a counselor, and now a teacher for challenged students.
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