You’ve seen the commercial on television. A guy hanging out with three friends at a barbecue asks, “Which new car should I buy?” His friends say, “Why buy used when you can buy new?”
Plenty of folks ask the same question regarding homes – especially now, when long-delayed construction is finally increasing the inventory of new homes in the area.
There are plenty of reasons to purchase a new home and an equal number of reasons to purchase a previously owned property. Which is right for you depends on taste and circumstances.
Consider, for example: Reasons to Purchase a Previously Owned Home
• It’s already built. That means you don’t have to wait weeks or even months while the builder completes your new home. You can move in as soon as you and the seller close on the transaction – usually about 30 days after your offer is accepted.
• What you see is what you get. Model homes are typically decked out in exotic wood floors, granite slab countertops and top-grade appliances. Your home probably won’t have all those things, unless you pay extra for them.
When you purchase an existing home, you know exactly what your new property does and doesn’t have. You are purchasing only the upgrades the previous owners have made, which you can readily see.
• Not in a construction zone. Unless you purchase the last house in the final phase of a development, buyers of new homes may find themselves living with the noise and dust of construction while their neighbors’ homes are being built. Established neighborhoods tend to be quieter in this regard, at least in the short term.
• Established neighborhood. Mature trees and other landscaping, established parks, shopping centers and other nearby amenities designed to serve the residents – these are a few of the advantages of purchasing an existing home. It also likely means local schools have clear track records, so you know what you are buying into.
• Not “cookie cutter.” Despite variations built into new developments, the homes in new neighborhood tend to have a sameness about them. Over time, people repaint their houses, change the roofs, build additions or re-landscape, which gives each house its individual character.
Some folks like the coherence of brand new neighborhoods, but you may prefer a more eclectic mix and the sense that your home is unique.
• Bargain prices. Most of the time, you get more for your money when you purchase an existing home. Unless it is located in a very exclusive neighborhood or features highly desirable upgrades, existing homes are usually priced lower per square foot.
• No surprise costs. Older single-family homes are less likely to be part of a homeowner’s association, which can cost several hundred dollars per month. They also are less likely to be in special zones that allow fees for roads, lights and other amenities.
•Neighborhood traditions. Established communities may already have traditions in place to make it “neighborly” – summertime bloc barbeques, holiday parties, neighborhood garage sales. And when you get to know one neighbor, he or she can likely to introduce you to many more, making your “new old” house feel more like home.
Reasons to Purchase a New Home
• New homes are “new.” That means they offer new designs and features that appeal to today’s buyers, such as open floorplans, large master bathrooms and “smart home” features.
• Energy efficiency. It’s not just solar panels, dual-pane windows, energy-efficient appliances, plus green products, such as bamboo flooring, and drought-tolerant landscaping. Existing homes can be updated to include those popular features. Newer homes are required to meet stricter codes for insulation and low-flow plumbing fixtures. That’s not just good for the planet; it can also save you money in utility costs.
• Safety features. New homes are likely to use composite materials in lieu of wood for roofs and siding, gas inserts in lieu of wood-burning fireplaces, and to feature built-in alarms and sprinklers, fire-retardant carpeting and insulation. All of which is designed to protect you and your family from fire danger. They may also earn you a break on home insurance costs.
• No repairs. When you buy a new home, you don’t have to worry about repairing or replacing appliances, the heating and air conditioning system, the roof or other potentially expensive items for a long time.
If something doesn’t work properly, the builder’s warranty will likely cover most things the first year.
• Your choice in finishes. Unless you select a home that is already complete, you may be able to choose interior designer elements, such as flooring, countertops and fixtures, before they are installed.
For a price, some builders even allow minor modifications to the home. For example, you may be able to replace a window with French doors or have a fourth bedroom in lieu of a third garage space.
• Sparkling clean. There may be a little dust left over from construction, but since no one has lived here, you won’t encounter grime in corners or the back of drawers.
• Tidy neighborhood. No worries about nearby houses or yards that have been allowed to deteriorate. In fact, these days many builders supply front yard landscaping, so everyone’s home looks presentable.
If there is a homeowner’s association, they may have rules to protect the neighborhood as it ages.
• You’ll know your neighbors. When everyone is new to the neighborhood, it’s easier to meet people. Hopefully you and your neighbors are spending lots of time talking about how great it is to live there.
Whether you are looking for new or previously owned property, contact your local Realtor. He or she can help you find the right home for your family.
Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, Livermore.