In my neck of the woods, the ratio of existing home inventory to new homes is about 50-50, with a slight edge to new. That’s unusually high for any other part of the country, especially now that housing starts have been low for a few years running.
Whatever the case may be where you live, when you’re deciding what type of home to get, you’ll need to make a decision on new vs. existing early on. There are pros and cons to buying a brand new home–which side weighs more heavily on you will depend on your priorities and preferences. Let’s take a closer look:
Pros of New Housing
- You’re the first one in. The only thing you have to worry about is how well the house was constructed, not what the last few owners did (or didn’t) do.
- New homes have the latest technology. This usually includes pre-wired hook-ups for cable and Internet, security systems, not to mention the latest heating & cooling equipment, lighting, and plumbing standards, as well as brand-new appliances.
- Fit and finish is typically high-end. This might include stone counters, luxury bathroom fixtures, and other amenities that people in the new house market are looking for.
- Layouts and room sizes are more reflective of current standards. That typically means bigger rooms, and more focus on the amenities in kitchens and baths.
- Newer homes are built to the latest codes and standards, which means they are more likely to withstand certain natural disasters, less likely to contain dangerous design flaws or materials, and may qualify you for decreases in insurance premiums.
- You’re off the hook for maintenance for a few years, and you will most likely have a warranty for at least one year. That’s a great peace of mind if you’re worried about avoiding problems.
- The energy efficiency and “greenness” of new homes is sometimes, though not always, greater than those of existing inventory. That’s because newer homes often use the latest technology in insulation, climate control, and low energy use.
Cons of New Housing
- New homes have a “new premium.” Just like a brand new car driven off the lot, being the first family inside a home demands a premium on the purchase price, and it can be steep.
- The construction of the home is untested. In 2009, many of the homes in our area were affected by faulty Chinese drywall. This is just one example of the risks you take on when you buy a home that hasn’t stood the test of time.
- New homes are often built in cookie-cutter neighborhoods. This cuts down the cost of design and construction, but also means they are aesthetically bland and usually part of an association that will tell you how often to cut your grass and what color roof tile you can’t have.
- All your neighbors will be brand new. As a result, you don’t have an existing “community,” you can’t ask how life in the neighborhood is, and you risk getting neighbors that will be a real pain in the butt.
- New homes don’t have any “character.” There’s something about a worn-down fascia or an old-school front porch that is hard to replicate in new homes.
We made this decision early on in 2008, and may have to evaluate it again soon. At first glance, many of the factors that made us go in the direction of existing homes still apply:
- The premium on new homes, especially in our area, is cost-prohibitive for all but the smallest, simplest, or most remote homes.
- The neighborhoods we like are almost exclusively made up of existing homes.
- Most new homes in our area have been standing empty for at least a few years. In Florida’s relentless heat and humidity, many of them are starting to show the mold and mildew damage that inevitably results.
- We love the character of existing homes and dislike the architecture of most of the new homes going up in Florida lately.
For us, it’s almost entirely a one-sided win for the existing home side. How about you?