Some people hate hand-me-downs; others like things with a history. When it comes to housing, new construction has a never-been-touched attraction, while existing homes have stories to tell. For every advantage of buying newly built and existing homes, there’s a flip side. For example, newly constructed homes tend to cost more than similar pre-owned homes, sometimes as much as 20 percent more. But they are initially less expensive in terms of maintenance and utilities.
As you weigh whether to buy shiny new construction or a charming pre-owned home, here are some other factors to consider.
Benefits of new construction
Floor plan: If you opt for a custom-built home, you’ll work with the contractor to create a traditional or modern layout that works for your life. If you’ve always dreamed of a formal dining room for family gatherings, it’s yours. If you’re buying pre-built new construction, chances are good the layout will lean to modern, with wide-open floor plans. Kitchens flow into family rooms so you can cook and oversee homework or watch the game. Rooms in new construction homes – especially bedrooms and bathrooms – tend to be larger and brighter, with lots of natural light.
Personalization: Even if you’re not opting for a custom home, you may be able to upgrade finishes from builder-grade materials if you connect with the builder before construction is completed. It may cost you a bit more, but adding your own personal touches may be worth it to you.
Efficiency: New appliances and home systems are more energy efficient. Plus more efficient insulation and windows create buttoned up homes that are less expensive to heat and cool than older models. All of that translates into lower utility bills.
Smart and healthy: “Smart” technology options allow you to automate internet, cable, speakers and even an alarm system. And new homes often use low- and zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and building materials, improving indoor air quality.
Maintenance: A newly built home requires less maintenance since everything from appliances to the HVAC system and roof are brand new. This means you can better predict monthly homeownership costs, since you’ll likely spend less to maintain your home. Warranties can protect your new home for years before you need to undertake any major repairs.
Amenities: Buying new construction often means buying a lifestyle. Master or planned communities often include amenities like parks and community spaces that are close to schools and transit. The key is finding a builder who offers what you care about.
Timing: The median time to complete new construction – five months for single-family homes and six months for condos – lets you feel less rushed than scrambling with other buyers for an existing home.
The flip side
Location: New construction typically grows up in exurbia where land is plentiful but commutes can be longer. In cities, new construction tends to be high-rise condos or in-fill homes on smaller urban lots, with very little outdoor space.
Landscaping: Existing construction is often surrounded by mature trees that shade the home in summer, protect against wind in winter, and block out traffic noises at bedtime. Mature trees may be salvaged at new building sites but often the landscaping takes years to grow into itself.
Floor plan: Builders, especially in planned communities, tend to stick with exterior design styles and finishes that appeal to the broadest range of customers. You’ll have to count on post-purchase painting and decorating to stand out from your neighbors.
Waiting: If you’re looking at new homes that are already built, this isn’t a factor. But if you’re building a custom home, it could take several months longer than moving into an existing home. You can expect a custom home to take five to six months, but that varies by market and builder.