We all love “shiny and new” — and newly-built single-family homes are downright irresistible. And when the existing home inventory is limited, and consumers have confidence in the market, a significant number of homeowners will consider a newly-built residence.
However, it’s not a slam-dunk decision. There are benefits and disadvantages to purchasing a new build. These are some of the factors to consider.
New build pros
A new build isn’t someone’s leftover home
The only thing better than new car smell is new house smell. The first home I ever purchased was a new build and, as a germaphobe, I loved the idea that no one else had ever hung clothes in my closets, cooked in my kitchen, parked in my garage or sat in my garden tub. Admittedly, I have no idea what the contractors and workers did before I moved in. As a true germophobe, I still scrubbed every single surface. But I didn’t have to scrub as hard since there weren’t any previous owners.
A new build is up to code and up-to-date
“People like to say that we ‘don’t build them like we used to.’ This is a good thing,” Nathan Outlaw, President of Onvico in Thomasville, GA, says. “Code and energy requirements have come a long way and buying a well-built new home will be much less stressful than remodeling an older home.”
That’s because homebuyers can avoid those unexpected expenses that occur when workers find issues like asbestos or old plumbing that needs to be replaced. Homeowners can also incorporate the latest trends in kitchen and bathroom technology to maximize the home’s potential.
(Sometimes) the sky is the limit with a new build
Michael Menn, a Chicago-based architect who builds new homes and remodels existing homes, says there are pros and cons to purchasing a new build. “When a homeowner purchases an existing home, there will be compromise on the floor plan,” he says.
However, when his clients purchase a new home, Menn says they can customize and personalize every detail. He adds that they can pick “everything from the floor plan to the flooring, cabinetry, plumbing, etc.” So homeowners can decide, for example, if they want tile or hardwood floors in the kitchens and baths or they can make the home as plush as a hotel.
There’s less competition for a new build
“According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average time an existing home is for sale on the market is 30 days — although this depends on the part of the country, time of the year and other factors,” Menn explains. Homes sell fast because there’s a lot of competition to find an existing home. But when you build a home, he says the competition is eliminated.
There are no renovation issues with a new build
Many homeowners purchase a home and then renovate it to fit their needs. “But they have to live in the mess of a renovation,” says Adam Helfman, Home Improvement Expert at Hire It Done. “Having no interruptions in your daily life is a huge benefit to buying a new home.” Also, some people don’t know where to draw the line when purchasing a fixer-upper and could end up with a money pit.
New build cons
Older may be better
Although newer homes have new components and materials, newer may not always be better. “New homes today are generally not built as solid as old homes of yesteryear,” Helfman says. “Old homes had better bones. For example, a 2×4 in the 50s and 60s was actually 2 inches by 4 inches — whereas a 2×4 today is 1.75 inches by 3.75 inches.”
Renovating is better for the environment
When you build a new home, you’re starting from scratch. “The environmental impact of building a new home is much higher than in buying an old home,” Helfman says. “Renovation is essentially a form of recycling.”
Also, homeowners have a tendency to focus on cosmetic features when buying a home and often choose a new build because of trendy extras. However, most cosmetic features — like architectural details — could be added to an existing home during a renovation.
Existing homes have more mature landscaping
Landscaping can cost a pretty penny and take a while to fully develop. “Older properties can come with landscaping benefits like mature trees to cast shade,” Helfman says.
Existing homes have established neighborhoods
If you’re building a home in a new area, it’s still in the process of being established. “Older homes come with the benefit of established neighborhoods with established communities and desirable features like street lights, sidewalks and neighborhood watches,” Helfman explains.
And there are other potential disadvantages to not being in an established neighborhood. “There’s a danger of purchasing inside a non-fully formed community where amenity costs were miscalculated,” warns Michael Kelczewski, a realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. “Also, homeowners may purchase during an initial development phase only for the developer to become bankrupt.”
The new build timeline is subject to change
Unless you’re buying a new home that has already been completed, you could be trapped in a waiting game. “You won’t be able to move in until the home is completed,” says Menn. And he warns that weather-related construction delays are always a possibility and could extend the build timeline indefinitely.