The great debate: buying old vs. new


By JAY POWELL

When it comes to buying a home that’s going to reflect a homeowner’s style, is it better to buy new or used, or does it come down to location?

When it comes to buying a home that’s going to reflect a homeowner’s style, is it better to buy new or used, or does it come down to location?

It’s a debate that’s gone on just about as long as people have been living in houses.

In Williamson County, historic homes are not only popular, but define much of its history. At the same time, new developments are on the rise and many are going custom.

So what makes one better than the other? According to Andy Beasley, broker and owner of Brentview Realty in Brentwood, the biggest factor when considering buying old or new is location.

“For the most part, there’s not much land remaining that can be developed,” Beasley said.

Buying New

A home should reflect the owner’s style and meet all of his or her tastes in a way that is modern, convenient and unique. By buying a residential lot and designing a home from the ground up to suit your style, you are avoiding several pitfalls you might come across when the home has been lived in by one or more families over a period of decades, or in some cases, centuries.

For one, building code regulations might have changed since an older home was originally built. Therefore, by going new you won’t have to worry if your home fits within current regulations or if it might come under any other safety issues.

Modern conveniences and appliances installed in an old home can lead to breaking the foundation. By installing new from the get-go, it can oftentimes be less expensive than rewiring or uninstalling an older home’s outdated technology. New homes also provide several warranty options that can cover up to 10 years, whereas older homes only cover one year.

“Many of your builders provide various warranty coverage. 2-10 is one for example that will warrant certain things for two years and other items for up to 10,” Beasley said. “But also your older homes can be covered by warranty plans that would at least cover the mechanical, the heating, cooling, electrical and appliances for one year and that is also renewable.”

New homes also have the advantage when it comes to cutting energy costs. New building materials, such as high-energy windows and thicker insulation, all help lower future costs for the owner. Older homes cost more per square foot to heat and cool unless they have gone through renovation or an energy “retrofit.”

The major drawback of owning a new home is the lot size and location, according to Beasley. The reason is land costs have steadily increased and smaller lots are a way for developers to save money.

“The newer homes typically also have got smaller lots because OSRD, or open space residential development, has been increasingly more popular with developers where they can save money in terms of extending the infrastructure in roads and so forth and get a good yield,” Beasley said.

When it comes down to it, a new home will reflect your own style because you were the one that helped design it from the ground up, rather than settling for a previous owner’s design or floor plan, although it might be in a location farther out than downtown areas and spots where older homes stand.

Buying Used

Maybe you’ve always wanted to know what it was like to live in a house formerly owned by historic icons and in a location closer to shopping areas and downtown eateries, or you just don’t have the patience for designing everything from the start. Although there are several advantages to buying new, buying used still has its benefits.

Prices for existing homes are usually less expensive per square foot, yet land value is higher. This is typically due to increasing land costs for new developments, which will factor into the selling price of a new home. An old home’s price is also more negotiable since buying new might include hidden costs, such as fees to a local homeowner’s association as well as architectural controls that may arise when it comes time to renovate.

“Typically, the land value oftentimes is greater on the older homes than the land value on new homes, depending on where it is on the Monopoly board,” Beasley said. “Depending on where you are on the board is what the land value is going to be.”

The overall character of an old house is also vastly different and typically the biggest draw aside from location. A home that’s been standing for decades, or centuries for some, have stood against years of weather damage and are a lot sturdier. By buying an old home you’re buying the work of a craftsman who had a strong foundation in mind.

Try as you might, you can’t recreate an old house that stands next to the real thing. Although buying new allows you to insert your own character, a preexisting house that’s on hundreds of years of stories and little nuances are what make them so desirable to live in.

Since land fees cost more now than they did 50 years ago, many new construction lots are shrinking. One major advantage of buying an old home is, in most cases, buying the original property line, which often includes a larger yard and a location closer to many downtown hotspots.

“Most of the time your older homes are in a more convenient location. In Brentwood, for example, where Meadow Lake is. There are homes that were built in the 60s and many of them need renovating. So the land and the location is premium and that’s usually the fundamental consideration,” Beasley said.

One aspect that might deter some from buying an older home is the amount of periodic maintenance it requires. This can be difficult due to a number of reasons. The previous owner might have not done a fair job in upkeep; old stone fixtures and cracked brickwork need work; mold or radon can be apparent; and older building materials and moldings are increasingly harder to replicate.

“It’s very important, whether it’s a new home or an old home to have a very capable home inspector to make sure what you are getting to begin with,” Beasley said. “We recommend you do a radon test. Radon is odorless and tasteless, but it’s a real hazard and something very important to check out before you buy. It’s important to get that upfront so you know what your challenges are going to be.”

Is there a clear winner?

Owning a home comes down to an owner’s taste. Some might want their home to be a complete reflection of their style and find it better to start from scratch. On the other hand, some might identify their style in an older home and wish to live in a traditional or classic-style living space located closer to areas they enjoy going.

“Many of the older homes were perhaps built a little sturdier than some of the new ones,” Beasley said. “But the biggest challenge or biggest consideration in my estimation is the location. There are certain areas where buyers would rather have an older home to be in that location versus having a new home in a location that they’re not happy with.”

About The Author

Kelly Gilfillan is the owner-publisher of Home Page Media Group which has been publishing hyperlocal news since 2009.

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