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Buying old home vs. new construction: pro and contra

  1. Quality

    Builders have to follow very strict guidelines in new-homes and additions. In general, new homes are usually more fire-safe, have new security and garage-door systems. Also you can be assured that your new home complies with current federal state fire safety and environmental codes and it does not contain asbestos, lead-based paints or other hazardous or toxic substances. However older homes are often viewed as having better quality because by the time you buy a used home its previous owners usually discovered and corrected most of the problems due to structural defects and construction flaws. With new homes you might not know of shoddy workmanship until several years later.

  2. Maintenance

    A properly constructed new home should be cheaper than a used home to operate and maintain, because a new home should incorporate modern plumbing and electrical service, the latest technology in energy-efficient heating and cooling system, proper insulation and energy-efficient appliances. New homes generally come with at least a one-year warranty for the repair of some problems that develop as it settles into its foundation. Used homes are generally more expensive to operate and maintain. Before buying a used home, ask the seller for copies of the last two years utility bills (gas, water, electric) so you can see exactly how much it costs to operate the house. If the utility bills are high, ask your property inspector about the cost of making the house more energy efficient.

  3. Price

    New homes are usually more expensive than used ones, because land, labor and material is more expensive today than they were years ago when the used homes were built. Also developers of new homes often spend tens of thousands of dollars decorating model homes. Unwary new homebuyers buy unfinished house where nearly everything - appliances, carpets, painting is an extra, which is not included in the base price. When touring model home, ask salesperson what is and isn't included in the base price.

  4. Location

    New homes in more developed areas are built in areas previously considered undesirable or unbuildable. Earlier developments got better sites. Today's developers take whatever land is available - steep hillsides, flood plains and land located far away from the central business area. Used homes are generally located in well-established, proven neighborhoods. You do not have to wonder what the neighborhood will be like in a few years when it's fully developed - you can see exactly what kind of schools, transportation, shopping and other amenities you have.

  5. Taxes

    Newer homes tend to spring up in less-developed municipalities, which may impose higher taxes on you because they're subsidizing fewer inhabitants than the central metropolitan area. Your community will still need sidewalks, sewers, fire and police coverage and probably a new school. A more established home in a built-out area has a little more predictable tax structure.

  6. Amenities

    Swimming pools, bike paths, even golf courses can all be part of newer home developments. However, if new home has a homeowners association, ask what your dues would be. Developments with extensive amenities may charge high homeowners dues to cover maintenance expenses of common areas such as swimming pools, clubhouses, etc.

  7. Landscaping

    Mature trees, gardens and park-like settings are some of the rewards of an older home, while most new homes have fewer walkways and sparse vegetation. Landscaping is an expensive proposition for the cost-conscious homebuilder.

  8. Layout

    Newer homes are designed for 21st-century family life. Technology allows today's homes to be built with more kitchens, bathrooms, built-in Internet access, and central air conditioning in every room. Although older homes can be rearranged to fit modern life, this can often be at considerable remodeling costs. However, buying a used home may be the only way to get the architectural style and construction materials you want. Old hardwood floors, arched entryways, brick or stone construction, and stained glass windows is unaffordable to find in new homes and in this case you'll probably be drawn to buy an older home.

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