Building Vs. Buying Used: How to Select Your Ideal Home

July 28, 2014 6:38 pm

People looking for a new home often wonder whether they should build a new custom home or buy an existing house. Both choices have their pros and cons, of course, and the decision is very personal.  That said, the excitement and satisfaction of moving into a home that you know is truly perfect for you and your family is a special experience.

When buying used makes sense and when it doesn’t

Existing home sales are up slightly month-over-month this year, with sales reaching 4.06 million in April 2014 according to The National Association of Realtors (although that rate is lower than that of some prior years). Prospective buyers can find a variety of homes in their price range.

PRO – Easy to envision

One advantage of buying a used home is that you can actually walk through it before buying. Imagine your daily routine in the home, and make sure you have the right spaces to accommodate the schedules and needs of the entire family.

PRO – Existing add-ons

Used homes often feature mature plantings and extensive landscaping in the yards, and they may have amenities such as room additions, extra bathrooms, fences or pools that would be add-ons to a new, custom home. The price of the used home rarely reflects the full cost of such improvements, so the buyer has the benefit of these niceties at a potential fraction of the original cost.

CON – Some assembly required

However, used houses may require extensive work to fix any damaged or worn down areas. Appliances, floors, and fixtures will probably show some wear and may need replacement or updating.

CON – Not quite right

This may seem obvious, but whenever you purchase a used home, no matter how great it is, there will always be a few things you don’t like. No home is perfect, and used homes will often have a number of things you don’t like. You’ll either have to learn to love your homes quirks and spend money to change them.

CON – Someone’s been here

This will bother some more than others, but many people like the idea of starting fresh. Whenever they change owners, homes are thoroughly cleaned, but some people don’t love the idea of living in a home that someone else has used.

A home under construction

Why you might want to custom build your home

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, single-family housing starts for June 2014 numbered at 575,000, and single-family home completions numbered 586,000. Clearly, building a new home is still very popular.

PRO – Everything fits your family

Building a new custom home ensures that everything in it works for your family. You can change room dimensions and traffic patterns to fit your furniture and lifestyle. Décor elements – from the color of the roofing tiles to the kitchen cabinet hardware – reflect your personal taste. Appliances, fixtures, floors and paint are all new, so you’ll be able to enjoy them for their full life spans – and choose them in the first place.

PRO – Plan for your life

When buying a new custom home, it’s easy to incorporate features that work for your life-stage and the future. For example, you can plan for your future by eliminating stairs that might make aging in place difficult, or widening hallways or shower stalls to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. If you have a young family, you can incorporate child-friendly features such as low railings on stairs or kid-sized plumbing fixtures. At any age, you can consider spaces that accommodate hobbies, fitness activities, or working from home.

PRO – Easier to make friends

One frequently overlooked benefit of buying a new home is that it may be in a neighborhood of other new homes. Your neighbors will also be new to the area and may be looking to form new friendships, which can be very rewarding.

CON – Difficult to imagine completed house

One disadvantage of building a new custom home: it may be difficult to envision how the house will look when finished. To some extent, walking through a similar model home can help you see where things are going, but it may not be as complete an experience as it is with a finished home. This can be compounded by the sheer number of possibilities. Make sure to talk with your builder who can help you make these decisions and guide you through what your dream home will eventually look like.

CON – Lacking landscaping

New homes often come with minimal landscaping, so you may need to plan and budget for additional plantings or stonework either during the construction process or after you move in. Talk with your builder about landscaping so you won’t have to do it yourself after the fact.

Whether you choose a new or used home, remember the most important consideration when buying real estate is still location. Whether proximity to the best schools, public transportation, health care, or the workplace matters most to you, the one thing you will never be able to change in a house is its location.

We hope that these tips will help you better decide whether or not you want to build your own home and buy a used one. Remember, if you do decide to build a custom home, don’t forget to ask your builder these questions before you begin the building process. And if you do decide to build a custom home, we’d love to talk with you about it!