Imagine yourself pulling up into the driveway of your dream home. Are you met with the historic charm of a fixer-upper, or a new construction home that’s built to your specifications? Choosing the right home is a process that requires asking the right questions and doing your homework.
Read on for the advantages of buying a new home versus a preexisting home, plus get tips for making the best choice for your family.
Like a shiny new penny, a new construction home is yours to customize. Pick the countertops, the floor plan and the appliances. It might be a carbon copy of your neighbor’s home, but you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a new roof and water heater you won’t have to replace for 10 to 20 years.
Pros: It’s a common misconception that new homes cost more than older homes; you might actually pay less per square foot for a newer home in the suburbs versus an older home in the city. When you’re touring model homes, you might appreciate the fact that the houses tend to have more bedrooms and bathrooms than older homes, with amenities like a two-car garage and walk-in closets. But you should always have a realtor representing you when negotiating the terms of the contract, explains Aubrey Ballinger, a Cincinnati realtor at Star One Realtors. “Compare the available upgrades, energy efficiencies, HOA fees, warranties, the inspection process at key points of the build, ability to change the floor plans and customer service before, during and after the build is complete,” she says.
Cons: While older homes have stood the test of time, new construction homes are not yet proven. Some say they don’t build them like they used to. Also, new homes will settle, which can cause cracks in the foundations, and builders can be slow to respond to warranty requests. “Once you have decided on the builder and get the plans in place, it is highly advised to get everything in writing, confirmed and signed,” Ballinger says. “As far as warranties are concerned, each builder has their own version of construction defects and structural warranty, in addition to the manufacturers warranties that come with the materials used.”
Tip: Make sure you are comparing apples to apples when picking a builder, Ballinger says. “Ask what is included in the base price versus what is considered an add-on,” she says. “Incentives may seem enticing, but they may not add up to what another builder offers in their base pricing.”
Looking for a true project house, or a mid-century charmer that’s already been renovated for a young family? Homes that are already on the market come with different baggage than new homes. But to their credit, they often include mature trees, interesting architecture and better access the unique neighborhoods of downtown Cincinnati than suburban floor plans.
Pros: Unless you need to make major improvements, a preexisting home makes sense for many buyers who appreciate the longtime neighbors and inherent charm found on historic neighborhood streets. If you’re wondering what monthly utility bills will be like, you can request them from the seller. In an established neighborhood, you can even ask the neighbors about the home’s history.
Cons: Older homes often come with inconsistent plumbing and electrical wires that will need to be replaced in order to meet code. Have an inspector or licensed electrician check out any updated wiring to make sure it was done the right way; often, it was not.
Look out for mold, which can be found in homes of any age, Ballinger says. Depending on the type of mold found, it can either be remediated by the homeowner with over-the-counter products, or treated by a professional mold remediation company. “I can’t stress it enough to get a whole home inspection with an ASHI-certified inspector who is registered with the local board,” Ballinger says. “They will be able to get an in-depth look at defects in the home that are not easily seen when viewing the house yourself.”
Tip: Watch out for water! Any defect that can be a place for water to enter and seep into a home is something to look out for. “This could be from a roof, windows, crawlspace, foundation issues, leaks or clogs in plumbing, or negative grading towards a home,” Ballinger says.