Buying a New House vs. an Old House: Pros and Cons

Home buyers have a lot to consider, and one of the biggest questions that comes up is whether you want a newer home in a suburban neighborhood or an older home in a more established neighborhood.

Everyone’s situation varies, depending on their age, budget, household size, and age of their children (if any), so here are some pros and cons to think about.

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Location. Location. Location.

Older homes tend to be concentrated near downtown or in trendy neighborhoods. This is generally a big pro, with improved walkability and quality of life, but it many urban areas this can mean worse school districts, higher crime rates, and more day-to-day annoyances like dealing with the homelessness, worse air quality, and more ambient city noise.

Still, many people think that being able to walk to cafes and restaurants is worth the inconvenience, and the incredible surge in urban land values in recent years is evidence that people are willing to pay top dollar for it.

That ole’ home character is hard to beat.

Homes tend to gain character as they age, especially as the neighborhood vegetation grows more mature and the surrounding areas are built up more densely. It’s very hard to build that ole’ home character into a new home,  and it may be that modern building styles are just not as aesthetically pleasing as older ones.

For the right person, this is the ultimate deal breaker, but most people are willing to live without the character if it means they have certain amenities and conveniences.

Modern homes are built for the modern lifestyle.

The flipside to the above is that old homes are not made with modern people in mind. They often lack garages or the garages are too small for newer vehicles. They are also energy inefficient and have outdated appliances, HVAC systems, pipes, and electrical wiring.

Besides being costly to update, these things can often be health and safety issues (as is the case with lead pipes and paint). If you have young children, this is something to think long and hard about.

By contrast, modern homes will be efficient and clean. The rooms and doors will have standard sizes that are easy to upgrade. And the overall layout of the home will be more geared toward the modern lifestyle, such as the preference for open floor plans.

Home and lot size.

Old homes are generally smaller than their modern counterparts, and cost a lot more per square foot. However, they may offer more bedrooms, more cellar space, and larger lots.

Home upkeep costs.

Old homes will keep your handyman busy day and night. Newer homes need work, but they are relatively easy to fix, since building has become more standardized with time.

The question of value.

Lastly, there is the value proposition. New homes are much easier to peg the price of, but they are most often on the outskirts of town, where land values rise less rapidly than downtown. In general, an older home in a great location is going to be the better long-term investment, if you can afford it and make it work for your lifestyle.

That said, you have to be more careful when purchasing an older home, since there are a lot of variables that can affect the value, such as neighborhood school quality, major maintenance required on the home, and random city changes such as construction projects that could make or break your investment. A suburban home is a less risky investment, with less potential reward.