Should you buy a new build house or an older home with more character?
When deciding to buy your next home there are many choices and decisions you have to make, which can make the thought of moving straight into a sparkly new build rather appealing. But if you’ve been dreaming about that cute cottage with a wood fire, or the period property with high ceilings and bay windows, then no amount of maintenance costs will put you off.
I’ve bought, sold and lived in several of both and there are definitely pros and cons to both!
If you can’t decide (or you and your better half has opposite views on the matter), here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of both.
Old Home Pros:
1. Established community
With a ready made and established community with local amenities and local activities and groups to join in with, it can be easier to get settled and get to know the neighbours. Also with more established areas the house prices are more stable and less likely to fluctuate.
2. Beautiful Gardens
After shelling out a small fortune at the garden center when we lived at new build properties, we soon appreciated and missed the mature garden filled with trees, colourful shrubs and productive vegetable patch we had left behind in the period property. It can take years and a lot of money to establish a garden, unless you have Alan Tichmarch on speed dial!
3. Large Plots
Older properties tend to have much larger plots, are less over looked and have bigger gardens for the size of the property than new builds. You may also get bigger garages and sheds included. You are much more likely to be able to add extensions or build garden rooms with an older property and still have a decent sized garden left over.
One of the biggest draws for an older property are all the character features. From cozy fireplaces to detailed coving, stained glass windows to sweeping staircases, these details add charm and add value to property, as they really don’t make them like they used to. A general rule of thumb is the more period features it has the higher the price! If you like scandi or minimalist design, save your money and go for a newer property instead.
Old Home Cons:
1. Hidden Surprises
Even with a full survey it is unlikely you will get any compensation if the roof starts leaking or the boiler breaks down (both happened to us one Christmas after we bought one period property!). And that woodchip wallpaper you want to strip as soon as you get the keys, might be the only thing keeping the wall together! There are constant maintenance issues that will have to be addressed, so always leave a contingency amount aside of at least 10-20% in the budget for nasty surprises.
2. Ongoing DIY
Be prepared to spend most of your free time and money at B&Q or your closest DIY store! A small job like painting a bedroom may end up requiring a lot more work than anticipated. Once we peeled off some old wallpaper and found a massive hole in the plasterwork that was filled with cement rather than plaster. It took a lot of work and money to get it fixed.
3. Expensive to run
Older properties generally won’t have the same insulation and energy standards of newer properties. Even if it has double-glazing, these might be over 20 years old and well past it’s time for replacing, and those gorgeous traditional single glazed slash windows you fell in love with can be very draughty. The boiler is also likely to be old and inefficient adding to the heating cost, and a high possibility of breaking down on Christmas Eve!
Older properties tend to have fewer bathrooms than new builds and unlikely to have ensuite shower rooms. The UK has a peculiarity of having single taps for hot and cold meaning you either freeze or scald your hands. Also with old plumbing and awkward layouts it can be very tricky/expensive to add one. If this is a deal breaker consider a new build.
New Build Pros:
1. Cheaper to run
New build houses have to meet minimum standards of efficiency, so will have more insulation, good quality new double glazed windows and brand new boiler. You will find these houses are generally warmer and easier to keep warm.
Most building developments will offer incentives to help pursued you to buy. You will be enticed with shiny bathroom tiles and kitchen worktops to choose from. If you buy off plan you might even be able to alter the interior layout and design. There are even incentives to pay your stamp duty/taxes, pay for flooring, part exchange on your old home or more. If you don’t ask you don’t get.
3. 10 year warranty
New build houses in the UK have to be covered by NSPC insurance so if anything major goes wrong with the house they have to fix it.
4. New Community
On a new build development we found that other people moving in were generally at the same stage of life as us, which was nice as we got to know each other well. As we moved in around the same time as well it was common to have BBQ’s in each other’s gardens and the kids would play on the streets or happily run in and out of each other’s houses.
New Build Cons:
Like buying a new car, it is more expensive buying a brand new house ‘out of the showroom’ and will be difficult to sell if there are still empty plots with the same design as yours. Unless you really have your heart set on picking out your dream kitchen and bathrooms, wait a year or two and you’ll get the same house much cheaper.
2. Living on a building site
Never believe the sales team who tell you the building site will be completed in 6 months! It is very likely to be delayed, meaning builders will wake you up at 7am everyday for a year or more! This becomes even more annoying when you have a new born baby and haven't slept for months.
3. Tiny plot size
New build house in the UK generally have very small plot sizes for the size of property on them. Corner plots will have a premium and get snapped up first as most plots will feel very overlooked. Also some developments don’t include grass as standard on the gardens, so factor that into the cost.
With new builds it is generally accepted that there will be some snags, but make sure you take note of very little thing and they have to fix it, whether it’s the gutters falling off with the snow in the winter or settling cracks in the paint. One of our biggest disasters was the shower leaking so much that the ceiling fell through with so much water flooding the kitchen. We weren’t the only ones; several other houses had the exact same problem, so check with your neighbours if they have experienced any problems and get it checked before it happens to you!
Whether you choose a new build or a character property for your next home, I hope this helps you decide what your deal breakers are and make the right decision for you.
Do you have any other pros or cons to add to this list? Add them in the comments below.
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