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Olde Home vs. New Home

By Lisa Buth Published 11/29/2007 | Real Estate

While experts can't seem to agree from one moment to the next on the future of the housing market, one thing is unequivocally unanimous: what's happening with the market today. Even though sellers are flexing their muscles and making jabbing and punching motions in the air, we're still in a buyers' market. And yesterday is the time to buy. Now exactly what type of house to buy can only be answered by you, but maybe the following information will help to make your decision easier.

There are three options available to homebuyers today: buying a new home, buying an older home and building your own home. But because this article is not entitled "Olde Home vs. New Home vs. Building Your Own Home From Scratch," we're only going to address two of the three options: old homes and new homes, and there are pros and cons to each. Lets start with the old, then ring in the new.

Advantages To Buying an Old Home

The most obvious advantage to buying an old home is character. While new homes can be sleek, all lines and bold angles, they don't hold a candle to arched doorways, parlors, hand-carved banisters, stained glass windows, 12-foot ceilings, 7-inch baseboard, phone alcoves, octagonal rooms . . . and just the grandeur that defined the turn of the century.

Another benefit is that old homes have withstood the ravages of weather, children and pets for decades, even centuries. Theyre solid! What's going to settle has likely already settled. Not a whole lot in foundational "ahas"!

And not meaning to state the obvious, but here we are, old homes sit in old neighborhoods. Established neighborhoods. Some older homes have been passed down from generation to generation. Relationships develop over the life of a house and its occupants, and a watching-each-others-back mentality surfaces that can extend to folks buying into the neighborhood. You dont just buy an old home . . . you buy an extended family.

While builders may exhibit a propensity for razing indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses, leaving a freshly shorn pate with which to create! create! create! time has erased the folly of the earlier builders. What were once neighborhoods dotted with itty-bitty baby saplings have now become homesteads nestled within the canopy of trees in the prime of life.

Finally, because the most common means of locomotion were your own two feet, people built their homes closer to their entertainment. Or more aptly, they built their entertainment closer to their homes.

Disadvantages To Buying an Old Home

More work! If it seems that there's always something needing to be fixed or updated, it's because there is! Unless the building had been gutted and restored before you called it home, you may want to tuckpoint chimneys and stone foundations, level sloping floors, ground electrical outlets, remove cracked plaster, replace plumbing, update the kitchen, bath, furnace, windows, and yes, add central air. Although once the old home has been nipped and tucked, what a showplace it could be!

Asbestos. Enough said. 

Old homes are notorious for their smaller closets, garages and storage spaces. Photographic data actually exists proving that people groups from the early 20th century were not all under 5-feet tall and skinnier than a runway model; however, that's not reflected in their homes.

And don't think to use the basements for storage or living space, because many are nothing more than a soil-based cellar accessible only from outside the home. 

Lastly, the layout of the old home is not conducive to large gatherings . . . at least gatherings with which folks can be in the same room at the same time. Yes, the parlor was big. Yes, the living room was grand. And yes, sometimes the foyer was spacious. But they all had one thing in common. None of them were open to the other.

Having now listed the pros and cons of old homes, it's time to address the new.

Advantages To Buying a New Home

The most obvious advantage to a new home is that everything's new. There's an emotional factor at play here. There's nothing like owning something that's brand new, never been used, whether it's a car or a home. Probably a lot like how Neil Armstrong must have felt before everyone else starting traipsing all over his moon.

Best of all are modern conveniences, such as a built-in dishwasher and stove, more bathrooms (and with shower heads!), and A/C, to name a few. While most of us might enjoy the occasional roughing-it of camping out, no one really wants to live at a campsite!

Builder's warranty. Whether it's one year or ten years, it's better than nothing!

And even though many new homes feature cathedral and/or trey ceilings, they're still more energy efficient than the older ones. Think insulation in the walls, ceilings and floors. Think double- or even triple-pane windows. Think 90% efficient A/C as opposed to, well, no A/C.

One HUGE bonus for new homes are the neighborhood amenities. Today, if you're not on a golf course, you're near one. If you don't own a pool, the neighborhood association will. Bike paths, common areas and playground equipment are the norm.

And last but not least, new homes are more user-friendly. Rather than just throwing a home together with all the essential parts, builders are taking into account the desires of the consumer. Open floor plan, split floor plan, functional basement, Jack-N-Jill baths, his/her vanities, first floor master, and the list goes on.

Disadvantages To Buying a New Home

Less individuality. Because buyers have many of the same desires, floor plans are becoming virtually indistinguishable from one another. There are exceptions, of course, but rarely do we find a reasonably-priced home that boasts a two-story library.

Most of the rest of the disadvantages of new homes can be found by reversing the advantages of the old home. For instance, immature vegetation, foundational settling, longer commutes to downtown, etc.

In the end, however, it is all in the eye of the beholder, and there is a market for every style, age and color of home. The only right choice is the one that's right for you!