Arlington Board of Realtors

By Barbara Landers, President, Arlington Board of Realtors
By Barbara Landers, President, Arlington Board of Realtors

Five questions to help you decide between a new or existing home

You have decided that you are ready to buy a home. While there are many decisions you will have to make during the process, one will be whether you should go for an existing home or a newly constructed property.

With advantages and disadvantages to each, you will likely have to make tradeoffs no matter which you choose. Your Texas Realtor can help you identify what is most important to you, but here are five questions you should ask yourself when you are deciding between new and existing properties.

1) When do you want to sell?

Even though you are buying right now, it is wise to think about the future. After all, you will be the seller one day and you want to get the best possible return on your investment.

Consider, for example, that a home you are interested in is one of the first finished in a subdivision. There won’t be much of a market for your home if new homes are still being built. Given two similar choices in the same neighborhood, most buyers opt for a brand-new house as opposed to one that’s been lived in. Additionally, large builder incentives can make the new home down the street more attractive to buyers. If you decide to go with a newly built home, make sure you’re comfortable with staying put for a few years.

2) What are you really looking for?

Besides the investment, remember that you have to live in this house. Central air, large pantries, walk-in closets, multi-car garages, more and bigger bathrooms, and other amenities are typical options in newer homes. Keep in mind, most 50-year-old homes will not have a huge master suite with a spa and two walk-in closets.

New homes are also built with infrastructure tailored to modern life, such as being pre-wired for security, surround sound and Internet connections. Additionally, there are stricter building codes and significant advances in construction materials and techniques. These improvements result in safer and more energy-efficient homes.

However, home maintenance comes with homeownership. There is no house, new or old, that is maintenance or defect-free. In fact, it’s common to find at least one construction defect that must be addressed in a brand-new house. And YES, even if the home is new, I always recommend a third-party inspection prior to doing your final walk-thru. Also, make sure you understand the builder’s warranty and the process for identifying and fixing problems.

3) Do you like charm?

A builder may offer options—color schemes, flooring, kitchen cabinets, appliances—that allow you a degree of personalization. Existing homes were built and designed to someone else’s standard and taste, which is bound to be different from yours. On the flip side, many older homes possess charms not easily replicated in a new home. Many older homes sit on larger parcels of land than the lots in most new subdivisions. In older neighborhoods, the mature landscaping and big trees often enhance the beauty of the area as opposed to some newer cookie-cutter subdivisions where each street looks very much the same. You also may find an existing home that has been remodeled in a way that suits your needs perfectly.

4) What do you think of the neighborhood?

Residential builders need large tracts of vacant land to create new subdivisions. It’s more cost-effective to lay infrastructure and build if there are no obstacles. That kind of open space isn’t usually available close to downtown or existing business districts. A newly built home may be far from grocery stores, shopping malls, and restaurants.

5) When can you move in?

If you purchase a home before it’s completed, builder delays or other holdups could prevent you from moving in on schedule. This may end up being no big deal, but if the timing’s wrong, you may have to find temporary housing while the setbacks are resolved. This could mean delaying closing on the sale of your current home, finding a place to rent, staying with friends or family or placing your belongings in storage.

Talk to someone who can help

When you’re deciding between a newly built home and an existing home, decide based on your needs. A Texas Realtor can help you sift through the options. Sit down with him or her and find out what’s important to you.

For more information or to find a Texas Realtor, visit ArlingtonRealtor.Com or