30 August 2016

Should you buy a new or existing home?

Planning a big move? From period properties to new-build estates, the housing market offers seemingly endless choice. But with so many types of property on offer, you may be left scratching your head when deciding on the right option for your needs.

On the one hand, older properties might have an air of history and grandeur, but could hide structural problems. On the other, new-builds can offer a clean slate but might not match your initial expectations.

With all this in mind, we’ve decided to look at the pros and cons of existing and new-build homes.

Pros and cons of buying older homes

Whether you’re a first time buyer searching for a 2-bedroom terrace, a second-stepper in need of a large detached home, or someone approaching retirement who’s thinking about downsizing, you’ll have a diverse range of existing homes to choose from.

Older homes can offer the following benefits:

  • The ability to see what you’re buying. Whereas new-builds may only be at the design stage when you put in an offer, older houses give you the chance to look around properly and make a detailed assessment of their features. Seeing things first-hand could offer peace of mind.

  • The chance to grab a bargain. Older properties can show signs of wear and tear due to the fact they’ve been around for decades. But rather than seeing this as a negative, you could enjoy more bargaining power if the house you’re looking at is a bit rough around the edges. By negotiating with the seller, you could secure a much cheaper deal.

  • The opportunity to take on a project. Older homes can offer satisfying projects to DIY enthusiasts. By redecorating or making large-scale renovations, you can really stamp your own personality on a house.

  • Period charm. The past 100 years or so have seen housing design change dramatically, from Victorian terraces with high ceilings to 80s semi-detached homes with pebble-dash walls and everything in-between. Buying an older property means you can choose a home which reflects your style. You may even benefit from some stunning original features.

On a less positive note, these properties can have drawbacks, such as:

  • Hidden costs. Once you’ve secured a mortgage, moved your furniture in, and started to live in your home, unexpected issues could rear their head – hitting your wallet in the process. Due to their age, some older homes may require improvements which you didn’t think of when viewing them. Replacing carpets or kitchens could quickly eat into your finances.

  • Long-term maintenance. Even the most avid DIY fan might find the ongoing maintenance demanded by some older homes difficult after a while. If you don’t have the time to keep doing jobs around the house, new-builds may be worth considering instead.

  • Energy efficiency. Those beautiful single pane wood windows add character to an old home, but they’re not as energy efficient as modern double-glazed windows. So if you want a nice warm house, you may find your energy bills are much higher than in a new-build of the same size.

Pros and cons of buying new-builds

In recent years, schemes like Help to Buy have been launched to support the house-building industry. With more new-builds springing up around the country, these properties have potential benefits and drawbacks.

On the upside, they offer the following plus-points:

  • The chance to start afresh. It may sound obvious, but all the elements which go into new-build properties are brand new, allowing you to enjoy freshly plastered walls and shiny surfaces.

  • The chance to choose fixtures and fittings. If you buy a new-build before it is completed, you’ll probably have the chance to choose from a range of kitchens, bathrooms and maybe even fitted wardrobes, meaning the home will reflect your taste when you move in.

  • The opportunity to cut energy bills. Thanks to their double-glazing and insulation, new-build homes could lower your energy costs in the long run and ultimately keeping more heat in.

  • The benefit of a warranty. Your builder will take out a warranty such as those offered by the National House Building Council to cover if anything goes awry when your home is being built - or once you've moved in for up to 10 years.

But there are possible downsides to consider, including:

  • Less space compared to older homes. New-builds are often constructed on estates, meaning they may not offer as much indoor or outdoor space compared to older properties of a similar value. They can also lack the personality of older houses.

  • The risk of living on a building site. New-build estates tend to be constructed in stages. While your home might be ready to move into, others could take longer to finish – meaning your family may end up living on a building site for the first few months.

  • Possible delays to your moving date. Construction work on new-builds can run into difficulties and delay when you’re able to move in. If the property isn’t ready by the time and you’ve sold your existing home, you might be forced to rent or move in with family members.

Think about your personal needs

It’s important to think carefully before agreeing to buy a new-build or existing home. The decision will ultimately hinge on the needs of you and your family.

Nationwide mortgages are available to UK residents aged 18+ and are subject to underwriting and criteria.


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