New Homes vs. Older homes

From on April 01, 2009 in General Remodel

My friend bought a new, never-been-lived in home. I own a home built in 1936 and don’t care much for “new” homes. I shared my opinions with her and she did the same with me. We debated for an hour about the pros and cons of old versus new and ended up agreeing to disagree.

There are many reasons why an older home is desirable and, as my friend pointed out in our debate, many reasons why a brand new home is advantageous. (For the purpose of clarity I refer to older homes as built pre 1950’s and new tract homes built in sub-divisions in 2008-2009.) Here are some of them:

The Upside of Older Homes

turnerlivingroom.jpgPhoto credit: Turnerbuilt Incorporated

  • Established neighborhood.
  • Established trees and landscape.
  • Solid quality construction and fine craftsmanship.
  • Custom, unique, and charming.
  • Built-ins.
  • Many have basements and/or attics.
  • Usually close to town, college, established parks.
  • Upper-scale.
  • Lots of history and treasures.
  • Many older homes are small – 1200 to 2200 square foot average – saves energy.

The Upside of New Homes


    Photo credit: Phan Group
  • No pet odors or cigarette smoke.
  • Newer homes have more open floor plans.
  • Get to choose your carpet, cabinets, counters, interior/exterior paint, etc. at no additional cost with the option to upgrade.
  • Often less expensive than established home.
  • Low maintenance because everything is new.
  • No unforeseen insect damage, dry rot, etc. often found in older homes.

New Energy Star Home Advantages

Everything above plus:

  • Lower monthly utility bills.
  • Quieter environment due to improved insulation and tight construction.
  • Access to preferred lending from lenders offering special Energy Star mortgages.
  • Higher resell value.
  • Possible eligibility for tax credits.
  • Improved air quality.
  • Good for the environment.

My friend likes the fact that no one has ever lived in the home before her and I like the fact that people have lived in the home before and all the layers of history that go with it.

I’ve got 70 years worth of pencil etchings inside my kitchen pantry, a growth chart with dates, names, and heights of every child who lived here. She can’t believe that I haven’t painted over the “scribble” (as she puts it) and I find it shocking that she would even think of painting over history.

I joke with her that I get lost driving to her house because all the homes in her neighborhood look the same. She jokes about how my interior doors stick during certain seasons and the glass door knobs fall off into your hand in the winter. Here’s more on the downsides of our respective living situations:

The Downside of New Homes

  • Backyard landscaping costs, including patios or decking, irrigation, and plants.
  • Cost to put up blinds or drapes - window coverings can be expensive.
  • Cookie cutter - all the homes look alike.
  • Quickly built and sometimes with cheap materials.
  • Homes are too close to neighbors – sometimes on zero lot lines.
  • Usually built in suburban territory, adding commute time and more carbon dioxide.
  • You don’t really know how the neighborhood will fare because it’s too new.
  • No mature trees to shade all that cement.
  • Many houses have excessive square footage with 3 car garages – waste of energy.

The Downside of Older Homes

  • Pre 1940s knob & tube wiring may need to be rewired, averaging $10,000.
  • Single pane windows = higher energy bills or replacement costs.
  • More maintenance due to aging.
  • Undetected termite infestation and damage.
  • Weak plumbing.
  • Dry rot possibilities.
  • Outdated or small bathrooms and kitchens.

My home is walking distance to downtown and our junior college. Her home is off the radar in what used to be a beautiful orchard. I could go on and on (and so could she) but the truth is there are equal amounts of differences for both new and older homes; it’s just a matter of personal preference. In the end, it all boils down to your needs and tastes.