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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

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Some buyers know from the beginning of the home search whether they want to purchase an existing home or a new home. Other buyers being their search by looking at all options available and decide later.

The features you want and the price range you can afford will help define whether your best choice is a new or existing home. You may find, for example, that in your community the only way to live on a quiet, tree-lined street is to buy an existing home. Or, you may find that to have a three-car garage in your community, you must build a new home.

So, what is new and what constitutes existing in the world of real estate? It's rather simple, really. An existing home is one that has had a previous owner. Some existing homes are 100 years old, some are two or 10 years old. A new home (or new build) is a home in which you are the first owner. Most of the time, buyers who purchase a new home are involved from the time the foundation is dug until the last piece of woodwork is nailed down. Other times, buyers purchase a speculative (or spec) home, a new home that's built before there is a buyer.

Home builders often begin construction of a spec home hoping it will sell shortly before or after it is completed. Spec home are much more common in growing communities because the builders there can be relatively sure the home will sell at some point.

In your search, you will find a wide range of existing homes, from those that are well maintained to those that require extensive remodeling. New homes range from ones that are exact duplicates of others in the neighborhood to those that are specially designed by an architect to meet the needs of each buyer. In most communities throughout (city/location name here), there is a tremendous variety of housing options for you.

Regardless of whether you're looking at new or existing, a real estate professional - a REALTOR - can help you find the home that meets your needs and desires.

Considerations for an Existing Home It is hard to generalize about existing homes because their conditions and locations are so varied. However, there are advantages to existing homes that you should consider:

1. Existing homes often have desirable features that are no longer included in new homes in that price range. For example, many older homes have high ceilings, hardwood floors, slate fireplaces, heavy woodwork and built-in bookshelves -- features that have been eliminated over the years due to price. Most existing homes also have character because prior owners have added loving touches to the home.

2. Most existing homes are located in established neighborhoods with other homes built in the same period. These neighborhoods typically have mature landscaping, tall shade trees, nearby schools and stores.

3. When you purchase an existing home in an established neighborhood, you have a fairly clear idea how the neighborhood will look in coming years. There probably is not much space for a new shopping center or factory, and neighborhoods that have been well maintained for decades probably won't suffer from lack of care.

4. In a lot of cases, the cost of an existing home is less than the cost of a similar new home. As you may suspect, there also are disadvantages to buying an existing home:

1. Roofs, plumbing, electrical wiring, air conditioners, furnaces and appliances only last so long. Therefore, it may be just a short time before the owner faces a maintenance expense.

2. Every few years there are breakthroughs to make housing more energy efficient. Therefore, any existing home will be somewhat outdated in this respect. Sometimes, previous owners add insulation or new windows. Other times, you may be buying a house that has high heating and cooling costs.

3. You will find that many existing houses have a floor plan that is perfect for you but have an interior d cor that doesn't match your tastes. Some features like paint color or wallpaper style can be changed easily and cheaply. Other decorating problems, like those with unsightly siding or floor coverings, may be costly to change. You must weigh the costs and benefits of altering each home you see.

Considerations for a New Home

There are a number of reasons that buyers want to build a new home. Namely, it is the opportunity for them to create the style and d cor of their choosing. With most new homes, you also will be able to select the lot on which you want you home to be built. When you purchase land from a builder or housing developer, the lot, or plat, usually is included with the cost of the house. Some buyers purchase the lot first, then find a builder to construct the home. You will find two options with new homes: tract homes and custom homes.

Buyers of tract or production homes choose from a limited variety of floor plans offered by each builder in a subdivision. One builder may have as many as ten basic home styles, for example, and allow buyers to choose the interior and exterior options. Maybe you would like a ranch-style home -- or one of several that exists in the neighborhood. From there, you can select a one-car or a two-car garage, for example, wooden or plastic baseboards, white appliances or black. By offering a limited number of floor plans, the builder can use the same blueprints and materials for several homes and reduce the cost to the buyer.

Buyers who are able to spend more money often will have a custom home built. With a custom home, the buyers work with an architect to design the floor plan, use an interior designer to select the d cor and find a builder specializing in custom homes to put the project together.

Whether you purchase a tract home or a custom home, the main advantages to having a new home are the same:

1. With all new structural systems and appliances, chances are slim that your newly built house will need significant maintenance or repair.

2. You will have the opportunity to select the colors and styles for both the interior and exterior of your new home.

Some builders limit a buyer's options, but you still will be able to choose between gray and beige carpet, white or off-white walls, yellow or tan siding, for example.

3. Many neighborhoods of new homes - often referred to as subdivisions - are well planned. Traffic patterns are taken into consideration when the streets are built and developers work to attract stores and parks to the area.

4. Most builders use energy-efficient products in their new homes. Windows, wall insulation, garage and exterior doors, roofing and siding material, appliances, furnaces and air conditioners - all have improved over the years to help home owners save money on heating and cooling.

There are also some disadvantages that come with buying a new home:

1. It takes time to build a home. If you have an immediate need to move, the three months, one year or more that it takes to build a new home won't work for you. In addition, selecting all of the fixtures and colors for you home may be fun for you, but many buyers - especially those who don't plan to stay in their home very long - don't wish to undertake such a large project.

2. Until the subdivision matures, possibly in 10 to 20 years, it may not be as attractive as existing neighborhoods. In most cases, trees are cleared before the subdivision is developed and it will be years before the neighborhood looks "established." Until all lots are sold, home owners must tolerate a neighborhood with dump trucks, empty lots and homes continually under construction.

3. Unless a subdivision is surrounded by existing neighborhoods, the owners of new homes may not know what businesses or industries someday will occupy the empty land around them. In addition, the road system in the area may not adequately handle the increased traffic of the future.

The choice is yours -- new home or existing residence. In order to make an informed decision, it would be wise to call upon a REALTOR who is trained to help you explore all of your options.



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