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Choosing Your Next Home: Old or New?

For some potential homebuyers an older home holds charm, history and character. For others the idea of a brand new home that has never been lived in is much more appealing. The rule of thumb used to be that new homes were more expensive than older homes, but that is no longer always the case. One reason is because as land costs have increased, lot sizes have shrunk. Another reason that new homes are not always more expensive is because even though material costs continue to climb, today's construction is cheaper due to engineered woods and the use of drywall instead of plaster. A potential homebuyer looking for a home in one of the Seattle area's more desirable inner-city neighborhoods will find, on average, larger lot sizes and the homes will cost more than entry-level new homes being developed in a new subdivision in the outlying areas.

In addition to important factors such as commute and school systems, there are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to consider as you decide whether a newer home or an older one is right for you.

Older Home Advantages
Older homes have stood for decades, sometimes for centuries, weathering many storms. The Seattle area is famous for its genuine Craftsman homes built with meticulous attention to detail. An older home is also more apt to have a larger lot size with room to potentially accommodate a garage or a backyard cottage depending upon local regulations. Another potential benefit is that zoning changes are much less likely in older, established neighborhoods. An older home may have enchanting design and detail features that you would never find in a modern house, as well as mature trees and landscaping. Finally, older neighborhoods are well-developed with local coffee houses and quaint, neighborhood shops nearby.

Older Home Drawbacks
You are more likely to have maintenance issues more often with an older home, unless it has been recently remodeled and upgraded. When considering an older home, ask about the age of the heater and water heater as well the water pipes and the electrical capacity. You want to know if the home you are interested in will soon be in need of major repairs or upgrades. It is likely that an older home will have smaller closets, storage spaces and a smaller garage. Many older homes in established Seattle neighborhoods, on average, have less square footage and they also tend to have smaller windows.

New Home Advantages
When you buy new you know you won't face major repairs or replacements from the roof to the water heater for at least 10 years. Many modern conveniences are standard with a new home, such as built-in dishwashers and microwave ovens, refrigerators and wiring for security systems and smart home technology. New homes are more energy efficient and feature insulation in walls, ceilings and floors with double and sometimes triple pane windows, all which help reduce energy costs. Building codes change and it is reassuring to know that a new home conforms to current building standards. When buying in a new development, you often can choose from several different floor plans and in some cases a choice of interior features like cabinets, counter tops and paint colors.

New Home Drawbacks
Most new housing developments have some kind of neighborhood association with rules governing exterior appearance and other restrictions. It can take years for the vegetation, including shade trees, to mature in a new development. New houses settle. it happens everywhere regardless of the type of soil, and settling causes cracks in foundations, walls and door frames. But perhaps the biggest drawback to a newer home is the likelihood of a longer commute, since other than condos, most new housing developments are outside of the metropolitan downtown area.
Identifying your top priorities will help determine whether a new or an older home is the perfect choice for you and your family.

The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties provided information contained in this article. For more information or to find a qualified professional, log onto