For many homebuyers, there’s an essential first question they must ask as they begin their search: do I want an old or new home? For some, this choice is often made unconsciously (many people are intimidated by older homes and would never consider them, while others wouldn’t dream of living in something without history). There are some dramatic differences between older and newer homes that can impact your quality of life for years, however. Let’s take a minute to consider some of the pros and cons of each.

What’s considered an old home?

Generally speaking, most consider an old home to be a residence built more than 30 years ago.

Pros of buying an older home

Personality

You’ve probably heard about old homes with “great bones.”  Many old homes have distinct architectural details (Victorian, Craftsman, or midcentury modern, to name a few) that lend variety, interest, and charm in a way new construction just can’t duplicate. Many buyers are attracted to the charm and warmth of old homes, the neighborhoods they’re in, and that special feeling of connection to another time.

Cost

Home shoppers pay a premium for new construction. Building materials aren’t cheap and the price of a new home often reflects that. On average, a newly constructed home can cost 25 to 30 percent more than an old home. While that statistic doesn’t reflect an important reality (some old homes are in desirable locations that can drive up value), if you remove location from the equation, older homes are generally less expensive than their newer counterparts.

Outdoor space

If a big backyard is on your wish list, you may have more luck with an older home. There’s a growing trend among homebuilders to maximize square footage of new homes while average lot sizes seem to be shrinking. This means that the big new home in the suburb with the stunning great room is likely to have an underwhelming backyard. Older homes tend to sit on larger lots with ample yard space and mature trees.

Availability

When buying new construction, you may have to wait months for your home or unit to be finished and move-in ready. With an older home, you can start packing as soon as escrow closes.

Cons of buying an older home

Maintenance

Though the upfront cost of an older home is often less than a new build, that discount reflects a truth about old homes: they need work. Some of the big-ticket items you might be facing when buying an old home include: rewiring, piping replacement, updating windows, repairing or replacing the foundation, reroofing, and termite or other pest repairs.

Comfort

The sense of history in an older home may seem less charming once you encounter the lack of closet space. People generally had fewer material possessions back in the day and older homes may reflect that reality. Room size may also be impacted in older homes, with bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms smaller when compared to those in modern homes.

Health and safety

While a newly built home may come with fire sprinklers, interconnected alarms, and security systems, many older homes won’t have these features. Additionally, older homes are more likely to contain lead-based paint and asbestos products that are proven health dangers if not properly contained or abated. Older fireplaces, gas lines, and knob and tube wiring can all pose dangers if not repaired, replaced, or maintained.

The verdict? Whether you end up buying old or new, be sure you have the right homeowners policy in place to keep your home and your things safe. Get a free quote today.

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about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.