So recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of building a home from scratch vs. buying an existing home (that needs some updates). I think it’s probably because we’ve been slowly making updates to our home and with so many people moving right now, it’s easy to simultaneously see (on social media) people who are moving into homes that they are building. I definitely feel like there are pros and cons to both, so today I just thought I would share the thought process. So what we went through when moving last summer and if my thoughts have changed on how we approached the process (on new vs. existing). Hopefully this is helpful for anyone who is considering building or buying a pre-existing home now or in the future!
First I thought I’d go through our thought process last summer, where we stand now and then just a general pros vs. cons list that sums everything up. Of course this is my opinion, and I know that with homes it really is to each their own! So neither approach is right or wrong, but hopefully it will give you some things to think about when buying a future home.
I should start by saying that last summer when we started thinking about moving (more on that here), it was really a spur of the moment decision. We had been in our current home for two years and thought we would be there for at least another three. But with interest rates being low, me being able to use my blogging income for a loan qualification (when we bought our first home I didn’t have 2 years of blogging income filed so it couldn’t be used), and us feeling like we could use a little more space, we figured why not keep our eyes open. If a house came on the market that we fell in love with and felt right then we would go for it, but in general we weren’t in any rush.
That being said, we never really considered a new build at this point for a few reasons. One being is since this wasn’t a planned move per se, we weren’t in the mindset of going to look at lots and potential builders. However, that was something that was never really on our radar anyway when we talked about moving in the future. One being, we wanted more privacy/a yard with privacy, which usually requires foliage. One of the downsides with a lot of new builds is that they are typically in newly (or newer) developed neighborhoods so you don’t get a lot of that landscaping/trees that have been around for years and years. The lots are definitely more empty and therefore less privacy between you and your neighbors. This isn’t to say that you can’t landscape but at the end of the day you can’t bring in giant trees that have been growing for decades lol. Again, this isn’t always the case but the newer builds that I can think of that have a lot of privacy are in more remote locations.
The other main factor was that we had been through some newer builds in the past (when looking for our first home) and some of them just didn’t feel like as good of quality compared to some of the older homes we saw. It’s kind of like furniture these days. Some new furniture pieces are still handcrafted and made with the same quality with how furniture made was 20 years ago, while other pieces still have an expensive price tag but over time the quality is just not there. That being said, we were drawn toward a pre-existing house for that reason. Plus older homes have certain character that you just can’t find in new builds.
The other benefit is if you move into an existing home that needs some work, you can probably get it at a better price point and one that you may be able to better afford at that time. For example, if the house we were in now was totally updated when it when on the market, it probably would have been out of our price range. But since it required some updates, especially to large areas like the kitchen and master bath, the asking price was lower. So regarding the square footage, floor plan, and lot size/privacy, we were able to get everything we wanted within our price range in exchange for the house requiring some updates on our own time and money.
So while those were the main reasons we were drawn towards an existing home, there are definitely some things that are not as ideal. These are things that I have become more aware of the longer we’ve been in the house as you realize how expensive certain updates can be, how they can interfere with your day to day schedule, and how long they can take. I guess I shoudn’t say more aware of because I always knew that this was one of the potential downsides but once you’re in the house and you have to actually make these updates, it’s a different story. It can take long enough to furnish a new house but aside from furnishing it, when you move into a home that needs updates, that takes time and also money. We’ve been in our house for 8 months now and while that really isn’t that long, sometimes I look around and I’m like why does everything still look so unfinished and/or dated?!
A large part of this is also probably because of what we see on social media but that is a different post for a different time LOL. And I also realize that I’m being impatient because I just want to live in a house that feels “finished”. Since we’ve moved in we’ve re-painted everything (which was not cheap! lol), replaced the floors in the master bedroom and closets, refinished all the wood floors in the house, bought new furniture, painted the fireplace, replaced our entire staircase, furnished the patio and sunroom, and put in a fence (Ps. You can see a house tour of what everything looked like when we first moved in here). So while it feels like a decent amount I think since a lot of the furniture still needs to be purchased, and the main areas like the kitchen and master bath need to be renovated it feels like we still have a long way to go. That being said, I can totally see why it’s nice to build because when you move in all of this is already DONE! And sure, part of the enjoyment of buying a home is in the process of it coming together but at the same time there is something to be said for moving to a house where all the finishes are updated and move in ready.
So now onto whether I wish we would have moved into a new build or if we ever would build in the future. The impatient part of me looks at new builds and is like “can our house just look like that on the inside already?!” However, in the long run, I feel like what we have in terms of our lot, privacy, landscape, and just the quality our home is really hard to find when building and not necessarily possible to recreate. And while your home is always a work in progress to some extent, I truly believe once all the furniture is purchased and major areas are renovated, that it will be 100% worth the wait.
In regards to building in the future, we don’t have any plans to leave this home anytime soon– and if we ever were to move, the new house would have to check a lot of boxes. We would probably consider building if we found the right builder and could find the right lot/location.
Alright now onto a quick overall pros vs cons list.
-Older homes/lots tend to have more privacy/landscaping/foliage
-Quality can be better (depending on builder and year built)
-Can potentially get more for your money in terms of sq. footage and lot, if you’re willing to do some updates yourself later down the line.
-Can have unique features and pieces of character that you don’t get in a new build
-When you do renovate areas, you can make it 100% what you envision
-Time and patience are required while updating over time
-Contractors can be in and out of your house more often with updates. Can be hard to work around when you’re working from home.
-Can be a lot more money up front for renovations vs. renovations that are already built into your home loan/mortgage
-Is move in ready! Don’t have any ongoing projects, working with contractors, etc. and everything looks great from the start.
-Can usually pick the finishes ahead of time so you can customize it to your taste
-Usually no large renovations required so you don’t have any large payments to plan/budget for
-Unless your home is truly custom, you are likely limited in what finishes you can choose from.
-Newer builds (unless in more remote locations) tend to be in newer developments so you can lack the privacy/foliage that older homes have established.
-Can feel more generic, or lacking in character depending on builder, how much you can customize, etc.
At the end of the day, I don’t think either is better than the other! I really just think it depends on your personal preference and what you are looking for at that point in your life. Also, if any of you all have moved into an existing home and have experienced a new build, I would love to hear your thoughts! Obviously I can only speak so much on this topic since we’ve never actually built a new home 🙂 PS. More home and moving inspired posts in my home decor section and finance section!