New build versus older home: what to buy?


It’s an age-old quandary for those in the market for a property: what are the pros and cons of buying a new build versus an old house? We take a look at the benefits and disadvantages for each. 

Space & character

Square-footage: the holy grail of those looking for their first property. More space is perhaps the most significant factor in deciding the price of a home in the UK but arguably just as important is how that space is designed. 

Older properties, particularly period properties, often enjoy fewer, but larger, rooms. High ceilings and sizeable reception areas are often found in properties from early 20th century, reinforcing the sense of space associated with homes from this era. 

Perhaps the issue lies with the design of many new build properties. Over the years many housebuilders have reduced the size of rooms to increase the number of bedrooms, mainly to qualify for criteria like “5-bedroom home”. 

That said, the developers of the best quality new build homes are using intelligent open-plan design to create flexible spaces. What does this mean? In the most modern properties, you can now enjoy wide open spaces with an abundance of natural light, larger bedrooms and private outdoors space – even with flats and apartments. For a good example of intelligent design in practice, take a look at Elephant Park’s Park & Sayer.

The same can be said for the “character” held by older homes. The architecture of many new builds now provides buyers with some of the most aesthetically pleasing homes in the UK. Though we will admit - there’s not too much that can compete with the cornicing, stained glass and decorative woodwork often found in period properties!

Efficiency

Older properties were built to stand the test of time, of that there is no doubt. But in terms of energy efficiency, running costs are much lower in new builds. 

Better glazing, smarter materials, and continually advancing technology, mean new builds require less heating and cooling. Not only does this save you money, it also helps the planet too. 

Maintenance & snagging

Affecting older homes and new-builds respectively, maintenance and snagging can be costly in the long-run. 

Older properties, even if well-tended, are likely to need fairly significant repairs from time to time. Roofing, flooring, damp-proofing, plumbing and electrics have all come a long way in the past 10 years, let alone 50, so there’s no doubt that newer properties fair better in the long run when it comes to maintenance. 

Snagging, on the other hand, is a problem unique to new builds. The small details that can be overlooked, or small changes that can happen to properties as they “settle”, can build up to become a stress-point in your first few years of home ownership. How to mitigate against this? Pick a trusted developer with a first-class record in customer service and aftercare. That way any snagging that does come up will be dealt with quickly and efficiently. 

Buying process

Maybe it goes without saying but when you’re purchasing a new build home, the buying process is a lot simpler, due to the fact that there’s no chain. 

When you purchase an older property from a seller rather than a developer, you can often be reliant on the seller’s own transactions going to plan and to time. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to guard against this – but when it’s your dream property these small factors don’t really come into the decision-making process. 

Long-term value

When thinking about long-term value, the area, market, and length of ownership determines what you might make on a property when you decide to sell up. 

That said, the general impression is that older properties are a better long-term investment. This isn’t quite the case, although with a number of older properties you will have more opportunity to extend, develop, or amend the property to make it more desirable to potential buyers. 

If you’re staying for a longer period – say 5, 10 or 20 years – there is little risk of not making your money back on a new build property. Particularly if it’s located in the right neighbourhood, and built by a responsible developer, when the market is strong. 

In conclusion, we think the question needs to change. It’s no longer about new build vs old house, instead ask yourself “Which is right for me?”. Once you’ve done your research and visited your share of properties the answer might just be staring you in the face. 
 
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