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The Pros + Cons of Building New vs. Buying an Existing Home

new construction home

There’s a laundry list of things to think about when buying a home. One of the first and most difficult choices you’ll have to make is whether to build new or buy an existing home. Each option has its own set of pros and cons. It’s good idea to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of building new vs. buying an existing home, in order to decide what’s best for you and your family. 

Building a New Construction Home   

Who doesn’t love the idea of building their dream home from the ground up? You get to pick out everything yourself — from the floorplans to the floorboards. You can even choose the paint colors for each room, the kitchen countertops and cabinets, as well as the lighting throughout your home. The options for customization are endless. However, this also means you’ll have a lot of decisions to make. If you’re an indecisive person, the process can be overwhelming. Additionally, all of these options come at a cost. It’s typically more expensive to build a new construction home than it is to buy a comparable existing home. Part of the “extra” costs of a new construction home includes buying a plot of land for it to be built upon.    

Another drawback of building new vs. buying an existing home is the amount of time it takes to complete. On average, it takes 7.5 months to build a new construction home, Realtor® magazine reported, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It can take up to a month of waiting just for the permit process to start, which is required to build a new construction home. After that, it can take up to 6.5 months to build, depending on the weather. If you live in Florida and it is hurricane season, adverse weather can also blow out construction timelines and projected completion dates. 

On other hand, when your home is built, it will meet current building codes, feature a more current design, and is likely to be more energy efficient. Also, you shouldn’t have to worry about any big-ticket maintenance items, such as a roof repair. If you move into an existing home and the roof hasn’t been replaced in 20 years, that bill (and the water from the leaky roof) might fall into your lap. 

Here’s how to tell if building a new construction home is for you:

You’ll love it if:

  • You want customization  
  • You don’t want to foot the bill for big-ticket maintenance items upon move-in
  • You want a home that meets current building codes, features a current design and is made from energy-efficient materials
  • You don’t want to compete with other homebuyers

You should leave it if:

  • You need to move in right away or quickly
  • You’re on a very tight budget

Buying an Existing Home

You don’t know what you like until you see it. That’s one of the greatest benefits of buying an existing home. If you’ve done your research, you know exactly what you’re getting. You can see the home, touch it and walk inside of it.  

However, there still may be issues you can’t see, which is why a home inspection is so important. An experienced home inspector can identify problems with the house before you buy it — and provide insight that will help with upkeep after you do. 

Of course, there are more options for customization when building new vs. buying an existing home. But you may be able to leverage the findings from the inspection to negotiate having the homeowner make repairs or upgrades before you buy the house. Additionally, homeowners often make updates to their property just before putting it on the market. This could include buying new stainless steel appliances, adding backsplash to the kitchen or installing new wood floors. As a result, you may benefit from these renovations without having to play a part in the process.

Lastly, unless it's a fixer-upper, an existing home might be move-in ready. The time it can take from looking for a new home to move-in depends on a number of variables. Generally speaking, it can take a few days for the pre-approval process, several weeks to months to find the right home, and up to 45 days to close. You’ll be able to post a photo of your new home on Facebook in no time.   

You’ll love it if:

  • You want to move in quickly
  • You’re looking for a deal 
  • You like seeing a finished product before you buy it

You should leave it if:

  • You have a clear picture in your mind of the exact home you want to buy — down to the detail — and haven’t found it after looking for years
  • You don’t like competing with other homebuyers
  • You don’t want to deal with maintenance upon move-in

Whether you decide to build new or buy an existing home, make sure to do your research. You can also ask people you trust about their own experiences, which can help you avoid costly mistakes.

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