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Old House vs. New House: Which Is Right for You?

Old House vs. New House: Which Is Right for You?
Taylor Medine
Home.com Contributor

The fun part of homebuying is scanning real estate sites late at night and envisioning your family, furniture, and prized possessions in each home listing.

The less fun (but arguably more important) part is making the financial decisions, like whether or not it’s more cost-effective to buy an old house vs. new house.

There’s no right or wrong answer here since both home types come with their own quirks and perks. In this guide, we discuss the pros and cons of old and new homes.

What's in this Article?

What do old, new, and new construction mean?
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Pros and cons of an old house
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Pros and cons of a new house
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What type of home should you choose?
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Home loans for new and used homes
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Frequently asked questions
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Key takeaways
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Old, new, and new construction: what does it all mean?

While definitions can vary, a home generally falls into the “old” category if it was built more than 50 years ago, according to Realtor.com. Meanwhile, newer homes have been built in the last several decades and tend to use modern building materials. The newest type of home is called “new construction.” This is a recently built home where you would be the first to own it.

The main difference between newer homes and older homes is that newer homes will have modern features and design aesthetics. For example, homes built before the ‘70s may not have an open concept — unless someone knocked down a few walls to keep up with that home design trend.

Whether an old or new house is right for you depends a lot on your budget, your aesthetics, and how much work you’re willing to put into it.

Pros and cons of an old house

If you’ve got your eyes on an older home, here are the potential benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of an old house:

  • Lower cost: An older home may cost less than newer homes in the neighborhood where you want to buy
  • More character: If you prefer not to live in a new development where all of the houses look quite similar, you may be able to find more unique designs in an older home
  • Stronger bones: Older homes may have more solid construction than newer homes, according to Realtor.com, largely due to being built with materials that are no longer used or available
  • Fuller foliage: Older homes may have greenery that’s been planted decades ago, leading to a fuller and more vibrant curbside and backyard
  • Less transient: Older neighborhoods might have residents who’ve lived in their homes for decades, which means you could build stronger and longer bonds with neighbors
  • Build equity fast: If you can do cosmetic repairs yourself, you can gain a lot of equity very quickly in an older, outdated home.

Cons of an old house:

  • More repairs: Older homes come with older pipes, drains, electrical systems, and more, which can result in more frequent calls to the repair person
  • Older appliances and home systems: Dated appliances and HVAC systems may not be energy efficient. Some older homes may not even have central heating or cooling, and the cost of heating and cooling with electric, propane, or window A/C units can get pricey. You may be able to have outdated systems replaced, or HVAC added, but that will cost you as well
  • Outdated features: If you buy a fixer-upper, the home may not be turnkey ready. You could have to roll up your sleeves to get rid of pink bathtubs, floral wallpaper, and old linoleum tiles before it really feels like your home
  • Possibility of toxic materials: Older homes may have been built with materials like lead and asbestos. Hiring a professional inspector can help you identify materials and determine if these materials pose a risk to you and how much it will cost to have them removed
  • Termites and mold: Again, an inspection can alert you to termite or mold issues in an older home before you buy it.

Now let’s see how the pros and cons of an old house vs the pros and cons of a new house.

Pros and cons of a new house

Considering a newer house? Here’s what you should consider for pros and cons:

Pros of a new house:

  • Modern features: A newer property with updated features may not need any work besides hanging a few pictures or adding other personal touches to make it feel like home
  • New appliances and home systems: Newer homes may come with energy-efficient appliances, heating systems, and cooling systems that are better for the planet and easier on your wallet
  • Building warranties: Builders may provide warranties for new homes that protect the home systems and the home’s structure if there are defects
  • Neighborhood amenities: Newer neighborhoods may have playgrounds, activity centers, and other community amenities you may not find in more established areas

Cons of a new house:

  • More expensive: New construction and newer homes in neighborhoods with amenities can cost more than older homes and fixer-uppers
  • Less charm: A newer home may have fewer unique features compared to older homes
  • Transient: Newer areas might see homeowners come and go every few years, particularly if you buy in a neighborhood with starter homes, as residents may plan to sell and “move up” to their forever homes within a few years
  • Construction: If a new community is being built in stages, the neighborhood could be noisy and unsightly until the building project is complete.
  • Homeowners Association (HOA) fees: Many new neighborhoods are governed by a homeowners association that charges mandatory HOA fees to cover community maintenance and repairs. You could pay a few hundred dollars per month in HOA fees, depending where you live
  • Building defects: Newer doesn’t mean perfect. Home build qualities can vary, and defects can happen. That’s why it’s important to inspect your home and report issues before the builder warranty period expires

Old vs new house: what type of home should you choose?

Whether it makes sense to buy an old house vs new house might come down to the cost, especially in this housing market, with home prices having soared to record levels.

Some homebuyers have realized they may have to compromise on the type of home they’ll buy in order to fit into their budget.

That’s not a bad thing, though. Buying a home – even an imperfect one – allows you to gain control over your housing costs and build equity in the property.

And an older home or fixer-upper can also be a blank canvas on which to create your dream home.

Before buying an old fixer-upper, however, it’s good to price out how much each project will cost to ensure that you can realistically afford all the changes that need to be made.

Depending how much of a fixer-upper the home is, the cost to buy and renovate the home could be similar to buying a newer property. But if the repairs are cosmetic, or you’re comfortable making them over time, an older house can be more affordable.

A renovation loan could help you finance the home and renovations with one single mortgage. The FHA loan, USDA loan, and VA loan all conveniently have renovation loan options you could consider.

Home loans for new and used homes

Many different types of loans can be used to buy new and older homes. Here are a few options:

  • Conventional loans: Traditionally, conventional loans require 20% down, but you may be able to put down as little as 3% if you have private mortgage insurance (PMI).
  • FHA loans: FHA loans are government-backed mortgages that accept 3.5% down, and you don’t need perfect credit to qualify.
  • VA loans: VA loans are for veterans and eligible spouses and may allow 0% down.
  • USDA loans: USDA loans offer 100% financing for homes purchased in designated rural areas.
  • Renovation loans: These loans allow you to finance the cost of the home plus renovations in a single loan. There are several low down payment renovation loan options:

Old house vs. new house FAQs

Are old houses better than new ones?

Older homes aren’t necessarily better than new ones, though they may cost less. When buying an older home — especially a fixer-upper — it’s important to consider what it will cost to update the home. If the price of the home is affordable, but you’ll spend a significant amount of money on upgrades, the long-term cost may outweigh the upfront savings.

Why are new houses cheaper than old ones?

The price of homes depends on market demand. New homes tend to cost more when there’s a high demand for modern features and appliances and a low inventory of homes available. But old houses sometimes cost more, depending on the area. If there’s a high demand for historic homes that have been painstakingly restored or maintained, a newer build might be cheaper due to the materials used or lack of historic value.

Is it worth it to buy a new house?

Whether it’s worth buying a new house depends on your budget, lifestyle, and the market where you live. If you’re able to find a new home in your area that’s within your budget, buying a newer house could save you money and hassle on repairs, maintenance, and upgrades.
However, if you’re someone who enjoys a good DIY project, buying an older home and doing the work yourself could save you money and be gratifying.

Is a 30-year-old house too old?

Today, a 30-year-old home would have been built in the 90s, which could still be considered a newer home — but ultimately, what is and isn’t old is subjective. For example, a fully renovated 60-year-old home with a new roof can feel newer than a 30-year-old home that has never been updated. Age is just one factor out of many to consider when shopping for your next house.

The bottom line

Finding the right home can be stressful with so many factors to consider, but you got this. Consider the pros and cons of each new and old home you tour. And when you’re ready to buy, exploring all of your loan options can help you find the best financing options for the purchase that makes the most sense for you.

Old vs new house Key Takeaways:

  • Old houses can be less expensive and well constructed
  • New homes have the advantage of more modern designs and energy-efficient appliances
  • The right choice between comes down to your budget, preferences, and how you feel about fixer-uppers

Further Reading

Fairway Advantage Pre-Approval is the Key to a New Home

$15k First-time Homebuyer Tax Credit 2021: All Your Questions Answered