By Diane Saatchi
A new house is usually high on home shoppers’ wish list. Yet when it comes down to it, feeling at home in a house seems to be the deciding factor.
So it follows that if you grew up (or summered in) an old house or always lived in old houses, chances are you will end up with another old house.
That said, it is hard to not even look at and consider a brand new house.
Why new over old?
If a new house isn’t quite complete, there may be the opportunity to personalize with fixtures and features of your choosing. That way, you get an almost custom house without having to go through the time and expense of one-off design and construction.
A new house doesn’t have a history to navigate, nothing wrong has been done yet, and you aren’t paying for another’s mistakes ... not to mention that ceilings will be higher, closets are likely to be larger and more plentiful, the bedroom to bathroom ratio is closer to one-to-one and the basement will be or could be finished. All appliances, fixtures, and mechanicals will be brand new, too.
New homes come with a warranty.
There’s a reason most states require new homes to have warranties. New homes come with kinks; sometimes lots of them. And, they are usually met with surprise and more face time with the developer than you ever imagined or desired. The doors don’t close right, one door sticks, the floor is a little creaky in the hallway, the thermostat needs to be readjusted ... the list goes on. You can experience kinks like these in an old house, but those are expected -- after all, it’s an old house.
If you’re looking to scale down or move to a smaller home, there may be more choice among the resales.
Especially in the Hamptons, where land costs are so high, it is less profitable for developers to build small houses. The best options for less than 4,000-square-foot homes are among those built before the 1990’s. There are plenty of choices in good locations and you won’t have to pay for square footage you do not need or want. However, you will probably have to do some work to make someone else's house feel like your home.
And that work can be more extensive and expensive than you think.
Changing an old house can be like walking into a dark room; you don’t really know what those costs are going to be. Once involved in renovation, the “may as well” factor kicks in. It goes something like this: "Sanding the floors is going to make such a mess we may as well change that mismatched molding at the same time." Or, "the electrician is coming to install the ceiling fixture in the dining room, so we may as well change the recessed lighting in the living room."
Sometimes the old house that you think you can tweak to make work for you ends up being easier and cheaper to tear down and start anew.
So maybe a new house is a better idea?
The sellers of new spec homes are in business to move product, thus they price to sell. And, they offer well thought out plans, cutting edge style and popular features and amenities. With a professional on one side of the transaction, There is less drama, less emotion -- it’s all business, not personal. The land costs something, the house costs something, and the builder wants to make a profit. Smart builders price tight enough to make a decent profit and move on to the next project.
Homeowners selling their houses can be and often are emotional, they may over-value their property, they can price based on what they need, and/or they can be ambivalent about selling. It is not easy to turn over a major part of one's life along with good and bad memories.
Look at both, have an open mind, and get estimates from reputable contractors if a resale will need to be changed to suit. If buying a new home, get references for the builder -- not just those he or she offers, but from local attorneys. It’s easy to find out if unhappy purchasers, suppliers or sub-contractors have sued the developer and contractor.
© 2016 Diane Saatchi