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Should We Build?

For many home buyers, one of the first questions they should be asking themselves is whether to purchase an existing home, a new home or have a home built. This is an important consideration, since the attributes and advantages or disadvantages of existing versus new can be considerable. In addition, there can be a fairly wide variance in the costs of these different types of housing. Although some comparisons are obvious--everything new and up-to-date versus much that is older and perhaps a bit dated--other parts of the comparison are frequently overlooked. Both a new home and an existing home can have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to explore your choices thoroughly so you don't find some rather unpleasant (and potentially expensive) surprises the day after moving in. Here are some specific tips to consider when making a choice between a new home and a re-sale.

LAYOUT
There definitely have been a number of changes in the last few years in the interior architecture of homes in the U.S. and Canada. New homes, for example, tend to have larger kitchens and family gathering areas than older homes, which are more likely to have more--and smaller--rooms. Much of the new home construction today features expansive kitchens flowing into--or in close proximity to--a large Great Room or Family Room. Homes built in the 1980s and earlier will frequently have a smaller kitchen with a separate family room, formal living room and formal dining room. Depending on your preferences and lifestyle, one of these layouts may be preferable to the other. Is the kitchen the focus of your family gathering? Then bigger, of course, is better. Do you prefer to have a "retreat" area away from household activity? An older design may be better suited to your preferences.

LOCATION
In general, new homes will be located further away from populaton centers than will be older homes-- which may be an advantage or disadvantage to you, depending on your point-of-view. If this is the case in your local area, don't forget to factor in longer commuting times to work, shopping and services when you make your comparisons. Although shopping, restaurants and services may eventually reach the new area, it is possible that your job location will never change. For this reason, in some areas of the U.S. and Canada, housing trends are actually moving back toward the city centers--and older homes--due to the brutal commutes that often are involved from outlying areas.

AMENITIES
In the majority of cases, new homes will have more of the amenities that today's buyers have considered to be important--whirlpool tubs, skylights, "culinary grade" kitchen appliances and the like. Although many of these amenities can be added to existing homes, the cost can often be prohibitive. If you are concerned with the "newest and the best," it almost always is less expensive to build these amenities into a new home rather than try to retrofit an older one.

THE COST
Although a new home may cost you a bit more, your expenditures for repairs and maintenance should be far less for the first 5 or 10 years since many components of a home (heating systems, appliances, etc.) have life spans longer than that time frame. When you are making your comparisons, however, do not forget the often forgotten cost considerations when purchasing a new home, including: + Landscaping. Although the builder may do some "starter" landscaping, it rarely is enough and often does not last. Lawns, shrubs, plantings and labor can get very expensive. Depending on the lot size and the level of landscaping detail, this can often run $1000 to $7500 and more. + Decorating. When you buy an existing home, you inherit the decorating--wallpaper, paint and the like. If it is to your liking, you will have no immediate expense. In addition, there may be other items (for example, window treatments such as blinds, draperies and curtains) that may convey, saving you that cost. Unless you buy a model home, the responsibility--and the cost--of decorating will be yours. Again, depending on your desires for decorating, this can add from $2000 to "the moon" to your costs!

Want some additional hints on building a home that is "user friendly? "
Better Houses, Better Living by Myron Ferguson is a must-have if you are planning to build a home. How to avoid the most common (and costly) construction mistakes. An approach that is both detailed and easy to understand. Strongly recommended. Available here.

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