A Fixer-Upper vs. A New Build – Things to Consider

You know you need to move. Maybe a new neighborhood has caught your eye, you’re relocating for a job, or your family needs have changed. Whatever the reason, once you’ve determined that your current residence doesn’t work, you will be faced with a few decisions.

Depending on several factors, one of these decisions might be whether to invest in an older home that requires some TLC, versus building a custom home to meet your unique needs. Sometimes this isn’t a decision that has options – for instance, perhaps the neighborhood you like is all new homes, or the current demands of your family won’t allow you to focus on a building project. We often get asked whether it’s better to put in the work on an existing home or go through the process of creating a new one. Here are a few things we talk through with clients to help them decide.

Plan for the unplanned. If you choose an older home for your new residence, you should understand any potential issues. That is why it is important to get a thorough inspection from a reputable source before making the final purchase. This way there should be no surprise if you find that along with the charm and history, you encounter issues like a leaking gutter that has created a rotten wall. Part of buying an older home is knowing that you will spend money to make the home yours – to make it fit your tastes and functionality. There will likely be repairs, updates, and maintenance. Keep in mind that there could be environmental issues (like an old oil tank, for example) and you need to understand materials used at the time the home was built (such as lead or asbestos). These things may be unpredictable, but what is always predictable with an older home is remodeling projects. If you don’t have the time or resources to take on those possible challenges on your own, you can hire a good general contractor or decide that creating a brand new home to your exact specifications might be a better option.

Factor in your life stage. Not everyone is a good candidate for building a home. Depending on your children’s ages or your lifestyle, you might not be able to devote the time and energy to the process of designing and building. Similarly, if you already own a home and will be paying a mortgage while building, you need to understand if your budget can handle that. For many people, paying two mortgages is a hardship. Or, if you won’t be residing in your current home, where will you be staying? These are all things to have planned out before deciding to build a new home.

Generally, we tell people that if they have the skills and desire to work on an older home, then it can be a great way to create value in a less expensive way. Some people choose to live in an older home for only a short period, leveraging sweat equity to obtain a profit. If you don’t fall into that category, then working on an old home might not be for you. We have worked with both types of clients and help them end up in their dream home! If you’re struggling with the decision of building versus buying, let us know. We have seen every scenario and can help you understand what’s best for your family. Contact us here!

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