Buying a newly built home
February 2, 2006 12:59 PM   Subscribe

What are some advantages and disadvantages of buying a newly built home?

My wife and I live in Columbia, SC. We are looking to buy our first home. She grew up here, and the area around her parent's house is really expanding. There are about a half a dozen new home communities being built there right now. She would like us to purchase a home in one of these communities. They are within our budget, and seem okay; but I have several problems with this idea: all the homes look the same, you are within 15 feet of your neighbor, the homes do not seem to be all that well built, etc. On the other hand, I am not the slightest bit handy, so I don't want to buy a house that requires a lot of maintenance, and a lot of the non-new homes that we have seen are either not very nice or outside our price range. I was looking for advice on aspects of buying a house in a 'cookie cutter' community that I hadn't thought of. The chances of the home increasing in value? The risk involved? The quality? I have looked at various sites, but didn't come across anything that was very helpful. Thanks in advance for your advice.
posted by ND¢ to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
Since the homes are all nearly identical, you probably will not recoupe the cost of any home improvements when you sell. For example, if your house is priced higher than your neighbor's nearly identical house, no one will look at your house.
posted by malp at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2006

Best answer: I live right down I-20 from you in Augusta, so the markets are probably similar. You have already mentioned some of the drawbacks-boring architecture, small lots, potentially quick, shoddy construction. Around here, everyone wants new construction, so 10-15 year old houses that are still in very good condition are much cheaper. By buying an older house, you may even save enough to do some improvements, and a good home inspection and warranty will help avoid any hidden problems. Of course, a lot depends on your budget and needs.
posted by TedW at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2006

You also don't know what the neighborhood you move into is going to actually be like, since there is no community currently living there. You might hate everyone that ends up living there. The community might end up slummy. I think that is the biggest concern I would have.
posted by chunking express at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2006

all the homes look the same, you are within 15 feet of your neighbor, the homes do not seem to be all that well built, etc.

You're pretty much nailed the disadvantages right there. How much they matter to you is just personal preference and how strongly you feel about those preferences.

And if you're not handy, remember that a not-very-well built house is going to require handy-ness also (just a different kind than old-house-handy-ness.)
posted by desuetude at 1:20 PM on February 2, 2006

Best answer: The advantage of having a new tract home built is being able to choose builder options and have it somewhat the way you want it. The disadvantage is that some control often makes you wish you had total control. Other disadvantages, well, you named 'em.

As far as quality goes, it varies. A lot. You need to recognize that builders use local contractors, so even if someone says their Quality Builders home in NC was perfect, that doesn't mean your Quality Builders home in SC will be, too. And vice versa.

Solution: Knock on the doors of completed homes in the neighborhood. Tell them you're thinking of buying a home. Ask them what their experience has been with the builder and the neighborhood. They are the only ones that will know.

Return on investment? That's really unanswerable without a ton of details. Better to get a sense of what comparable homes are selling for in the area and compare it to what you might pay.

My recommendation: make an appointment with the builder, talk about a budget, and "build" your house, on paper, with the options you want. Get a sense of price and realize it might go up a little. Compare that to used homes you could buy for that price, and what is selling in the area.

FWIW, I live in a new home, completed in August, and love it. But it's not for everyone.
posted by deadfather at 1:20 PM on February 2, 2006

Do you have children or are you planning for them shortly? One nice advantage of a new neighborhood, as long as the homes are affordable, is moving in together with a bunch of similar young families and the natural community which that forms. An older more established neighborhood may be filled with older more established families whose children are much older than yours.
posted by caddis at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2006

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you go to sell your house in 5-7 years, like most people typically do, and if the new construction has continued, you'll be trying to sell a 5 year old house in an area where brand-new houses are available down the road. I recently sold my 15 year old house in Louisville, KY and found my primary competition wasn't the other houses in my neighborhood, but the new construction in the area. If you are worried about resale, think about looking at older homes in established neighborhoods. See if the seller will pay for a home warranty, which is relatively cheap and gives you peace of mind for the first year. Get a good home inspection.
posted by fochsenhirt at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2006

malp, do you have any data to back that up? I have found that not to be the case at all. My parents live in a neighborhood of homes that are built at a high quality but are clone-ish. However, home resale prices do seem to vary quite a bit (differences in the high 5 figures from high to low selling prices) and reflect the renovations/upgrades that owners have made. It is cause for much discussion among the residents, let me tell you. Anyway, if your house is "nearly identical" to your neighbor's, why would you have any expectation to sell for considerably more?

My suggestion to ND¢ is to research the builders, if you decide to go the new-built route. The builder's reputation will play a big part in the continuing value of the home. If you have the opportunity to do so, try and find communities that are 5 to 10 years old built by the builders you are interested in, and see how they've held up, because that's how your place will likely age.
posted by contessa at 1:30 PM on February 2, 2006

Get a good home inspection.

Forgot about that. If at all possible--and insist on it with the builder--get a neutral, licensed inspector to inspect your home before the drywall goes up. After that point, there's lots of potential problems that could be hidden from view. Then, get another inspection on settlement day.
posted by deadfather at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2006

I once had a home built for me, and I sold it two years later. The main problem being that those first years were spent discovering what wasn't done right. Things kept breaking, places that weren't sealed properly leaked, I got mold, etc. So, a new home does not necessarily guarantee less maintenance.

Also, if you know the names of the builders for these communities, run a quick google search of the builder and the words scam or lawsuit. I did just that with Kaufmann and Broad, a builder I had heard was below par. It led me to this website:

I do this for all sorts of things, and turn up great information on shady businesses all the time.
posted by generic230 at 1:39 PM on February 2, 2006

I would never buy a newly-built home; they just aren't built as well or as solid as they did in years past. Lots of "McMansions" are slapped up quickly and shoddily. Plus, they all look alike.

My current home (and dream house) was built in '57.
posted by mrbill at 1:47 PM on February 2, 2006

My current home (and dream house) was built in '57.

Ah, yes! 1957! The golden age of American home construction.

If you're hung up on the aesthetics of living in a new development now, you're probably going to be just as unhappy in 10 years. It takes a long time for trees to grow.
posted by MarkAnd at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2006

mrbill, I'd hate to generalize, because there are some good ones out there.

BTW, your house screams NW Houston, right around TC Jester. You got yourself a fine one.
posted by deadfather at 1:58 PM on February 2, 2006

deadfather: Gessner/Westheimer; 77063. Got an awesome deal and I'm 2.4 miles from work straight down Westheimer.
posted by mrbill at 2:03 PM on February 2, 2006

Best answer: Speaking as someone who has only ever lived in, and would probably only ever buy an older home, I'm going to be the contrarian here and say that in many respects, new houses are better built than old. Studs 16" OC instead of 24". All grounded electrics. Insulation. Stuff like that.

It's also important to remember that many older houses looked like cookie-cutter houses when they were built; it's only with the passage of time that they develop their unique personalities. If you're buying in a subdivision with a homeowner's association, then you may be stuck with restrictions on what shade of beige you can paint your window trim, foreclosing the possibility that any funkiness will ever creep into the community.

Finally, don't expect that buying a new home will be your ticket out of home maintenance. My brother-in-law labored under that misapprehension when he bought his first house.
posted by adamrice at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2006

I bought a house in Columbia 4 years ago- built in the early 50's, in the Lake Katherine area: seen here. Lake Katherine is an old, well-established, beautiful, and quiet neighborhood- and I adore living here. While some houses in my neighborhood are rather pricey, this was my starter home and I know there are other houses here that are very reasonably priced. This is no cookie cutter neighborhood, and the quality of these houses is superb. However, buying a 50 or 60 year old house does mean you are going to have to put some money and effort into maintenance. In the four years I've been here I've replaced half the windows, redone the kitchen, repainted the entire interior, and the hardwood floors need refinishing in a bad way. However, none of this was stuff that HAD to be done, just things I wanted to do.

I'd much rather go for a house here, or in the nicer areas of Rosewood or old Shandon, than the new build-em-in-a-week neighborhoods popping up.
posted by Meredith at 3:35 PM on February 2, 2006

Wow -- all the secret Columbia MeFites showed up.

What neighborhoods are you looking at? Somewhere out on Clemson Road? One of these places near me on Atlas? (I'm on Veterans.)
posted by climalene at 7:36 PM on February 2, 2006

Response by poster: We're looking in the South East, down Garner's Ferry, near Lower Richland High school. I work across from the statehouse, so it will be a bit of a drive into work for me in the mornings, but I grew up out in the country, and am more comfortable in a more rural setting, and my wife's parents live in Hopkins, and she wants to be close to them.
posted by ND¢ at 7:55 PM on February 2, 2006

Response by poster: We are buying a brand new house downtown in a semi-cookie cutter neighborhood (twenty one homes next to a related cookie cutter neighborhood). The builder seems really good, and inspections have come up positive. I can spit on my neighbor's house, but my house itself rocks. We got a kick-ass loan from the city so that we could spend more and pay less. We close on July 7th. Here it is:

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Thanks everybody for their advice.
posted by ND¢ at 7:01 AM on June 28, 2006

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