November buying advice: Is it better to buy a new or existing home?
Find out whether it's worth it to fork over extra for a home with up-to-the-minute features and fixtures.
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Given the rock-bottom pricing on existing homes these days, why would a buyer want to fork over a lot more for a new home?
In this month's edition of Buying Advice, we'll look at the pros and cons of buying a new home, as well as some tips for making it more affordable. We'll check out the latest housing statistics and answer a reader's question about whether it's a good idea to bundle your mortgage, tax and insurance payments.
Why buy new?
Those model homes in new-home communities sure are enticing, with up-to-the-minute flooring, fixtures and appliances, but are they worth paying a premium?
That depends on the community, its location and design, experts say.
"They can bring a lot of benefits, assuming you can find a location you like," says John McIlwain, the Urban Land Institute's senior fellow for housing.
However, you will likely pay much more upfront for these perks: The median price of new homes sold in the U.S. in August 2011 was $204,400, according to the Commerce Department. That's far more than the median existing home's $165,400 price tag, which has been pulled down by the flood of bank-owned property. (See more on these stats in the "Housing snapshot" below.)
And that new-home price is far less negotiable than that of a comparable existing home. Builders say they are reluctant to discount the price and bring down the value of future sales in a community.
However, they will often throw in upgrades, such as a free fence, appliances or upgraded flooring to buyers who press for incentives. And they will often pay for closing costs to seal the deal.
What you do get in a new home – if you buy from the right builder – is a house that will need fewer costly repairs, will cost you less for updates and will have greater energy efficiency.
"The difference (in energy savings) between a new Energy Star home and even a 10-year-old home can be dramatic -- as much as 30% to 50%" says Todd Frederking, sales manager for the Houston division of First Texas Homes. "These dollars per month should be considered in choosing a home." These homes can also bring more at resale.
You won't have to pay thousands to swap out old single-pane windows or add insulation. You won't have to spring for new cabinets, countertops or flooring, as you might with the purchase of a 1970s or 1980s-era home. You get a home built with materials that suit your taste, and you don't have to clear out or otherwise inconvenience yourself to get it that way.
More buyers appear to be interested in new construction; sales climbed 5.7% in September from the previous month, according to the Commerce Department.
The downside is that appraisals in new-home communities can come in low, especially if there aren't many other new-home communities in the area to compare it with, says Ken Chitester, spokesman for the Appraisal Institute.
"Far fewer new-home communities are being built," Chitester says. That's putting pressure on appraisers to make tricky adjustments. Indeed, with fewer solvent builders, new-home sales are running at levels that are a third of where they were at the peak of the housing market, McIlwain says.
Brand new homes are usually less expensive then existing homes...you usually do have to wait for the building process which can take 6-12 months...unless you buy one just built and ready for market. Where I live the builder Oakwood Homes builds to specs after purchase not before so they don't usually have wasted inventory.