Should I Buy a New or Used Home?

Ultimately, choosing a home is a matter of location, cost and your fist impression (gut instinct). When you first walk in the door of the home do you feel an emotional attachment to the home? Is it located in a neighbourhood that is inviting and safe? Can you afford it without losing sleep over making the mortgage payments?

Because the housing market is still soft in Vancouver, it is important to weigh these more important questions before jumping into any buying decision. Remember that you could be living in this home for a minimum of five to ten years before moving. This is a long term commitment – especially with the uncertainty surrounding the current market conditions.

So back to the original question. Which is better, a new or an old home? This is a tough question to answer. It comes down to taste, how much you can afford, lifestyle and the possibility of some compromise.

I remember when I moved back to Vancouver from Phoenix and I had the choice between buying a new town home on a busier street or a smaller one bedroom by the water. I chose the one bedroom because it offered me a quite location and I didn’t have a family at the time. Now that I am married with a child, my priorities have obviously changed. Recently my wife and I are considered purchasing a 3 bedroom, 2,500 square foot town home. Nowadays we value space and we are less concerned about the exact location (I am now willing to walk / run 10 minutes to the ocean).

A new home, or one built over the last couple of years is going to offer some advantages over a used home. It should obviously be in great condition and require little in terms of maintenance. You should be able to rest easy knowing that you will not be hit up with any serious expenses for some time.

A new home should be in fashion and not need to be renovated to meet current trends. The flooring, countertops and fixtures should all be up to date and not need to be changed.

Older homes may have smaller more intimate spaces where a new home will feel more open. This is due to a change in what home buyers’ value. Often times a buyer will purchase an older home and open the kitchen to the living space during the renovation. A newer home will have more bathrooms than an older home with the same number of bedrooms.

New homes today offer a 2-5-10 warranty. 2 years on materials and labour, 5 years on the building envelope and 10 years on the structure. This is a concern when purchasing a used condominium. A new building envelope can mean over $100,000 in the form of a special levy to a strata condominium owner. For this reason, older homes must be inspected by a professional. Not only should the home itself be inspected, but the property should also be inspected for the possibility of an underground oil tank (if purchasing a single family home).

New homes should meet or exceed the existing construction bylaws. Old knob and tube wiring is sometimes an issue when it comes time to insure a home. Old wiring and plumbing may also pose a problem when you want to renovate a home. The local building code may require you to change more of the electrical system and plumbing system when making an addition or renovating portions of an old home.

It is important to look at the operating costs associated with owning a home. A new home should be more energy efficient. If you decide to purchase and renovate an old home, sometimes BC Hydro will offer a rebate if you purchase new windows or more energy efficient appliances.

Over the past decade Vancouver home prices have steadily increased regardless of whether you purchased a new or used home. Although this may be changing, I still believe that owning a home is a great long term investment.

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