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Contemporary Versus Character

Aug 2, 2008
It has always been traditionally accepted that if you are looking for a starter home you can pick from either a strata property or an older home; these days however, things seem to be different.

Many of the new homes are becoming affordable, due for the most part to the housing crisis. This adds to the variety to choose from and widens the choice. It also widens the problem of choosing; what is the better buy? If you opt out of the strata choices (condos, townhouses and apartments) and choose to buy a house, should you choose old or new?

Some buyers who can afford sparkling new homes still elect to choose only from the older style homes while others will only select from new homes, so it is not always a question of money. What are the pros and cons between the two types of houses?

One of the first things to be observed is that older homes are often smaller than new homes; they also have smaller rooms. The square footage of homes has changed considerably over the last few decades. Whereas post WW2 homes were an average of 1,000 square feet, thirty years later they were already an average of 1200 square feet.

Today homes are generally 2,000 square feet. This means that the older the home the smaller it may be (although many have additions already in place). However, you can always ask your realtor to work out the comparative prices per square foot if you feel you want a true market comparison.

Another difference between the older home and the new one is that over the years more bathrooms have been included in the basic construction. If you look at an older home with only one bathroom, remember to include the cost of putting in an extra one.

Technological advances are also often built into the new homes. All these advantages seem to indicate that so far, the balance seems in favor of the new properties, so are there any advantages in buying an older home?

Of course, there are some, and here is where personal preferences enter into it. If you are a DIY person, you could improve and re-model an older home and increase its value immensely. Another plus in the older home is that all the appliances are there for you to move in and use immediately; they do not have to be ordered in and added onto the sale price as in new house purchases.

Quite often there is some landscaping already in place in the older home; this is especially beneficial in the instance of having mature trees and shrubs etc. Sometimes in a new home you have to level out and lay a lawn, which is quite a task. This is aside from laying a driveway and planting trees and shrubs.

Another noticeable difference is that, years ago, it was not popular to build a whole street of similar homes, so each home was built with its own 'character'. Many owners of the older 'character' homes accentuate these quirky differences and the older neighborhoods are now becoming the fashionable neighborhoods in some cities. Also, because the neighborhood is established, it has paved sidewalks, shops and parks already for your convenience.

Perhaps for some people, especially young families, the biggest difference is in the size of the plot. Years ago when houses were built, there was an abundance of land and people often still grew their own vegetables, so back yards were larger than nowadays. This can give the owner of the smaller and older home a feeling of privacy, rather than a feeling of being crowded out in a forest of houses.
About the Author
Carolyn Capalbo is an expert military relocation specialist and real estate agent serving Northern Virginia real estate. Visit Just4Real.com to find updated market information about areas in Prince William, including Haymarket VA real estate.
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