New Construction vs. Older Homes: Which is Better?



Favorites have always been tricky for me. I feel way too much self imposed pressure to get it right. Want to see me pass out? Ask me to name my all-time favorite song.

Any time the word “better” is used in a question, you know the answer is most likely a matter of opinion. So it is with housing. So it is with this post. If we are comparing a new- build to and older home, the answer not only depends on the builder’s standards and post-sale diligence, but also on the care and maintenance demonstrated by the owner over the years.

“Do you have any real life examples?” you ask?  Clearly you have not read my other posts. (They’re all still here. Just scroll down. And Pin them. And share them!)

We all know the lure of the newly built home. Updated designs, all the latest finishes, much better energy efficiency in the windows, doors and insulation. What’s not to love? After 14 years in this business, I would have to say that the major factor in buyer satisfaction with new construction rests on one factor and one factor alone: Will the builder come back and address the issues that arise in a timely manner?

If you think that buying a new home means that you won’t have any problems come up, think again, my friend. ALL builders have what’s called “warranty work”. Those are the items that come up in the first year or two after the buyer purchases the home, that the builder is responsible for addressing. Leaking drains, cracked caulking, HVAC break downs, roof leaks, doors that won’t latch and the list goes on. My husband Rob put it best, “All builders have issues come up after the sale of the home. The difference between a good builder and a bad builder is how well he or she handles those issues.” Well said!

Not long ago we were called out to inspect a home that was 6 years old. Sadly, foreclosure proceedings had begun and the bank wanted to know the condition of the home that was about to become their responsibility.  It was in a respectable family neighborhood that was about one step up from a typical, average-income first time home buyer neighborhood. The home shouldn’t have had many issues to report, and wouldn’t have, if the owner had shown the slightest interest in any aspect of property maintenance, inside or out.

It was atrocious. There were holes in the walls, broken windows, trash everywhere and the cherry on this particular disgusting sundae… Dog poop all over the master bedroom carpet. There had been no maintenance on the exterior, which led to water damaged soffit and fascia as well as chipped and peeling paint and water damage to the exterior door trim. Cracked caulking on the exterior window trim had allowed moisture to seep inside of the window casings, causing swollen wood trim and who knows what inside the wall cavity.

Granted, this is a worst case scenario, but I wanted to make a point about home maintenance. Just because a house is new, that doesn’t exempt it from deterioration, even in the first few years. Exposure to the elements causes caulking to crack, paint to chip and peel and it can even wash mortar out from between the brick and stone on exterior walls. It is vital to inspect your home at least once a year to ensure that your home’s maintenance needs are met before costly damage can occur.

Cut to a home inspection we performed on a house built in the 1950’s. The house had one owner since construction and the maintenance had been meticulous. Were there some deficiencies? Sure. There almost always are some items in red ink, but this home had been well cared for and was able to return the favor to the owner twofold:

  • There were no expensive repairs requested by the buyer during the sale process.
  • The new owners knew they were getting a home that had stood the test of time and would likely continue, if the same standards were met in the future.

So, back to our original question: Which is better? A new home or an older home? The answer is, it depends. New homes have their advantages in terms of updated design,  newer (and maybe better materials in some cases) and a builder’s warranty, however, I’ll take a home that was built 50 years ago and been well maintained, versus a home 5 years old that’s had no maintenance.  But that’s me. Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and experiences and, as always, submit any home inspection or maintenance questions to me at .

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