We understand the appeal of moving into a newly constructed home. After all, it’s hard not to be enticed by brand-new appliances, floors, and heating, cooling, and electrical systems. Plus, buying an old place that needs work can be intimidating, especially for those of us whose only brush with restoring a house has come from watching reruns of “Fixer Upper.”
However, home buyers can see all the beauty and potential in older houses. What some view as eyesores, others see as charm—four walls full of history that can’t be duplicated. Besides the nostalgia factor, an old house can be a smart purchase for the sake of your wallet.
Take a look at the top reasons why buying an old house might just be the best decision you’ll ever make.
1. Old homes are cheaper than new homes
What classifies as an older home? In general, if a home does not use or contain modern materials such as high-performance concrete, it qualifies as “old.” Normally, these homes would have been built before 1970.
Shelley Cluff, a real estate broker and owner of Park Place Homes, in Midland, MI, explains that an older home gives you substantially more bang for your buck.
“On average, a comparably sized new construction can sell for 10% to 20% more than an older, updated home,” she says. While newer homes might cost less to maintain, they are also built with different materials such as energy-efficient products that drive up the cost of building them and, by extension, the cost of buying them.
2. Old homes have better-quality construction
The saying “they don’t build ’em like they used to” is generally true. Established houses are built to last, and many aspects of the construction cannot be reproduced today. Older homes might be built with wood made from old-growth trees (trees that attained great age by not being significantly disturbed) and therefore more resistant to rot and warping.
Even the walls are likely different. In an older home they’re probably built with plaster and lathe, making them structurally stronger than the drywall construction of modern homes. These older materials also provide a better sound barrier and insulation.
3. Old homes are often in established locations
When choosing a neighborhood, home buyers weigh a number of factors—including the school district, crime rate, and walkability. If you’re looking at buying an old house, chances are it’s in a well-established, and probably stable, area. This is a good thing.
4. Old homes have more character
See that mature oak tree towering over the front yard that took decades to reach such heights? You’re not going to get that kind of curb appeal from a new construction.
Some older homes have managed to maintain the amenities that are characteristic of the era it was built in—for example, original crown molding, herringbone-patterned hardwood floors, and built-ins.
While newer homes will reflect the trends of current times, they won’t satisfy other eclectic tastes. Victorian homes with authentic stained-glass windows or a midcentury sunken living room can’t be found in modern houses. While many designers do emulate these characteristics, you might prefer to go for the real thing.
5. Lot size tends to be larger with old homes
Newer homes might come with newer amenities, but on the outside (specifically in the backyard) things aren’t as remarkable. According to data from CoreLogic, new constructions tend to have a larger house with a smaller lot.
“The median size of a new home increased from 1,938 square feet in 1990 to 2,300 square feet in 2016, but lot sizes during this same period decreased from 8,250 square feet to 6,970 square feet.”
In an effort to keep the cost of new homes down and bring in more revenue, homebuilders have favored building larger homes on smaller lots. Why?
“When home prices appreciate at a fast pace, the land value rises even faster, which in turn drives the cost of homes higher,” according to CoreLogic.
So if a big backyard is on your list on nonnegotiables, you’re most likely to find that in an older home.