If you’re in the market to buy a home in the Charlottesville region, you can find a historic home built in the 1800s or opt for brand new custom-built home -- and everything in between. So how do you know whether that new or existing home is the better fit for your family?

Between Zillow.com, Redfin, Trulia, Houzz and the like, you can disappear down a rabbit hole of articles trying to make the new vs. old call. We’ve run that gamut for you and compiled a top 10 list of key factors to consider.

  1. Location. Location. Location. Proximity to jobs, good schools and amenities tend to favor existing homes, but some developers are building the community into their new home projects.
  2. Price. The neighborhood and other factors ultimately determine the price point, but new homes often have a higher sale price.
  3. Timing.  If you're pre-approved for loan, you can go out and buy an existing home right now. If you’re building a custom home, you have to factor in the months it takes to find the lot, decide on the plan and builder, secure permits, and build. In terms of timing, a production-built new home can fall in between these two options.
  4. Lot size. You tend to get a larger lot and yard with existing homes, especially in more urban areas.
  5. Efficiency. New homes can be 30% more efficient than those built even 5 years ago due to changes in building code and appliance and lighting standards. If you want lower bills and modern comfort, look for a new home or a home that has been upgraded with efficiency in mind.
  6. Character. The features that elicit comments about “charm” and “character” are often the most expensive to build into new homes. But some of the most sought after -- built-ins, molding, real wood floors -- come with the territory for homes built prior to the 1980s.
  7. Customization. This is a toss up. With new homes you can pick and choose what you want; older homes you can remodel to make more your own.
  8. Maintenance. A well-built new home will usually bring years of maintenance-free living.
  9. Landscaping. Older neighborhoods have mature trees and tree cover whereas plots for new development have often been cleared.
  10. Home size. Newer homes have modern floorplans (e.g., master with a bathroom) and are just larger in general.

The home renovation sector is enjoying growth right now. As cited in the Wall Street Journal, Americans will spend a record $316 billion on home remodeling this year, up from $296 billion in 2016. That’s thanks in large part to older homeowners making “aging in place” upgrades as well as millennials who often scoop up older properties and make modifications over time.

A good real estate agent can help you make the right new-or-not-new decision based on his or her detailed knowledge of the local community and neighborhoods; it’s hard to overstate how important a real estate agent is to finding the right property. It’s also important that buyers are able to prioritize what they’re looking for because buying a home, like many things, can be an exercise in compromise. Buyers can use this list above as a starting point for feature options, but reorder it according to their interests.

If you’re leaning towards buying an older home and upgrading it, this online tool can give you an idea of costs. And companies like Pearl Certification can provide buyers with guidance on improvements that increase comfort and improve indoor air quality, while lowering utility bills. Pearl can also track and certify those improvements over time (like with investment properties) to provide proper documentation that will add to home value at the point of sale.

A case in point: we worked with one Charlottesville buyer who bought a 1950’s home in the City and renovated it in the weeks before he and his family moved in. This was a smart option allowing him to have the best of both worlds. All of the dirty and complicated upgrades were completed prior to move in, and the buyer was able to finance them through the mortgage. His reward was a Pearl Certified home that has all of the efficiency and comfort of a new home, but the character and downtown location of an older property.


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