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Residential property: Is it a good idea to buy a new-build?

Buying your own home is an exciting time but finding the right kind of house or flat to suit your needs and tastes can be a daunting task. To start with, should you go for a brand new, freshly built home, a second hand property or a quirky period building? Here are some of the main differences between buying a new property and living somewhere pre-loved.

A blank canvas vs. decorated with personality

One of the most obvious differences between buying an existing home and a new-build is that, with the former, you might be battling with the tastes of the previous owners, rather than getting to choose the first carpets and coat of paint yourself.

Keep in mind that it’s usually a misconception that you can decorate a new-build however you like. If you’re buying from a developer, they’ll have a specification catalogue that you’ll have to make your choices from. This usually offers you only a handful of options unless you pay extra to ‘upgrade’ to have the choice of a handful more. If you love neutral décor then this might not be a problem, but it you want to ‘put your stamp’ on the property, you’ll probably end up redecorating as soon as you move in.

It’s almost a given that you’ll want to do a bit of tweaking when you move into a home that’s been owned before, but at least you know what you’re working with and aren’t paying extra for brand new carpets that you don’t really like anyway.

Built to perfection vs. worn and torn

Some people like new-builds because they think they won’t have to worry about massive structural costs when they move in, like roof repairs or replacement electrics, and believe everything will be covered in the NHBC warranty.

However, it’s not true that a new-build is guaranteed to be in excellent condition, even if the paint has only just dried. If you choose to buy a new-build, you’ll have to undertake a snagging list once it’s “finished”, which is where you walk around the property identifying all the little problems that have been overlooked. If you’re lucky, your biggest snags will be a chipped tile and some paint drips. Some buyers have hundreds of issues than can include broken roof tiles, missing appliances and faulty pipework.

Buying a brand-new home does not mean you can skip the surveyor. Hiring a professional to inspect the building for defects and potential risks is the only way you can be sure of its condition. Older properties (built before the 1960s) would benefit from a Building Survey, conventional properties should be covered with a HomeBuyer Report and a new-build may only need a Condition Report to assure that it is structurally sound.

Compact design vs. generous proportions

Floorplans simply aren’t as generous as they used to be, with modern layouts designed so that the developer can get as much as they can for every inch of land.

When viewing a modern show-home, pay attention to how much space you’re actually getting – including room sizes, ceiling heights, storage and garden space. Compare this to an older home that’s on the market at the same price to see whether there’s a big difference.

That being said, a starter home doesn’t have to be huge – it’s about getting your foot on that first rung of the ladder. As long as there’s enough space for you, your partner and maybe a little one, perhaps don’t put too much emphasis on finding the biggest property that you can for your money.

First-owner premium

Just like buying a brand-new car, being the first owner of a property comes with a premium price tag that will be lost as soon as you have the keys – there is no equivalent when buying a pre-loved home. In order to get that value back, you’ll probably need to stay in your house for several years or make some very savvy improvements.

In exchange for this premium, you might be able to haggle over other “extras” with the developer. Ask about getting brand new white goods or carpets included in the price, or upgrading to the premium fixtures and fittings for free – none of which are possible when you’re buying an existing home from a vendor.

However, the savings you’d make when buying a conventional home may allow you to redecorate or build an extension without going over budget. Weigh up which options are going to be more valuable for you at this point in your life.

When it comes to deciding what the perfect house looks like, only you can decide. Don’t forget to consider how the location and price will affect you, as well as the house itself. It’s a big decision – one of the largest investments of your life – so make sure you take your time.

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