I never thought of writing a post about this topic before, but so many of y’all have messaged me lately that you were house hunting and felt kind of stuck on whether to buy a new house with no character or buy an older home to fix up.
And since we lucky ducks got to experience both in the last few years, I thought now was the perfect time to dive in with a full pros/cons list to help you figure it out, if you’re feeling like you’re at a crossroads in the home-buying “bidness”.
Both have their highs and lows, but I can tell you straight up that I’m VERY glad we went with the new-no-character-cookie-cutter house first for financial reasons.
I mean, earlier this week we had a team of 4 electricians totally rewiring old electrical work in our 1960 house to the tune of about $6,000, so that alone might give you a peek at some of the challenges we’ve dealt with since moving in 11 months ago.
But first, remember this builder grade gem from before?
Pros and Cons of Buying Our New Builder Grade House:
- No “surprise” fixes (and if there are surprises, your home will likely still be under a builder’s warranty that will cover most issues that arise).
- It’s clean and easier to keep it that way.
- Little to no worries about asbestos, mold, lead, or other health hazards.
- Everything in the house is up to current building code to make it safer.
- You can jump right in to start making it pretty without having to worry about electrical/plumbing/maintenance updates first.
- It’s easy to start learning DIY projects as a beginner since it’s a blank slate.
- There is less yard maintenance since there is usually less vegetation / fewer trees
- It’s easier to predict your budget because there are fewer “surprises”.
- Not as well built- not usually as “solid” as some older houses – thin walls with cheaper materials.
- Smaller yard, less established trees/neighborhood
- Fewer options for customization
- Less room to negotiate on the price
- Less charm
Pros and Cons of Buying Our Older Fixer Upper:
- An established neighborhood with wider streets and more trees
- A yard with established gardens – more privacy
- Character like crown molding, old fireplaces, chair rails, cozy niches, lots of windows
- Ability to customize as we fully makeover each room for a home that reflects “us”
- A bigger chance to make a profit on resale
- Solid walls and sturdy building materials
- Easier to make decor/design look classic, timeless, and high-end
- Owning a house with “history” is fun
- The “fix it” list seems to never end – So far, in just the past few months, we’ve had to unclog pipes, replace the HVAC, replace the water heater, have our gas logs repaired, call in electricians to deal with hazardous old wiring, call an exterminator to resolve some bug issues (and a stray mouse that lived with us for several weeks shudder)
- Difficult to stick to a budget
- Time consuming to take on necessary home improvement projects
- Safety concerns about asbestos, mold, fire hazards in old wiring is unnerving sometimes
- Yard is more challenging to maintain
- No matter how much we clean, some parts of our house will just always feel dirty until we rip out old tile/carpet/cabinets/sinks.
- Not as DIY-able. We’ve had to call in professional contractors much more often for this one to make sure we don’t cause more issues for ourselves.
All in all though, we know the high risk of owning this fixer upper has great reward. It’s just going to take a lot more time, energy, and love than our last homeowning adventure.
If you’re brand new to owning a home, funds are pretty tight, and you’re not very handy, I would buy the new construction cookie cutter house time and time again. I guarantee if we had bought a fixer upper from the start, we would have been massively in debt and probably wouldn’t have learned how to handle home improvement projects quite as easily. Our first house definitely allowed us to wear our “training wheels” for a few years while we got the hang of homeownership.
And of course, this is just our experience.
I’m sure once we’re in this house for a few more years, that pro list of owning a fixer upper will grow even larger since we haven’t been in this house even a year yet. But after owning both, Robert and I have talked about how much more appealing it is to us now to own a custom home that has the character, charm, and customizable options we love with all of the new house perks. Maybe 10 years from now for house #3?
Who knows what will happen in the future, but we are still so thankful for this house, surprises and all.
Have you had any crazy fixer upper challenges? Or owned a fixer upper as your first house and lived to tell the tale? I want to hear all about it!