Summer 2011 Mortgage Trends
Handing over house keys
mortgage
Buy a new or used home?

"In a new home community, if you need to sell within a year or two, you are competing against the other homes that are still being built and can be customized," Fitzgerald says. "Buyers will choose a brand-new home rather than a 1-year-old home, especially if the builder can offer incentives that a regular seller cannot."

One other downside is the potential for living in the midst of a construction site for several years, particularly if the builder has slowed development due to the recession.

When to buy a new home

Realtors agree that the best values for a new home are available when the development is nearly complete.

"In years past, buyers wanted to get in early to take advantage of preconstruction pricing and a better location within the community, but now buyers want to get in late, so if you have to sell you won't be competing with newer homes in the development," says Kruse.

Ristine says buyers should be cautious about buying before a community is near completion, because some builders are so financially strapped that they cannot complete their developments.

Existing-home advantages

"The biggest advantage of existing homes is the maturity of the community," Kruse says. Buyers can take a historical perspective and look at how well the homes have held their value. Plus, buyers willing to purchase a fixer-upper can more easily increase the value of their property than someone with a new home.

Fitzgerald says that buying in an established community allows homeowners to know more about the schools and neighbors before they buy.

Long-term value in new and existing homes

For most homebuyers today, the biggest concern is whether the property will hold its value. Fitzgerald says, "In 10 years, a new home purchased today is likely to have more value simply because you own a newer home designed to meet today's standards. A new community will have newer amenities, too, including schools and shopping areas."

Kruse and Ristine believe long-term value depends more on location than the age of the property.

"Value depends on where a home is located and how well the home has been maintained," says Ristine. "People do like new things, but if a home has been upgraded with a new kitchen and bath it can compete very well with a new home."

Ultimately, the decision to buy a new or existing home comes down to which a buyer values more: a maintenance-free new home or a mature neighborhood.

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