Sunday, February 2, 2014

Location or Bling

Should I consider buying a new home instead of buying an existing home? New homes are wonderful for many people. They come with new appliances, they are painted the colors of your choice, there aren't any ghosts, many even have a warranty--and unlike new cars, they don't lose 30% of their value the first year. Up north when we sold a new home it came with a hand seeded lawn and 12 shrubs. So the landscaping looked pretty good after about three or four years.
Obviously people like new, clean and unused things, and with a new house you have a pretty good chance at getting exactly that, with everything in brand new condition. New home builders have wonderful brochures showing all the extras ($$$) that are available, and various builders give you options to upgrade this or that (all at a cost), to personalize your new home.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Realtors always say, “Under it all is the land”. And then they say the three most important things about a property are, “location, location and location.”  So let’s consider location for a moment.  People have been building homes for hundreds of years, and typically builders pick the best land available (in their price range) on which to build.

So it stands to reason that over the last several hundred years, most of the really good parcels have already been built on, and unless you are considering a home investment costing in the millions, the properties with the best locations will not be in your future. The “tract builders” who have all the open houses and the colorful brochures, are mostly building on less than ideal property--reclaimed swampland, areas along a highway, or in some cases vast ranch lands that have recently been rezoned from Agriculture to Residential with 5 or 6 homes per acre.

Gone are the days of finding a building parcel on a hill with a view of a lush valley of orange groves in one direction and Sarasota or Lemon Bay in the other. So if location is important to you, your choices will probably not include long views, but rather proximity to shopping or highway exits or perhaps a golf course. OK, so the land is only average, but you can still design the home of your dreams, right?  Well not so fast, Bucky. Most of the builders will allow you to make a few modifications to a plan they are happy with, and of course you can ask for upgrades, but don’t try to move a wall or change the location of the front door.

The plans that builders “like” are ones that have been approved by their accountants.  Today's homes are ones that can be built inexpensively, they are generally a couple of boxes on a slab, and are dressed out with a so-called California roof line in the front, and fancy trim around the entry door, so visitors will be impressed. Builders are good at putting lipstick on a pig. Today everything is profit oriented, remember, most of the builders out there are not your more traditional carpenters, but rather publicly traded  corporations.  These companies are in business to show a profit to their stockholders, and the more the better.

If you think that building products are all high quality, well think about all the builders who used Chinese drywall in many new homes throughout the area, with disastrous results. And there other cheaply made products in new homes. Flimsy light fixtures, sub-par water pipe, low quality carpeting, "builder quality" cabinets and countertops can all be substandard, while looking perfect.

Older (existing) homes can be a money pit, but—on the other hand--may provide a better structure with larger rooms on a nicer parcel of land in an established neighborhood, for far less money. Making an offer on an older home can leave over some cash to make the upgrades that are important to you and your family. If what you really wanted is all new appliances, a new AC and new tile floors, you may only need to budget $10-$15,,000 more to put all that into an older home. But whichever you choose, new or old, be sure to get a home inspection before you close your transaction. I once had a new home inspected for a client of mine, and the inspector found the builder forgot to install one of the support beams. So new or not, have an inspection.

Dane Hahn is a real estate professional with Sarasota Realty Associates in Venice, FL. You can reach him at 941-681-0312 or See him on the net at


Dane Hahn

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