The pros and cons of renovation versus a new build

At some point in your life you will probably find yourself asking – should I buy a new build or instead consider a renovation project?

Perhaps you’re a first time buyer unsure which option is right for you, or maybe you’re already a home owner undecided whether your second home should be a repeat of your initial decision or something different.

It’s not always an easy or obvious decision to make as you may not have an existing strong preference. Therefore, I have explored the pros and cons of both options in more detail below to assist with your decision making.

New Build – The Pros

  • Be the first to occupy the building! No previous owners or tenants to worry about meaning you can move straight in. It should also be left tidy and clean as the developers will have a vested interest in your satisfaction.
  • No onward chains to complicate the house buying process – this is particularly appealing to first time buyers as the availability of the house being purchased is not dependant on another being sold.
  • It’s brand new – everything will be fresh and clean ready to be lived in from the get go.
  • Personal decor choices – during the build there will be opportunities to choose features such as your kitchen appliances, bathroom fittings and flooring options. The house will also be a blank canvas as most walls will be painted with a neutral palette.
  • Everything will be modern and convenient – new build layouts are designed for modern living with open spaces.
  • Built with today’s health and safety standards – often come with a builder’s guarantee to give you peace of mind.

Renovation – The Pros

  • More solid and better built – older houses usually hold qualities that have been lost in modern designs.
  • More spacious – while older houses are often made up of more separate rooms they do tend to be bigger in size with more floor space and storage.
  • Personalisation of property – if you’re carrying out a full renovation then you can literally start from scratch and choose everything exactly as you want it (budget permitting)
  • Hands on or hands off – you may feel up to the challenge of renovating yourself, but if you would rather not get messy, then it’s simple enough to find tradespeople to do the work for you! If you’re undecided whether you should renovate a house yourself or hire a professional then please read here for guidance.
  • Character and charm – there’s no denying that period houses provide beautiful features that new builds don’t (but then I may be biased here!)
  • Service charges are more manageable – if you’re considering buying a flat then the costs are often more affordable on older properties.
  • Investment – older houses are usually better money makers as you can ‘add value’ with the renovations you carry out.

New build – The Cons

  • They’re built quickly – and for this reason may not be as solid or stable as an older property.
  • Snagging list – new builds usually present a number of issues such as settling in cracks which will need to be seen to after you’ve moved in.
  • Can be approximately 20-25% more expensive – you’re often paying for the convenience and ‘newness’ of the property.
  • Possibility for negative equity – there have been warnings regarding the government’s help to buy scheme so please be wary of this.
  • High service charge – monthly fees for the upkeep of the glamourously designed buildings, gardens and parks are common and can be expensive. This can also cause issues when selling the property on.
  • Location – new build developments may be squeezed into less desirable areas such as the outskirts of towns and cities with no nearby amenities.
  • Pricey decor/appliances – buying your appliances via another source could prove to be much cheaper and will provide more options.
  • Buying off plan – as your house is probably not built yet you will need to make a decision based on plans of how it should look and promises of the quality.
  • Showrooms can be misleading – professionals that dress the rooms in a show home are very skilled at creating illusions of more space.
  • Smaller rooms – in order to fit more houses on to a plot, due to investment purposes for the developer, rooms are usually smaller than older builds.
  • Potential for delays – there is often a knock on effect during a development which may mean that your home takes much longer to build than anticipated.

Renovation – The Cons

  • Damp, dark, dreary, and dated – older built houses in need of renovation are cheaper for a reason and you will need to deal with a variety of tasks in order to create a comfortable living space. Be prepared to have to see through this and imagine the potential!
  • Planning permission needed for extensions – if you want to expand the current building then it is essential that you gain approval before going ahead to avoid any legal implications.
  • Be careful about area and neighbours – ‘Buy the worst house on the best street’ is cracking advice for those looking to renovate.
  • Building survey required – this is advised to ensure there are no issues (such as asbestos or Japanese Knotweed) which could cause you problems in future.
  • Renovation work can be expensive and it is easy to go over budget – savings can get used up very quickly so it’s important to be realistic about how much you are able to spend.
  • Lots of effort required – even if you’re having the work carried out by builders, renovation involves a lot of project management and potential stress so be warned! To see just what can be involved, take a look at our experience here.
  • Alternative accommodation needed or live in and amongst the destruction! Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to move back in with their parents to be able to renovate before moving in, so it’s important to think about living arrangements, especially if you’re ripping out important parts of the home such as the kitchen and bathroom.

So, there you have it! A fairly in-depth look at the pros and cons of renovation and new builds. Yes, there are many factors to consider, such as time, finance, and taste, but there is no such thing as a wrong decision, as you will learn so much whichever route you take. However, the above should enable you to decide which option feels right for you based on your current circumstances.

I’d love to hear your preferences regarding buying a new build or a renovation project. Let me know in the comments below!

9 things I wish I knew before buying a house

When you’re a first time buyer, it can be pretty daunting purchasing a house, as it is such a large commitment. We were fortunate enough to be able to confide in both sets of parents and draw on their experiences but this may not always be an option.

Signing up for a 30, 35, 40-year mortgage isn’t a light decision to make, especially when you haven’t done so before, so these tips should teach you a thing or two about what to expect when buying your first property

1.Get a mortgage in principal before you start looking

We weren’t seriously searching when we attended our first house viewing so we were caught short when we actually fell in love with it and wanted to make an offer. Luckily, we were able to get a sharp-ish appointment with a financial advisor, as we wanted to make sure that the seller knew we were serious when we made our offer. It was also really helpful to find out what we could afford and what our monthly payments would be so we wouldn’t be stretching ourselves too thinly.

Thankfully, we could comfortably afford the house we fell in love with, but imagine how heartbreaking it would’ve been if we couldn’t! If you’re still saving for your first home I’ve got some great tips for you here.

2. Don’t get too attached

We were gutted at the time (but relieved in hindsight), as we had to pull out of the first house sale, due to a major problem with the gable end.  The lesson to be learnt here; try not to get too attached too soon.

It’s hard not to walk away and envision your potential new living space full of all your belongings, but in reality there are a number of bumps in the road, which could whip your dream home away from underneath your feet in an instant. It’s great to be organised, but until those keys are in your hand, it’s important to remember that house purchases are not set in stone until the very last minute.

3. Your home survey will reveal problems

Fortunately for us, we have a builder in the family, who was able to inspect the house from top to bottom to highlight any potential issues. Not everyone is comfortable enough to buy a home without a survey like us, but hearing family members, the report can also seem incredibly scary when it lands in your inbox. There can be lots of red warnings and high numbers, but please rest assured that these are often easily sorted, and less frightening than they first appear.

Don’t forget that you can also use the survey for negotiation purposes or request that the existing homeowners repair or replace faults that have been highlighted. You may feel happy to fix any issues yourself, but the option is handy to have in your back pocket, if the value of the house is no longer what you’ve agreed to pay for it.

4. You are not a nuisance when asking questions

If you’re anything like me, then you feel like a massive bother when taking up someone’s valuable time. However, it’s important to remember that your estate agent is being paid to answer your queries, so ask away! Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you like. This is a big investment and you need to know all you can about your potential home. If they’re not able to answer your questions then ensure they ask the homeowner who should be able to help further.

5. Sorting the Help To Buy ISA contribution

Unfortunately, Help To Buy ISAs are no longer available to new customers, but those of you that already have them will find them to be a huge financial help. I cannot remember when I opened mine exactly, but I certainly had at least 6 months worth of government contributions to claim when our property purchase was coming close to exchange. Our solicitor asked us to go into our banks to close our accounts and request proof so that they could release the additional funds. Fortunately for my partner, he banked with Lloyds, who were able to carry out his request there and then in less than 10 minutes.

Frustratingly, Natwest informed me that mine would arrive via post five working days later. However, five stressful working days came and went and there was no sign of my closing statement. Bearing in mind our exchange date was drawing closer and closer (less than five days away). Turns out the member of staff hadn’t actually closed my account properly so they needed to make the request again!

I had to really kick up a fuss with the bank manager to get a photocopy sent to the branch, so that they could print it and give it to me in person, rather than wait for it in the post. Due to their mistake, I was so close to losing out on the government funded money! So, I suppose the story here is to be prepared as early as possible when requesting your Help To Buy ISA contribution. We almost got caught short!

6. Don’t be put off by others

When we first told people about our new home location, a few mentioned to us that they’d “heard the road was a bit of a rat-run” and that “parking will be difficult”. I’m terrible for worrying about what others think so I must admit that my brain was in overdrive wondering whether this would be a problem. However, we drove down the road on a few occasions at different times of the day, and soon found that it wasn’t as bad as the others had suggested.

While it may not be to their taste or preferences, you have to remember that it will be you living in the house, and if you’re happy with it then nothing else should matter (unless it’s falling apart of course!).

7. The property market can be cruel

The first house we made an offer on had actually already had a cheekily low offer accepted, so we were able to bid a little higher, in order to secure the property for ourselves (I felt quite bad, although we knew it was an investor, rather than someone looking to buy a home). As previously mentioned, this house fell through, but it meant that we were more cautious when viewing the second house we then made an offer on.

Within four hours of the house being put on the market, I had already booked a viewing, and within four hours of viewing the property we had already made our offer. We were so in love with this house (view how it first looked here) that we weren’t going to let anyone else view it if we could help it!

8. Patience is a virtue

I’m not the most patient person at the best times. I hate waiting and always feel out of sorts when things are left hanging in the air. Sometimes, you can go days or weeks without hearing any updates during your house purchase, but it can feel more like months and years, as you’re so excited! Miraculously, our house sale only took four and a half weeks to process, which seems unbelievably quick looking back (there was no chain!).

Just make sure that you’re keeping on top of the estate agents and solicitors where you can! Ask for deadlines for each stage of the process so you know when it is appropriate to chase further. Being as organised as possible with signing documents and returning them etc is your opportunity to speed up the process, so ensure you’re on the ball with this.

9. Use your first time buyer status to your advantage

Carrying on from the point above, as a first time buyer, you will be very desirable to a seller as you will not be part of a chain. An older landlady owned our house and the estate agent let slip that she wanted to sell before the winter; as it was unoccupied and she was worried about the pipes freezing.

My partner’s Dad made us aware that our position made us more attractive to sellers and encouraged us to lay this on heavy with the estate agent when he was negotiating with the seller. We had to sound like her perfect buyer on paper! Had we not known or highlighted this, we could have ended up paying over the odds for the house, or losing out to another buyer!

Hopefully, this blog will have taught you a thing or two about buying your first home, and you’ll feel more confident about the process.

If there’s anything you wish you had known before buying a house then please let me know in the comments. The more we can teach others based on what we learnt, the better.

Happy home buying!