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Something Old or Something New?

Buying an original weatherboard villa or similar character home may seem romantic to some, but for others the idea of a brand new home appeals most.

They look great, those gracious white, weatherboard villas and bungalows with mature gardens in Remuera, Epsom, Mt Eden and the like. They conjure up memories of a more sedate era.

Or maybe you like the idea of everything being brand new. Well, before you buy that ultra modern pad, or start trimming the crusts from your cucumber sandwiches, consider some facts.

Layout

New homes are built with today’s lifestyles in mind and are generally easier to live in. They are built with more bathrooms and kitchens are often integrated into living areas. Don’t expect an older house to be set up to effortlessly accommodate your media room. And yes, your big, flat-screen television will look ridiculous hanging in the oak-panelled library. Flow was something else far from the minds of most Victorian architects, so celebrate the idea of corridors and cubby-holes, or rule out character homes.

Location

Historic or older houses will often be located in the more established city suburbs while most new properties will often be in recently developed areas further from the CBD. There are two plus points for the old home buyer. First, you know exactly what you are buying into when you move to an Epsom or a Parnell. Who knows what Flat Bush and Dannemora will eventually turn out like? Second, commuting to the city is easier from the old money suburbs. This is good for your sanity and will be good for your bank balance when you sell.

Charm and personality

Older homes often have a character and individuality that simply cannot be found in new homes. If an older home looks good now it will look good in another 20 years. That stainless steel and black glass exterior may look spectacular now but what will it age like? Is the design merely fashionable, or will it stand the test of time?

Gardens and landscaping

Mature trees and established lawns framed by buxus add to the appeal of older homes. With new homes on a subdivision the buyer needs to have imagination to visualise how that scrappy vegetation between the bulldozers might one day develop into a lush tropical landscape. Or will it? Landscaping is expensive and some developers may be tempted to skimp on the orchid count.

Maintenance

It’s funny how the charm and personality of your original villa can quickly evaporate when you are presented with cost of replacing the rotten floorboards that have just given way under your Victorian claw-foot bathtub. Get used to the fact that old homes require maintenance – some of it suddenly and in a big way – and if you are no handyman, that means expense. Make sure you factor maintenance and renovation costs into your purchase price budget when buying an older property. At least with a new home you get a warranty to cover any major problems while the house settles into its foundations.

In general, character homes in established suburbs have shown the greater potential for capital appreciation, certainly compared with new homes in manufactured neighbourhoods. However, it is more apparent now than ever before that people are genuinely interested in living in low maintenance homes so they can make more of their leisure time. Houses are being constructed on smaller sections but with larger floor areas. There is much to recommend about buying a new home, but if you want to ensure capital gain it’s important to choose one that displays some level of individuality, craftsmanship and character.

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