Although the last two years have been a challenging time for house-hunters, the government’s help-to-buy scheme puts homeownership back within reach of many first-time buyers.
If you’re planning to take advantage of the loans available to new potential homeowners, one of the major questions you’ll find yourself asking is… Do I want to buy a new-build or an existing property?
Both kinds of houses have pros and cons, depending on the lifestyle you lead. Let’s look at the benefits of buying a brand-new home as a first-time buyer, compared to some of the reasons an older property might seem preferable.
Why might a new-build be better for first-time buyers?
Government incentives, personal taste, less stress and long-term savings are all excellent reasons to make your first property purchase a new-build.
The government’s Help to Buy equity loan is aimed specifically at first-time buyers purchasing a new-build home, helping you get a mortgage with a smaller deposit. Depending on where you live, the government is offering loans between 15% and 40% of the property value, helping you take that initial step onto the ladder. However, juggling applications can seem daunting when you’ve never done it before.
Designed for convenience
Modern housing designs reflect modern lifestyles. Not only do new-build homes have practical layouts, you know the construction itself is going to meet current safety and building regulations. You won’t have to worry about future-proofing either, with many developments facilitating smart technology that’s decades ahead of what a “character” property can offer.
Buying a newly built home means you can enjoy the full lifespan of its features, materials and appliances, which will typically be more energy-efficient than those installed in an existing building. Lower energy bills and maintenance costs – and not worrying about how soon you’ll have to replace the boiler – mean you can relax and enjoy your home.
In the less likely event that you do have structural problems with your home, the NHBC warranty will cover repairs for defects in materials or construction.
Choosing a home off-plan lets you choose many fixtures and fittings, like carpets and lights, as they’re installed in your home. You don’t have to spend time living with a previous owner’s design choices or plan to renovate after you move in. Again, for first-time buyers, being able to simply enjoy being a homeowner and make small, decorative choices, is preferable to lots of messy, expensive and time-consuming DIY.
No moving chains
When you’re buying a new-build, it’s true that there can be a waiting period while your house is being constructed, and sometimes unforeseeable delays can move the completion date by a week or two.
However, there’s no stress caused by any number of sellers in a chain slowing the process down while they arrange their own purchase. If you’re motivated to move, buying a home that’s still under construction is more straightforward than dealing with the uncertainty of a chain potentially falling through.
What’s the appeal of buying an existing home?
Depending on what you’re looking for in a property, there might be several reasons why an older building might appeal.
Housing trends have changed over the decades, and older style homes may come with proportions and features that are less common in modern properties. For example, high ceilings, open fireplaces, or large gardens. For some buyers, historic construction materials bring “character” to a building, compared to the more uniform look of a new-build development.
It’s worth considering that historic features can require specialist care, and won’t meet the same energy-efficiency ratings as modern builds. Plus, older buildings aren’t always equipped for modern lifestyles, so you may need to do some degree of modernising.
Some buyers assume a sale to move quicker when the house they’re buying already exists. There’s no waiting for construction, or worrying about unforeseen circumstances causing delays.
Except, the sales of existing homes often get caught in chains, which can be especially frustrating for first-time buyers that are keen to get their keys. On top of that, there’s a risk of “gazumping”:
It can be reassuring to physically walk around a property and see “what you’re getting”, compared to buying a home off-plan. Combined with EPC certificates and housebuyer surveys, buyers can be reasonably informed when it comes to making an offer on an existing build.
However, even housebuyer surveys can miss underlying issues, and you won’t have your NHBC warranty to fall back on if structural issues become apparent once you’ve moved in.
If you’re apprehensive about not seeing a new-build before you reserve, remember that the show home and marketing materials are intended to give buyers the best possible idea of what their home will look like. Depending on the development, it may even be possible to view properties that are similar to the one you’re considering, but that is further along in the build schedule.
What about the ‘new-build premium’?
One of the final questions can be an issue of price. You may have heard the term ‘new-build premium’, which refers to the idea that brand-new homes are overpriced compared to similar, existing properties.
While it’s true that new-build homes can be more expensive than older houses, this is usually down to everything being brand new – not just the house itself, but internal fixtures and fittings like carpets and appliances. To put it succinctly:
“The reason for this difference is that everything is new and unused, energy-efficient and built to – hopefully – a high-quality spec.” – Which?
You should always do your research before buying your first home, but a higher sale price will usually be quickly offset by savings on maintenance, energy bills and repair costs (not to mention reduced stress). Assuming you stay in your home long enough to see the benefits of your brand-new features, any ‘new-build premium’ should pay for itself before long.
So, are new-builds better for first-time buyers?
The process of buying a house is known to be stressful, but buying a new-build eliminates many of the problems. Brand-new housing developments aren’t for everyone, but if you’re keen to become a home-owner, there’s never been a better time to buy a new-build.