Unless you have unlimited funds, buying a house always involves compromise. Maybe you trade a longer commute for more space, or accept outdated décor to live in a more established neighborhood with better schools. One major choice that homebuyers often have to consider is whether to buy a brand-new home (or build one) or move into a previously owned house.

IN PICTURES: 7 Smart Steps Every New Homeowner Should Take

According to June data from the U.S. Census Bureau, new home sales are on the rise again (although still lower than in 2009). And, thanks to the now-defunct housing boom, there are plenty of new homes on the market; enough to last for nearly eight months at June's rate of sale. New homes have some distinct advantages and drawbacks. Here we'll cover the top benefits and drawbacks of being a home's first owner. Consider these advantages for new homes before you decide.

What often attracts buyers to a brand-new home is the option to customize. If you start from scratch, you can be involved in the planning and design of nearly every element of your new abode, but even if you buy a pre-planned house from a builder, you may still get input on minor elements of the layout and will be able to choose the colors and materials for your paint, flooring, bathrooms and kitchen.

If you buy a previously owned home, it comes as is. Sure, you'll still be able to customize it, but this may come at an additional cost, and you'll be on your own in terms of deciding what to do, dragging home the materials and finding a contractor. (For related reading, check out Cheap Home Renovations That Pay Off and Home Renovations That Don't Pay.)

Builders often provide a warranty on brand-new homes to cover any defects in the home's construction. In fact, many states have mandatory provisions for home warranties, some of which can last up to 10 years. This can provide real peace of mind for homeowners because they can count on not having to shell out for major repairs during the first few years they own their house.

The flipside to this is that there are many unknowns in a new home that an owner of an older home would not have to worry about. Is the construction sound? Is the foundation likely to shift? With a new home, only time will tell how well it will mature. With an older home, you'll have a pretty good idea of how well it's built based on how it's holding up. In addition, homeowners can run into problems with builder warranties if the builder goes out of business, or if the defect is not covered under the warranty.

Safety/Building Codes
By law, brand-new homes must conform to the most up-to-date building codes that apply to the area. This means that building codes that apply to the electrical system, plumbing, fire safety and natural disaster protection may be present in newer homes, while older homes will have been built under previous codes. A new home may also use better technology in heating, cooling and insulation. This doesn't necessarily mean that an older home is less safe, but it will certainly be less efficient and will cost more to bring up to date.

The tradeoff may be that newer homes tend to use less-expensive materials such as laminated wood products, plastic and vinyl which may not have the same lifespan as the hard woods, brick and aluminum that are more likely to be found in older homes. (For related reading, see Home Energy Savings Add Up.)

Contemporary Layout
If you are comparing new and old homes, you may often find that new homes have bigger kitchens, more open layouts and much more storage. This is because these are elements that appeal most to today's buyers. This hasn't always been the case. If you buy a house built in the 1940s or '50s, for example, it's likely to have a compact kitchen and a formal dining room, whereas a brand new home is more likely to sport a large, open-concept kitchen with an eating area. Larger closets are also a hallmark of newer designs.

That said, many newer homes tend to be farther from the core of a city. If you like suburban life, this might not be a problem for you. If you long for a short commute, you may need to open to choosing an older house. (For more on weighing this decision, see Extreme Commuting: Is It For You?)

Low Maintenance
What many people like about a brand-new home is the fact that they can just move right in, particularly if they've had a hand in the materials used to finish the house. Every element of a new home is, well, shiny and brand new, which means that owners can sit back and enjoy their new homes without having to get their hands dirty. That said, some people like digging into home renovation projects, and even in a new home might find themselves itching to make changes.

In addition, because everything on a new home was installed at the same time, homebuyers are likely to enjoy a bit of a honeymoon period, during which they won't have to make even basic repairs. If you don't like doing the dirty work (or can't stand a mess, for that matter), a new or newer home – or an old one that has already been fully updated - is likely to appeal to you.

The Bottom Line
When you're ready to start house-hunting, make a list of the elements of the home that are most important to you. Then, when you're weighing which house is right for you, you'll have a good sense of what you're willing to give up and what you can't live without. It's unlikely that you'll love every aspect of your home, but if you succeed in finding one (new or old) that meets your most important requirements for home sweet home, you should be able to settle in just fine.

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The Unrelenting Claw Of Bernie Madoff.

Related Articles
  1. Credit & Loans

    Avoiding Red Flags with Online Mortgage Lenders

    Using an online mortgage lender can be convenient, but how do you know you can trust one? Follow these tips to make sure the lender is legit.
  2. Credit & Loans

    How To Boost Your Credit Score To Save Thousands

    One of the first steps you should follow before buying a home is to boost your credit score. And how do you do that? Here, we tell you how.
  3. Home & Auto

    Comparing Reverse Mortgages vs. Forward Mortgages

    Which one a homeowner chooses depends on where you are at this point in your life, personally and financially.
  4. Home & Auto

    The Rules for Getting an FHA Reverse Mortgage

    A reverse mortgage can make it affordable for you to live in your home for the rest of your life. But make sure you know the rules first.
  5. Credit & Loans

    5 Mortgage Loans You Didn't Know About

    These lesser known mortgage loans are often overlooked by potential home buyers.
  6. Economics

    Real Estate: How the Bubble Will Pop

    This real estate bubble is much different from the last one. Understanding it is imperative if you plan on making any investments.
  7. Credit & Loans

    The Hi-Tech Future of Mortgage Applications

    Three sites that are simplifying your path to home ownership.
  8. Home & Auto

    Best Real Estate Apps for House Hunters

    Your dream home might be only a swipe away.
  9. Home & Auto

    Before You Buy a Home for Your Child: Read This

    It is certainly generous. It can even be advantageous to both of you. But beware of the pitfalls.
  10. Home & Auto

    Are Home Inspections Worth It? - Price vs. Value

    If you’re wondering whether home inspection is worth the investment, the following information will help you decide.
  1. Fair Housing Act

    This law (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) forbids ...
  2. Construction Loan

    A short-term loan used to finance the building of a home or another ...
  3. Commercial Real Estate Loan

    definition of a commercial real estate loan
  4. Realtor Property Resource (RPR)

    A National Association of Realtors member benefit providing realtors ...
  5. Housing Choice Voucher Program

    The Housing Choice Voucher Program helps families with very low ...
  6. Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

    A legal and regulatory term for a secondary house or apartment ...
  1. Can I take my 401(k) to buy a house?

    Once you reach 59.5, you can use the funds in your 401(k) retirement savings account to buy a house or any other expense ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can I take my 401(k) to buy a house for my children?

    Under the standard regulations for 401(k) retirement savings plans, you may elect to withdraw funds from your 401(k) for ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How is market value determined in the real estate market?

    Anyone who has ever tried to purchase or sell a home has probably heard a lot about the property's fair market value, or ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do I calculate how much home equity I have?

    Even though it is normally assumed most people know their home equity, many are still confused about the topic. It is an ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the typical requirements to qualify for closed end credit?

    Typical requirements for a consumer to qualify for closed-end credit include satisfactory income level and credit history, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What does the American Dream mean to different generations?

    The American Dream at its core is the belief that every generation should enjoy greater prosperity than the generation before ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!