some not-so-obvious advantages

to choosing An existing home over new construction

Published on Alaska Dispatch News (

Barbara Ramsey, Clair Ramsey

February 16th, 2015

Looking at new homes just completed or still under construction can be fun and informative. It’s like looking at the latest models at a new-car show. The builder/car manufacturer hopes to encourage you to fall in love with the newest design. However with a home, consider the differences between buying new or “pre-owned.”


With new construction, the advantages are evident: 1) The builder can customize to your tastes; 2) you are the first to occupy; 3) you should not need to replace anything for a while; 4) the house meets today’s building standards; and 5) the home exhibits the latest design trends. These advantages are also some of the reasons new construction costs more than a pre-owned home.


However, below are five not-so-evident reasons that might make purchasing a pre-owned home a better choice for some people.


Reason 1: Convenience to amenities. Anchorage has grown so much that few undeveloped building lots are close to in-town conveniences. The most sought after pre-owned homes are typically located in the downtown, West Anchorage or Midtown areas. If in-town conveniences are important, an existing home may be your only option.


Reason 2: Energy efficiency. The Alaska Housing Energy Rebate program has made energy- efficient improvements possible, so this can be a plus in many pre-owned homes, as well as other home improvements. Depending on the age of the home, rooms could be larger and remodeling may have opened interior walls of living areas for better flow.


Reason 3: Landscaping and lot. The yards of new homes are blank slates. Plan on spending the first couple of years developing a lawn, which involves raking out the rocks, contouring and leveling the ground, then nursing the hydroseed to a mowing length. In our colder climate, trees and plants take longer to establish. The first owner typically does not live in the house long enough to fully enjoy a well-established yard. A pre-owned home may have flower beds, fencing, larger decks and walkways for your family to immediately use and enjoy.


Lot sizes can also differ between new and pre-owned homes. Newer-construction homes are packed much more tightly together to reduce costs and maximize developer and builder profits. If you want more space between neighbors, a pre-owned home may have it.


Reason 4: Neighborhood. In a new-construction area, your first neighbor may be a backhoe, with the dust and dirt that goes along with it. Instead of songbirds you could be awakened in the morning by the rat-a-tat of an air hammer. The longer days also allow for early construction starts and late finishes. An established area offers a much quieter neighborhood and less stressful environment.


Reason 5: Readiness to move into. The ability to occupy a new home will depend on the construction schedule. If a foundation is in, the house may still take four to six months to finish. If you are starting at the design and permitting stage, it will take considerably longer. Completion of new construction also depends on availability of subcontractors, materials and cooperation of the weather. In a pre-owned home, you can start unloading your moving boxes usually in 45 to 60 days. Financing constraints are more likely the reason for delays than weather.


No matter the price range, new construction is a must for some people. Perhaps the appeal of building new includes the emotional excitement of designing their own home, as well as picking their own colors, materials and appliances. Or perhaps it is similar to the new car smell and the novelty of being the first ones to use anything. For others, new construction offers the technology of better engineering and the latest energy efficiencies.


However, with an existing home you can walk through the place and get a true feeling for the size and how the space might work before you commit to purchasing. Once you make the commitment, you can’t beat the quicker closing. 



Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Alaska Dispatch News. Their email address


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