Should I Purchase a New Build or an Existing House?

There’s a lot to weigh up between a new build or an existing house. Some of it is a personal preference; the beauty of a stained glass window in a picturesque villa versus the open plan living and new carpet of a home that hasn’t yet been lived in. We’ll leave those debates to you and your family, let’s instead look at the more definable aspects of this decision.

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Should I buy a new build home?

If you’re eligible for the First Home Grant you can get up to $5,000 towards purchasing an existing home. This doubles to up to $10,000 to purchase a new build. It’s considered a new build if you have a building contract or you’ve bought a new house that got its code of compliance in the last 6 months. Eligibility is per person so if you and your partner both qualify for the full amount on a new build you would get $20,000. It’s a substantial amount. The challenge, however, is to find a house that meets your needs and comes in under the cost threshold for the grant. The threshold is between $500,000 to $700,000 for a new build depending on where you live. For more information see our First Home Grants and KiwiSaver article.

A new build means little to no repairs or replacement costs for years to come. This is a big financial plus, especially for those that pick up the phone for a repair person rather than picking up the toolbox themselves. Look for a builder that guarantees their work for 10 years to be sure of a cost-effective and stress-free decade.

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Our online course "How To Buy Your First Home" walks you through each step to present yourself to the bank as the perfect first-home buyer.

Building can create instant equity. A completed build is often worth more than just the cost of the house and section combined. Buy a section for $300,000, build for $300,000 and the end result could be worth $620,000 or more. Note however that the statistics could be skewed by time elapsed between the section purchase and the completed build, as you would expect your property to grow in value over time anyway. There is also the personal cost of time, energy and sometimes stress that goes alongside building your home.

One of the valuable and more fun aspects of building is the ability to tailor your home. As well as tailoring to your own needs you can also tailor it to the market. By doing this you maximise the likelihood of lots of interested buyers when you go to sell, likely driving up the final sale price. Talk to real estate agents about what is popular - large open plan vs separate hidey-holes? Is a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite a must-have for many buyers? Taking what’s popular into consideration while also building to suit your own lifestyle and preferences will future proof your investment.  Note that for the lower cost new builds you may not be able to adjust the plans. These houses are built to a specific plan to keep costs down. These lower costs builds are more likely to meet the First Home Grant criteria.

How do the finances work when you build a house?

There are two types of payment structures; turn key and progress payments. We go into these in detail in Construction Mortgages: Turn Key Versus Progress Payment Contracts.

Building a home often requires progress payments during the build. This can be difficult financially in the short term as it means paying both rent and at least part of your total mortgage until the build is complete. For more information see our article on Calculating the Interest On Your Progress-Payment Construction.

Should I buy an existing house?

Location is important to most when buying a home. Popular areas close to amenities are usually built up with little to no sections available, making desirable building locations limited. Building is often more doable for those looking to get away from the hustle of cities and towns, or in areas that are growing rapidly with new centres being created around whole settlements of new housing. 

When buying an existing property there is often more room to negotiate due to the state of the house or to get a good deal at the right time due to the current owners needing to sell quickly. In the first scenario, you of course need to budget for the cost of getting the property into shape. In the second it can take patience and a bit of luck. Both require a clear head and good negotiating skills.

While building a house is exciting, some can find it stressful. Delays, unexpected costs and dealing with contractors can take its toll. Pre-designed plans with a fixed price build removes a lot of the uncertainty and headaches. Even so, if making lots of choices and being patient isn’t your strong point then an existing home might be the best option.

So what to do?

Like many decisions when buying a home, the answer is dependent on your personal situation and the market you are buying in. And of course, if your partner is determined to have that stained glass window in a character home, the question of whether to build may be moot.

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