Property experts advice on the ‘old house’ versus ‘new house’ debate.

Out with the old, in with the new may be an idiom that suits some people but for others it’s a case of keep the old and cherish it forever. For home hunters, there are pros and cons to whether you buy a new build or a home that has been ‘pre-loved’. We asked property experts about their views on the ‘old’ versus ‘new’ debate.

New houses can cost less

"The big pro in favour of a new house over an old house is that you shouldn't have to do any work on a new house," says David Bewley of Lisney, who lives in a 1950s house in Dublin. "You pay the asking price and that is it – the house shouldn't need any decorating, the electrics will all be working and you will have a modern fitted kitchen."

Also, a new house should have lower running costs. "The average new building in Ireland achieved a BER rating of A3," says Jeff Colley, editor of Passive House Plus magazine. He lives in a newly-built apartment in Dun Laoghaire.

"To put that in context, the BER rating system is a 15 point scale that goes from A1 to G, so A3 is very near the top. This means that a new home should be extremely cheap to heat. Indeed, a house built since the 2011 building regulations came into force needs to be 60% more energy efficient than a house built when the 2005 building regulations were in force."

However, Colley says BER ratings only tell prospective buyers half the story, they should also look for the results of an air tightness test, which all developers of new housing are required to carry out before putting a house on a market.

"You should be looking for mechanical ventilation – not only will this ensure that your house isn't stuffy, it will reduce the risk of mould, which can cause asthma in children, and will reduce your exposure to those pollutants in the air produced by cleaning agents and air fresheners."

New homes should also be more comfortable than older houses, with no draughts, says Colley.

Doer-upper downers

Aside from heating costs, with older buildings the chances are that it will need a bit work to deal with any wear and tear, any colour schemes that are looking jaded and any electrics that aren't up to the demands of modern living.

"The problem with buying an older house that needs a bit of work is that you don't really know what it will actually cost you to bring it up to the mark," says Enda Luddy, MD of CBRE Ireland.

"Some people like to take on an older house and put their stamp on it, others don't have the skill or the patience to be buying a house and then knocking down walls or putting in new extensions or kitchens. Everyone is different, but if you are looking for a turn-key solution where everything works then a new house is for you."

Luddy, who lives in a newly built home in Wicklow, says: "There are people who will always choose the second-hand house when faced with a choice between a new house costing €400,000 and a second hand house costing €300,000 and, maybe, €80,000 worth of renovations. Their thinking is that they will save €20,000, but the risk is that the renovations will cost you more than you budget for and eventually put the second hand house costs at €420,000 in total when all the work is done.

"With a new house, you are usually covered against structural defects by HomeBond. That said, you should get a competent person to do a snagging list for you before you complete your purchase, similar to getting a surveyor to look at a second-hand home before you agree to buy."

Georgian houses. Period

Many people dream of living in grand Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian homes. Not only do they offer a level of status, they also allow people to live in homes with history. More often than not these homes are solidly built and the result of exquisite craftsmanship. Then, there are all those beautiful period features such as sash windows, high ceilings and ornate plasterwork.

If you want to buy a period house – one that is more than 100 years old – be advised that some insurance companies won't provide you with cover. But house insurance is available for period homes from specialist providers like Irish Heritage Insurance, where director Guy Everington says he would always choose a period house over a modern building.

"Period houses have a unique beauty and style, they may be a bit draughty if they have sash windows, but generally they are weather proof and sound proof and have stood the test of time."

Everington, who lives in a detached house formed by joining two 16th century cottages together, says: "Period houses and protected structures need specialist insurance because, if something goes wrong, the cost of putting them right is more expensive – you need specialist craftsmen if you are replacing windows or plasterwork or stonework."

However, he adds that a new house won’t have the "period features and charm or an older house."

"A new house, of equivalent price, will be smaller than an older house in terms of floor space and ceiling heights. A lot of new houses are three-storey buildings, because is easier to get a BER A-rating for a building that is tall and thin rather than low and wide."

Location, location, location

Another benefit of buying a second-hand or period house over a new home may be its location. Older housing estates have had time to mature and are often in locations with access to shopping and restaurants.

"There is also the question of schools – there are places where I don't see enough schools being provided for the level of new homes that are due to be built in that area. You might get a place for your child in a local primary, but it's at secondary level where there is a real shortage," says Everington.

In recent years however, developers have been building in infill sites in mature areas close to city centres, so new developments aren’t just confined to the suburbs.

Everington says with older houses you tend to have more space to grow. "Older houses have much more generous gardens and tend to benefit from mature planting whereas new houses can look bare. Having said that many young people don't see gardens as being that important, so that isn't an issue for everyone."

Whatever you decide ultimately may come down to preference, but do your research before you go for old or new.

This article was first published in The Sunday Times in partnership with Bank of Ireland. Publication of this article is not seen as an endorsement of the content by Bank of Ireland.


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