Monday, December 17, 2007

Old vs. New

The list has narrowed (for now, at least) to two options: (1) the Old House, built in 1895, or (2) the New House, which would be built for us by a builder who is just starting out but has already established a reputation in town for good workmanship. According to the builder, the house would be ready by summer (though this speedy schedule has raised an eyebrow or two among my friends – ought it not to take longer than six months to go from purchasing a lot to moving in?).

Here are how the two compare:

Price: Same. The asking price for the Old House is higher than what we would pay for the New House, but it seems likely that we could get it for considerably less. In either case, we will be maxing out what we can afford for the first year; any additional expenses would likely be postponed for at least that long.

Size: Same. In the Old House, the living space is spread out over two floors; in the New House that square footage would include a basement rec room. Both houses are large enough that we wouldn’t need to move again.

Location: The Old House is on a beautiful tree-lined street full of old churches and century homes, two blocks away from library, restaurants, and shops. It’s on a hill so there’s an amazing view of the town from all the windows. The high school is five blocks away, and the current elementary school is even closer (though there’s some talk of closing the elementary school and moving it to the same location as the high school). The New House would be in a small subdivision backing onto farmland a five minutes’ drive from town. A park is going in a block away from where we would build. The train tracks run past the subdivision; someone who lives there told me he noticed the train the day he moved in but hasn’t paid much attention to it since.

Parking: The Old House has a narrow driveway without a garage or even a shed (though there’s room to put in a small one-car garage at some point); the New House would have a two-car garage.

Kitchen: The Old House has a pleasant kitchen with newish cupboards and ceramic floors. Storage space is adequate but not plentiful and would be reduced if we put in a dishwasher (currently there is no dishwasher). The fridge and stove are in what must once have been a pantry: there is no counter-top directly beside the stove. There is an island that seats two but no room for a kitchen table. In the summer, meals could be taken in a large, fully enclosed porch immediately beside the kitchen. At some point, we might be able to winterize the porch and integrate it with the kitchen; in the meantime our winter meals would be eaten in the dining room. The New House would have a large eat-in kitchen with anything I wanted in it (pantry, desk, etc.).

Bedrooms: The Old House has multiple oddly-sized bedrooms filled with quirkiness: there is a hallway connecting them, but many of them also have connecting doors. There are few actual closets, but all sorts of cupboards and cubby-holes. It’s a house that seems designed for games of hide and seek. The New House would have a walk-in closet in the master bedroom (vs. a small closet supplemented by a wardrobe in the old house).

Bathrooms: The bathrooms in the Old House have been completely updated and are very cute. The New House would have an ensuite in the master bedroom.

Yard: The Old House is on a corner, and it has a yard enclosed by a hedge rather than a fence. It’s not a bad size, but considerably smaller than what we would get in the new house. There are very large trees at the corners of the lot, but not close enough to provide direct shade for the yard, which contains some smaller trees and shrubs. The New House would have whatever landscaping/fencing we chose to add, but would have that new-subdivision bareness for the first few years.

Air Conditioning: The Old House has no A/C or forced air heat, but I’ve been told that an air exchanger can be installed in the attic at roughly the same cost as installing a central air unit. The New House would have central air.

Other Features: The Old House has large rooms and high ceilings; it has all the architectural details you would imagine in a Victorian home: fireplaces, wood beams and panels, scroll-work on the doors and windows. There are built-in benches in the family room along with a wood-burning fireplace. There are storage spaces in the basement and attic, along with many quirky nooks and cupboards. The hot-water radiators are topped with thick wooden shelves suitable for displaying books or knick-knacks. The New House would have a laundry/mudroom off the garage and a games room in the basement suitable for a plasma TV and surround sound system (someday), along with a designated area for war-gaming.

My parents moved to a new house on the outskirts of town when I was six. The Old House feels to me like the house I always fantasized about living in; the New House feels comfortable and real. For three days last week I had virtually decided to build, then the pendulum swung the other way and for the last 48 hours I’ve been leaning toward the Old House. There’s no rush to make an offer (big old homes don’t sell quickly in this particular small town), but if I want to get the lot I’ve got my eye on, we should probably decide that sooner rather than later. More to the point, I’d like to make a decision so I can finally get some sleep.


Mary Joan Koch said...

Previously I voted for a newer house, but I have changed my mind. Building or renovating always takes at least twice as long as the initial estimate. New houses seem to have as many things wrong with them as old houses; they certainly aren't as well built.

The most important criteria is location. Being two blocks from the library, five blocks from the high school, closer to the elementary school will make life better far more than better kitchens, airconditioning, etc. Location can't be changed.

Mad Hatter said...

Three points:
We LOVE our old house but the small annoyances never go away, especially if those annoyances are in the kitchen.

Never underestimate the amount of work it will take to landscape a yard from nothing to something. Yard work is extremely time-consuming and quite expensive. Also, how many leaves will need raking over the next 25 years?

No matter which one you buy, you will need extra cash b/c something ALWAYS goes wrong. When that happens, don't lament the choice you have made b/c something would have gone wrong with the alternative as well.

Amy said...

Oh I don't envy you this decision! We bought a newly built (they built it and promptly got transferred) very large home with a very large yard. We have lots of space and a good location and we love the house. But I still think about the old, quirky, house-with-character-and mature-trees that we never really found (for less than $750,000 anyway). I would love a walking neighborhood instead of a subdivision. I would love to be closer to Shark's school. I would love a house with some history.

My husband says you always want what you don't have (true). And old houses need repairs and upgrades all the time (maybe true).

Ahh, I'm not helping! Sorry. Keep us posted!

Jess said...

This is a tough decision. Personally I think I'd build, but from the way this entry is written I lean toward the Old House. I wonder if that's your writing style expressing a subtle preference toward the Old House, or if I just like the way the Old House sounds.

Good luck with your decision!

Mary Joan Koch said...

I thought of something else. Living within walking distance of the library, school, shops, and restaurants means you never have to let teenagers drive. My 5 brothers, my 4 daughters, and I didn't get driver's licenses until we were in college or beyond.

If there is any possibility of caring for aging parents, try to get a house with a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor.

I live in a 70-year-old house. The kitchen has always been inadequate. But we have learned to live with it, developed good habits of cleaning up as we go along. We always eat in the dining room.

My second daughter bought a brand new condo and more has gone wrong in the first two years than has gone wrong with our house in the 24years I have lived here.

Jenifer said...

What a tough decision! Any option for two homes? ;)

I can't honestly think of anything to add except I am glad I am not making this decision because I am sure I would be paralyzed with indecision.

And as much as I dream about an old house I am not sure it really is for me...the romantic side of me though would fight hard for it I'm sure.

Marla said...

I agree with Jess - I hear a fondness for the old house in your voice. But, I'm a sucker for old houses.

I say go and meet your potential neighbours.

When we bought our house, the owner called our real estate agent and asked him to tell us to make an offer. She wanted to sell to us because she thought her dear friends, our neighbours would like us rather than another offer that was coming in. That told us a lot.

On one side, we have people who've lived there since the wife's childhood. Their teenage daughter babysits Josephine, they've been renovating like crazy and always improve what they can for us, like an interlocking stone walkway between our houses that extends into our back yard to our deck. They give us cherries from their tree, and we gab over the fence in our pajamas, share garden plants and wave through the kitchen windows - yet we also know when not to see each other, like when the teenage daughter is slamming doors or the toddler is having a fit.

On the other side is a retired couple who bought two years before we did, and have spent more money than the others renovating. She is bossy, and long winded, and spends every day in good weather trolling her front porch with wine and cigarettes. BUT - she's a retired chef, and sends over awesome food and loves visits from Josie. Her husband is a contractor, and he's helped us with loans of ladders and some advice and work on tough jobs in exchange for my teaching them how to use their computer. Together we've guerilla-gardened the adjoining parking lot, and fought the builder who's going to develop it.

Six years has been a long time to live next door to anyone - and we're looking forward to many more. That says something.

cinnamon gurl said...

Hmm... no counter next to the stove? That's tough, although I did live with it in a lovely Victorian apartment...

The location would sell me on the old house more than anything... and shit happens in new houses too.

I don't envy your decision... but I hope you get sleep soon, and let us know!!

Tina C. said...

your description of the old house neighborhood is leaning me towards that one. if you think in a year or 2 or 3 you can afford big rennovations, you can add on, dig out a basement, build a garage, etc. wardrobes are not bad solutions to closets; or small quirky rooms can be turned into dressing rooms, especially if they already connect to a bedroom. walking to school is a GREAT thing to do as a kid.

bubandpie said...

Jess, Marla - Yup, I totally stacked the deck in this post. If I'd written it on Saturday (when I was in my new house mood) it would have come out completely differently - full of details about the big pie-shaped lot, the walkway over to the brand-new park and playground, the cute little heritage railway building across the street, etc.

AnneK said...

I am a sucker for old houses. And I think (at least in the post) you have a soft spot towards the old one as well. You had me at hill and windows through which you can see the city etc. I would totally go for that at least from your description.

Karen said...

we are 18 months away from a move that is 5 minutes away from the center of town, to being in the town (different, bigger town.) I find myself fantasizing about things being in walking distance again like when I lived in NY.
Though a new kitchen is hard to argue with. Good luck.

Mrs. Who said...

When you first started writing about this, I couldn't imagine why anyone would want an older house that would require so much upkeep and renovation rather than a nice, new house. Now, I am rethinking my opinion. The old house just sounds so lovely. The ac situation would be a deal-breaker for my husband, though. I don't agree with those who tell you they can't build a new house in just a few months - it's amazing what they can do. And they do indeed get them built - it's not like a renovation which may take much longer than they say. They threw up our first little house in less than six months. Good luck making this decision! Keep us posted.

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh Bub, I loved reading these descriptions. I live in a home that's 16 years old, and I wish I had gone new, but that's mostly because of my personality. I am not good at renovating, I just don't do it. The ugly wallpaper that was in the kitchen when we moved in four years ago is still there. I don't think most people have this problem. And I agree that you wrote this post as if you were selling us on the older home, it seems to be where your heart is, and the location...that may make the biggest difference of all.

b*babbler said...

Oh dear - this is the type of decision we are making around these parts.

Currently we live in an older house, with everything that it entails. Previously I had always thought I would love it forever, and couldn't imagine choosing new construction.

However, now that we have the kid we realize that there is a whole lot to be said for convenience. For a larger kitchen with a good amount of space. For floors that do not squeak and squawk when you walk past them, waking up the baby. For not having the only spare room be on the third floor, a tremendous hike for your aging in-laws. For having more than one bathroom. For having cupboards and closets (gasp!) For having a garage (especially after yesterday's snow that has left my car unusable).

Needless to say, we are choosing a newish house the next go-round (already built, but only 1-2 years old). I'll miss the old, I really will, but with every annoyance I start looking forward to the new.

Mayberry said...

I love my old house. It's not as old as the one you're considering, but it does have its quirks (good and bad). The location is a huge factor here too, I think. Good luck... this is tough!

Magpie said...

I think your heart wants the old house.

Though maybe that's my heart reading into your post.

bubandpie said...

For the sake of fairness, I can add that if we build, my wish-list will include the following:

-2-car garage
-big eat-in kitchen
-walk-in closet in the master bedroom
-most bedrooms facing the back
-mudroom off the back/garage door
-built-in bookshelves
-wood-burning fireplace

The Old House has exactly one of those things.

Julie Pippert said...

New houses are not without travails. In fact, they often require a few years to work out kinks. My husband prefers an older home or one at least 3 years old (he's an architect...and he agrees in your area that sounds like an aggressive schedule, but possible).

If you do build, he advises hiring your own person to supervise or doing daily trips by and photographing key construction points. Inspect inspect inspect.

Ditto to what Mad said.

I normally prefer Old Houses. I like the maturity and character.

But you've got a pretty good list of pros for both.

Good luck and a reiteration of my ditto to this that Mad said:
No matter which one you buy, you will need extra cash b/c something ALWAYS goes wrong. When that happens, don't lament the choice you have made b/c something would have gone wrong with the alternative as well.

Using My Words

Blog Antagonist said...

Well, I am a sucker for old character homes so I would jump at the older home. BUT...we have to be practical and not romanticize, right? If this is your forever home, here is something you will need that you are probably not thinking about right now.

Eventually, you will need a place for your kids to go to be out of your hair.

Yes. There will come a time when your kids will not want to be around you and you will not want to be around your kids.

They will want to watch different stuff, they will want to talk about super sekrit stuff with their friends. They will be loud and obnoxious.

They need their own space to hang out, or they will go hang out someplace else and you won't know what the heck they are doing and who the heck they are doing it with.

So, my criteria would include a nice big space for them to designate as hang out space, well away from grown up hang out space. A basement, rec room, bonus room, what have you.

When we bought our house, it seemed ginormous and we thought it would last us forever. But right now, we are on top of each other and it is driving us all nuts.

There. That's my .o2. Take it for what it's worth. :?)

flutter said...

Old. I just love old houses.

Maddy said...

Dithering as always as a new house is just so much easier. There again, the second [old] has so much more character. Don't envy you the choice one little bit.

the dragonfly said...

I'm partial to old homes. I dream of buying one someday! :)

kgirl said...

i'm a sucker for the old houses, like the one i live in, which isn't nearly old enough (70+ years). i love its original details, its quirks and its cuteness (it's tiny).

however, every now and then i too yearn for an ensuite bathroom, a modern kitchen and a garage.

you should talk to metro mama about buying new.

Swistle said...

If you imagine choosing one and then finding out it had been sold already (I realize that wouldn't happen with the new build, but just play along), which one makes you sadder to have lost it?

metro mama said...

The location would make up my mind on the old house. And mature landscaping. New is nice, but it is never finished on time. And there are lots of issues to be worked out (we had trades in and out all the time for a year). That said, it is much easier to keep a new house clean.

I think Marla's idea of checking out the neighbours is a good one too.

Kathryn said...

New house it is!
Old houses seem charming and lovely until you move in to them and have to deal with all of their old problems, lack of space, small yards, no garage, etc.
They both sound amazing, but I would go with the new house so you can design it EXACTLY as you want it.

Kathryn said...

One more thing. Houses are always built in 6 months around here. It is not uncommon for our area. However, for your sanity, I would assume everything will take twice as long. That way if there are some delays you won't freak.

Anonymous said...

We lived in an old house (1930) for fifteen years and now a much newer one (1960) and we cannot believe that we put up with the first one with all it's problems for as long as we did.

Having said that, this is an intensely personal issue with no right or wrong answer. Draw up a pro/con list, you and your hubby tally the score and then leap!

Veronica Mitchell said...

We love, love, love our old house, but it was also so much cheaper than building anew house that the cost of its repairs have still been a relative bargain.

You did not address the structural and mechanical questions that would decide me on the issue. Roof, plumbing, wiring and heat - these would have to be ship-shape before I would choose the old house over a new one. We bought our very solid old house four years ago with a new roof, and an AC and furnace that were two years old. Still, we have spent almost $7000 on plumbing updates in the four years we've lived here.

Suz said...

I don't much of this post seemed to be about the old house that it clearly has a hold on your heart and imagination. However, someone once told me that you need to take your emotions out of it. It's impossible, I know.

wheelsonthebus said...

Oh, boy. We own an old house almost exactly like the Old House. Neighborhood, yard, connecting bedrooms, the whole nine yards. The short version? You can't beat a walkable neighborhood. Old houses are beautiful and a pain in the ass.

Long version? Shoot me an email if you really want to know :)

emily.r.rosenbaum (in the vicinity of)

sarcasticmom said...

I grew up in a house built even earlier than your old house... the only thing I remember disliking was the A/C/heat thing. (I'm sure my mother has a more comprehensive list, though).

Everything about the location of your old house, and many of the other things about it scream "ME!!!" to me. You can always renovate your kitchen/add on... and build a garage later. We never had a garage, btw.

I love my childhood memories in that old house.

erin k said...

My heart says old but my mind says new. The things the old house is missing (garage, well-planned kitchen, etc.) are exactly the things we struggled with in our century old house.

And yet...
"The Old House has multiple oddly-sized bedrooms filled with quirkiness: there is a hallway connecting them, but many of them also have connecting doors. There are few actual closets, but all sorts of cupboards and cubby-holes. It’s a house that seems designed for games of hide and seek."

Well, that pretty much sold me on old.

Best wishes in your decision.

bubandpie said...

Veronica - We won't find out the real deal on that stuff unless we make an offer and then do a home inspection. Here's what I know so far:

Heat: hot-water radiators with a newish-looking natural gas hot water heater

Plumbing: the bathrooms are all new, though I don't know what the pipes are like

Wiring: mostly updated, but there is at least one room that still has the old knob-and-tube wiring

Roof: asphalt, no idea how old or in what condition

Sarcastic Mom - I find it difficult to imagine being a child in an older house because my own home was so different - so I appreciate that perspective.

MAGIRK said...

Wow! What a decision to be made!

They both sound equally tempting to me. I'm not sure I could make up my mind. Although, I would probably choose the new house, based on some weird - and maybe slightly irrational - memories I have of growing up in an old house. (I have also been known to flip quarters...)

Good luck in your decision! :-)

I'll be looking forward to learning the final results...

Marian said...

It all depends how much old house charm, quirks and ramance mean to you. They need to mean a lot for old to be the right choice, especially if you're looking at similar cost for both old and new.

I live in an old house due to lower price. I do love old house charm. BUT every winter the pipes freeze in various combinations at various times. Going without a shower or washer and hauling water up flights in order to flush for a week at a time: not so charming, especially with little kids or the flu. Digging cars out of the snow, crumbling basement, lack of closets and storage, lack of yard, lack of wiring where you need it, and so many other things: just not so charming.
Specifics like that get to be very important as you live in a house. Your new house may run over in cost, but your old house will surely require plenty of money to fix and maintain as well.
Good luck with your decision.

Carrien said...

Trees. If for no other reason I'd vote for the old house, but there's the view and location and the walking and the workmanship. Go with the old house.

My hubby builds stuff and he has all sorts of nasty things to say about developer built homes that go up fast and the short cuts taken and the poor quality of construction and spends a lot of time fixing those problems for people who pay him to do it.

I'd be willing to bet that eventually a creative carpenter could make something really fabulous out of the kitchen in the old house, and solve most of your storage problems, with or without the porch.

And cubby holes and adventures, really. You don't need room for more stuff as much as you need fabulous memories IMHO, and it sound like a fabulous memory house and a great place to grow up.

Are the floors wood?

Beck said...

The Old House. New houses have no soul and I think all of these subdivisions on the outskirts of communities are destroying:
a) Canada's best farmland
b) any remaining sense of community in our urban areas.

bubandpie said...

Carrien - Yep. Old hardwood throughout the downstairs (though not finished under the area rug), and painted wood floors upstairs. The kitchen and bathrooms have newish ceramic tile, and the stairs and the upstairs hallway are carpeted.

Marian - Frozen pipes! I hadn't thought of that.

Carrien said...

Okay, few more points. Yes, I am a total nerd who spends my day thinking about other people's blog posts, so what?

I prefer radiator heating to forced air. It creates less dust and allergins which is handy, especially for asthmatics. I loved my old apartment with the radiators. You can build little screens for them to keep the kids away that bledn in with the decor.

Second, You will save so much money on decorating and entertaining in an old house with molding and other pretty features. For one, everything already looks pretty, you need way less stuff to make it look festive. (I base this on my experiences with my dad's 100+ house.)

Imagine parties. Imagine Pie's engagement party, or wedding reception (If it's small) imagine Holidays and Christmases. Imagine cleaning and getting ready for guests. Whenever I've lived in an older house with wood floors and fabulous lines those other things have always been easier. Cleaning up is easier, decorating more satisfying, clutter happens less. Newer homes seem designed to accumulate clutter, they have corners were stuff just sits and places where things collect and people dump stuff.

I realize this is highly personal and may not translate. That's just actually my experience and maybe it will help. Of course, I've just revealed that I am almost exclusively motivated by aesthetics, HMMMMM.

kimberly-ann said...

I vote for Old House.
I happen to live in an OLD HOUSE..and you just cannot build "old charm"

Also, having grown up in a small town NOTHING beats those old homes.

The AC work well...and later you can switch over if you find you absolutely need to.

Lady M said...

Sounds like you can't lose - both houses are strong.

I have several friends and family who have moved into brand-new houses and loved how they can be custom-fit to your wants. It was a good idea to drive to build site *often* and check on things though. In fact, I think my MIL would bring coffee for the workers on cold mornings now and again, building goodwill. It can be a long wait for construction, but I'm not good with renovations, so I'd have to choose new.

Kerry said...

I've lived in both beautiful old houses and, well, somewhat less old houses that were less beautiful. You know what I want? A nice new house with no creaks in the floor, which doesn't need things replaced for 5-10 years, whose main floor is mostly open and where light streams through the house. That's what I want.

Yes, a neighbourhood is great, but you can make your own neighbourhood.

Imagine the total peace of knowing that you've made YOUR house, and you don't have to sweat any renos but painting and refinishing floors (maybe) until the kids are ready to move out. To me, that's a slice of heaven.

And? New park? No pressure treated lumber? New park means new kids, which means new schools, and new friends for your kids. Old neighbourhood = less kids = more school closures = lots of political parents. I like peace.

i'd build. But that's just me.

Lawyer Mama said...

I'd probably go with the old house. I love old houses. My parents always had newish houses and I call them cookie cutters. They were all pretty much the same.

But an old house does cost a lot of money. It will be a nightmare to heat (although I understand hot water radiators are actually more efficient than forced air) and there will always be something needing maintenance. But still, there's nothing else like having the home of your dreams....

Patois said...

I would absolutely want the old house, but would choose the new one in the end. With limited funds available to change the old house, it could take several years to get it where you want it to be. Your new house wouldn't need much additional money. Like I said, I'd want the old, but be content with the new. (And I wouldn't have to listen to my husband bitch about all the problems for the rest of my freakin' life. Oops. Sorry. Projecting.) Love, the old, funky house dweller.

Omaha Mama said...

The old house just sounds so charming. A perfect place to play hide and seek. I'll bet it's lovely. And a kid's wonderland. I picture beautiful moldings and a comfort you can't find in a new home.

But then, a two-car garage sure makes winters easier. No scraping! I'm afraid that would seal the deal for me.

Omaha Mama said...

Oh -and I also meant to add. Home will be home wherever your lovely little family lay their heads. It won't really matter. You'll be home wherever it is you go. :-)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

You need to call me sometime so we can discuss the merits of old vs. new. I have many ideas about it.

Aliki2006 said...

Old house, hands down. You seem to want it, I think.

Christina said...

Again, I'm in a new build, and I still say the old house. I wish we had gone with an older house, for a few reasons.

First, even with a new house, you're still going to dump money into fixing it up, landscaping, decorating from nothing, etc. And due to modern building materials (even if he's a great builder, he's still probably using some pre-framed pieces), houses just don't hold up as well in the long run.

Second, just hearing that the old house is in walking distance of several things makes me cheer for it. I didn't realize how much I miss having things in walking distance. We can walk around our little subdivision, but nowhere else. It would be nice to be able to walk to the library as a family.

A basement rec room would be lovely, along with A/C, but I think the location issue is a big one.

Mac and Cheese said...

I live in a new-ish house. I used to live in a heritage neighbourhood. I really miss the old place, and don't feel the same pride towards the new house compared to the old one, even though we now have at least twice the space.

kelly bee said...

we made this decision a year ago. we bought the new house and it no longer seems so shiny and new. it's ours. we added our family pictures to the walls and our memories to each room over time. it will only get better. it's so wonderful to have a place for everything. the new house even has a cubby for charging cell phones. and i know you NEED the bookshelves! i would think old house charm would fade when the kids are freezing in the car in the morning!!

slouching mom said...

old house, i think.

Angela said...

what a choice

Lisa b said...

The location of the old house sounds perfect and I have one of those retrofitted A/C systems as we have rads for heating.
It seems like you have two very good options but the old house is what I would choose.

kittenpie said...

Everything about the old house sounds perfect to me, but that's how I roll. I can't deal with new houses.

dawn224 said...

I totally hope this is a fun dilemma for you, I really do!

Sue said...

Oh, what an impossible decision. We've always purchased brand new homes, but I can see the appeal of something with history, and the location sounds so wonderful.

I always try to imagine living in the houses we look at. I walk through the reality of my life, where the laundry room is, where I could put my sheets, how far the other bedrooms are from the master, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes after that we have a clear winner.

JCK said...

This is such a personal decision. I wish you luck in the decision. I'm leaning toward the old house. It sounds really charming and full of character - and a great location for walking! New homes do take ALWAYS longer to build than they say. Always.

What about figuring out which rooms you spend the most time in now in your current house and figuring out which house has the best of those rooms? Hope that makes sense.

Em said...

I'm an old house kinda gal. we bought an 80 year old house and have not regreted it (not even the 80 year old toilet bowl!) plus, you old house sounds like it has a great location...


edj said...

Well, if you want my personal opinion, I just love older homes. They have such character. New homes are comfortable, of course, but there's a feel about old homes that can be so welcoming. They have good bones.
Let us know what you decide! Of course both have pros and cons. Hope you get more sleep soon.

nomotherearth said...

I'm usually Old House all the way - no question. I love the quirkiness and I grew up in one. AC is a dealbreaker for me though.

I mistrust the "ready by summer" though.

niobe said...

Yeah, you stacked the deck. But even if you hadn't, I'd vote for the old house, mostly because it sounds remarkably like mine.

But it's hard to get new houses in this part of the world, so that may be why I have so much trouble imagining living in one.

ahappiergirl said...

I vote old house. But maybe I just say that because I live in an old house myself. But I hate my neighborhood so technically I vote for the best neighborhood to suit your lifestyle. Good luck!

A Military Spouse said...

I agree about needing to know whether the old house has good bones. Have you considered having an inspection done before making an official offer? That may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but it sure could help make the decision and be worth the money out-of-pocket in the event that the inspector finds things that make it a definite no-no...

Even new houses eventually become old houses. And you ALWAYS have to put money into a house you move into in order to make it yours -- I don't care if it's two years old or 200.

Juile for WOW! said...

Definitely the old can't recreate that kind of charm and workmanship. I have yet to be in a new house that does not echo...Julie for WOW!

Bon said...

if it were me, i'd be all over the old house, and plan to renovate the kitchen and porch when i could.

but that's me. it's the location that would sell me...i hate to drive, and like to be able to walk places, especially a library.

but the basement does sound good...

Laural Dawn said...

Tough call.
Personally I'd go with the new house. But that's cause we're in an older house that needs a lot of upgrades (as we slowly afford stuff) and I hate that.
My sister bought an old house and LOVES it and it has way more character than any new house would.
My husband and brother in law both work with a lot of builders - if you want me to search out any background info on the new house builder feel free to e-mail me if it would help your decision any.

Marla said...

Of all the thoughtful things you've written about that I've ignored, here I am TWICE, because your dilemma is tantalizing.

I've read your comments, and the eleventy-hundred others, and would still go for the old house, if it were me. But it's not. But if it were me, as it kind of was when we chose our own old house years ago, I'd have to say that part of choosing the old house (and neighbourhood) was more about making our lives fit the old house than making the house fit us. It's been a great challenge, and while we've changed very few things in more than the most cosmetic ways, slowly and over time - I've realized we are more adaptable than the house is.

But it wasn't until I came across this while surfing this morning:

And I thought, I know what the Dalai Lama would choose here. And then I laughed, and thought it would make a great t-shirt:


Marla said...

Oh, darnit. Here it is!

Kyla said...

I'm boring and would choose the new house. All the repairs and little upgrades wouldn't be worth it for me.

Aurelia said...

You mentioned in your post that both houses are at the top of your affordability range. And both houses will need some serious money layouts, whether it's the 2K that knob and tube will cost me, we had "just a little" too...*eyeroll* or the cost overruns that the builder's house will come with.

No, I'm not joking, every new home built in our province is always over budget, and when they come calling asking for just 20K more to finish, you will have to come up with it, or lose the house.

So I vote for not moving at all until you can save up some more cash, or find something cheaper. I know it may not be a great solution, but you really don't want to get stuck with no money and a house you can't live in.

If you had to go for something, I'd say the old house, simply because you can control the cost of repairs. Builders on the other hand, hold all the cards. You will never know what kind of markup they charge.

DD said...

Have you researched how much insurance would be on either house? What about taxes?

As much as a romantic I am and adore older homes with "character", it sounds as if it will take at least 20% of whatever the purchase price is to make the old house comparable in amenities.

While it's close enough for your kids to walk, keep in mind that other kids and their parents will be driving...and usually fast. So you will have kids walking along a potentially busy thouroghfaire (sp).

I would agree that the contractor will probably not have the house ready in 6 months. They always use that estimate. If the weather in your area is temperate, it could actually be done. If he's new, the one huge advantage he has over builders who've been at it for years is that they are up on the latest efficiency items for newer homes and your home is less likely to look like a cookie cutter.

When it comes to home buying, you really have to rule with the head, not the heart.

painted maypole said...

whatever you pick, don't second guess yourself. you have the ability to be happy in either place.

Heather said...

The only thing I can say is flip a coin. If you are happy with the results you have your answer. If you are unhappy with the results, you still have your answer.

Kelly said...

Married to a historic preservationist, I cannot tell you to choose new over old. But I can tell you that our house built in 1927, and we have our fair share of problems.

My heart, though, still leans old. So much more character...

natalie said...

Yep, you definitely stacked the deck. You described the old house so beautifully that I want you to move there so I can live vicariously through you. The new house sounds nice too, and I hear you on keeping the videogames in their own zone. How great that you have these two wonderful options!

One thing that strikes me as odd and a wee bit baffling is this equation that keeps popping up in the comments: New House = Rational, Old House = Emotional. For instance, it seems rational to me to want your kids to be able to walk to school all their lives. And I second beck's very reasonable points about subdivisions.

Then again, I think Ruskin's rational.

Pieces said...

There is a lot to be said for character. There is also a lot to be said for a walk-in closet.

Good luck! And as someone already said--try not to second guess once you have decided. Both homes will be lovely places to raise your family.

ewe are here said...

I might be biased, seeing as we just moved into a spanking shing new house three weeks ago, but, other than the location, to me the new house sounds like a better 'home': you won't have to do as much to it or spend a lot to make it livable for you and your family.

Shannon said...

Oh, the old house, the old house. It sounds marvelous. At least in the states, they're built so much better than new ones. There's much to be said for being able to walk everywhere and, as far as I'm concerned, the importance of what you view as you look out cannot be overemphasized. We live in an older house - though not as old as that one - a block from the library and City Hall (where I work sometimes), walking distance from markets, stores, hairdressers (not that I ever see one), restaurants, etc., the ocean, several parks, schools, the river. The house is in an old neighborhood. The kitchen is somewhat small, the bedrooms are very small (as are the closets), we only have one bathroom (also small), and we have a one car garage we can't fit our cars in (for all the crap, mostly) - but we love the fireplace, the built-in shelving, the vaulted ceilings, the brickwork, the beams, the big windows, the landscaping - and the view (particularly as we don't have a television). Personally, I don't plan to leave until they carry me out feet first (hopefully a long, long time from now).

TrudyJ @ said...

I would always go for Old House over New House, but there is more maintenance, that's for sure (we're living in our Old House, which is only 60 years old, but still).

Wendy said...


Anonymous said...

I have lived in old and new and have had problems with both, but here are a few things to consider about the old house:

1. Is there lead paint on the walls and floors?
2. Is there proper drainage around the foundation?
3. How much insulation is in the walls?
4. Is there a lead service pipe connecting it to the town water?
5. Have the drains to the sewer have ever been updated or cleaned out?

If you can, get a contractor to take a look at the old house before you buy it. It took a contractor ten minutes to identify the lack of insulation in our walls (he removed an outlet cover on an outside wall and felt a draft) and a serious drainage problem (this was after we bought, of course!).

That being said, we love our walkable neighbourhood (the school is a five-minute walk and Tim Hortons is less than 10) and our neighbours are so nice. We're going to freeze a bit this winter, and renovate as we can afford to.

Janet said...

I'm an old house gal...except when I'm fed up with all the work to do around this old house. But I think the character and charm outweighs the work.

Good bones, my friend, good bones.

chickadee said...

i enjoyed reading your comparisons here. it sounds like a tough decision. in our area (rural us) building a new home was cheaper than buying an older home and remodeling. so that's what we did. while i didn't have the choice you have, i don't regret our decision. i was able to design exactly what i wanted in this home and it fits our needs very well.

i'll be eager to read what you finally decide.

Terri said...

Old house! Pick the old house! The location sounds ideal. That's what we've been looking for. We haven't been able to find an affordable old house in the area we want to live, but we did come across a six year old house built out of reclaimed wood from a 1903 farm house and it has much of the old house charm that we so love. It's a house we would plan to stay in a long time.

Good luck with your decision.

Marie said...

The old house sounds lovely. I grew up in an old house, though, and that certainly influenced my decision to go new. A warm, tight, clean new house vs. a drafty, frozen pipes in winter, dusty old house was my preference. And in our area as we looked at houses we realized it would be more economical to build new than try to buy old and renovate. And my grandfather sold us a piece of his land for a song and we're happily positioned beside a lovely cow pasture, with woods behind and beside us. Still, the old houses we were looking at were nothing like the one you described. From your description I'd lean towards the old one. I hope you come to a decision you have peace about!

luckyzmom said...

Not going to read what your 88 commenters have written already. I am just going to say that building your own home costs more and takes longer than you expect. If you are ready for that, and are able to customize it (some builders won't divert one nail from the plan) that would be my choice. Sounds to me like price and time would be the only advantage of the old house.

Now I'm going to read your comments.