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New Build vs Period Property: Understanding the Pros and Cons

17.08.2023

Buying a property comes with multiple decisions, not least whether to opt for a beautiful period home packed with original features or a modern, efficient and low-maintenance new build that is ready to move into – and can often be fitted out according to your preferences.

There is no right or wrong decision, and much depends on personal taste, there are positives and negatives to either option, with considerations around aesthetics, maintenance costs, and the likelihood of being part of a potentially complex chain.

As a leading property specialist working across West Sussex, Tod Anstee has put together some of our advice about the factors to bear in mind if you are comparing these two very different property types.

The Process of Purchasing a New Build or Heritage Home

There are several new build developments in West Sussex, with newly constructed properties in high-demand areas such as Chichester, Horsham, Angmering and West Wittering, juxtapositioned with character homes, rural barn conversions and listed cottages with a wealth of history.

Many homebuyers have a preconceived idea of the type of home they imagine themselves living in, with some aspiring to an ultra-modern contemporary property and others looking for period constructions that have been sympathetically and gently modernised.

However, if you are undecided, the practicalities from a maintenance, purchasing and long-term valuation perspective may help you make informed decisions about the right way forward for you and your family.

The first relates to the process of purchasing a property, where newly built homes are often sold by the developer, free of chains, and with inclusive warranties against the quality of the construction and the fixtures and fittings included within the sale value.

Period homes are a rather different prospect and are more commonly part of a property chain, although this is not always the case. Longer waiting times may be a consideration if you are keen to buy as quickly as possible. Still, for those who love nothing more than a cast-iron fireplace, oak beams or locally sourced brickwork, the extra few weeks may be a compromise worth making.

It is also advisable to work with an independent local agent when purchasing through a developer or when buying a property that has yet to be completed to offset the potential risks linked with construction delays, postponing the date by which you can move in.

Capital Appreciation on Period Homes and New Builds

Although the choice of a home to live in is less likely to be viewed as an investment decision, it remains important to be conscious of the likelihood that a property you buy today will continue to grow in value over the years – meaning you have more options if you decide to sell or relocate in the future.

As a general rule of thumb, Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian properties are sound investments, whereas the convenience and ease of a new-build tend to be a more relevant option for first-time buyers and buy-to-let investors.

Homes with unique characteristics such as high ceilings, original fireplaces, coving, ceiling roses and ornate carpentry retain their value well, especially when maintained and preserved for future generations, since these homes are becoming in shorter supply and higher demand.

Although an older construction may require more investment to improve its energy efficiency, the returns achievable are excellent, where conserving unusual features can make a period home more desirable and attract a higher valuation than similarly sized new builds.

It is also worth considering the ‘price drop’, where a new build attracts a premium as a newly finished residence that has never been lived in before. Just as new vehicles fall in value once driven away from the showroom, a new home may not retain its original listing price – although this will depend on many other variables, such as location.

The Costs of Maintaining a Character Home

Undoubtedly one of the drawbacks of a heritage property is that the maintenance costs are higher, with many sold without modern fitted appliances. A new build will often be built with private parking, efficient insulation and damp proofing, but these features may not apply equally to older homes.

Many developers and house builders offer a level of customisation where buyers can specify the appliances, flooring and décor they wish to have, although premium fittings tend to come at an additional cost.

If your heart is set on a period home, the best strategy is to ensure you have an independent survey before completing, which will indicate any areas that require attention, such as issues with the roofline, heat retention or glazing – it is often possible to factor these upgrades into your offered price.

In contrast, older homes are often located in prime positions, and newer homes tend to be constructed on estates and plots of land that have been acquired intentionally. Period properties, for example, can be found in central city areas and prestigious postcodes where it would be impossible for any developer to secure planning permission to create new buildings.

Adding Value to Period and New Build Residences

One of the areas where period homes outperform new builds is that there is often a far greater potential to add value, whether through maintaining and preserving features and finishes that appeal to a broad array of buyers or expanding and improving the functionality and efficiency of an older property.

Most new builds are built with an open plan specification ideal for family living and tend to have level gardens mainly planted as turf, which appeal to most buyers and are easy to maintain.

However, there may be limited opportunities to extend or improve the condition and aesthetic of the property, which means the value is dependent on the housing market and average sale prices, without any obvious ways to augment the saleable value of your home.

Period properties were often built with smaller rooms and multiple internal walls to preserve heat in the colder months and sometimes with bathrooms downstairs, a common feature in Victorian terraced housing.

By extending outwards or upwards, converting the loft, revising the internal layout and maximising natural sunlight flowing through bay windows, period property owners can make a significant difference to the feel and style of the property while accenting those desirable features that buyers look for.

Caveats apply to listed buildings or those within conservation areas. However, investing in new features such as improved energy efficiency fittings or adding bi-fold doors to conservatories and garden rooms can be a viable way to boost the property’s value by more than the initial investment.

For more guidance on the pros and cons of new builds and character homes, please contact the Tod Anstee team. Alternatively, you are welcome to browse properties for sale throughout West Sussex via our online listings.