If you're thinking of ... Buying new vs. remodeling

New homes are popping up all over Whatcom County. What was an open expanse of woods or a field one day can be filled with rows of new houses in a matter of months and for-sale signs are prevalent throughout these neighborhoods.

Certainly, it feels great to walk into a house that smells of fresh paint and new carpet. Plus, the idea of living in a house that no one else has had before may be enticing. But there are other things buyers should consider when thinking about buying new construction versus an older home.

Jon Hansen, a real estate agent with Lakeway Realty in Bellingham, explains that a brand-new home typically comes with a one- or two-year warranty. This peace of mind allows the homeowner to focus on enjoying life rather than fixing up their house. There is no immediate upkeep and nothing to fix.

“Everything in a new home, including the floor plan, appliances, decorating and exterior, is usually more modern and cutting edge,” says Hansen.

Jan Hayes, a Bellingham residential building designer and owner of Domistyle Design, sees things a bit differently.

“I have not seen anything in new construction that offers the kind of detail and warmth that an older home has,” says Hayes. “Things like inlaid tiles in a fireplace hearth, an old porch, interesting windows, and style and history are all absent in a new house.”

Remodel costs can quickly become an issue in both new and older homes and remodeling is not necessarily cheaper than building or buying new, according to Hayes. A basic kitchen remodel can cost $30,000 to $50,000 — more if you want the high-end professional look. A bathroom re-do can cost $18,000 to $25,000 — more if you have to move walls and plumbing. A whole house re-carpeting can cost $8,000 to $10,000.

“Buyers need to ask themselves: ‘Do I like this house well enough to invest even more in it?’ when looking at an older home,” says Hayes.