By: Jessica, U.S. Coast Guard Wife
This summer marked my sixth move in 13 years of marriage. I kind of knew what I signed up for when I fell in love with a Coastie, but can’t quite say I had a full picture of the adventures…especially when it comes to all the “home sweet homes” we’d have.
During our 13 years of marriage we’ve owned four homes. I know—we aren’t normal. Well, actually we are when you compare our home-buying habits with other military families. We’ve bought old houses, new houses, etc. (Yes, it’s safe to say our home-buying habits sound a little like Dr. Seuss’ writing style.)
I won’t exactly call us experts on home buying, but I can definitely share the pros and cons of each we’ve owned.
Picture a 1913 colonial-style beauty. That was our first home. So beautiful and so much charm. It was in a historic part of town, and from the moment you entered the door you could imagine where the Christmas tree would go. I had visions of how many hours I’d spend reading books by the fireplace. (This house was totally pre-kids.)
- Absolute character. Crown molding, real wood floors stained and nicked from years of use.
- Well built. An older home was more than likely built by a smaller team than today’s builds. If you buy a home today, you’ll quickly learn it takes hundreds of contractors and subcontractors to complete a build. Historically, homes were built by smaller teams. Know what that means? Higher quality when more oversight is present.
- Our home looked like nothing else on the block.
- Porches = Community. Keep in mind, older homes didn’t have central air. If you wanted to keep cool, you’d spend time outside on your front porch socializing with neighbors about how hot it was. Know what happened? You had close relationships with your neighbors. The great thing is you can still use that old porch to create modern-day memories.
- Established community. With older neighborhoods you know what you’re getting. You’ll get greenery that has been growing for years. You’ll also get an established community.
- Lack of storage. Back in the day, I guess most families had “enough,” but not a surplus of everything. Closet space was at a minimum, and for a “typical” family of today you might find it tricky to cram your life into an older home space.
- Upgrades galore. We had knob-and-tube wiring. Google that sucker. We had to replace the old-school way of electrical wiring prior to reselling it because very few people love the charm and safety risk that came with older ways of home building.
- Old Problems = Higher Insurance. We had a leak in our ceiling in our formal dining room. The day they went to investigate the issue, we quickly learned our home had black mold and asbestos. We ended up moving to an apartment for seven months while our home was under containment and having its old home issues fixed. (Bonus was we got an updated kitchen and repaired wood flooring.)
Pro Tip: As you upgrade and make the home “newer,” make sure to keep your receipts. Track the investment you’ve spent on the home so you can showcase it when you resell it.
Our latest purchase was a new build. We bought a spec home, so we didn’t get to customize it, but we did get to experience many of the bonuses that come with a new home.
- It’s modern. You can pick the latest technology for your home.
- It’s customizable. You can pick colors, appliances, roofing, flooring, handles, mirrors, etc. You name it, you get to pick it.
- It comes with a one to two-year warranty. It’s pretty dreamy. Back door jams? Call warranty. Garage door having issues? It’s covered.
- Insurance is lower. Newer homes are a lower risk to insure.
- Hundreds of people have built your house. People are humans. Humans make errors. Three months into our new home purchase, they had to completely gut our master shower due to a human error. (Thank God for the warranty.)
- Pick your model. More than likely your house will resemble many of the other houses in the neighborhood.
- Homeowners Association (HOA). Working on your car out front? You might get a citation from the HOA. Palm tree dying in the front lawn? Here’s your ticket. You always have a big brother watching you. (Although, that’s not always a con when you go to resell.)
Pro Tip: Mark your calendar to get a home inspection three months before your warranty expires. Then you can make sure your house is at 100% before your new home build warranty expires.
There’s truly no right or wrong choice. My number one tip is always use an agent. Even when purchasing a new build, having someone negotiate on your behalf is always helpful. Besides that, agents have been there, done that. The pro tips I shared here were both items we learned from agents along the way.
Old home or new home—I’m certain your military life will provide many memories in all your home sweet homes!