Good Question Marcy,
As someone who not only knows the ins and outs of buying new construction, but how to determine if that new construction is well built, or they are cutting corners and the home will have problems down the road, and, as someone who can walk into any home and tell you if there problems you should know about, which the home owner and listing agent have not disclosed (because they have no clue about these things), my answer will be tempered with a more comprehensive answer.
To a degree, this is a personal preference, but, the more you know BEFORE you act, the better position you will be in to make the best decision for YOU.
There are pros and cons for each type home as identified by either + or - :
+More energy efficient
+Newer roof and main systems HVAC etc - this will give you time before any major repairs are needed - HOWEVER, many existing homes have taken care of this, so it can be moot
+Attractive floor plans and you may be able to select colors and options
-New construction is almost always more expensive than a comparable existing home - and usually smaller sq ft
-Depending on price range less durable finish materials - lots of MDF as opposed to wood
-Lots are often but not always poorer - good buildable land is harder to find
-New home lots are getting smaller and smaller
-A cluster home will often be harder to sell in the future
-New home builder contracts can be extremely one sided in the builders favor - leaving you little latitude to address quality issues - the standard regarding workmanship is very vague and you agree to go by this definition! **There are many more clause than can greatly inconvenience you - like construction delays can be increased from 5 months to 1 year - and you agree to this!
Existing Home (10-15yrs)
+ Often come with extras that add value - such as nice homeowner upgrades superior to the original builders product: Granite Counters, Upgraded Lights, Better Appliances, Finished Basements -(a big value and sq ft bonus), covered or screened decks, etc
+ Established landscaping and upgraded landscaping installations
- Unless replaced, has older roof, HVAC etc - you can be hit with multiple $3 - $6K type repairs, depending on condition at purchase, in as little as 1-2 years to 5+ years. Unless you have an expert look at the house you won't know - most inspectors are either not qualified to provide this type analysis, or are reluctant to.
There are many more pros and cons, but the point is, you need an expert who is not opposed to telling you like it is, and of course who has the ability to tell it like it is, in order for you to make to make a fully informed and sound decision. Then you need someone who can help you move forward in the right way to make your decision come to fruition and turn out like you hoped it would.
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