BUYING A HOME: Newly-built (constructed) or remodel an old house – I have an opinion and tips!*

Vol. 4, No.20, Monday, August 26, 2013

TITLE: “BUYING A HOME: Newly-built (constructed) or remodel an old house – I have an opinion and tips!*”


With the extensive remodeling being carried out in my new home, it brought to mind the question of whether to buy a newly built (constructed) house or purchase and renovate an old one. There are pros and cons for each.  Therefore, my book of the week isThe Old House Handbook: The Essential Guide to Care and Repair” by Roger Hunt and Marianne Suhr. (Editor’s Note: This is another post in a continuing series on home and gardens..)


Past: Many of the houses in which I lived, were brand new.  The newness of  a house was definitely a big attraction for me. And oh yes, I really like the smell of new wood.

Present: My new home is an older house … but not too old – approximately 40 years old.  I do admit that from a construction quality point of view, the house is solid and better built. But the architectural design was not up-to-date.  For instance, there was no space for a built-in dishwasher – this is unheard of in new houses. We had to do extensive remodeling. We made it suitable for our needs. We wanted modern conveniences. We also like comfort and easy access.

Future: With new houses, you usually have to move further out from the city. You probably need a second car and usually fight traffic and rush hour.  Not everybody is prepared to do so.  In my city, condos are being built all over. In the heart of downtown, they are very luxurious and selling at an expensive price. Many of the buyers are older and very rich. Surprisingly, there are also those young and successful – these 30+ are moving into these condos and loving it.

A story or two: Someone I know bought an old gray stone house.  The first thing that they had to do was strip it down removing all of its electrical wirings and plumbing piping.  It cost them a small fortune.

THE AUTHOR: Roger Hunt, co-author (with Marianne Suhr)

Roger Hunt –This author and blogger appreciates architecture and is knowledgeable of materials and techniques used in construction. He knows about homes in Great Britain, both past and present, especially in a non urban setting. He is something of an expert known as a lecturer, serving as a judge of for new housing awards and sitting on the editorial board of the SPAB magazine.

Marianne Suhr – She is a Chartered Building Surveyor specializing in the repair of historic buildings. She had a scholarship with the SPAB and then had seven years experience in architectural practice. She also got her hands dirty repairing  many old houses. She is a lecturer and has given courses. She is a consultant.



Here are several:

·        Colonels in Blue–Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee: A Civil War Biographical Dictionary by Roger D. Hunt (Jan 20 2014)

·        A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: Eastern and Central North America by Joseph T. Collins, Roger Conant, Roger Tory Peterson and Isabelle Hunt Conant (May 15 1998)

·        Process Plant Layout and Piping Design by Ed Bausbacher and Roger Hunt (Jul 22 1993)

·        Villages of England: Photographs by Richard Turpin by Richard Turpin (Photographer) Roger Hunt (1999)

·        The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, with Reminiscences of Friends and Contemporaries, and with Thornton Hunt’s Introduction… by Leigh Hunt, Roger Ingpen and Thornton Leigh Hunt (Aug 29 2010)

THE BOOK: The Old House Handbook: The Essential Guide to Care and Repair by Roger Hunt and Marianne Suhr (Nov 18 2008)

If you have a house that is not newly-built never occupied, this book is for you. If  maintenance is on your mind, the book is helpful. If you must do repairs, this book gives you an edge. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings thinks that you should conserve old houses and buildings – each is an architectural treasure. Their approach is not ‘restoration’; the risk is high that the historical legacy of any old building will be lost. Instead, the book encourages respect, restraint and repair.

It is a practical guide to home repair projects. If you start with foundation – it goes from the ground up. If you start with the roof, it’s the top down. In between, there are windows and doors, ceilings, walls and floors. Also don’t forget painting and finishing.


There are advantages to buying a new house … also disadvantages. The same can be said for purchasing and renovating an older home.

Personal Comments

I say:

  • That depending on how old the house is, you could be doing renovations for a long time to come.
  • That buying a ‘fixer-upper’ can be rewarding because the remodeling will be according to your taste.  But you really need a lot of patience to get through it.
  • That living in a neighborhood with older houses, you run the risk of facing neighborhood cliques. You see, I used to watch “Peyton Place.” More recently, I watched “Desperate Housewives.” I think you get the picture.
  • That depending on the renovations, an older house can cost you more than a new one.
  • That big backyards and mature trees, which you typically can find in an older neighborhood, are hard to find in a new neighborhood.
  • That older houses are more solid and better built.
  • That new houses are better designed and the layout of the house is better divided and useful.  Basements are at a regular height and can be used.
  • That with a new house, you generally don’t have to worry about renovations for awhile.
  • That in new neighborhoods, big trees are scarce.

The Point

It’s easier to make a newly-built house your personal castle. But, with a house built a long time ago, while it takes great time, effort and money, you get the added bonus of charm.  The house that meets your needs truly becomes a home.


Every prospective house-buyer must:

1. Figure out what  are the priorities if you’re in the market to buy a house?

2. Note that an older house:

(a)    Is usually solid and better built;

(b)   Has a large backyard – chances are that there are big beautiful trees;

(c)    Requires in most cases, a lot of renovations;

(d)   Is of an architectural design, which does not have modern conveniences;

(e)    Has a basement with a ceiling that isn’t high enough;

(f)     Is not energy efficient – chances are it lacks proper insulation.

2.  Note that a newer house:

(a)    Includes most modern conveniences of today;

(b)   Has a smaller backyard with smaller trees, if any;

(c)    Requires minimal renovations;

(d)   Is built up to code;

(e)    Is built cheaper, although anesthetically beautiful;

(f)     Is probably located in a suburban area.

3. Write down your pros and cons for an older house versus a new one.  Then make your choice according to your needs.

I’m home sweet home, although I have been using a hammer and screwdriver  more than a cooking pan and a serving spoon!

And that’s my thought of the week on books, what’s yours?*
Take it out for a spin and tell me if you agree.
“Books are life; and they make life better!*”


P.S. Big News: There are more changes coming to my blog – Please stay tuned.

P.P.S. #1 I have a TWITTER page. Consider becoming a follower? Visit –   saveandread
P.P.S. #2 I also have a FACEBOOK page. Consider becoming a friend? Visit: – Alp Save Andread – please check it out.
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The above is a new media production of Valente under its “United Author*” program.
*TM/© 2013 Practitioners’ Press Inc. – All Rights Reserved.




For today, my word/phrase(s) are: “new homes”; etc …

“New home sales is an economic indicator which records sales of newly constructed residences in the United States of America.” (Source: Wikipedia the free encyclopedia) –


“Although the United States is more than 200 years old, its housing inventory is young. In 2001, just 8.3 percent of all American housing was built before 1920.

This report examines housing units built 82 years or more ago (which are referred to as old units), and compares their characteristics with those of units built after 1989 (which are referred to as new units). The data are from the 2001 American Housing Survey (AHS), National Sample.

Old housing is important for several reasons. Despite its small proportion of the total housing stock, old homes account for about 10 million housing units and were the primary residence of 8.6 million households. Because of their age, these units may present particular problems in housing quality and safety, but they may also have unique characteristics (aside from any historical significance) that could make them desirable homes.

Finally, given that the median price of new single−family homes sold in 2001 was $175,200, these old houses may provide more affordable opportunities for homeownership. “ (Source: U.S. Census Bureau –


S & R*NEWS ALERT*#1: 5 ways to make sure that you are buying the right home

“Finding a home and getting a deal signed, sealed and delivered is one of the biggest and most emotionally-charged decisions that people ever make.

In fact, a recent Bank of Montreal report found that 80 per cent of prospective homebuyers know if a house is the one the moment they step inside.

According to Phil Dorner, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association, while that initial feeling is important, buyers should keep in mind that there are several other factors to consider before making a final decision

Although your initial feeling about a property is a powerful force, make sure to follow these five steps to help ensure that you aren’t going to be faced with unwelcome surprises, says Dorner.

Here are five important steps for prospective buyers to take before making any decisions:

Talk to the neighbours: The best way to get an idea of what it would be like to live in a particular neighbourhood is to talk to someone who already lives there. Chat with neighbours about the community, schools, commute and any potential surprises that you should know about.

Work with a local Realtor: Look for a Realtor who works in the area and knows the ins and outs of the community. Asking friends, family and colleagues for references is a great place to start. Another good way to find a Realtor active in the area is to go to open houses in the neighbourhood.

Get a home inspection: In Ontario, a home inspection reports on the condition of the roof, structure, foundation, drainage, heating, cooling, plumbing, insulation, walls, doors and electrical system. The cost of a home inspection can vary so do your research and make sure to choose a qualified home inspector who will also inform you of the scope and limitations of the inspection.

Check with the city: Visit your local building department and find out if any new developments are planned. Check to see how many owners have applied to build homes or additions that are larger than the by-law permits [UTF-8?]– this gives an indication of the neighbourhood’s future.

When it comes to making a home buying decision, do your homework and be sure to enlist a real estate professional to guide you through the process.”

S & R*NEWS ALERT*#2: Energy-saving concrete walls will weather any storm

(NC) “More frequent hurricane winds, tornados, spontaneous fire, flooding and drought in Canada is motivating the construction industry to point out a ready-made solution for far more durable materials and methods. Green technology has already developed an energy-saving option to replace standard wood framing with an interlocking concrete system using pre-assembled, ‘insulated concrete forms’.

Occupant safety is one good reason to build a stronger, wind- and fire-resistant home as meteorologists confirm the extreme weather patterns due to 16 years of higher than normal temperatures across Canada, says Todd Blyth at Nudura, a leading name in the supply of insulated concrete forms. Significant energy savings is another. More and more buildings in North America, including private homes, are opting for concrete. As demonstrated year after year, the impact resistance of ICF buildings protects it from storm winds up to 250 miles per hour. It is also more structurally sound during floods and the fire resistance is up to 4 hours. With a solid, reinforced concrete envelope, your energy bills can be reduced up to 70 per cent.

Our Nudura forms interlock, like Lego, to create one monolithic wall with a thickness from 4 to 12 inches, Blyth continued. By combining two panels of thick (EPS) foam with the structural strength and thermal mass of concrete, the walls can provide an efficiency rating as high as R-50, compared to an average R20 in wood structures. You get a far stronger, lower-cost home, with a warm and inviting indoor atmosphere.

On the outside, the concrete structure can be finished with smart-looking brick, or even more creatively with stone, stucco, wood, or vinyl siding. And inside, says Blyth, the aesthetics accommodate all the dream features as well. Innovative architectural shapes such as arches, bay windows, and specific door styles are easily achieved to meet the desired interior design.

Interior comforts

Concrete is strong and it is also occupant-friendly. In a standard wood-framed home, the outside cold easily travels through the walls causing thermal bridging and creating uncomfortable chilly spots in various rooms. Alternatively, walls built with a solid concrete core address and prevent thermal bridging to deliver even temperatures throughout the house.

The interior atmosphere is comfortable and quiet, Blyth continued. Reinforced concrete is an effective sound barrier. It dampens vibrations from outside noise, such as traffic, trains, and neighborhood parties. Sound-proofing is a true bonus of the ICF building system and so is the investment value of the home. It is generally expected that a stronger, safer, greener home, and one that is more durable, more cost efficient, and needs less maintenance and repair, will steadily increase in resale value.

Be aware, he adds, that the request to build your walls with concrete must be made early in the planning stage. More information is available online at”

*TM/© 2013 Practitioners’ Press Inc. – All Rights Reserved.

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