I get this over and over. And over. Buyers want a recently built, large, immaculate, pimped-out house with a finished basement in South Brunswick or Plainsboro or West Windsor, all for the reasonable price of under $600,000. It’s not happening, folks. That ship sailed years ago. If you’ve been following the local real estate market, you know that several townhouse developments are being built with prices starting at $500,000, and all new construction of houses in this neck of the woods is aimed at buyers willing to cough up $800,000 or more.

What’s driving new construction prices up is economics: Available land in the Greater Princeton area is as rare as pretzels at a wedding buffet and builders need to squeeze as much profit out of new homes as possible. The same goes for mini developments such as High Point Estates or Point of Woods, where prices after upgrades run north of a million.

Small houseAre there lower-priced homes around? Sure. Timber Ponds. Highgate Manor. Summerfield. “But those are old houses!” you say. So are the White House and most homes in Princeton. And Timber Ponds was completed in the 1990s.

I’ve run into a good many buyers who are deathly afraid of “older” homes, defined as anything older than five or *gasp* ten years. I don’t understand their logic and try to explain to them that houses are not like cars that offer new features every year and start to rust and wobble loose after three. Wood is wood, sheetrock is sheetrock, and all the pipes, wires and fittings that make a house work don’t degrade over time.

Sure, water heaters and roofs and windows need to be replaced every now and again, but many “older” homes on the market boast just such refurbishing. A house with a new roof, windows, furnace, water heater and kitchen appliances is just as sound and pretty as when it was a shiny new-construction wonder years ago.

Look, face reality—you need a place to live, you want to be in South Brunswick and you’re on a budget. Buy a nice house that will suit your lifestyle and redecorate it to your liking over time. That’s what everyone else has done for years. But don’t shoot for the stars with a popgun; that’s just not gonna happen.

Bo Twerdowsky

Real estate agent, self-professed computer geek, grammar policeman, proud father of two. Opinionated, questioning, intolerant of stuffy sorts devoid of a sense of humor.