Many people looking to purchase a home are often enticed by new-construction homes—and for good reason. In addition to that fresh, new-home smell, new construction homes offer the chance to truly make a home your own. With opportunities for exterior and interior customization and upgrades, new-build homes are often energy-efficient and come with lower maintenance costs than resale homes. Besides all of those benefits, the aesthetic appeal is especially alluring with all that fresh paint, new landscaping, and contemporary architecture. Also, new construction homes are often built in desirable, up-and-coming neighborhoods with newer shopping plazas and trendy restaurants nearby.
With all the benefits of buying a new construction home, the decision may seem like a no-brainer. However, there are some tips to know when buying a new construction home that will help you get the best home and price possible, and that knowledge may help you negotiate the upgrades and customizations that are important to you.
Read on to learn the top ten tips for buying a new-construction home.
1. Consider Hiring a Realtor
Although hiring a realtor when purchasing a new construction home is not technically necessary, it’s a really good idea. Realtors are pros at negotiating, and while there may not be much wiggle room on the price of a new-build home, a realtor can use their expert negotiating skills and home-purchasing knowledge to negotiate free or reduced-cost upgrades in your home.
It’s a smart idea for a buyer to have an advocate in their corner, one who doesn't work for the builder. And the best part? A realtor may be paid by the builder as part of their marketing fee. Just keep in mind that your agent must go with you to an initial visit, or if they're not present, don't give your name and contact info when you visit a model home. If they ask for that information, simply tell them you won’t give out your contact info until you come back with your realtor.
2. Find a Lender
Buyers will want to explore all of their financing options early on in their new construction homebuying process. Just like when buying a resale home, buyers need to get pre-approved if they're looking for a home loan. Most new development builders try to make the process as easy as possible for homebuyers and often work closely with preferred lenders whom they recommend to buyers.
While it’s always a good idea to get multiple quotes and to shop around, working with a preferred lender can come with some advantages. These preferred lenders have been vetted for you and are reputable, knowledgeable, and many times, flexible. Through their trusted partnership with the builder, they may be in a position to offer the best rates to new-construction homebuyers.
3. Tour the Models With a Skeptic’s Eye
Model homes are stunning. They’re designed to “wow” you, but be sure to take them with a grain of salt. These gorgeous showrooms are the result of the very best and most expensive upgrades, along with the help of a professional interior designer and home stager.
Homebuyers must look past the fine finishes and perfect staging of a model home and focus on the bones of the house—the floorplan, the flow, and the build of the home—to understand what a buyer should expect in a standard build at the base price without all of those pricey upgrades.
4. Consider Buying a Model Home
If you time it right, you may be able to snag a model home for a great deal, upgrades and all. If you're willing to take a chance and wait it out, you may be able to snatch up one of those gorgeous model homes you’ve toured.
After a certain percentage of homes in a development have sold, the builder may become ready to offload the model homes for a good price. The upside is that you’ll get a beautiful home with all the expensive upgrades, and you may even be able to negotiate the furnishings you like to be included in the price. The catch is, however, that you may not know when the builder will be ready to sell the models, and you won’t be able to, of course, customize a model to your personal taste.
5. Know Your Builder
Be sure to research the builder of the development to get a better understanding of what their reputation is and what they're known for. All builders are not created equal, and some are renowned for specializations such as energy efficiency (Shea Homes) or active-adult communities (Del Webb).
It’s always a good idea to read reviews from homeowners who have purchased homes from the same builder that you’re considering to get an idea of the quality of their work.
6. Come Armed With Questions
If you’ve narrowed down a development and are ready to talk with a salesperson, be sure to come ready with a list of important questions to ask. Some questions you may want to consider are:
Who will be your point of contact during your new home build?”
You’ll want to know who you can contact to find out about the progress of your build or if you change your mind about upgrades or finishes.
Which features are included as standard and which are considered upgrades?
You'll want to know exactly what you’ll get if you buy a basic new-build home and what the standard finishes are. Then you can choose what or if you’d like to upgrade those finishes at an additional cost.
How often can you visit or view the home during construction?
Many people find it exciting or prudent to visit their home during its build and keep up-to-date on its progress. Find out if this is even possible, and if so, how and when you can visit.
What percentage of the homes have sold thus far?
You’ll want to know what’s available, and if a high percentage of homes have already sold, that may affect the price.
7. Consider a Home Inspection
Many people who purchase a new construction home bypass a traditional home inspection because they assume a brand-new house is structurally sound and they don’t foresee any issues with maintenance. In an ideal world, a home inspector wouldn’t be needed before the purchase of a new-build home, but unfortunately, issues can arise. While the homebuilder takes care of city and county inspections, it behooves a buyer to hire a professional home inspector who can spot structural issues and make sure a home is built up to code.
A home inspector can inspect issues as the home is being built too, before the builders have the chance to cover mistakes with drywall or cosmetic fixes. For peace of mind and negotiating power, consider hiring a professional home inspector during a new construction purchase. The few hundred dollars it costs to pay one can potentially save you thousands off the asking price if there are issues or off the price of maintenance down the road.
8. Know Your Closing Date
Find out a new home’s closing date and ask what may happen if there's a delay in construction. There are many reasons why a build may be delayed, such as bad weather, labor shortages, or delayed materials. You’ll want to know exactly what your options are if there's a significant delay in the building of your new home as this directly affects your current living situation.
A builder is customarily required to set a closing date, and if they cannot finish by that date, they may be required to provide compensation to the future homeowner. However, a builder may also provide a tentative closing date, in which case they can change the date, provided they do so with sufficient notice.
9. Study the Builder’s Contract
The closing date, as well as other important dates, are typically listed in the builder’s contract or new-home sales contract—a document you’ll want to read through with a fine-toothed comb. It’s this important contract that a homebuyer will reference to figure out when they need to have all their design choices finalized, when they need to have financing approved by, when the fixed or tentative closing date is listed, and other important deadlines. The builder’s contract, much like a resale home contract, lists what the homebuyer’s financial obligations are and the terms of the contract.
10. Be Prepared to Walk Away
As with any home purchase, be prepared to walk away if the home doesn't meet your criteria. New construction homes are easy to fall in love with, especially after you’ve imagined yourself having coffee in one of the beautifully decorated model home kitchens.
But when it comes to buying a home, it’s truly best practice to not get emotionally attached. Buying a home can be, understandably, a very emotional process, but attempting to think of the process as a business transaction will help you keep a cool head and avoid buyer’s remorse or paying more than you budgeted for.