Buying new construction is usually more complicated and intimidating than buying a resale home. Having a local expert Realtor represent you who has experience with newly constructed homes can save you money and heartache.
As real estate agents with an extensive background in new construction, we’re always amazed at how many buyers don’t realize they can be represented by a Realtor when buying a newly constructed home or building a custom home. You most definitely can, and here are the reasons why you should. But be aware that builder contracts and the building process is different from what most real estate agents deal with on a daily basis, so hiring a Realtor with new construction experience is critical.
The other important thing to be aware of when buying new construction is that usually the agents in model homes and sales offices represent the builder, and will naturally be looking out for the builders’ best interest, not yours. However, the agent representing you will be able to guide you through the process and take advantage of the following considerations.
#1 Best Time to Buy
A lot of the national builders are publicly traded companies. They need to meet sales goals and answer to the shareholders of that company. For that reason, toward the end of a quarter, builders tend to be more aggressive with their incentives in order to meet these sales goals.
The December holiday season is another great time to buy. Most of the country is out shopping and traveling to see family. Very few people shop for homes this time of the year. For that reason, ’tis the season to find some great incentives to purchase a new home.
#2 Builder List Prices
Surprise — builders don’t like to reduce their prices. If they do, it sets a precedent for future home sales. Builders are more likely to pay for closing costs or offer design center incentives than to drop their prices.
Builders are not like regular sellers. They are not emotionally attached to the property. They make decisions based on what is best for their bottom line. There is something known as the time value of money, which means that money available at the now is worth more than the same amount of money later.
What does that mean practically? It means that every day a builder has a home that is sitting for sale on the market, they are losing money. Look for builder inventory homes that have been on the market for 45 days or more. When buying new construction, these are the homes in which a buyer might be able to get a good deal.
Side note: Some new-home buyers think that if they do not use an agent for their purchase, the builder will reduce the price of the home by the amount of the commission. For the most part, this cannot be further from reality. Builders do not want to reduce their prices because it sets the comparison price for future home sales in that neighborhood. Builders instead add the commissions paid to a buyer’s agent into the marketing budgets of the homes. If a buyer goes to a new-home builder without a real estate agent, either the builder’s agent or the builder will pocket that money.
#3 Get It In Writing!
Getting everything in writing seems obvious, but what the builder’s agent says during a showing of a new-construction home is sometimes not an accurate statement of what the builder will or will not do. If something said is important to you, get it in writing.
The majority of larger builders will have lengthy, attorney-written, intimidating-looking purchase agreements that cover all the pertinent details of the new-home purchase. Ensure you read through and are familiar with the purchase agreement. Your Realtor should be familiar with most of the contracts already and can point out any areas of concern.
#4 What You See Is What You Get, Right? Wrong!
A builder’s model home might not be a good representation of what comes standard with the home. Often the model home is a high-end version of the standard home. It is the builder’s showcase home and a way for the builder to show off many of the stellar upgrades it can offer. The builder hopes a buyer will like these upgrades and ultimately add them to the purchase of the home. In general, these upgrades have good profit margins for the builder.
When touring the model home, find out exactly what features are standard, what options are available, and, of course, what any additional options will cost. And as always, get it in writing! Keep in mind that each builder will have their own set of standard items that come with a house. A standard item for one builder often is an upgrade for another.
#5 Model Homes for Sale
Did you know that often you can purchase the model home? These showcase homes for the builder will be available for sale either as soon as they are built, or just prior to when the community is built out. The builders have packed great upgrades and features into the model and often sell them at a very good value for the buyer. If they sell the model early in the process, they typically rent it back from the buyer for the remaining time they use the home as their model. Typically, the rental amount will exceed the buyer’s mortgage. This is another way buying new construction can be a very good opportunity!
#6 Is the Builder Reputable?
A Realtor with new construction experience will know which builders have the best reputations for building quality homes and will offer stellar customer service. Further, production builders who build nationally have a completely different process than local builders who have a stake in their local reputation. It doesn’t mean that a large national builder won’t build a quality house, but their process won’t allow for much customization and there will be very little flexibility. The trade off is typically that their prices per square foot are lower. A smaller, local builder on the other hand will typically allow you to make more changes to their plans and specifications, but the house will cost more. Your Realtor will be able to ascertain which will be a better fit for you and help eliminate surprises and disappointment along the way, ensuring a better experience and happy end result.
#7 Using a Builder’s Lender
Builder’s love it when a buyer uses their preferred lender. In most cases, they will even offer some enticing incentives to ensure a buyer chooses the preferred lender. Even so, a buyer should not just automatically use this lender. They should shop around and find the best loan for them, not for the builder. Depending on the incentives the builder is offering, using the builder’s lender might be an excellent option for a buyer, but that’s not a given. Your Realtor can help you make the right choice.
#8 Get It Inspected
Although homes being built must meet local building codes, sometimes things are missed. I always recommend my clients have their home inspected by a third party professional home inspector prior to the closing. It’s surprising how often there will be a fairly long list of items, occasionally major, that need to be addressed.
#9 Extra Set of Eyes
As Realtors with past home building experience, we know that there are wide variances with what acceptable workmanship is and what is considered a defect. Having a Realtor with new construction experience adds a second set of eyes to oversee the building process and evaluate the final result, making sure the quality of construction is in line with industry norms.
#10 Ongoing Builder Reputations
You will probably buy only one home from a builder, but a Realtor is likely to bring many buyers who will be buying many of the builders’ homes. Because of that, builders tend to be very responsive to a Realtor, especially one who understands the process and helps the buyers navigate their way successfully. Why not profit from that relationship, especially when it’s the builder who will be paying the Realtor’s commission, not you! So, if you are buying new construction, it is smart to use a realtor.