If you are considering buying a newly-constructed home you should be aware that this is much different than buying an existing home and there are things you should know BEFORE you buy! This report will help you avoid the pitfalls some new home buyers make as well as help assure that your new home experience is a good one! To get the most out of this, you are going to want to read it all the way through as I have saved most of the "good things" about buying new for the end.
Buying a new home, as opposed to an existing home, is generally more expensive. Why? Because if you are buying a new home, assuming it is not a distressed sale of some sort, you are going to have to pay at least 100% of the cost to acquire the lot and build the home. Plus, unless the builder does not wish to remain in the business, you will need to pay an amount that not only covers the cost to build but also covers builder's overhead related to that home and a profit to the builder. If you are buying an existing home, you are going to pay what the market will bear, or what you can negotiate. In many cases, the price you pay for an existing home will be less than the cost to replace the home.
There is another "non-financial" investment you will have to invest in a new home and that is a time investment as well as an emotional investment. The time investment will vary depending on what type of new home you are buying. If you are buying a "spec" home (a home the builder built on speculation with the expectation of selling it after it is complete) then, from a time standpoint, it won't be a much different experience than buying an existing home. If you are buying a "semi-custom" home (a design offered by the builder that you are allowed to do some customization to as well as choose all finishes) then you are going to need to make yourself available to choose finishes, cabinetry, tops, floor coverings, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, wall colors, etc. If you choose to build a custom home (designed and built specifically for you) then you must be prepared for a large time investment. You will need to spend time talking with the architect, designer and builder to assure that the house design is what you are looking for and within your budget. Then, like a semi-custom home, you will need to invest the time to make all the material and finish selections. So, what is this "emotional investment" I mentioned? Believe me, after many years as a developer and builder, I can assure you that building a home is VERY emotional for the buyer. When the buyer enters into the process informed and prepared and makes good choices along the way, the experience emotionally is wonderful and fun! When the buyer is not properly prepared, or makes bad choices, the experience can become an anguishing nightmare.
Often new home buyers operate under the misconception that they don't need to be represented by a real estate agent or broker, that the builder will not allow it, or that the house will cost them more if they are represented. Considering a home purchase is, for many buyers, the largest single investment they will make, it just doesn't make sense for you to do this without being represented by a competent professional with a legal obligation to work in your best interest...especially when you don't have to pay that professional for the service! Not to mention. Granted, making good choices on the builder you buy from will help minimize the headaches and risk but this is all the more reason you need a good buyers agent with extensive new home experience! A good, new home buyers agent, will make sure you have all the information and resources available you need to make an informed decision when it comes to selecting a builder, subdivision, etc.
The reason you don't have to pay for a buyers agent to represent you (generally, there are exceptions to everything)is the same reason you don't have to pay to be represented by a buyer's agent on an existing home...the seller offers a commission to get their home sold. Ah, now the light bulb goes off and you think if I am not represented, thereby saving the builder that portion of the commission, I'll get a better deal! While it is impossible for me to speak as to how every builder operates, I can tell you that today, most builders, particularly the larger, more established ones, are aware of the need to work with buyers agents, value their relationships with agents, and have worked hard to encourage buyers agents to show their homes. In addition, many builders list their homes with real estate agents so that they will be listed in the MLS and are therefore committing to offering compensation to a selling agent. If they don't pay the selling agent, depending on the listing agreement, it may not be any savings at all to the builder, but instead just more compensation to the listing agent representing the builder. Even if there is a savings to the builder and the builder would decide to pass some of the savings along to the buyer, I can say with confidence, that a good buyer's agent will most likely save you more during the course of the transaction than that little amount.
One of the biggest mistakes I've seen new home buyers make over the years is wanting too much and stretching themselves too far. What I mean by this is often buyers will want to get the biggest house possible and focus on the maximum square footage they can get within their budget without giving enough consideration to how much options and finishes will increase the final price. When buyers stretch too far at the outset, the whole transaction becomes very emotional and stressful. Every time an additional cost is incurred as a result of trying to get what the buyer wants, the stress increases...when prices come back for the floors, cabinets, and other finishes selected and the total price keeps growing, the situation go from bad to worse. I have seen several situations like this that literally almost resulted in a divorce before we could finish the house. A much better approach is to be conservative and shop homes based upon a realistic "final" price taking into consideration the options and finishes you are going to want. Once again, this is where a good buyer;s agent and a good builder will be an invaluable combination and both will help steer you down the right path. Also, don't forget, that with new homes, you will have a lot of additional expenses with the home you may not have had previously with existing homes purchased...such as landscaping, irrigation systems, mailboxes, window hardware, window treatments, etc.
Another mistake I've seen made by new home buyers is to get so focused on shopping price, particularly price per square foot, that they end up in a bad builder relationship or in a community that really wasn't what they were looking for. My suggestion would be to shop for a new home much as you would for an existing one, at least to start with. Begin by selecting the area, or areas, you would like to live in and will serve your needs, whether it be proximity to work, activities, schools, or what have you. Then, once you have your areas pinned down, see what builders are building homes in those areas that are within the price range you are looking for. Then, with the assistance of information provided to you by your buyer's agent, you can begin the process of selecting a builder that you feel would be a good fit, or at a minimum, eliminate the ones that would not be a good fit. Then start shopping houses and remember that there is much more to price than just a square foot price. I can't tell you how many times the first question asked me from a prospective new home buyer was how much per foot was it going to cost? This is fine as long as you don't care about the quality of the space, the functionality of the space or the finishes but the fact is you do care about all that other stuff. I have seen a very well thought out and designed 2,500 square foot home that was much more functional, felt more open, and larger than many 3,000 square foot homes. Again, it's quality, not quantity.
I could write a book on this topic alone, but here is the short version. Many of the builders that are in business today survived the downturn of the market that took out many home builders so that in itself says something for them. Once you have selected an area and narrowed down your builder choices, I would drive the community or communities they are building in and see how everything looks. An advantage to the downturn is many of the developments out there today were begun years ago which means the streets, sidewalks, amenities, etc as well as some of the earlier homes are perhaps up to a few years old. This will give you an idea of how well the work was done and how well things are holding up. The next step would be to get a client list from the builder (something your agent can do for you). Oh, and not just the "happy client list" but preferably the complete list of everyone that has bought a new home from the builder. If your agent cannot obtain this list, or gets an incomplete list, he or she should be able to obtain information on the builder's buyers from the tax records and other resources available.
The next step would be to contact several of the buyers, preferably in that particular development and at least some from a year or two ago, to see how they feel about the builder, their home, and the community. Finally, assuming everything is ok up to this point with your builder research, I would ask my agent to schedule a meeting with the builder and/or key personnel that will be involved in the home building process. You don't need a long meeting, just long enough to ask what questions you may have and give you an opportunity to size up the person and see if your personalities mesh well and he or she is someone you are going to enjoy working with.
First off, I am not an attorney and have not played one on TV and this is NOT legal advice. I am a 30-year veteran real estate investor, developer, and broker so I'm speaking from personal experience and want to share a few things to think about: