Tips for Buying New Construction
Research Neighborhoods and Builders
When buying in a new subdivision, consider working with a buyer's agent who knows the area well, can set up home tours and walk you through the closing process. When researching real estate agents:
Remember, the listing agent works for the builder, not for you. They're trying to hit a quota, not help you make the right decision for you and your family.
Many states regulate how agents deal with new subdivisions. If you have your own agent, tell him up front that you're interested in looking at new homes. He must accompany you on your first visit to any new subdivision; if he doesn't, the builder's sales rep will get the full commission if you buy a home there.
When researching neighborhoods:
Look online for listings for new home construction.
Drive around the neighborhood and check out the amenities and the quality of the homes.
Walk the community. Ask homeowners about their experience.
Go to model open houses, keep a journal and take photographs. Don't try to cover every model house in the area in one day.
Check with the developer about potential homeowners' association (HOA) fees and rules; some are incredibly expensive -- and strict. They may not allow storage sheds, certain paint colors or finish materials, solar panels or even vegetable gardens. Be sure to find out if the HOA can assess penalties for infractions.
Ask whether cable and Internet are readily available and from what companies; your new house will be wired for cable but that does not mean the cable company offers service to your neighborhood.
If the development is still under construction, you'll be dodging giant contractor trucks and facing jackhammering at 7 a.m. for a while.
Research the zoning laws for the neighborhood, as they can change quickly.
Visit the city planner's office to see what's in store for a particular location.
Ask your agent about plans for the area.
Whether you're buying a new home that's being built or building a new home from the ground up, you can choose the builder you work with.
"The buyer is more educated today," says Rhonda Hoeft, area sales manager for The Estridge Collection in Carmel, Ind. "It's amazing how much they know as opposed to five years ago. At least 80 percent of prospective buyers who walk into our sales office have researched our homes and the builder."
In this uncertain economy, builders are feeling the pressure. To make certain you choose a financially-sound builder, Sharon Hanby-Robie, real estate agent and American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in Lancaster, Pa., suggests, "Go to the courthouse to see if a lien's been filed against the builder, then go to the construction site. Talk to subcontractors to see if they're being paid."
When researching builders:
Make sure there are no Better Business Bureau complaints on file against your builder's company.
Ask local real estate agents if the builder has a good reputation in the community.
Visit your builder's previously constructed homes; ask the occupants whether the craftsmanship has stood up to time, use and weather.