When homes for sale are few and far between as they are today many of my clients consider building a new home as an alternate option to a resale home. This may be the smartest route but there is a HUGE amount of information to consider first.
Did you know when you see a model home that many of the features that make you fall in love are actually upgrades and NOT included in the base price? It's crucial to know when you pick upgrades they are paid for upfront before the actual sale takes place and often they aren't included in your mortgage UNLESS I negotiate them into the base for you.
Here are some important money & sanity saving tips that I have used countless times over the past 10 years while helping people negotiate to buy a property.
1. As a buyer you don't pay the buyer's agent so select the best you can possibly find - It's crucial. In Massachusetts the seller typically pays the buyer's agent so there is no excuse to use a family member or friend that isn't actively engaged in the market. They may be willing to give you a gift but it's rarely as much as a strong negotiator can save you.
2. Investigate the builder. Speak to past customers who bought their houses or ask neighbors who live there already what their experience was like if it's a development. Check the better business bureau and research whether any complaints have been filed with the state. Talk to the town building department and see how they feel about the property and the development/developer. They are often your best resource for information.
3. Learn the lifestyle of the street. If you are at all like most of my clients quality of living matters. You can buy a gorgeous, truly gorgeous big giant house in the middle of nowhere for less than you'd expect but if you aren't a home body you will be giving up the lifestyle you are comfortable with. For some that's ok, for others it's a deal breaker. Before you enter into an agreement visit the development at different times of day to experience the sounds and traffic patters. Check out the coffee shops, restaurants, commuter options, schools, after school care, doctors and veterinarians if you have pets to get a feel for whether a location is right for you.
4. Half an acre is half an acre right? Does it matter which lot I buy? YES! Ask the builder which lot is considered the best and what the premium is if any. I always ask them what lot they would build on for themselves. There is a shortage of developable land. Some lots are flat and swimming pool ready and others there is no chance of putting in a paved driveway without getting approvals from the conservation counsel and relocating rare turtles. Location matters.
Be sure to ask about easements, future restrictions, wetlands and conservation. These things shouldn't be deal breakers but you should know what to expect before buying.
5. Pick a plan - You can't change the land drastically but you can change a floorplan if it's not built yet. Ask for any floorplan options that would work on the specific parcel you picked. Do you have kids now and work from home? Be sure to add space for an office. Additions are very costly so a finishable walk up attic or finishable basement are a huge value. Do you envision a huge great room with high ceilings at some point? Be sure to ask what the options to add one are now so that you know whether it's a potential issue or not later. If you are struggling between upgrading appliances or adding granite to the fireplace surround consider how difficult and costly it will be to change later if you don't love your first choice.
Ask about upgrade packages, flooring allowances, appliance, lighting and trim options as well as wall color and trim color. Be sure you have the ability to pick anything that is relevant to you.
Always have electricity and windows added to your walk up attic if they aren't a part of the package. This will add value, quality of living and save you time and money later when finishing as well as make your home more desirable when it comes time to sell.
6. Don't be the only Mcmansion on the block. Choose size and options wisely, you don't want to be the one enormous home in a neighborhood of mid range/mid size properties. This will impact your later sale drastically as rarely do people want to buy the $800,000 home in a neighborhood of $400,000 homes. I often hear " I don't want to be the biggest on the street".
7. Have a local real estate lawyer familiar with new construction review all documents. Purchase contracts for brand new homes include far more detail and many more clauses than your standard offer package. They also change from community to community. It's always best to choose a local person who knows the ins and outs of the specific town.
8. Insist on a warranty. Most builders offer warranties without being pressured to do so however it's up to you to make sure you understand what is and isn't covered and what process to follow along with timelines that matter in order to file a claim.
* Always have a home inspection once the house is FULLY completed so that you can file any relevant claims before the 1 year period runs out. *
New homes can have issues the same as older homes do so never assume because it's new an inspection isn't needed prior to the end of the warranty period.
9. Talk to multiple lenders and attorneys. The home builder most likely has a preferred lender and attorney that will offer you discounts and incentives.They may or may not be your best choice. Get quotes from additional lenders and closing agents, and then decide what feels right.
10. Ask how the home will be delivered? On closing day will the house be "broom clean" or will you need to hire someone to clean it. Will the landscape plan and driveway be complete or will there be a hold back for completion at a later date?
- What is their completion plan? How many homes are being built? How long will it take them to complete the development?
- Is interest high,
- Has anyone had any issues with appraisals ?
- Will they be selling any land? This is the tell tale sign of a builder who isn't sure on pricing. IF they sell land they may be concerned about the marketability. Not always but it's worth checking.
- What are the covenants and restrictions for the development?
- Are pools and fences allowed?
- Is there any shared land requiring a maintenance fee?
- Will the roads be public or private? If private how will repairs and maintenance be funded?
- What are the upgrade packages most commonly being purchased? If all of your neighbors are opting for a specific counter top and cabinet you may want to go with something different for resale value.
Here are some options for new homes that are currently on the market in the northern Mass/North Shore areas from $300,000 to $700,000
Since 2006 and I have succesfully managed more than 400 home sales for house hunters and home sellers. Often I help a seller sell and then buy for a seamless transaction and savings- click here to read tips on buying & selling.
If you are house hunting north shore, northern mass or even southern nh I would love to meet with you to discuss your goals and allow you to decide whether I'm the best agent for the job of finding your dream home, negotiating the best price and managing your documents, inspections and all necessary steps throughout the transaction.
You can see my clients testimonials of my services here