How to Shop Wisely for a New Home — Part Two

STEP 6: Go shop model homes that match your needs. 

The fun part, at last! Walking through state of the art model homes furnished by top interior designers (AKA merchandisers in the new home world) offers some big benefits:

You get a free pass into an interior design showroom, with the latest home furnishing and design trends on display. Picture Crate and Barrel, Ikea and your local furniture, wall-
covering, paint and appliance dealer showrooms all rolled into one. What’s not to like? If you’re lucky, you’ll also score a fresh-baked cookie, a free bottle of water or a pen with the builder’s logo, and a stack of glossy brochures to take home.

Most importantly, you’ll gain a vital (and no-obligation) sense of how it might feel to, well, actually live there.

One place you’re almost sure to visit? The builder’s sales center, which is often located in a garage of the model home that’s been all dolled up. (Look for the landscaped trees and shrubs where the driveway should be!)

A key feature of the sales center is the site map. Picture a large table the size of that ping pong table taking up valuable space in your basement. The site map shows the boundaries of each neighborhood within the overall new home community; such neighborhoods are often differentiated by price, as well as by the size of the home and lot. Individual lots (building sites) are shown in scale.

Here’s where the on-site team shows their stuff: You’ll learn what Phases (parts of the community) are currently for sale. You’ll also see lots (building sites) with a variety of sizes, locations, and in some case views. Not surprisingly, those lots on the ridge that overlook the nature preserve and river cost more than a smaller, interior lot.

When visiting the model home, you’ll also open up the world of options and upgrades. More on that later, too. Suffice it to say, selecting premium lots and options/upgrades will add to the price of your home. That’s a big reason why we recommended that you establish how much home you can comfortably afford and give thought to what features are most important to you and others in the home.

The goals for your model home visit are to gain a first-hand sense of the builder’s approach to design, construction, and energy-efficiency; to assess the quality of workmanship and design; and to compare and contrast the standard features and options of homes from your finalist builders.

Becky Bircher had an “aha” moment in 2011. She and her husband, Matt, were walking through model homes in Eureka, Mo., trying to decide whether to build or buy a resale home. The professional kitchen designer found herself scrutinizing the woodwork.

“The biggest thing for me was checking out the details in the model homes,” explains Bircher. “It wasn’t who had the prettier countertops. It was, do the door frames line up? Does the builder pay attention to the crown moldings? That was a huge thing for me, personally.”

The couple ended up working with Centex Homes, a production builder, and moved into their new home in December.

If you’re leaning toward a custom builder, keep in mind some custom builders also construct models. And many custom builders will arrange for you to tour previous clients’ homes, which not only offers insight into construction and design, but also a chance to talk to the homeowner about their overall experience.

Does it seem like you have a lot to look for in your model home visits? Definitely! And it can all start to blur together if you visit new home communities in quick succession.

To help keep track of what you see, jot down the most compelling details that jumped out to you. Make heavy use of your cell phone camera. Collect brochures and floorplans and make notes on them, too.

One “power tip” from a seasoned new home shopper: Take a photo of the outside of each model home as enter it. Try to include a sign with the builder’s name. You’ll know subsequent photos all came from that home until you scroll to the next home’s exterior.

STEP 7: What’s your timetable?

Good things take time. From the moment you sign a contract with a builder until the day you actually move in may be months or, for a large custom home, more than a year.
Obtaining construction permits may take two to six weeks, builder reps say.

“The build time for us is typically 90 to 120 days, depending on the plan,” Colston says. “Overall, (in a production home), it could be a five- to six-month process.”

For a custom home, the timeline is typically longer. Fulton Homes in Phoenix, Ariz., builds both production and custom homes, so they have experience with both timelines.

“Keep in mind that plans have to be drawn, and homeowners often revise them as they go along,” says Dennis Webb of Fulton. “And it has to go through city permitting. That might add five months to the process. I’d say to expect a year and a half to two years for a custom home.”

If you’re hoping to move in more quickly, a great way to do so is to buy a “spec” or inventory home that’s been partly or fully constructed prior to being sold. A completed inventory home may take only weeks to close. You’ll have all the benefits of a new home but won’t have the opportunity to personalize its features. It can be an ideal answer for a transferee or anyone who wants new construction and needs to move quickly.

Also look for inventory homes that are underway but still some weeks away from completion. A buyer may still be able to select some features and upgrades such as carpeting, tile, cabinets, etc.

One more choice: Buy a model home. When a new home community is close to sold out, most builders will sell the models, with a short-closing window likely. A plus to buying a model home is that it usually contains many extra features and upgrades.

STEP 8: When you pick a floor plan, think ahead.

While home-shopping, you’ll get lots of advice on square footage and home features to accommodate your lifestyle today. Keep in mind that your needs (or preferences) may change over the years or your household may grow in unexpected ways.

“I’ve had two houses built, myself, and I’ve built them thinking that there was a chance that I'd have one or both parents living with me,” said real estate agent Hunt. So she asked the builder to convert a first-floor powder room (situated near a bedroom) to a full bath so her parents wouldn’t need to navigate steps to an upstairs bathroom.

Many production builders offer floor plans that accommodate changes. Lennar, for example, recently introduced its NextGen — Home within a Home single-family home, consisting of two separate living spaces, with separate entrances, under one roof so that multiple generations can live together — but not too closely together.

Keep in mind that technology advances, as well. Many builders can take steps to plan for that, such as including conduit and robust wiring during construction. As technology, home automation and media rooms each evolve, you can more easily keep up. For more on this, see our article on future proofing your home.

STEP 9: It’s more than the new house — it’s also the lot it sits on.

Don’t forget the lot. Considerations in choosing a home site might include lifestyle: Do you want to back up to the woods? Perhaps you'd rather be away from a main road or it might be important for your children to be able to walk or bike to school.

Other factors are architectural — some home plans can be built only on certain lots that will accommodate them. A three-car garage needs its space, for example.

In addition to selecting a lot, you’ll often select what’s known as an elevation. These are variations on how the front façade of your home will look. The degree of difference between elevations can be pronounced — windows are moved or added and deleted, the gables (arched rooflines) will vary dramatically, and the exterior of the home can vary from brick, stucco, siding or stone.

Another thing to keep in mind is that nowadays, most developments prohibit building identical-looking homes side-by-side, across the street from one another or even within the same block. This is designed to provide a pleasing diversity of homes and designs, what builders refer to as a streetscape.

Then there’s the sun: “It’s hot here in Phoenix in the summer, and the orientation of the home to the sun can make a big difference in heating and cooling,” says Fulton Homes’ Webb. “A lot of people don’t like west-facing yards in the summer, but if they’re buying a winter home, a west backyard would be great.”

Last, consider where your home is placed in relation to intersecting streets. Some homes are positioned so that cars drive parallel to them. Other lots can be raked by the headlights of every car turning a corner. There’s a lot to consider (not just the view) when selecting a lot, too.

STEP 10: The world of options. 

Builders in recent years have responded to consumer demand for “personalization” with a huge array of features that are upgrades from their basic offerings. Generally, consumers need to make many of these choices before signing a final contract, because it affects the price.

“There are three basic ways of doing it,” explains Webb of Fulton Homes. “A builder may sell options out of a space in their model homes, or they might send buyers to an outside flooring company or appliance company that the builder contracts with to handle the selections.

“Or, you can do what we do, and what many builders are doing, which is have a separate design center,” he says. “We created it because when we were working through a flooring company, we couldn’t sell everything there. They didn’t have sinks and ceiling fans and light fixtures, etc., so we decided to do our own design center to offer a one-stop shop.”

On one hand, it can be exhilarating to have a house that’s wholly personalized — that’s why some people build, after all — but watch not to overdo it.

Choices that delight you today may lose some appeal over time — or not be to everybody’s taste if you later decide to sell the home. It’s wise to keep resale values in mind when you’re picking out features. If fireplaces are extremely popular in your market, it might be wise to invest in one, even if you plan to use it only occasionally.

STEP 11: Relax, and watch the show.

Whew! You did it! You completed your soul-searching. You made your wish-list, got pre-qualified for how much home you can afford, narrowed your options online and visited a lot of often stunning model homes. You selected options and upgrades, you considered lot selections and premiums, and you debated elevations and colors schemes.

You have chosen (and helped design) a home that’s uniquely you. It’s far more energy-efficient than a home built just five years ago — and light years beyond a 10-, 15- or 20-year old home.

You likely have an open floor plan that reflects the way we live today, higher ceilings, larger closets and the peace of mind that comes with knowing your new home (and the products it contains) are brand-new, never lived in, under warranty and poised to give you years of hassle-free time enjoying your home — not fixing one out of date or broken element after another.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully made the transition from the home shopping process to the home building process! And we’ll be doing our best to demystify what to expect while your home is being built in another article soon.

Meanwhile, as a buyer, you can count on a final walk-through of the house prior to the closing. There will likely be other opportunities to see how it’s going. Most builders allow buyers to visit the construction site, though often with some restrictions because of safety and insurance concerns.

Many companies keep their clients posted about what’s happening. Centex buyer Becky Bircher says her sales rep alerted her with photos and news at various stages.

“She would contact me by calling me, texting me, emailing me, even Facebooking me,” Bircher recalls. ”Sometimes we would walk through and we’d notice small things in the construction that concerned us, and she'd get them fixed immediately.”

The Birchers initially looked at re-sale homes, but she admits she’s glad she changed her mind and got past a bit of intimidation over all the decision-making.

“It was a tough but quick and fun decision to make.”

This article was written by Mary Umberger and posted to  Click here to go to original article.>>