Buying a new construction home might feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. New build homes offer many sureties that older homes might not match. In many cases, there are actually fewer risks investing in a new home. Make a list of everything you need to know, and break it key into questions. This helps you get each piece of information you need in a way that’s easy to understand and discuss with your home builder. Start with these:
1. How long has your builder been in the industry?
You have expectations and they should be met. An experienced builder with a good reputation will be able to point to a history of success. You might also talk to recent buyers of this builder’s work to gauge their satisfaction. Contractors who often work with that builder are also a good resource – ask their opinion.
2. Have they built similar homes?
Buying a new construction home often means buying a home that’s somewhat unique. You always want your house to be a little different than everyone else’s. That said, the builder should have experience building similar homes. If there’s a major feature, ensure that the builder has experience here. You don’t want your home to be an “experiment”!
3. Can I visit other finished homes?
Most builders will have homes that they’ve already completed. These are good opportunities to walk through and see what one of their new build homes looks like. Pay attention to details and materials used. If something looks off to you, ask them about it.
4. Who’s in charge of the construction?
An experienced company with an experienced owner might still put someone inexperienced on a new project. The larger the company, the more their range of builders will vary in quality. Just make sure that the person in charge of your new construction home has the necessary expertise – and is accessible to you.
5. What’s my ideal lot?
Some lots will be more expensive than others but offer big advantages in return. They may place you in a more desirable location, use flatter ground, boast an incredible view, or include features that improve the property value. You may look to save money by sacrificing one of these elements, or invest in a lot that’s a little more costly because there’s a clear benefit to it. Make sure you consider all the lot options in a neighborhood when buying a new construction home.
6. What’s considered an extra?
Home builders have to work with a standard set of features. What qualifies as standard is going to be different for every company. What one company considers extra, the next might consider standard. Different companies will have different advantages in this regard. One might not offer as much “standard,” but what they do might align more with what you want in your house. Learn which builder’s standard features or costs for extras best fit your needs.
7. When are extras paid?
Some builders will ask that extras be paid up front. Others ask they be paid at closing. Some may split the schedule depending on the nature of the extra. No approach is better or worse, but knowing what’s expected of you is crucial to making sure you’re not surprised when these costs are factored into a bill.
8. Can I roll in additional features?
Perhaps you change your mind about something mid-build. Can you request that upgrade? Some builders can accommodate this more readily than others. Some will charge a higher cost for changing your mind than others. If you’re already set in your design, don’t worry as much about this question. If you want room for flexibility as your home is built, this is important.
9. What are my financing incentives?
Special financing options are often available through builders. These make it easier for those buying a new construction home. They might not mention these incentives without you asking – it’s in their interest to see if they can get you on board without these incentives first. Asking about these incentives can help lower your interest rate or get an extended rate lock.
10. What is the exact schedule?
This seems like an obvious question, but there’s a difference between this and, “When will it be completed?” You want to know a variety of dates for certain steps, and what happens if any of those timelines are missed. There’s always some flexibility built into these schedules, just in case.
11. What if a completion date is missed?
Builders are generally very good at keeping to schedules. Their reputation depends on it. However, not everything can be predicted. Who knows when a major storm might stop progress? That’s not something either you or the builder can control. You need to know what happens if a completion date is missed and how the builder is prepared to handle it.
12. How involved can I be?
You’ll want to see the home at certain points during construction. This only makes sense. Some builders will be more comfortable with multiple visits or short notice than others. Remember that you seeing the home requires them to take time out of their building schedule to show you around and possibly stop other work. This can have a ripple effect on tightly coordinated schedules both in building and working with contractors. Each builder will have slightly different rules for coordinating visits and you’ll want to know these beforehand.
At the same time, your build should not be “top secret.” You should be able to stop in and check on progress.
13. How is energy efficiency being utilized?
A home built with energy efficient design and materials, and using energy efficient appliances, can save hundreds of dollars in costs a year. Often, this will improve the durability of the home as well. These are also investments that can help a home hold and build its value over time. Make sure these are included standard, and see what Energy Star-certified appliances are included by the builder.
14. Which vendors should I meet?
Selecting different options means meeting with vendors. This may be at their place of business or on-site. Remember that not meeting vendors in time can cause delays or force the builders to make default selections for you. Ensure that you have the ability to meet these vendors in a timely fashion.
15. Can they build the home resistant against storms?
Various designs and materials can make a home more resistant to hurricanes and flooding. If this is a concern, make sure to tackle the concept early. Many of these improvements aren’t as costly as you might think and can make the home much more durable.
16. How is the walk through handled?
A final walk through isn’t the end of construction. You may discover that there’s an issue that needs correction. You need to know how this will be scheduled and this should be written into the completion schedule.
17. Can I get a builders warranty?
It’s vital to get a warranty on your home, and a builder’s warranty ensures that anything that breaks or malfunctions early is addressed quickly. This protects you and gives you security that your investment is built to last. Warranties should ensure that major elements and components of the home are guaranteed for a year.
18. Can I get a home inspection upon completion?
Make sure the builder is comfortable with a home inspection. You can’t make a sale contingent on a home inspection. It leaves too much wiggle room for buyers to abuse a contract. While most buyers wouldn’t do this, it’s too much of a liability for builders to take on. This isn’t a problem – city inspectors will more than make sure that the home is built to code. However, an independent home inspector can provide many informal services that help you familiarize yourself with the house. Don’t make anything contingent on a home inspector, but do make sure the builder is comfortable with one coming through.
19. Is there an HOA?
Make sure that you know if there’s a homeowners association that you’ll become a member to. HOAs are generally a great idea that can help improve a neighborhood in communal ways. You’ll just want to have a heads up about how the HOA works and who to talk to.
20. What do you need from me?
Remember that building a home and buying a new construction home is a two-way street. Builders will need to be able to rely on your responding in a timely fashion. Each builder might have a specific preference for communicating, or a timeline for organizing together. This doesn’t mean you have to abide by it – you may have a different preference. That’s fine. Just make sure these elements are worked out beforehand, so everyone is on the same page.
If a way of communicating doesn’t work for you, make that clear – or the builder will be trying to get hold of you in a way you ignore. Clear communication is the single most important factor in ensuring a new home is built just the way you want it.