Buying "new construction" is a bit different from buying a previously-owned home. For one, because there is no previous homeowner, you don't have to deal with a seller's emotional tie to the property, which typically influences the negotiating process. Whether you're designing and building a custom home or buying a home that's built on spec in a new subdivision, you'll only have to work with the builder.
As with buying a previously-owned home, you have to figure out your budget and secure financing before you even begin house hunting. Get pre-approved by a bank or mortgage lender. Decide how much money you want to invest in a new home.
Purchasing new construction is usually more complicated and intimidating than buying a resale home. It is important with a new-home purchase that a buyer hire a real estate agent to represent them in this process.
There’s something to be said for the desirability of moving into a home that nobody has lived in before. Everything is perfectly clean and pristine, and every detail, from the biggest appliances to the molding along the baseboards was put there specifically for your use. While it’s not a necessity (and certainly many people love the pre-owned properties that they’ve purchased), if you’re someone who likes to keep things extra clean or is worried about scary surprises from a resale home, starting from scratch is a great way to go.
Ask the builder about amenities and upgrades. Amenities are features that benefit the entire community like a clubhouse, health and fitness center or a gated entrance. Upgrades refer to added features or items you pay extra for to enhance your home, like certain types of flooring or appliances.
Get a feature sheet on the line of homes you're interested in and read them very carefully, then compare feature to feature. Find out what comes with the base home price.
If you don't understand exactly what the builder is offering, ask and take notes. There are no dumb questions. Not knowing can cost you real money. Some things to keep in mind:
Once you decide to buy a new home, make your sales contract contingent on a final home inspection by a professional you hire. Never assume that because a home is newly constructed, it isn't going to have defects. Municipal inspections for code violations are nowhere near as thorough as an independent professional inspection. If possible, have the home checked during each phase of building, when potential problems are easier to spot. If the builder objects to this, consider it a red flag.
Protect yourself with warranties. All new homes come with an implied warranty from the builder stipulating that any major defect of the structural integrity of the home must be repaired. Ask for a builder's warranty for a period of time following move-in (a year, for example) that covers any defects in craftsmanship. Preferably, this warranty should be backed by insurance.
Home warranties vary in length, what they cover and typically run from one to 10 years; the manufacturer covers appliance warranties. Make sure any warranty you receive explicitly states what is covered and what isn't, and what the limitations for damages are. For extra peace of mind, have your real estate attorney look over the warranty to make sure it's kosher.
Nobody knows your wants and needs better than you do, and having so much control over the details that fit your home to your taste and lifestyle is quite a luxury. Buying new construction means that you get to pick out everything from the color of your siding and trim to the placement of every single light bulb and outlet. Many of the things that you get to customize are difficult – or at least very expensive – to put in after a home is constructed, such as a deep pour basement or extra windows in the living room. If you’re someone who loves design or just someone with a lot of preferences about what makes a perfect space, you’ll really enjoy getting to make so many decisions about the different aspects that make your house a home.
While you do get to customize, there are far from limitless options dictating your choices. For example, you won’t be able to add a sun room that isn’t listed as an option on the original plans or choose a different placement for the fireplace. So if you want anything different, that’s a project you’ll have to take on after the home is built and closed on. In some cases, you will be able to purchase options such as different appliances outside of the buyer and have them installed (usually at a premium) with the general construction. But for things like counter tops and carpeting, you’ll likely only be able to choose among the options presented by the builder. (But you will always have options.)
But wait – limited options is a good thing, too! Unless you’re a home design pro, it’s easy to get paralyzed by the sheer amount of choices you can make when building a home. When building a custom home through a hired contractor instead of a development company, many buyers have to hire architects and designers to help them sift through the wide array of options and make smart decisions. In that way, having, say, six kitchen faucets to choose from instead of six hundred, is actually a benefit to buying new construction, and can help ease the stress that comes from having too many options.