On average, it can take roughly six months of searching real estate listings before taking the plunge to purchase a home. Sometimes, you may find the properties in your price range may need significant updates and renovations to get them looking the way you want. But think about this, when you’ve already spent big on the purchase price, it may be hard to find the extra funds for customization and add-on's to your new home. Perhaps deciding to build a new construction home may better suit you but that is just the beginning and the easy part. It’s when you start to move forward with the process that you may learn it’s not all as simple as just having a custom home built to your specifications.
If new construction is the route you have chosen, be deliberate about asking the right questions and advocating for yourself. It is very important that you know and understand what to expect before getting started. The more you're prepared the easier you’ll be able to get through the process with your sanity intact. Here is what I have learned about what it means to buy new construction and what the pros and cons are, going this route. Keep in mind, while the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons, these are all things to consider before deciding to build a new construction home.
Pro: New home or “Used” Home
There’s no doubt, the idea of moving into a home that nobody has lived in before is exciting. Everything is perfectly clean and pristine, and every detail, from the biggest appliances to the molding along the baseboards was put there or done so at your request. While it’s not a necessity (yes, many people love their pre-owned properties), if you’re someone who likes to keep things extra clean or is worried about the unknown surprises lurking within a resold home, breaking ground is a great way to go.
Con: Not All Builders are the Same
The experience of building new construction varies among buyers because the policies, skills, and options available will vary among the builders available. You want a builder who has a great reputation for both reliability and the quality of the homes they build. But it’s possible you’ll come across a builder with less proven experience and whether you are will to take chance on them, especially if the price they are offering is good. Just be weary on who you choose to build with. When you are choosing a builder, look beyond the pictures on their website and find out more information from their previous clients to ensure you’re making the right choice. Check out homes they’ve completed and make sure there are no major complaints filed against them. Finding a great builder for your home shouldn't be too difficult; just make sure you are doing your due diligence with whomever you choose and have confidence they will deliver what you’re looking to do for your new home.
Pro: Exterior and Interior
Nobody knows your wants and needs better than you do. You have complete control over the details that fit your home to your taste and lifestyle. When buying new construction, you get to pick out everything from the color of your siding and trim to the placement of every light fixture and electrical outlets. Make sure you want everything at the time of the build. Do this now as many of the customizations are difficult and possibly expensive to put in after a home is constructed. An example would be a deep pour basement or extra windows in the living room. Building a new home is for anyone who loves design or want a lot of preferences about what makes their home perfect.
Con: Limited Options
While you do get to do a lot of customizing, you won't have complete control over everything. They are necessary options which may dictate 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. Many builders will only let you choose between one or two paint colors for all of your interior walls. If you want anything different you'll need to take on that project on your own after the home has closed. 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.
Pro: Limited Options
However, limited options can be 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 your home. Building a custom home through a hired contractor instead of a development company, many buyers may have to hire architects and designers to help them make smart choices when sifting through the many options provided. From that standpoint, it would be easier to choose between six kitchen faucets versus six hundred. For many, this is a benefit to buying new construction, and helps ease the stress that comes from having too many options.
Con: Buying Upgrades
A lot of people don't know this but the first price you see when choosing a new construction home is the base price of the property. This includes the structure itself (before any optional add-on's, like extra bedrooms or first floor bump outs), and may or may not include things like the lot the home will sit on or the landscaping that will surround it. It typically includes standard finishes, which are often not the best looking or highest quality options. To get your house looking how you want it, you’re going to have to choose some upgrades. The more you upgrade, the quicker the price of your home will go up. Things like wood floors instead of carpet, recessed lighting, fireplaces, and updated kitchens are all going to add on to the cost of your home in big ways. So be careful as it already costs about 20% more to buy a new construction home than it does to buy an existing one. Factor in additional costs and be conscious about finding a balance between getting the things that you want and staying within your budget.
Pro: Energy Efficiency
Newer homes are taking advantage of innovations in energy efficiency, and if you build new construction, chances are good you will get a home that is built to use less energy. There are a lot of variables in a home to be optimized for energy efficiency, including insulation and air sealing, heating and cooling, and appliances. When building, you will have more say over the strategies used to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Make sure you ask your builder as they likely already include some of those options. One option may be energy efficient windows which can prevent 25%-30% heat gain and loss versus less efficient windows. Ask about other energy saver options as well, like dual flush toilets, smart thermostats, and LED lighting.
Con: Lack of Negotiating
When you’re buying a pre-owned home, the price is set by the market and by the previous home owner, who may or may not understand the true value of their home. For that reason, negotiating is just part of the process and it’s totally rational to expect that you’ll pay less than the price that you see on the listing; provided, of course, there isn’t competition for the property. When you’re buying new construction, however, what you see is typically what you’re going to pay, plus any upgrades. Builders don’t like to lower the base prices on homes because that alters the comps of the development and will result in more buyers looking for ways to negotiate down. They may, however, offer some discounts or financial incentives but sometimes only if you ask. So, diligently look for those instead of expecting to convince a buyer to lower their price.
Pro: Less Maintenance Costs
New homes aren’t necessarily impervious to needing repairs, but the chances of having to fix a leaky roof or a broken pipe are significantly lower. This means less stress and less money spent since everything is still new. In addition, most builders include a range of warranties with their homes. Some warranties vary from short term full structure warranty or a longer term exterior warranty. It’s a big financial benefit, and a nice relief in the years following such a major purchase.
The experience of buying a new construction can be a positive one. Hopefully, the cons wont matter much in comparison to the pros. To figure out if it’s the right choice for you, gather all the facts, do your research, and think clearly about what you want in a home. Consider bringing an agent with you to meet with the builder’s sales person so that you have someone helping you advocate for your interests. The more you know going into the process, the better you’ll be able to navigate the tricky process of building a new construction home.