I have been selling New Homes here in the Metro Denver Area for the last 20 years and I have decided to publish this article about vitally important things to be aware of when buying a New Home. I hope that this article helps to educate. If you have any questions regarding the new home buying process or the real estate market here in the Metro Denver Area, feel free to call me at 303.520.8700.
Disclaimer: While this article does give some great information regarding the new home buying process in the Metro Denver Area, this is an Advertisement for Sean Reilly. If you are currently working with a real estate agent, please disregard this article as a solicitation.
I am frequently asked this question, “Sean, why would I want/need to use a real estate agent when buying a “new” home? Doesn’t the builder handle everything?” Let me start this article by answering this question, then I will go into detail about specific items you need to think about when purchasing a new home, and I’ll end with a detailed account of the New Home Buying process as I see it here in the Metro Denver Area. This is “my” take on this subject as a real estate agent based on having sold numerous new homes in the past 20 years – what I discuss here is based on my experiences. Keep in mind that each and every real estate transaction is different – each one has a different nuance than the other. For me to write about every nuance that I have seen or could expect to see is virtually impossible. With that said, let’s get started:
Why Would You Want to Utilize a Real Estate Agent When Buying a New Home?
“Why would you want to utilize the services of a real estate agent when buying a New Home?” First off, my bias is towards utilizing a real estate agent’s expertise when purchasing a new home. I will be imparting a lot of thought provoking information in the next 13+ pages, so I feel like I have the right to be impartial. Also, this is what I do for a living and while this is an informational piece for you, it is a marketing piece for me. I’ll be quite upfront here – my main reason for writing this piece is to let you know about my expertise in the new home sales market and to try and earn your future business, so please keep that in mind. I can be reached at 303.520.8700.
This is a comprehensive article and regardless of whether or not you choose to contact me, you should walk away with a lot more knowledge about the process and intricacies of buying a new home. And, finally, a sincere thanks for taking the time to visit my site.
I can think of a few reasons why you wouldn’t want to use a realtor to buy a New Home. I am sure that there are other reasons and if you feel so inclined, e-mail any of them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will address your e-mail and may even amend this article to include your reason.
1) If I don’t use a real estate agent, I will save money by not having to pay them a commission.
When you use a real estate agent to purchase a new home, the commission is paid out of the transaction, so the buyer does not come out of pocket.
2) The builder will reduce his/her price on the home because they don’t have to pay a commission.
Most builders will not reduce their sales price because you are not working with a real estate agent. Builders rely on real estate agents to bring buyers to their subdivisions.
3) “I’ve had a bad experience in the past with a real estate agent and don’t feel like he/she would be of any help.” While that may have been your experience in the past, don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch. Buying a new home is not a small undertaking; it requires a considerable effort to make everything come together. Why not have someone knowledgeable with whom you can consult? You will have many questions through out this process, why not be able to make one call and get quick answers rather than spending your valuable time researching each question to get an answer. A quick example – “on the option list, the builder will install a garage door opener for $500, is this something that I should do?” My answer is always to give you your options so you can make a more informed decision. I would point out that you can buy a decent garage door opener at Lowes or Home Depot, etc… for $150-$250 and install it yourself for free, or pay another $75 -$100 to have it installed Or, maybe you are light on the disposable income and would rather have it included in the loan. Sure, you are going to be paying a premium for this to occur, but you might rather take that money and spend it on something else, like your yard, or a new plasma TV, etc… Anyway, this is just a quick scenario – there will be many more as we get deeper into the article.
Things to be Aware of During the New Home Buying Process
Now, here are some specific reasons that I believe I can be of use to you in the New Home Buying Process. Some of these bullet points address those reasons, while others address specific items in the new home buying process that, at minimum, you should know and think about. Keep in mind that I have included an intensive description of how the entire process works, but I also feel that there is some good information to be meted out prior to that. Since I am writing this article, I am writing it as though I am already representing a prospective buyer, so I use “I” a lot just so you know.
I represent your interests to the builder. As a real estate agent, it is sometimes easier for me to track down the appropriate person to speak with to address problems or get questions answered in a quicker time frame. Your interests are represented - you have a voice other than your own to speak on your behalf. Plus, this is what I do for a living – I have the time to make the necessary phone calls to make sure everything runs smoothly.
· You Have No Money out of Pocket
As I mentioned already, you do not save any money by not using a realtor with the bigger builders; and most small to mid-size builders as well. The commission is paid out of closing and does not come out of you pocket.
Know what you are looking for, but don’t know where? This is what I do for a living – it is my job to know about all areas in Metro Denver. Want to be close to light rail, or Downtown, or need quick access to the Airport? Are you looking for a community with a pool? How about tennis courts? Is there a community out there that has a recreation center? Are there active adult communities that organize events on a regular basis at their clubhouse? How about condo complexes where you can walk/bike to just about anywhere you would want to go?
Why waste time driving all over town trying to figure this out when it can be answered in one or two phone calls depending on your particular needs. Also, maybe I’ll turn you on to an entirely different area than you may of first thought about.
· Where to Buy in the Neighborhood?
Real Estate is all about location and once you have identified where you want to live, you then need to find out where in the sub-division you want to live. Do you want to back to a golf course and pay the lot premium, or do you opt for the cul-de-sac across the street? Are you willing to live backing to a busy street and what are the positive/negatives of such a location? How about backing to power lines? Do you want a walk-out, garden level, or regular lot? What are the advantages/disadvantages to each of these lots? Also, you may have identified the model that you like, but that model can only be built on a specific few lots, is it smart to go for this phase, or get on the waiting list for the next batch of “lots” when they are released – thousands of dollars can be made or lost depending on this decision alone.
· Do you go with a Dirt Start, or Spec Inventory?
For information purposes, a dirt start refers to buying a lot before ground is broken (the hole for the foundation is dug), or shortly thereafter. Spec Inventory is already out of the ground and most of, if not all, options have been chosen by the design center the builder employs.
Typically, builders will be more aggressive on their Spec Inventory and offer bigger incentives than they will on dirt starts. Why is this? Many of the bigger builders are traded on the stock exchange and standing inventory is looked at as a negative when earnings or guidance is reported (Not all builders are publicly traded, but this is a theme that I have observed many times in the past). Also, builders carrying costs are the highest on completed/almost completed homes, so they are paying top dollar just to have the house sit. Spec Inventory is finite, though - it is inventory that has not sold, or may have sold, but did not close and is now back on the market. So, there are only so many available – sometimes not the best locations within the subdivision, but you never know. Once you get out and start getting a feel for subdivisions, it is easier to make the determination as to whether the potential spec home is a deal or not.
While Spec inventory can see some bigger incentives, builders do often offer nice incentives on Dirt Starts as well. The couple of advantages that Dirt Builds hold over Spec Inventory are that you typically will have more locations within a subdivision that a certain model can be built, and you get to choose everything that will ultimately end up in the home. Also, with dirt builds, you agree to a price 6-9 months prior to having to buy the home, so in strong markets, you can walk into your new home with equity already gained. Each type of home has its advantages and disadvantages – another area where I can help.
· Interest Rate Risk
Piggybacking off the idea of Dirt Start, or Spec Inventory, what are interest rates at, or what might they be at in the future. Typically with Spec Inventory, you are 30-90 days away from closing, so the interest rates will be more defined and certain whereas if you are doing a dirt start, interest rates may have risen, or fallen since the time you went under contract. Let’s suppose that you are financing $300,000 – if you opted for a Spec home and rates are at 6.5%, your payment would be $1,896 (principal and interest only for this example). On the other hand, if you opted for a Dirt Start and it closed in 8 months and the interest rate rose to 7.25% by the time of closing, your payment would now be $2,046(p&i), a difference of $150 per month, $1,800 per year, or $54,000 over the life of the loan. There are a few banks out there that will allow you to lock the interest rate for an extended period of time, but you will have to pay for this option, and, sometimes, it’s non-refundable. Also, note that rates do not always rise and there is a potential that they can fall (remember those days), or stay the same. I just chose these numbers to illustrate a point.
· What to Upgrade in the House?
The one thing that is so alluring about building a new home is the fact that you can make the home “your” home right away with all of the choices / upgrades that you get to make before you move in. The sky is almost the limit here – I have yet to see someone not spend a dime on anything extra, but I have seen upgrades go into the hundred of thousands of dollars. What you do is a function of your tastes and your pocket book. The questions you should ask yourself are, “Do I need this now? What’s the builders mark-up? How easy will this be to install at a later date and will there be extra costs associated with that? Is it worth having this financed versus paying cash for it?”
Let’s do a few “For Examples”: Should I upgrade the carpet? The base carpet that a builder will install might last 5 years with normal wear and tear – the carpet is basic as is the pad. If you are on a tight budget and can’t afford to upgrade the carpet, try to get the pad upgraded as it will extend the life of the carpet. Going through the questions, “Do I need this now?” – Can you live with a base carpet for the next couple of years knowing you will probably be buying new carpet in the near future. “What’s the Builder’s Mark-up?” – The builder will probably have a few tiers for mark-ups on carpet, so does what you want seem reasonably priced? Is it worth a few thousand dollars to get what you want now? “How easy will this be to install at a later date and will there be any extra costs associated with this installation?” Obviously, here you will have to uproot the rooms that you are having re-carpeted – is it worth having to move your TV and couches from the family room, or the king size bed and associated furniture from the master bedroom? “Is it worth having this financed versus paying cash for it?” Do you have, or do you think you will have the cash in the future to have carpet installed, or is it worth it to you to have it installed and put you’re your mortgage instead? Remember, you will be paying on this for a long time, but sometimes it is the easiest way to go.
This can be endless – do I want upgraded bathroom fixtures, rounded corners, garage door opener(s), extra coach lights, hardwoods in the entryway, or any other part of the house, upgraded cabinets in the kitchen, laminate, tile, or granite, etc… counters, tile in the bathrooms, custom painting, upgraded doors/handles, etc…? This is where I can help immensely. Since I have an extensive background in building/remodeling homes and have sold a bunch of new homes, I can make answering these questions much easier. Also, I have developed a number of connections over the years and can refer you to locations in town where you will save the most money. Rather than pore over each and every option that is available, we can sit down and discuss what the builder is charging versus what I believe that you would have to pay to get this work done.
Also, I can give you my two cents in regards to how difficult it would be to get the work done. I will go over more examples regarding upgrades when I get into the process segment.
· Unforeseen/Unadvertised Expenses
You have just spent a whole lot of money on a new home, will you have to come up with any more money, or do you get to live happily ever after. Yes and no is the best answer that I can give you – it really depends on the builder and the type of home that you are buying.
One expense that you might incur is Window Coverings (blinds, drapes, valances, etc…) – they can range from $10 a window for some basic blinds to $250+ for some elaborate window coverings. It just depends on your tastes and budget. Some builders, especially for condo’s and townhomes, allow you to put this in your design center selections (read upgrades), and some do not. Window coverings can really add up – just another thing to keep in mind.
Another expense that you can incur is that of landscaping. Most builders will put in the front yard, and leave the backyard to the homeowner. Some builders offer incentives to help offset the cost of the backyard, and a few will put in a basic backyard, but most of the time the backyard is your responsibility. Again, depending on your tastes and budget, this can be $1,500 to $50,000+. Do you want a waterfall in the back yard? A koi pond? Fire pit? Lot’s of trees? Big boulders?, A Sprinkler System?, etc…
How will you keep the dog from running away? Fencing – builders typically will provide wing fencing (basically a fence stretching from the side of your house to the side of your next door neighbor’s house) and they leave the back and side yard fencing to the homeowners. Here, they usually will provide the name and number for your future neighbors to see if they will split the cost for installation. This could be another $500 - $5,000+ depending on the size of the yard and the type of fence that the community makes you install.
What do you do with your gas/charcoal grill and patio set? Decks – typically, the builder will provide you with a concrete slab in the backyard – you might have the option to upgrade this to a bigger slab, or a deck. Do you want a deck, or just the slab, or do you want stamped concrete? This could cost you another $2,000 - $25,000+ depending on your taste and budget. As a side note, if you get a walk-out/garden level lot, a deck will be built for you, but the cost can be an upgrade, or part of a premium that you will pay for the lot.
HOA Fees (Homeowners Association Fees) – while not a tremendous expense, it bears talking about. In new home communities, you will most likely pay a HOA fee of $25 - $50+ per month – most new home communities are within this range, but depending on the purchase price of the home and the amenities that are offered in the subdivision, the HOA fees can vary. And, there can be sub-association fees also. Let’s take the Highlands Ranch Golf Club subdivision for example – there is one master HOA for Highlands Ranch and that runs about $38 per month (this allows you access to all 4 of the recreation centers and pays for grounds maintenance thru-out the community). Then there is a sub-association fee which is $22 per month and this covers grounds maintenance in the subdivision and holiday lighting. These aren’t huge fees, but they can add up and I just want you to be aware of them.
Also note that if you are looking at a condo/townhome, HOA fees will be more expensive, but will cover more expenses for the complex, such as exterior maintenance and roof, building insurance, pool, work-out room, trash, etc.... HOA fees will vary by complex and some will cover more than others – it just depends on the complex and the amenities offered.
Are there other costs? Sure, but these are the biggest ones that come to mind and ones that you may not have thought about prior to looking at new homes. Again, this is how I help – certainly the cost of a new home can be expensive, but you have to be sure that you are okay with the extra costs that are associated with the building of a home, or maybe you want to focus on 2004/2005 properties that already have yard, fencing, window coverings and decks.
· Builder’s Lender
Often, a builder will offer incentives on their homes so long as you use their lender to get your mortgage. Not all builders require this to get the incentives, but the vast majority of the bigger builders have their own mortgage companies and use these incentives as a way to entice you to get your loan with them. As I have mentioned, you are not required to use their lender, but $1,500 - $50,000+ can be hard to walk away from. I will give them this – they are competitive with their rates and have been very good at getting loans done. The rationale for the builder to want you to use their lender, other than the financial gain, is to make certain that the home will close. One of the biggest contingencies in buying a home is the loan contingency – the builder knows that if their in-house lender says the deal can get done, it will get done barring any unforeseen events taking place. It just assures the builder that there won’t be any last minute problems with financing.
Many times, the bigger incentives are found on the spec inventory, but they do apply to dirt starts as well.
On a side note, some builders are also own home insurance companies – typically, the bigger builders.
How does the process work?
It’s my hope that you have enjoyed what you have read thus far and that this information has helped in some way. In case you have forgotten, I am a real estate agent and this is what I do for a living. If I have at least warranted a face to face or telephone meeting, please contact me @ 303.520.8700.
The process is written based on how I work. The following is a description of what would happen if you decided to let me help you with your real estate needs. Also, keep in mind that this is written as though you are looking solely for a new home and not a re-sale (not new) home. And, keep in mind that every transaction varies, so while this description is an accurate representation of how the process works, every transaction is different. Now, on to the process:
We meet. I prefer to do this in person, but sometimes this can be accomplished via telephone. What I hope to accomplish here is to find out some of your basic parameters in terms of what kind of home you are looking for, the location, beds, baths, etc… This will give me an idea of where to start and where to go. In addition to looking at the new homes, I also like to look at re-sales in the area to make sure that the new builds are in-line price-wise with the surrounding market. If you are looking for a new home built in 2006/2007, and there is already one on the market built by the same builder in 2005 for $30,000 less, it may make more sense to go that direction, but that will ultimately be up to you – I just want to cover all of our bases and that is why I include a few re-sales in the mix.
I will also direct you to my web-site at www.mydenverrealestatesearch.com and have you sign up for the free IDX MLS. This IDX MLS will give you access to Metrolist. From this web-site, you can search for pictured listings, set up e-mail alerts, request more information about properties, and forward listings to a friend.
Also, another aim at this meeting is to get you pre-qualified / pre-approved with a lender / mortgage broker. If you do not already have a lender at this point, I can give you the numbers of lenders that I have worked with in the past, that I trust, and that I know will get the job done. Remember, there is a good chance that you will end up using the builder’s lender, but this is necessary step in any home buying process. And, it will also help you get an idea of what interest rates are presently and where your payment would be at any hypothetical purchase price point.
And finally, I will tell you a little bit about myself and why I can help you out on this potential purchase – while I am technically a ‘salesperson’, I don’t have a pushy bone in my body and there are never any hard sell tactics employed. You make all of the decisions; I just provide all of the information to help you make those decisions. Also, I will relay that I have been a licensed realtor since 1991, and have been active in the residential real estate market since 1995. I double majored in Real Estate & Construction Management at the University of Denver and graduated in 1991. I have helped build houses as a framer/laborer during the summers of my sophomore and junior years of college. I have built a home from the ground up and have remodeled a couple as well. I have sold over 400 homes since becoming active in the residential real estate market. This is as hard sell as I get, so with that said, I shall return to the process.
Now, there are two things that you are doing – talking to mortgage people, and getting an idea of where you want to look, what amenities you want, etc…. Remember, this is not a race – you don’t have to buy the first thing that you see. This is going to be one of the biggest purchases of your life, it is out there and we will find it. Don’t rush it – let it come to you. It’s time to get in the car and go take a look at homes. This can take 2-4 hours or more each time we go out, but keep this in mind – houses tend to meld together after about 4 hours of looking, so bring a camera or take extensive notes to keep homes straight. As a side note here, many builders require a real estate agent to be present on the first visit to a new home site, so, if you are serious about looking for a new home, either wait for me to accompany you, or let me call ahead. If you can’t do that, let the new home sales agent know that you are working with a real estate agent and ask if it’s okay to stay and look, or if you should come back at a later time.
Once we are out looking at homes, I tend to sit back and listen to what you have to say about the kitchens, baths, etc… I also try and point out what in the model we are looking at is an upgrade and what is standard, so you are clear on what they are truly selling. If we are having a difficult time getting feel of how the home will look without all of the upgrades, we’ll go to the builder’s rep and see if we can walk through an almost completed home which will better represent what a home looks like without the upgrades seen in models.
Also, I try and educate you about the house – I’ll start in the basement and talk about whether or not it is a structural floor or slab on grade and the pros and cons of each. I’ll explain rough-in plumbing if applicable. We’ll talk about the network center, and if there is a sub-panel down in the basement. What is a sump pump and how does it work and should it be a concern? What kinds of floor joists have been used? Upstairs, I’ll just point things out and explain them as we happen upon them – all the way to the roof of the property. Outside, I’ll explain elevations, swales and maintenance tips. Other than that, this should be a fun time, so I like to interject a lot of humor when showing homes.
As we progress and continue to look at more homes, my goal here is also to give you a feel for the market – when you have seen a bunch of homes, you can get the feel if the price is right, or if they are off. It is always an educational process – the entire time that we are together, I will never stop telling you everything that I know so that you are never in the dark about anything. Also, I am very reachable and return calls quickly if you even have to leave a message.
So, now we have been looking for some time – maybe 20 houses, maybe 40 or more. The question that I always get is “How many houses do most people look at before buying?” My answer, “One! (looking for some cheap laughs) But, most people that I have worked with see about 20-40 before writing on something. Some more, some less, but that seems to be about my average.” All the while that we have been looking, your lender has been working on getting you pre-approved for a loan (this has much more importance for a re-sale home than a new home, but it is necessary nonetheless). Again, remember that this is your decision – I am not going to be living in this house, you are, so you need to feel right about the purchase. The bottom line is that I want you to be happy with your purchase and if there is anything that I deem negative about the potential house, I will speak up and let you know. “How do I know when I’ve found the right house?” The way it normally works is that the house is the one that while walking through it – stands out above all others by a mile – you just know it.
So, you’ve found the house, love the floor plan, and are excited about the location of the home in the subdivision, now it’s the time to write the offer. With new homes, you basically tell them you want to write an offer, give them a good faith check (usually never cashed), and you set a time to go come back to the office to write the offer – typically within 1-5 days. The idea here is to save you as much money as possible, so being aware of special incentives, knowing about coupons (may sound funny, but a $1,000 coupon is worth $1,000), and getting a sense of traffic flow to the builder is key here. The builder is not going to give the property away, and sometimes won’t budge off their listed price, but it is always worth giving it our best shot to save you money. I can’t and won’t promise that I’ll always get money off the asking price, but more times than not, I do.
Now, we have negotiated a price which the builder’s rep will submit with the entire offer. Most new home contracts take about 1 ½ - 2 hours to go through and you typically will have an answer the next 1-2 business days. The builder’s rep is just that, a rep – they have a good idea of how their builder will respond, but they do not have the final “say-so”. While the aforementioned good faith check is typically not cashed, upon submitting an offer, the builder will require an earnest money check for $2,000 + depending on the price of the home you are purchasing, and this check will be cashed upon acceptance of the contract.
Also, keep in mind that builder’s contracts are just that, builder’s contracts – all contracts have to be written on their contract forms (save for some smaller builders who still use regular Colorado Buy & Sell Contracts). These contracts are weighted towards the builder – you can certainly have an attorney take a look at the contract, and I have been able to get some changes made to contracts, but, for the most part, the builder will stand firm and not amend their contract. If you do not feel comfortable just agreeing to a builder’s contract, I recommend getting a copy of the contract and having your attorney take a look at it prior to sitting down with the builder’s rep and writing the contract. If, after consulting with you attorney about the contract, you don’t feel comfortable moving forward, don’t.
At the contract writing, there are some things which you will be able to choose (varies by builder): Exterior colors (Body, Trim, Roof), Elevation, Extra Outlets in Rooms, Phone / Cable Hook-ups and Locations, Ceiling Fan Pre-wires, Gas Line Hook-ups (for bbq’s / fire pits) – I am sure that I am missing a few, but this gives you a good enough idea that there will be some decisions that need to be made upon contract writing. Don’t worry, though, you will have all this information well before you go to write a contract. For example, with colors, the builder’s rep will have a number of sample boards with different color schemes you can peruse. Once you find one or two schemes that work, the builder’s rep can then point you to where those colors have been used already so you can see how they will ultimately look on your new home. Also, we will have ample time to sit down and discuss these options in much the same manner as we will when it comes time to choose upgrades
So now the contract is complete, the builder has accepted, what’s next? I am going to treat this as though you are buying a dirt start, not a spec home (I will point out and explain here later where, if you were buying a spec home, you would start reading). Also, I am assuming that you do not have a house to sell – I am more than happy to discuss the added steps that would be involved and may incorporate it in the future, but for this article, this is solely about buying a new home.
You now have an idea of when you will be closing, so you can start making preparations in that regard, slight as they may be since you are still about 6-9 months out. Let me tell you, though, time will fly by and you will be closing on your home sooner than you think. Also, at this point, if you are going to be using the builder’s lender, you will schedule a meeting with him/her and get that ball rolling. You are about 3-6 weeks out from meeting with the designer to pick everything for the house, so this should be something that is focused on with a lot of attention. Depending on the size of the builder, they will either have their own design center, or they will send you to separate flooring, fixture, and cabinet stores. The nice thing is that you can usually browse prior to having to go in and make selections, so this gives you a good amount of time prior to your meeting to get an idea of what you want to do. It also gives you and idea of what you are looking at spending to make some of the upgrades that you would like. This is where having a real estate agent who knows basic costs of getting work done comes in handy – do you want to spend $4,000 on granite in the kitchen when it is possible to just go with the laminate for free and have the work done at a later time for $2,000 – it’s always your call, but it’s easier to make when you have all of the information. A thousand here, five hundred there – it all adds up and is potential equity.
They are finally starting to build your home – the hole has been dug, the forms have been placed and concrete has been poured. It’s around this time that I like to visit the site with you for the first time – really nothing to look at, but it gives me the chance to explain what they have done and where they are going with the process. Depending on whether or not they have back-filled, I can explain French drains, the sump pit, the type of foundation that they are using and anything else that I can see. It is all about educating you along the way, so you know what you are getting and why the builder is doing what the builder is doing. What is bentonite and can I put a slab on this type of soil, or do I need a structural floor? Hopefully, you will have heard a lot of what I am telling you from when we were out looking at homes, so this will all amount to re-education.
Roughly 3 – 6 weeks in, you will have your design center meeting and that should go smoothly because we have gone over your selections and come up with a game plan.
The next step is to go visit the site once the framing looks somewhat completed – the roof may still be open, or they may have dried it in. Some builders will do a framing walk-thru and explain what has been done – if this is the case, then we’ll walk it with the builder’s super, and then walk it again if need be. More or less, we get to see how things are going to lay out – does everything look correct?, etc… Again, not much to look at, but the idea is to get any questions that you have answered and to make sure that things are progressing the way that we would like. Keep in mind here that if you go out to the site by yourselves, make sure that you let the builder’s rep/agent know that you are going to be looking at your house – there is usually no problem with you looking, but they will ask that you wear a hard hat per OSHA rules and regulations.
Time is flying by.
The house is now framed and the electrical and plumbing are all in – they have all passed code and the builder is about to drywall the home. I like to walk the home at this stage prior to drywall just again to answer any questions that you may have and to check and make sure that all of the extra outlets (if any), cable/phone outlets and ceiling fan pre-wires (if any) are installed in their proper places.
Next up, drywall and the knowledge that you are 45-60 days from closing depending on the size of the home you are purchasing. Builders are very good at setting a closing date once the property has passed it’s drywall screw inspection and now you have a firm date for closing, so further preparations for the move can be made – moving van rental / moving company hiring, cable/satellite, newspaper, etc… At this point, we will also walk the home again and now it will start to take shape – gone are the studs and now there are walls and the house starts looking like a home. Again, it’s all about the questions and I will point out anything that I see. We’ll also walk the outside as the siding and colors should be on at this point.
It is typically about this time frame that a spec home buyer would come on the scene – from this time all the way up to the completion of the home.
Time continues to fly – if any questions pop up along the way, always ask, or if you want me to go see the property with you at any point, let me know and I’ll make it happen.
Back when the drywall screw inspection was completed, the builder scheduled the closing date and they also scheduled the final walk-thru of the home with one of their construction guys/gals. The home is complete save for some last minute cosmetics. This is a fairly lengthy process and the more eyes the better. The route through the home will depend on the builder, so I’ll just go off of how I have seen it done in the past. The whole idea of the walk-thru is to correct any imperfections and to also explain the major systems of the house – at this point I will have touched on many of the items they are going to talk about, but it is always nice to have a refresher. We start on the outside working our way around the house – any paint drips?, any places where they need to touch up paint?, how about the gutters and downspouts?, broken windows?, how does the deck look (if included)?, what is a swale? Why shouldn’t I put grass up to the side of my house?, what is a freezeless hose bib?, why should I keep a wrench out by the main gas box? etc….. I’m trying to give you an idea of what we will talk about, but this is also about finding touch up items and possibly larger items if they present themselves. Once we are satisfied with the outside of the home, we go to the garage and take a look, then to the basement where we go over the furnace, hot water heater, how to open/close the basement windows, the sump pit, etc…. After the basement, it’s upstairs where we start in the master, work our way through the house and end up in the kitchen. All the while, we are looking for paint touch-up, does all the plumbing work?, do all the light switches work?, windows work?, do all the windows have screens? any holes in the walls?, any scratches on any of the cabinets?, do all of the cabinets open and shut nicely?, do all of the appliances operate?, and basically anything else that we can see that looks like it might need fixing. Upon finishing, you sign off on the walk thru and they now have a punch list to complete prior to closing.
The construction guy/girl will usually explain their warranty process at the end of the walk (though, it depends on the builder). Most builders will give a 1 year warranty on workmanship, 2 years on appliances (usually from the manufacturer), and a 10 year structural warranty. The warranties have guidelines, so you can’t just call the builder because you found a nick in the paint. If it is a big problem, like a plumbing leak, call the warranty department right away. If it is a small problem, like a kitchen cabinet won’t close properly, then this goes on a list. Most builders want you to adhere to a 1 month, 6 month, and 12 month punch/ to-do list, meaning that if it is not a dire emergency, then it goes on the list and is faxed in at one of the three afore mentioned time frames. The builder will then contact you and have the appropriate people come out and rectify the situation. Once this explanation is done, we schedule a time to stop by the house prior to closing to verify that the work from the punch list was completed and then it is off to the title company to close on your new home.
Let me address another question that I get when people purchase a new home, “Do I need to use a home inspector since I am buying a new home?” I think that it is a wise idea, but as with everything else in the process, I will only give you my thoughts, and it is ultimately your call as to how you want to proceed. A home inspector will run about $200-$400 per visit, so keep that in mind when I discuss the following two possible options.
One is to go through the home with an inspector prior to the final walk-thru. This way we can write down all of his/her recommendations and point them out during the walk-thru. Remember, the point of doing the final walk-thru is to make the house as close to perfect as possible. A great example of how an inspection can help is a new home that I sold in Castle Rock a few years back. The buyer had the house inspected and the inspector found that the tub in the secondary bathroom was installed without any slope, so water would not drain after a certain level. We showed the construction super and he got it fixed prior to closing by basically pulling the tub out and some tile and re-installing the tub and replacing the removed pieces of tile – not an easy job. Now you have closed and are rapidly approaching your one year anniversary of living in the home – why not have the inspector come out and re-inspect the home at month 11? If anything has settled, or is broken, who better to find this than a trained inspector? At this point, you can take his/her findings and include any of them on your final warranty list, within reason, of course.
Option two would be if you are a little tight on money, but still want to get the benefit of using an inspector. Utilize the services of the inspector, but, only once. Either have the inspector take a look at the home prior to the final walk-thru, or in month 11, whichever you prefer.
I have attempted to give you as much information as possible in these 14 or so pages. I have not touched on Radon or Mold in this article, but they are certainly not forgotten about when I am showing homes. What I am trying to show here is that this is a complex process and there are many things that need to be addressed to make this run smoothly. I take this very seriously and strive to make the process as enjoyable and fun as possible. I thank you for taking the time to read this and would be appreciative to have the opportunity to either sit down with you face to face, or speak with you on the phone. Again, thank you.
Sean Patrick Reilly