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Never bought a new home, here's what to expect

December 27, 2016

Tagged as: Home Buying Process

Categories: The Guide  

Your new construction home journey is one of anticipation, excitement, and, sometimes tension. A home is a huge investment. Building your new home will require many things of you.

You will need to be equipped with patience and knowledge. While volume builders have the home construction process systematized, and they work very efficiently, it may seem to take forever. Many varying trades and crews must be coordinated, including local code officials who have to perform inspections at certain points during the construction. And then there is the weather! Storms and bad weather may impact your building timeline. 

So that you’re ahead of the game, and know what to look forward to, let’s take a look at the major stages in the process. Some of these stages require action or input from you and some are are totally on the builder, the construction crews and subcontractors, inspectors and sales representatives. Each of these stages may vary from builder to builder.


Neighborhood selection

You and your Realtor, if you have one, research new home communities to find the one with the builder who best fits your criteria. The Greater Charleston New Homes Guide and CharlestonNewHomesGuide.com are excellent resources to assist in your research. Then you visit those communities with your Realtor, touring models and meeting with the builder’s sales representative to learn as much as you can about the builders process.

During this phase you will move forward with pre-approval with a mortgage lender so that when you visit the builder’s sales office, you will know exactly the price home you can comfortably afford.

As part of your research, review the neighborhood’s CCRs or governing documents. Many new home communities have specific limits on fences, landscaping, or pets, for example. You want to be sure you are aware of these before you proceed. Homeowner Laura Carson said, “Really do your due diligence with covenants and restrictions. Be sure you understand what is and is not permitted in your neighborhood.”


Lot and Floorplan selection

Once you’ve chosen your preferred floor plan, you review the available lots on which your builder can construct it. Not every plan will fit on every lot the builder offers. Some lots may come with a lot premium because of their position. Lots with woodland views, water views or extra square footage frequently have premiums because of their desirability. Sometimes you may have to choose a lot in a section that is not yet open, to get everything the way you want it configured. If this is what you need to do, you will make a deposit to hold your lot selection until that section has opened.


Sales contract finalized

Working with your Realtor, you’ll receive a contract from the builder.

The contract will include the scope of work, timeline and issues related to construction delays, price, incentives, how changes to the scope of work will be handled, and how disputes are resolved.

You should have your Realtor explain every aspect of the new home construction contract to you. If you are more comfortable having an attorney do so, you should meet with one to be certain you understand your responsibilities under the terms of the contract and understand the builder’s responsibilities too. Making sure you are clear on everything you’re agreeing to will help remove tension and lessen worry during construction.

As part of the contract process, review all the warranty materials as well. You need to have all the facts about the warranty before you enter a contract. Discuss the warranty process and materials with your Realtor and get her professional insights.


Design center: Selection of finishes, fixtures and fittings

After signing your contract, you will visit the builder’s home design center to choose options, colors, finishes, and fittings. Many builders provide access to the design center in advance of your selection appointment. You would be well served to make use of this pre-selection time to acquaint yourself with the variety of options and choices. After your selection appointment, you will not be allowed to modify your selections.

Homeowner Laura Carson says, “Shop the options and price them out. Compare that to the cost of having them installed after the sale. Sometimes you’ll find that the inconvenience of installing these features after the sale will be worth the savings you may get.”

Some options are worth the extra cost though. According to Ms. Carson, she never skimps on the number of electrical outlets in the garage or on the exterior of her home, paying for additional outlets to be installed during construction. She also says that adding extra outside water spigots, locating one at each side of the house front and back, is worth the additional cost. You’ll be glad to have the extra outlets when you go to put up your Christmas lights or connect a hose to water the lawn.

If you select items which are outside the builder’s normal range of included items, there will be additional charges for them. Your contract allowances provide a range of options, and you need to be aware of the costs of exceeding these options.

After you choose your selections, you are headed into the construction phase of the project.


Construction: Foundation and rough framing

When your home enters the construction phase, you will not have many responsibilities. Most builders will not invite you onto the construction site due to safety concerns. However, many builders have approved times when you will visit the site in the company of your site construction supervisor, Realtor and perhaps the builder’s sales agent. Your contract or buyers handbook may stipulate these times and stages during construction.

Ms. Carson says she always gets photos of her house in progress. Ask the sales agent or construction supervisor to take photos for you during the construction process. Many builders have online systems where you can view your home’s progress. Having these photos later will help you remember where your water lines run, and where the electrical lines run.

Depending on the lot’s preparation, the foundation and rough framing may take some time. If the site is already prepared, with infrastructure installed and the lot graded, crews can go to work building your home’s foundation.

When the framing begins, you will see the shape and form of the house as carpenters fashion the framing for the walls and set the trusses for your roof and build your flooring system. After the walls systems go up, the sheathing goes on the studs. Then the entire house is wrapped and the roof dried in.

Usually during this phase, the building inspector performs foundation and framing inspections before the builder continues to the next phase.


Construction: Rough plumbing, electrical, mechanical, sheathing, roofing, house wrap

After the studs are up, plumbers, electricians and HVAC contractors begin installing systems that provide all these services.

Toilets, sinks, bathtubs and showers are all placed in the home and connected to the plumbing system.

When mechanicals, electrical and plumbing are at the proper stage, the building inspector will inspect the work and give the builder a go-ahead to the next phase. The inspector may also give the builder notes or things to improve upon in order to fully conform to the locality’s codes.


Construction: Insulation and drywall

With services having passed inspection, the insulation can be put in place and the drywall contractors will begin installing drywall.

Now your home is looking more like a home than a construction site. While you are sure to be excited, hold on, because there is still a lot left to take care of.


Construction: Exterior and Interior paint and finishes

You’ve probably been waiting the time when you see your chosen paint colors go in the walls, and your flooring choices are laid. This is when the builder’s crews will be installing all the things that give your home’s interior character and presence.

As much as you will want to visit the home at this stage, you must wait until the construction supervisor invites you to do so for the preparation to hand the house over to you.


Final walkthrough and inspection

The day you’ve longed for is here! Finally, you get to visit your new home and learn all about it. Your builder’s representative will walk with you at this point, familiarizing you with everything. If you’re having your home inspected by an independent inspector, he or she will perform their work and provide a report to you.

After having purchased multiple new homes, Ms. Carson recommends that you get an independent home inspection. “Even though it’s a new construction home, you really should have a home inspection.” In her experience, her inspector has called attention to items which needed additional attention, saving hassle for her later.



Your closing day is the capstone in a months long journey. What can you expect at closing? A closing attorney will walk you through the process, advising you about all the legal implications of the finalization of the sale and the execution of the mortgage contract.

Your Realtor is also present to assist and support you as well as represent you.

A representative from the builder is also present to sign documents and turn the house over to you.

At the closing you will get the keys to your new home and you can move in.


Warranty period

After the closing, you enter the warranty period. Every new home has a warranty and you are bound to terms and conditions of the warranty. It is incumbent on your to understand your responsibilities and the inclusions in the warranty.

Now that you can move into your home, you’ll be able to put the focus on your daily life. As you look back on the journey from selection to closing, you’ll realize that these walls became your home the day you signed your contract. From that day, you have dreamed of your life here because, while a home is built of bricks, or wood and glass, it is also built of dreams. And every one of them is yours.


Thank you for reading and sharing our articles from The Greater Charleston New Homes Guide. Our business is to know Charleston, SC's new home construction, home builders, neighborhoods and homes so we may assist you as you take your new construction home journey. Our online resources are a complement to our magazine which is distributed FREE throughout the Lowcountry. Please take the time to explore our library of helpful tips, guides and insights. The Greater Charleston New Homes Guide is considered the most comprehensive and reliable resource to new home construction, builders, neighborhoods and homes throughout the Lowcountry.

Tagged as: Home Buying Process

Categories: The Guide  

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