If you've been thinking about purchasing a new construction home, you probably have a lot of questions about the entire process. Prior to making a choice or even visiting new home communities or looking at lots, you will need to do some research and have an approach to getting the best information to help you select the builder who best fits your needs.
According to Will Jenkinson, broker-in-charge of Carolina One New Home Sales, the purchase of a new construction home is something most people rarely do. Indeed, he says most of us will probably only do it once or twice in our lives — if at all. Jenkinson recommends organizing questions and your research into the three stages which align with the process of new home building.
1. Before I decide.
2. After I decide.
3. After my home is completed.
Before you decide on a new home builder what should you know?
No question is probably more pressing to you than the question, “Who's going to build my home?” You have probably also heard the old platitude, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” We suggest you use an evidence-based decision-making process to evaluate a builder's capabilities.
To begin, visit The Greater Charleston New Homes Guide online read area builder’s profiles. Follow the links to the individual builder’s websites and read their company history, review their floor plans, and the locations in which they build. Study testimonials on their website to gather insight into buyers’ satisfaction. Learn when they have you visit the design center to select fixtures and fittings for your home. Next, review their documents covering their construction and communications processes as well as warranties.
Who is my point of contact during the construction process?
What and when a builder communicates with you and how frequently they communicate with you is important. Determine if you will you work with the new home sales agent for the entire construction process or will you work with the builder’s construction supervisor (often referred to as a builder as well.)
When during construction can I visit my home?
You also want to find out when during construction they allow you to tour your new home. Most builders provide specific points during construction when they will have a buyer walk-through. Other than these times, buyers are generally not allowed on site, due to safety regulations. Typical site visits to homes in construction occur at the framing stage, the dried in stage (when walls are up and the roof is on), and prior to closing, when all fixtures and finishes are in.
New home builders’ communication’s process should fit you
It is critical that you understand how the builder is going to communicate with you and at which stages of construction. You also want to see what types of communication tools they use. You may find that you prefer one method of communication over the other, especially if you live in another state or city during your home’s construction. Some builders have Internet linked webcams so you can remotely, and in real time view the progress of your home. Others may use regular email communications, and some may have a forum-style project area where you may login, view and accept documents, progress reports and construction notes. If the builder is a smaller or local operation, they may simply schedule regular face-to-face meetings at various stages of the construction of your home.
Warranties and quality: How can I tell the good from the bad?
During your Internet assessment, review the builder’s warranty offering. Do some research to learn which builders have the least issues following construction. A measure of a builder’s satisfaction rating may be a J. D. Power award for customer satisfaction or a Guild Rating for quality of construction. Some builders may have awards from their local, state or national homebuilder’s association, so ask about those too.
Visiting the new home community of your choice
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to proceed to visit neighborhoods and communities where new construction homes are being built.
When you visit the neighborhood, go to the sales center, get brochures and floor plans for homes which fit your needs and tour the builder’s model homes.
What should I do when touring the model homes in a new construction development?
When you tour the model homes, assess the finishes, and surfaces, mentally or on paper evaluating and tallying grades for the construction quality. Determine which features in each model home are the builder’s standard fixtures and finishes for that plan and which are upgrades. Take special note of any square footage additions or floor plan options which are included in the model. Knowing which fixtures and finishes and floor plan options are standard as you walk through will help you stay on budget. Use the builder’s floor plan brochures to make annotations of flow and features you especially prefer.
What should we do after touring the model homes?
After touring the model homes, talk with the builder’s sales agent to ask any additional questions about options, additions or alterations to plans, neighborhood build out rates and timeline to final completion also known as total build out.
Depending on your personal preference, you may want to purchase a home in a community which is near completion or in builder parlance, “build out.” Buying into a community in the early stages of development frequently means you’ll get a more advantageous price and it may mean you’ll live with construction traffic in and out of the neighborhood unless the builder has specific construction vehicle roads to remove traffic from the neighborhood’s residential streets.
When do I select fixtures and fittings for my home?
Discuss when and how you’ll be able to view and choose flooring, countertops, paint, and tile as well as landscaping options for your home. Most builders do this early in the process.
Some builders will allow you to choose a fixtures package. Each package groups options based on price. Builders with fixtures packages generally have standard, upgraded and deluxe packages. This helps the builder know the price of a home even if you’ve not selected the specific tile for your bath.
There are builders whose fixtures and finishes are priced inclusively. This simplifies the process for them and for you, but be sure you like all the choices of colors and finishes if you go with a builder offering this option.
Can I meet homeowners who have already purchased a home from you?
Ask the new home sales agents if you can speak with others who have purchased homes from them. Having a brief conversation with these owners can help you learn if the builder is one who is easy to work with and follows their established procedures.
What is the procedure for the pre-closing walk through?
Most builders have a pre-settlement walk through allowing you to create a punch list of items that require remediation or special attention to fix something not completed to satisfaction. The punch list is not a time to add change orders or new options, but is a time to make certain that the home whose purchase you’re finalizing is built to what has been agreed upon during the contract process.
Post-closing, what will it be like to own a home from your choice builder?
How do you service warranties and how do I make a warranty claim?
Every home builder has a warranty period for homes they build. As a rule, the first year post close is generally covered by the new home builder. In year two following closing, there are additional warranty options. Most of these according to Jenkinson, are “third party warranties” which are serviced by companies external to the builder. Some smaller builders continue to service their own warranties. There is no right or wrong way to provide a warranty. As with the communications process, simply make sure the process followed by the builder fits your style and expectations. Learn all that you can about the warranty process, specifically what the procedure is to initiate a warranty claim.z
What if you fail to complete this neighborhood?
Many of us remember the collapse in the homebuilding market in 2007 and 2008. While it’s no fun to recall for either the builder or you, you do need to ask the question.
Why do research about a new construction home?
Your research covering the periods before, during and after the sale of a new construction home helps you manage your expectations. Then, you as an informed buyer, can make the choice that fits you and your family. Far from considering these questions intrusive, a savvy home builder comprehends that your satisfaction is greater if you have all your questions answered before you make a decision.
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.