New Home Construction: Is Brand Spanking New Best for You?

A shiny new house, like almost anything brand new, has appeal. Of course you want to be first to burn dinner in the oven and hang clothes in the closet! And in growing areas like Nashville, new homes are constantly under construction.

Before you get comfy in your unblemished new digs, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics of buying a new construction home. If you think new is right for you, here are a few points to remember:

  1. Learn the area – it will make a difference! Schools, healthcare options, traffic and future development plans are a few factors to think about.
  2. Navigate the buying waters with a good real estate agent who knows the area and reputable developers.
  3. Get pre-approved for a loan prior to looking at new houses. Compare rates and options from several mortgage lenders. Even a fraction of an interest rate percentage point can save a lot of money.
  4. You can’t underestimate the importance of a good builder. Research builders and ask people for their recommendations. Search for reviews online.
  5. Know which amenities are most important to you. People with young kids might want a neighborhood pool and tennis players want neighborhood tennis courts.
  6. Model homes are just that – beautifully appointed and decorated models. You are supposed to fall in love with them. It’s not hard to do with all the upgrades and the professional interior design. Remember that your house will come comparatively empty. It’s possible to add many of the features and amenities to the home you’re building—but it will cost you, of course.
  7. Developers aren’t big on price negotiations because it will lower the value of their other homes. But they are often willing to throw in free upgrades, which can add up. So there is negotiating involved. Once again, a good agent is key.
  8. Make sure everything the builder agrees to is documented in writing and signed off on by all parties. Verbal deals don’t count.
  9. It is rare for someone to buy a house priced in the low end of the advertised price range. It just is. For example, the carpet that is included in the price of your home is nice, but the next carpet level repels liquid and will last longer. It will save money in the long run! See? You’ve already upped the price. A lot of upgrades are good choices – but protect your budget by avoiding homes with prices that start at the high end of your budget.
  10. Most builders have a “design center” where buyers choose everything from flooring and cabinet style to hardware and paint colors. This is also upgrade time. Maybe the basic model includes white-tile floors in the guest bathroom and you want to upgrade to stone. Maybe you want to add a bench in the master bath shower or a Jacuzzi tub instead of a “regular” one (pro tip: don’t do it, chances are you will use it exactly two times). 
  11. If you are moving into a neighborhood that is partially built, walk around and ask any residents you see about the developer and their experience living in the neighborhood.
  12. Most new neighborhoods have homeowners’ associations. If you want to live there, you will have to agree to abide by the rules, so don’t just skim through the association’s rules. You’d be surprised how much neighborhood drama is caused by disagreements over HOA rules.
  13. Fork over the few hundred dollars it costs to hire an inspector. New or used, always have a home you plan to buy inspected. No surprises, thanks!
  14. There will be a “punch list” of items that need to be done (fixed or finished) before closing. Include everything— nail punches, yard drainage, a shaky shelf, etc., and write it all down. Insist that all work will be completed prior to closing. You don’t want to have to deal with contractors and repairs while you’re trying to move in. 
  15. Builders usually include a warranty. Coverage varies, so make sure you understand exactly what it includes. Sometimes you can negotiate extra coverage into the deal. 

Not all problems will be discovered in time to make the punch list. Include a clause in the contract that covers a period of time after closing – one year for example – during which the builder agrees to fix or resolve any problems that arise.

If you find yourself overwhelmed at this point, don’t worry. The process of buying a newly constructed home is easier than it sounds. You will be relaxing in yours before you can say “the mortgage is due.”

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