Working with Home Builders

I’ve been out with buyer clients quite a bit lately, most recently in the past week.  These particular clients wanted a new home from a builder so we’ve been to several communities around San Antonio, visiting the model homes of several different builders.  These buyers wanted to see finished homes to find out what features and finish-outs are standard and which are upgrades.  Almost across the board, we found some things that were common with all these builders in all these communities.

1–their model homes are all beautiful, decorated to show all the latest popular trends, and all with most available upgrades.   Builder models are not the reality of what they are offering to you.  Be sure you understand that all these beautiful floors, fancy kitchens, gorgeous granite counters, etc., are probably not going to come standard with their homes, but you can pay extra if you want them.

2–all the builder sales reps were nice and very knowledgeable about their products and communities and what was there, what was coming, etc.  For that reason, if you are seriously considering buying a new builder home, you should definitely start at the sales office and talk to the builder’s representative to get important information.

3–in my experience, most builders are happy to work with you and your realtor.  In my years in real estate, I’ve only had 2 times that a builder’s sales rep has tried to muscle me out of a deal with a buyer.  One time, the buyer went for it and I lost; the other time, my buyer said no way and the builder lost.  But those were definitely the exceptions and had to do more with the rep than the builder.  So, by all means, visit with your realtor or let the rep know you’re working with a realtor, and be sure you’ll have someone representing you, just as the builder has a representative on his side.

4–most builders we visited have very little inventory available!  Builders have cut way back on building spec homes and most just do not have much to show buyers that is finished and ready for move-in.  This varies from community to community and builder to builder, but if you’re wanting something ready-to-go, your options are limited.  Expect to either build from scratch, or find something under construction but not ready yet.

5–understand that builders have a plan in place for their community.  They will only build certain homes on certain lots.  You may have a choice of elevations for a home and/or materials for the exterior, but if you want a certain plan on a particular lot, you may be in for a disappointment if your plan doesn’t fit the builder’s plan.  Same goes for the interior finish for your home.  They have a certain range of options available for each home plan; some are standard, some are upgrades, but they cannot deviate much from the options they give you.   And as far as plans go, many builders will offer some options for some things–fireplace or not, study or not, box window here or not, etc.  But other than their pre-planned options, they do not change their plans.  If you want to move a closet here, or add a bathroom there, then you need to visit a custom builder, not a large-volume builder.

6–be sure you’re very clear before you authorize paperwork on exactly what is included, what  you’re paying extra for, and how much those extras are going to cost.  It should all be spelled out for you in the contract, but be sure you read and understand everything.

7–prices are going up; mortgage rates are starting to creep up also.  Most of the builders I visited over the last few days had signs posted about price increases going into effect June 1 (we visited the last few days of May).  None of them were talking about drastic increases, but a few thousand here and a slight increase in mortgage rates can mean a few hundred dollars a month in payments.  Time is money!

8–building a home is an amazing experience, frustrating at times, nerve-wracking at times, but so satisfying and exciting when you finally move in!  Enjoy the ride!