5 things you need to know about building a home

There’s a reason home builders spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building and designing model homes for you to walk through. It’s hard not to be impressed. It’s like walking through the pages of a high-end home design magazine. You may think you are there to look at the floorplan, which says on the sign starts at $270,000, but you’re doing a whole lot more.


You’re falling in love.


You can almost smell the delicious meals you’ll be able to prepare in the gourmet kitchen with the gas cooktop and double ovens. You’re falling for the engineered hardwood floors that stretch from the front door throughout the entire first floor. You’re imagining yourself in the luxurious bath with the tiled walls and floors and “comfort height” counter tops.

There are a lot of advantages to building a new home. Laura will always be happy to talk about the pros and cons of buying new versus buying an existing house, but here are some tips on what you need to know if you decide you want to buy a home with a production builder. That means builders who offer a set of floor plans, where you can select from a variety of choices. Pulte, Calatlantic (now Lennar), Fischer, Beazer, M/I, Drees and Arbor are all production builders. Building a production home is different than building a custom home, where we’d work together to find a lot and then work with an architect or builder to design the house from the ground up.


If you are thinking of building, here are some things to keep in mind:

Yes, you need a Realtor

I know this sounds self-serving, but here’s the thing, the person who works at the sales office in the model home works for the builder. There are a lot of great sales people, but at the end of the day, their jobs are to sell you on a house, and they are working to get the builder the most money they can. You need someone to represent your best interests. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’ll pay more for the house if you’re working with a Realtor. Chances are good we can negotiate a better deal for you, plus I’ll be there throughout the whole process and work on your behalf.

Upgrades will cost you extra.

Be assured the model home you are walking through has upgrades and a lot of them. This is the builder’s opportunity to show you lots of bells and whistles. If a neighborhood advertises that homes start in the low $300,000s, for example, chances are good, the model could be upward of $450,000 or even more. Whenever I walk through model homes with clients, I like to ask for the actual cost of the model and all the upgrades that were included, so we have a more realistic picture. Some upgrades most buyers don’t realize:

  • Lights - Unless you like to live in the dark and don’t care about resale value, you’ll need to upgrade lights. Most builders will include a couple of lights in the kitchen, the entry, the dining room and great room, but if you want lights so you actually can see to cook, and lights over your fancy island (be sure to ask whether the island is included, as it may be an option, too), you’ll need a light package. Also, typically bedrooms don’t come with overhead lights.
  • Refrigerators - I’ve never been in a model home that didn’t have a refrigerator, but these are not included. Typically, the only thing included in the base price is an oven, a vent over the oven and a dishwasher. You’ll have to upgrade to get the microwave over the stove, a cook top, double ovens or stainless steel.
  • Garage door openers - These often are not included.
  • Flooring - Of course, flooring is included. But this varies widely by builder and neighborhood. The standard typically is vinyl flooring in the hallway, kitchen, bathrooms and laundry. Carpet is everywhere else, so if you want the hardwood floors you saw in the model, it’s going to add upward of $10,000 depending on the size of the house.

The lot is probably going to cost you extra, too.

You’re probably thinking: Wait, I thought the lot was included in the price of the house. Well, not really. Builders charge a “premium” for lots, and most neighborhoods have lot premiums on nearly every lot in the neighborhood. The premium is based on how desirable the lot is. Want the prime lot on a cul-de-sac that backs up to the woods? It could cost $25,000 or more extra. Another thing to keep in mind, some lots are only designated for some floor plans. A floor plan with a three-car garage probably won’t fit on every lot in the neighborhood. So, when looking at the lot plan, know which lots are available for the plan or plans you are interested in.

Exterior colors may be limited.

To avoid every house looking exactly the same, there are restrictions in most neighborhoods, so houses next to each other are not identical. Often, the same elevation of a home and same color has to be at least three houses apart. It’s something you have to keep in mind as you are considering which lot you like, and the home style you want.

Understand the process.

When you decide to build, understand that depending on the builder and the demand, it could take six months before your home is ready. When you sign the agreement, you’ll need to make a down payment to get started. This varies by builder and can be as little as $5,000 or a percentage of the cost of the home. If you have a home you need to sell, I’ll get information for you on the builder’s policy on contingencies. Because of the demand for homes now, most builders won’t start digging until you are approved for a mortgage, including having a solid offer on your existing home. So, timing is important. Rest assured, I’ll be there to help you navigate the process.


Ready to take the next step?