It’s tough to buy new construction these days.
Builders are selling homes almost as quickly as they can build them. Some of the larger developments may have a model home for you to walk through. Other builders sell out a project before the model home can be built.
Which leaves home buyers with few options other than to look through a bunch of blueprints and marketing materials, walk the property (if that’s even possible) and then decide whether to make their single largest purchase from this developer or to go down the street to another subdivision.
Industry statistics suggest that about 25 percent of those individuals who buy new construction purchase early, off the plans, for the pre-construction pricing of homes (which is usually a developer’s best price). The next 50 percent start buying when they see something going up. The final 25 percent will only buy if they can see it, feel it, and smell it, even if it means they’re paying more than they’re neighbors.
Although sales agents say today’s home buyer is far more knowledgeable and sophisticated than buyers even five years ago, the whole process can feel like a pressure cooker, with dozens of decisions requiring immediate attention.
For most people, the problem with buying a home from a set of blueprints is visualizing exactly how it’s going to feel to live there once the home is built. Rooms that look big on paper can feel cramped once you fill them with furniture. An 8-foot ceiling sounds may sound high enough, but an 11-foot ceiling might leave you breathless.
“Many times people have difficulty understanding the scale of a room” when it’s on paper, says Elaine Miller, who heads EMA Development. As a builder and an architect, she tries to help clients understand on paper how a room will function once it is built.
That’s difficult because often it’s unclear exactly how a room will be used until the buyers have actually moved into it, she adds. So it’s important to think about using the same space in different ways when you’re looking at blueprints.
For example, a guest bedroom might also function as an office. An extra-wide hallway might also function as a common computer center for your children.
Miller recommends home buyers do their homework before looking seriously at any newconstruction development.
“Take a tape measure and measure the length of your furniture, your bed and dresser. Some clients want to take specific paintings with them. You should know what you’re going to take and exactly how big it is before looking at any plans,” she suggests.
Once you know that your favorite china cabinet is 14-feet long, and your bed, with two dressers is 13 feet, you can look at plans with a more seasoned eye.
When the developer shows you the dining room, which measures only 12′ x 12′, you know that you’ll either have to sell your china cabinet, move walls, or find a different home.
It’s also important to know ahead of time about how much storage space you want to have in your new home. If you have, for example, 16 feet of kitchen cabinets in your current home, but you’re still tight on space, you may want to find a kitchen that can accommodate twice that, or one that offers you a large walk-in pantry.
Miller says most developers will put together a package of marketing materials for prospective buyers. “The best of these will boil down all of the information available to make it clear and concise for a home buyer.” She suggests that home buyers look to the specifications page of the materials. It is here, she says, that the developer will put all of the important information, such as which appliances, floor tile, carpet, countertops, and fixtures are standard in the home.
For more information about a property’s specifications, you can ask the builder to see the official blueprints, or pay a visit to the local building department, which should have a full set of blueprints on file. There, you will see a detailed cross section of the home, the heating and air conditioning prints, the electrical drawings, and the land plan.
Many home buyers skip over the specifications, and miss important information about the home they’re buying. Often, these buyers often spend another 5 to 10 percent of the price of the home in upgrades and additions, trying to make set of plans into the house of their dreams.
Better to do your homework fully before making an offer.