Your builder may promise a 10-feet-deep swimming pool and a community playground but if you don’t get that promise in writing, don’t be shocked when it doesn’t materialize.
Buying from a builder may be one way to get your dream home but even the savviest homebuyer needs to be cautious, especially if you’re buying without a real estate agent. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are buying a custom home built on specification without representation.

1. Get a real estate attorney
While any intelligent person may be able to find a home from an independent builder, creating a law-abiding contract is more difficult, and specifically the province of attorneys. In some states, real estate attorneys don’t normally look over residential real estate contracts but since you are going it alone you should have an attorney look over the details.

In new housing construction contracts, the elements of the contract, such as a homeowner’s warranty, could be worth a lot or nothing, depending on how they are written.  This is especially important with a new house, where the builders could make all sorts of outlandish promises that may not bear fruit. Make sure you get everything in writing and have a reliable real estate attorney review it.

2. Hire a professional home inspector
Even though it’s a new house, you will still need a home inspector that regularly looks at new construction to go through and create a punch list for the property. This would include testing every electrical outlet to make sure it’s wired, making sure the foundation looks right and double-checking error-prone areas, such as the roof and the basement. The home inspector should make sure everything is done the way it should be or you may end up regretting the purchase when the roof leaks.

The home inspector should also make sure that pieces that the builders are warranting in the contract are actually in the house. You may have to spend a little bit of money but since there is no one looking out for you, you need to do it yourself.

3. Check with the local community
Before you sign on the dotted line, go to the building department of the local community that you are moving to and ask if there are any complaints on record with the builder. You may also want to knock on doors of homes completed by the same builder and ask if the company has been responsive and has come back to fix any issues. The worst thing in the world is to have a builder who doesn’t come back because then your warranty is essentially worthless.

All those things together should make for a fabulous home purchase without the help of a real estate agent. On the flip side, if you don’t feel as comfortable with the builder or the contracts, a real estate agent can be a great asset to shore up the deal. Ask your real estate attorney to recommend a few reliable agents that you can interview before you settle on a representative.

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