buying from builders
My husband accused me of car shopping because I was reading the new Consumer Reports about new cars for 2013, but I was really comparing the marketing to the new homes of 2013 in Sacramento. I’m talking about buying a new home from a builder. Personally, I don’t sell very many brand new homes — I mostly handle resale — but one of my Elizabeth Weintraub team members, Linda Swanson, has more than a decade of experience in new home sales. She was once a new home sales manager, too. So, while she is out showing homes to buyers, if they run across a new home subdivision, she’s extremely qualified to go to bat for her buyer.
Caution: new home buyers! Don’t ever walk into a new home subdivision alone because, if you do, they will track you, get your name and number, and no other buyer’s agent anywhere in Sacramento will be allowed to represent you. You will be on your own. With the builder’s agents who are experienced and with training you do not possess. You should hire your own separate buyer’s agent.
Here are new car tips from Consumer Reports, which also apply to buying a brand new home in Sacramento:
1. Start Online: Absolutely, spend all the time you want in your comfy PJs, search naked if you want, just don’t forget and use FaceTime. Get a feel for the homes that have come on the market and the homes that have sold, the types of neighborhoods where you might want to live.
2. Take Test Drives: Go to open houses. Book a private tour of a few homes you might want to buy. Sit in the living room and imagine what it would be like to entertain guests, ditto at the kitchen table. Just don’t fall asleep in the bed.
3. Get Approved For Financing Early. You can’t go home shopping without the ticket to ride in your hand. You need that preapproval letter. It’s not to prove to your agent that you are qualified because your agent probably doesn’t give a tiddlywink about it. Your preapproval letter is for the builder and because every other buyer competing with you will have one. Don’t be the odd guy out or people will poke fun and laugh at you.
4. Find Your Old Car’s Trade-in Value. If you have a home to sell, interview a couple of agents and ask for a comparative market analysis. Just don’t choose the agent who gives you the highest price because you might never get that price. Choose the agent you trust. Don’t sleep with your agent, either. You may develop a close bond, but keep the relationship professional.
5. Get Price Quotes. Ask your buyer’s agent to give you the complete financial history of this home and competing homes around it. Knowledge is power. You need numbers. You need to know what other homes have sold for, how much homes are presently pending at (because they will be your future comps) and, in this seller’s market, don’t pay too much attention to the sold comps because most homes are higher in price now than they were last week. Just don’t ask your agent to write a lowball offer in a seller’s market or she might be tempted to smack ya.
6. Have Dealers Compete. You can go with your agent to different new home subdivisions and look at the inventory offered for sale from various builders. If you can find a similar home in a different neighborhood, you might be able to use that home as a comparison to the home you prefer to buy. Remember, though, that in a seller’s market, the builder is in the driver’s seat, and if the subdivision is not overbuilt, this strategy might not work.
7. Negotiate Everything Separately. New home builders often want to bundle services and offer you a package deal on the lot, the home itself, the upgrades for the home, the appliances, the furniture (in a model home) and the mortgage and homeowner’s insurance to boot. All of these things have separate price tags and buying them in a package does not mean you are getting a discount. It could mean you are paying a premium. Unless you just like to throw around money, then go for it. Throw some in my direction, too.
8. Skip the Add-Ons. If you really need those granite counters, put them in afterwards. Granite is cheap, cheap, cheap right now. If you want hardwood flooring, buy the floors and install them after closing. If you desire top-of-the-line appliances, work out a price with a wholesale dealer from a distributor and don’t buy these items from a builder. Because you’ll pay through the nose. And we have enough problems with our noses and spring pollen allergies around here.
9. Check the Math. Everybody makes mistakes because we are all human. But even machines can make a mistake because they are input with data from human beings. It’s easy for a line to be eliminated or a zero to show up in the wrong place. Just think about text messaging and auto correction on your cellphone. Have you never sent an inappropriate message before by mistake? Hey, it can happen in a purchase contract, too.
10. Finalize the Paperwork. Don’t move in before you close escrow. Don’t sign any blank documents if all of the information has not been completed. Use a reputable title and escrow company. Oftentimes, builders will send all of their escrows to a particular company because they have negotiated a whopping discount in exchange for volume. When a company is flooded with volume, sometimes service vanishes and integrity diminishes. Make sure your paperwork is completed correctly. You won’t know what most of the financial documents say, so make sure your name is spelled correctly and the property address is right. That will be half of your battle right there.
The other half will be moving.
If you’re thinking about buying a brand new home in the Sacramento area, please call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916 233 6759.
10 Easy Steps to the Best Deal, Money-saving tips from our car-buying pros, from Consumer Reports April 2013