With the upcoming Parade of Homes we have no lack of model homes to preview. As a buyer's representative, a word of caution and advise to you home buyers ready to fall head-over-heels in love with every model you see.
What I absolutely love about models is the ideas I can glean from the staging. They are new, beautiful, and I often want nothing more than to either replicate the exact feel for my own home or wish that model were my own home. Everything is perfect. It’s clean, brand spanking new with that new house smell of paint and carpet. And oh- the new carpet. No well-tread paths or crushed threads, just plush softness under each and every step.
From the bow-wrapped bath towels, to the plumped throw pillows, and to each and every accent piece the model is the picture of completion. They display well thought out spaces with the appropriately scaled furniture placed in every room. The paint touts the newest color trends often tempting bold patterns that fill the space with life.
From room to room I find myself checking out the furnishings and thinking…. “Didn’t I just see that ensemble in the catalog on my coffee table?” I may casually open a drawer to check for the soft close catch or glance to see if there is a double wall oven. More often than not I am so taken in by the staging I forget to notice what is and isn’t included in that eye catching “base price”.
That lovely model may start at the welcoming price of $399,900 but with all those extras you didn’t even realize were upgrades you are now looking at a figure much closer to $650,000. That extra upstairs bonus room, the tile in the master bath, the appliances, that built in for the mudroom, and those gleaming hardwood floors, and yes, even the carpet and carpet pad have been upgraded. No, the fireplace isn’t standard, neither is the crown moulding, nor the white paneled walls that run to those ten foot ceiling that aren’t standard either.
So what do you get for $399,900? That is a good question to start with. I guarantee you after walking through the model and dreaming about your home to be, you will begin to imagine yours to be just like the model only to realize every option you absolutely love and must have comes with an additional price tag.
This isn’t so bad if you know it and expect it. But if that final walk through leaves you with plain white walls, and empty windows feeling rather gypped- then Houston, we have a problem.
Educate yourself in every single home you view about what you are purchasing versus what you are seeing. You aren’t buying furnishings, paint schemes, nor their drapes. So pay close attention to detail. Was that vinyl or tile in the jack and jill bath? Did the master suite include the glass and tile shower or was the plastic insert a standard? What size were those upstairs bedrooms?
Look behind the drapes to the actual window casings. Are they cased? Is the wood color and selection consistent throughout the home? What type of windows are they using?
I inspect the drywall finish scanning for nail pops and tape joints. I study the paint job and the miter joints of the baseboards. That may seem particular, but a model should display the care and skill of those hired to build one of the most important purchases of your life. If there are significant defects in the "showcase" model, you can expect even more in your home.
I count the closets and storage options. A well thought out closet can take the place of another dresser. A walk-in closet with only a wraparound hanging shelf will only beckon your wallet later to add more options for organizational purposes. Costs of these items along with blinds and other unplanned needs can find their way into your pockets making your first year in the house more of a stretch than anticipated. It must above all else be functional.
I suggest you open the cabinets to judge their grade and quality. You will find a variety of options for kitchen countertops. Determine what is standard and which rooms need to be upgraded. You may see a lovely granite in the kitchen while the laundry room and pantry sport a formica. The bathrooms may have cultured marble or a corian. Most builders offer an appliance package upgrade. Be certain to inquire which appliances are included and you may even choose to visit a few local stores for comparisons and more information.
One often overlooked upgrade is the home elevation. The model may reflect a very desirable curb appeal that also reflects a hefty price tag. There are a variety of styles and colors to chose from; though a home association can specify which may or may not be used and which way the house may face. When choosing your outside materials keep in mind some are more durable than others. Slightly more expensive pre-finished Hardiboard will prevent a paint job for many years to come.
Beyond those items, be certain to check the actual building materials and mechanicals. Go into the basement and look for high quality spray foam insulation which makes homes more efficient and quiet. Compare the beaming and floor joist configuration and materials. Check out the furnace and other components of the home and compare the selections to other builders. Spending a little more on your furnace and air conditioner may result in thousands of dollars of energy savings over the time you own your home. Does the builder offer an option to multi-zone the heating and cooling systems so you can control the temperature in your basement and second-floor master suite independently?
Most new homes will come with a New Home Warranty. Inquire what is covered and what follow up process if any comes after the closing. Some builders offer regular visits over the first year, where others may only offer a one time repair of nail pops or have add-on packages with additional services.
Landscaping, lawn irrigation, decks, patios, and the number of trees are all things to ask about. Most models have their sales office in the place of the garage, inquire about the finish of the garage, the number of stalls, if there is a service door, and if it will be insulated or not. Own a large SUV or full-sized pick-up? Make sure the standard garage is deep enough for your large vehicle and how much the upgrade costs to make it deeper. Inquire about the garage door and it’s opener. You may assume the third stall has an electric opener only to find that isn’t the standard. You will want to know if fencing is an option and if you are allowed to have a garden, shed, or play set. While you are at it, get a copy of the association bylaws.
You will want to know how much the HOA fees are and what they cover. Some communities offer a pool, play grounds, trails, or even ball courts. A few have winter ice rinks and warming houses. Often the builder assumes a portion of the fees until a larger percentage of the homes are sold which may affect the board and it’s decisions until it is run by members of the community. These are all options to take into consideration for your final decision.
Dancing Waters, SouthRidge, and Stonemill Farms Developments
Carefully look at the platt to determine your location to mailboxes, trails, parks, or other amenities. If you prefer a larger, private, or corner lot determine the availability prior to the home selection. Ask which lots are available and of those if any have a premium. When you drive around the development, note the cleanliness of the construction sites and ask the expected time for phase completion dates.
You will want to take resale value into consideration when making your selections. Some trends will pass more quickly and become dated and less desirable. You will want to customize many of your choices, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice for selections that will compliment one another.
Overall, look beyond the staging and understand what your are purchasing, building, and what the end result and process will be. I, of course, highly recommend you be represented by an agent other than the one working for the builder. Go in with your eyes open and equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible, do your research, know the competition, and your options. Look beyond the beautiful decor to discover the quality of workmanship and materials you desire for your home.