Every home purchase, whether your first or your 10th over a course of a lifetime, marks a significant step in life. And with new construction, a buyer gets a hands-on experience that’s distinctly different from purchasing resale.
With preparation, the during-construction stage will be smooth, exciting and even fun.
Knowledge may be the most important tool for preparation. From financing new construction to the nuances of California building standards and real estate principles, understanding the details will help a buyer know what to ask for during the process.
The first step is self-knowledge.
Before taking model-home tours, familiarize yourself with the benefits of new construction in California, which updates its building codes every two years to ensure safety, energy efficiency and resilience.
Next, narrow down your location preferences and determine the maximum amount you will be able to pay for a home.
A financial planner can help review your assets, liabilities and goals with you. If the purchase will involve a home loan, take the time to start the preapproval process before falling in love with a new-home plan.
Also in the self-knowledge stage, outline why you’re moving in the first place and what features your new home must include — or not include. Doing so will keep you focused when visiting new-home communities and speaking with builders.
Take pride in the fact that you’re buying more than a newly built home; you’re buying a lifestyle in a neighborhood that’s still forming. Explore not only the aesthetics of model homes but the feel of the emerging community.
Get to know the amenities around each new community that make a house feel like a home. When touring model homes, ask the builder’s representatives what buyers like the most about the community and why the builder chose to build there.
Visit as many new-home communities in your preferred area as possible. Ask each builder about what’s unique to the new-home purchase process they offer and each step you can expect along the way.
Consider visiting open houses of resale homes, as well. By doing so, you’ll be better able to compare how new construction in California actively addresses things such as energy efficiency, air quality and design and living features for contemporary lifestyles.
Builders enjoy educating buyers on the construction and design elements that are included with the home and what options or upgrades may be available to you. Ask questions about timetables, punch lists and decisions you’ll be asked to make before and during construction.
New construction purchases in California come with all kinds of protections for the buyer. Embrace that peace of mind by learning about the one-year, two-year and 10-year warranties that California requires builders to provide to buyers. These cover everything from fit-and-finish to structural elements for significant periods of time.
If applicable, review homeowners association (HOA) guidelines. Generally speaking, HOAs are designed to ensure the integrity of neighborhoods over time. But it’s wise to understand what the dues will cover and any rules or restrictions that may be required of homeowners.
Think about the future: Will your family’s situation change enough in the next decade that you’ll want to adapt your new home rather than moving again?
For example, California’s relatively new legalization of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) may offer benefits you hadn’t realized. Learn if the new home’s lot size and HOA requirements can accommodate the future addition of an ADU that can enhance the multigenerational living features of the home.
By asking, you may learn that some builders may already be thinking along these lines. They know that one size does not fit all and may offer information on how their new homes include flexible floor plans or features that are designed for easy conversion or adaptation at a later date.
Happy homeowners are a builder’s greatest achievement. If the community is in its second or later phase, consider getting to know people who already live in the neighborhood.
After all the preconstruction education, it will be time to sign a purchase agreement. By then, most of your questions about design elements and what to expect during construction should be answered.
Builders want each buyer to feel comfortable with the details of the purchase agreement. Take time to ask for clarification on any specifics around the purchase price, fees, payment schedule, construction timeline as well as design features, options and upgrades.
When construction begins, you’ll have not only a goal but a plan of action with well-defined steps to guide you through the exciting process of building the new home of your dreams.