Buying a new home vs. buying a "used" home which we call a "resale home", is a tough decision and there are a lot of questions to have answered before you dive in. Just because the home is new and the builder's sales agents are there to help, doesn't mean the transaction is any less complicated than buying a "used home" - in fact, it could be more complicated.
There are two issues we want to emphasize right off the bat then we'll fill in the details and more below:
There are plenty of people who say you do not need a real estate agent to help buy a new home and that the sales agent, who works for the builder who is trying to get you buy a home, will help you along the process. That is true, in part, because they want your money and they want to sell you a home and have a good home-buying experience. Home builder sales agents do tend to be very helpful, smart and they know their product as any good salesperson should. However, they are paid by and represent the BUILDER, not you. They are there for the sole purpose of selling you a home - they are the SELLER'S Agent. They do not represent you in the transaction and are not looking out for your best interest outside of trying to close their deal and making the experience as pleasant as possible so the builder doesn't get their name tarnished.
Many new home buyers who heed the advice of Google and the Internet to not use an agent to represent them in a new home purchase tend to regret it afterwards and won't do it again a second time. It's not always the case of course, and there are plenty of people who have had positive results without having an agent represent them but there is no downside to hiring expert help - especially if you do not have to pay them, which you do not. Agents are paid by the builder only if and when you close on a new home.
As soon as you walk into any new home construction sales office, one of the first things the builder's rep will ask is "Can you please sign in for our reference?" and they'll hand you a card and a pen. This starts the process and the marketing and the emails. Most people sign in to a sheet like the photo above without even thinking about it but there is almost always a check box for "Do you have a real estate agent?" If you do, you need to check that box. Usually my business card will get attached to the client's sign in sheet by the builder's sales agent.
The sign in sheet not only attaches my name, as agent for you, to the new home purchase deal, but also allows them to pay me once the sale is closed. I won't get into the legal issues of when a sale is made or not and who can claim "procuring cause" as I am not a lawyer, but typically, if I brought you to the home, you found it on my site and I helped you along the way or we have a written Buyer's Agreement, my name gets logged in the sales office and the builder will have to pay me when the sale closes. They're typically very good about it because they want our help to bring as many buyers to them as possible. To them, it's a cost of doing business - a marketing expense.
If you choose NOT to fill in the "I have an agent" part of the form, it may make it VERY difficult for me to represent you after the fact as there is a proper order of things and if I am not there from the start, they may make it tough to be paid later which then can get a little complicated, especially if we have a Buyer's Contract. At that point, the pay for my services comes from the Buyer. Regardless of the legal intricacies of when a sale takes place and who is "procuring cause" for that sale, if you prefer to be represented during the home buying process, its best to have me there from the very start - before you even walk into the builder's sales office.
There are Codes of Ethics all agents must adhere to in order to protect the general public. The list is lengthy. When you visit a new home builder, they will have in place all the pieces - title, sales agents, lenders, LAWYERS, etc. ALL OF THEM WORK FOR THE BUILDER in some fashion. Who works for you? You might be persuaded to use their lender and go it alone because it can be easier and less costly to them.
Without proper representation, you are asking your opponent to help fight for your best interest in the purchase. Do you think they'll do the best job they can protecting you or is it in their best interest that the less you know, the better off THEY are?
Additionally, new home build contracts are written by the builder's attorney's for the builder. They can be "imbalanced" to the side of the builder. It's important to have an attorney look over your contracts. The builder's resources are vast. Everything in a new home purchase revolves around the builder closing the sale and having you "locked up" contractually. To go it alone or blindly trust the builder's people to guide you along the process is not prudent.
It's a brand new home, what can go wrong? TONS OF THINGS!!! With a resale, you pretty much know what you're getting - its been that way for years. With a new home, you have to trust the builder who largely goes unchecked, to make sure they've done quality work and you won't have issues after the fact. New homes have all kinds of issues all the time. Everything was newly installed and hasn't had a chance to be thoroughly tested in the field as an older resale home has. You need a home inspection and you need someone to represent your interest.
Did they install everything they were contractually obligated to install? Did they use the same quality materials you contracted for? Is everything working?
When buying a new build and incorrectly assuming the builder's sales rep is your rep (he or she is not - they are paid by the builder, for the builder's best interest to be protected), they will know the different homes in the builder's new community very well and can tell you all about the models and different options the builder offers, but do they know the market? Do they know market trends to help you make a good decision as to whether the home should hold it's resale value or not? On average, brand new homes are more expensive per square foot than resale homes, meaning, you will pay a premium for a new home vs. a resale home. Will you get that money back in 5 years? Is it worth paying a premium? Can you get much more "bang for your buck" buying something older? Can you buy a significantly larger home for the same price if you go with a resale home? Does the benefit of everything being new in a new build home justify the cost difference?
Usually the sales rep who works for a builder's new community is there to sell those homes. They may be licensed agents but do not typically work outside the confines of the home-builder's properties. As a residential real estate agent, part of my job is to know my market like the back of my hand - and I do. I am in and out of almost every neighborhood in Tampa and I understand the feel, flavor and function of each. I can guide you during the decision making process and advise if the choice you are making is prudent or not, according to your goals. The sales agent for the builder will not likely discuss how their property might not be a match for you. They're there to sell you a house.
The numbers will make your head spin - rebate this, incentive that, we'll throw this in, we'll ask the builder to add it......
The fact is, the $355,000 house that lured you in will likely cost you closer to $380,000 before you are done and that's with being prudent in your choice selections. Stop trying to be extra careful and that $355,000 home will cost you $400,000. There are a TON of extras and very difficult decisions to make when buying new construction. Everything looks so good and the upgrades can get very, very expensive quickly. The builders job is to get you to buy more house - "Do you want fries with that?" - that's the classic up-sell at a burger joint. With a new home builder, "For an extra $8,000 we can install this gorgeous porcelain tile instead of the cheap, builder's grade stuff we normally put in that was quoted in the original base price."
The "base model" that lured you in is very rarely what you will pay - in fact, you'll typically pay way more than what you thought you were originally getting involved with. Can you afford that or are you already at the top of your budget with the base model, which is unrealistic? Once again, with proper representation and having someone to help you negotiate all these things, you'll probably be better off. At the very least, you will go into it seeing the real full picture.
You can use any lender in the world that you choose. This applies to my "preferred lenders", the builder's "preferred lender" and anyone else who might have been referred to you. No one can force you to use their lender. This is particularly important when weighing a new home purchase. The lender for the builder works closely with the builder. Sometimes, not always, the builder uses tactics that make it feel like they are pressuring you to use their preferred lender. You don't have to. You may get a good deal using their lender or you may not. It is wise to shop around and see what is best for you. Just because the builder's rep "assumes" you'll use their lender, you absolutely do not need to. Shop around and see what works best for you and once again, this is why representation is particularly important. A trusted expert advisor who works solely for you and not the builder, will guide you along safely.
Finally, you decide you love the idea of a new home that no one has ever lived in before but can you wait? Most of the times, builders don't start building your home until you've signed on the dotted line. How long does it take to build a new home? Here in Tampa we commonly see wait times of 8-14 months. Yes, sometimes they will have a few "inventory homes" - homes that are almost fully built or sometimes even completely built but most of the time, you'll have to wait. Can you wait that long to move? If not, a resale home is the answer.
Do you have the time and capacity to make frequent stops to the property to check on progress and make sure the builder is sticking to his timeline? Will a hurricane affect your timeline? Rain? Will they keep pushing back my move-in date because the home isn't ready? These are real issues, especially in Florida where we get some crazy weather that can delay construction.
Whatever you decide, I can help you from start to finish. Once hired, I work for you and only you. My job is to protect you. I am here to protect your interest with expert knowledge and vast resources to guide you through the complicated waters of purchasing a home, brand new or resale.
I wish you the best of luck with whatever you choose. It's an exciting time for you.
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