Buying new construction is a different process than buying your typical pre-built home. What’s included, what’s not, and what’s hidden in that massive contract depends on the builder that you use. As with any situation where you’re moving or about to spend a lot of hard earned money, it’s important to go in prepared – and that means asking the right questions.
The first interaction you’ll have with the builder – and in fact, the first several, at least – will be with the builder’s sales representative. These early meetings are your chance to ask all of the questions you might have regarding costs, labor, and other essentials that you need to know about before jumping in. Write your questions down before you go in so that you can be sure not to forget anything important, and don’t be shy about getting the answers that you need. This is a major purchase, and you don’t want any surprises later.
Not sure exactly what you need to be asking about? These 6 questions to ask when buying a new construction home will help get you started.
Is the lot cost included?
When you’re exploring new construction options, you’ll see that each plan comes with a base cost. This is the cost of the structure itself, as well as base interior and exterior features (we’ll get into those in a little bit). What may not be included is the cost of the land, so be sure to ask if the lot cost is figured into the base.
If the lot cost is included, ask if there are premium costs for certain lots. It’s possible that the base cost does include the lot, but the remaining lots in the development all have added costs for certain features that you can’t opt out of, such as look-out windows in the basement or wider yards. If the lot cost is not included, ask what it is (and whether there are additional premium costs) and factor those into the base price for the house.
How long will building take?
It’s important to know what you’re getting into timing-wise with a new construction build, particularly if you have a house to sell first or you’re going to be renting. While the building process is prone to delays and you won’t be able to get a finite schedule for how long the build will take, you’ll be able to get a general idea of what you can expect. Be sure to also ask if the build time includes the time it takes to get the permits, since those will typically take about 30-45 days to obtain.
What warranties are provided with the house?
Just because a home is brand new doesn’t mean that no problems will arise. Fortunately, most new construction homes come with one or more warranties that protect you in the event of a mishap early on, including a short term whole-house warranty and a longer structural warranty. Ask what the warranties include and how long they last. While you can always buy your own home warranty, you should expect that the builder will cover you in some way for at least the first several years.
What are the standard finishes?
Does a base cost look too good to be true? That might be because the builder is expecting you to spend big when it comes to finishes like flooring and countertops. Ask what types of finishes are included, and better yet, go through the model unit with the sales representative and have them point out what’s standard and what is an upgrade. You likely won’t meet with the design center until after you’ve gone under contract, so it’s important to figure out early what sorts of finishes and appliances you can expect to be included in the home’s base price.
Is landscaping included?
Depending on the size of your yard, landscaping, including sodding and putting in trees and plants, can set you back several thousand dollars or more. Is that a cost you’ll have to factor in on top of the home purchase? Some builders include your basic yard work, while others leave you with unfinished land that becomes your responsibility to landscape (and generally must be completed in a set amount of time, per the contract). Ask whether landscaping is included, and if so, what that entails and if there is any sort of warranty on the materials so that if your newly sodded grass dies right away or some other mishap occurs you’re not responsible for fixing it.
Does the contract include a cost escalation clause?
New builds are notorious for last minute surprises, but you don’t want to be on the hook financially if it happens. A cost escalation clause allows the builder to charge you for any unanticipated costs that arise as a result of necessary labor or materials. So if lumber prices go up before the builder has purchased the materials for your flooring, or an unexpected delay adds a few weeks onto the build, you’re on the line for those costs. If you’d rather not deal with the stress of unanticipated costs, find a builder that doesn’t include a cost escalation clause in the contract.
If it’s your dream to build a new construction house, go in to the process with an open mind and a clear idea of what you can expect. The more questions you can ask in the beginning, the less surprises you’ll potentially face in the future.