5 Tips for New Home Builders

Posted by John on July 19th, 2012

Thinking about building a new home?  It can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, but it can also cause a lot of stress and aggravation.  Here are 5 tips for new home builders that we’ve learned from the build of our new home in 2010.5-tips-for-new-construction


Before you Build

1.  Did you know you can use a realtor even with a new construction builder?  Yep.  As a buyer, you’re entitled to use a realtor regardless of the type of property you’re buying.  Before we decided to build our current house, we were concentrating our home searches on local builder’s websites and it never occurred to us to enlist the help of a realtor.  We were mainly looking at new developments in our free time and thought it was a little liberating to deal directly with the builder.  However, more than one of our neighbors used realtors during their build and they had a positive experience.  Using a realtor to deal with a builder can be advantageous if the build process becomes problematic.  They can help negotiate prices and options on your behalf, which can end up saving you big money, which brings us to our next piece of advice..

2.  You can haggle with the builder over the home price and upgrade options.  We didn’t really know this was an option when we built.  We treated it like it was going to Walmart and picking items off the shelf, it costs what it costs.  However, had we known better we may have tried to negotiate a few additional options.  All in all, we got what we wanted and we were very happy with the price.  Some of the features we would have liked but didn’t pop for, we’re adding ourselves at our own pace.  The important take away from this tip is don’t treat the process any different than buying a pre-built home.  You can make an offer lower than the stated value of the home and the options.  It doesn’t mean the builder will take them, but you may get a few additional options thrown in.  The state of home sales and local demand are likely to be key factors in how likely a builder is to adjust their price for a sale.

3.  Take a serious look at the other homes in the development and pay particular attention to their features.  If your home will be one of the later homes added, you can get a feel for how many homes have brick, stone, siding and their colors.  The current neighborhood inventory may be likely to affect your home’s features.  A lot of builders won’t let you build a home that is identical to the home next to it in order to preserve some individuality.  If the builder doesn’t stop that sort of thing, then be aware that someone may be able to build next to you with the same exact features as your house.  This all may play into your decision on which lot to pick and what elevations are available.  Plus there may be options you weren’t aware of like bigger basement windows or egresses.

During the BuildDSC02650


4.  Our builder had us come through the house before they insulated and dry walled it to pick security system locations and to perform a general inspection.  The project manager advised us to take a lot of pictures so we know what’s behind the walls.  Why would we want to know that?  In case we want to know where wires, pipes and gas lines are run.  It’s not crucial, but it certainly helps during some home improvement projects or repairs.

For example, if the upstairs heating or A/C doesn’t seem to be working properly, we know what the distribution system looks like….DSC02665


Or what if we want to hang a flat screen TV on the wall and we’re not sure where the studs are (plus our stud finder isn’t working)…DSC02641

Get the idea?

5.  Addition by subtraction.  While you will undoubtedly need to pay extra for added features, it may not cost you anything to remove something from your plans if you really don’t want it.  Case in point:  Those huge builder grade mirrors in the bathrooms that everyone ends up ripping out when the renovate the bathroom.  Even if you get an upgraded bathroom package, they usually still come with those huge mirrors.  If you’re a fan of them, good for you.  I’ve seen a lot of people dress them up with window trim and they’re totally okay with them.  If you’re not, you can ask your builder to just leave them out.  There’s nothing in the international builder’s code that requires gigantic mirrors in the bathroom for an occupancy cert.  Your builder will probably be open to doing slightly less work, especially if you ask nicely for it.  We were able to swing this no-mirror move in both our master and our hall bathroom.  Right after we moved in, we popped by Ikea and installed these Kolja mirrors.  They’re cheap, but they’re more attractive and a lot easier to remove than the giant Hubble telescope like space mirrors they were going to put in.IMG_4239-1024x682


Any new construction advice to add?  What would you do differently?

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  • These are all great tips! I have a question though…and this is probably pretty ignorant, but I thought when you built a house you could pick out everything?! I had no idea about the mirrors. Are you guys in an HOA neighborhood?

    • John_OHFScratch

      Good question. It depends upon the builder. Most builders will allow you to pick everything down to the drawer pulls. Some, like Lennar, for example, you don't get to pick much of anything. It can vary, although in our brief search a couple years ago, we didn't come across any builder that listed mirror changes as an option. Certainly if you build with a custom builder, you can probably pick every single item.

  • Man, oh man, do I wish that I would have known there were other options than he-giant bathroom mirrors.

    Good tips! Our build was different because we were our own contractor. Never again. 😛

  • We have plans to build our "dream" house after we retire, or at least many many years from now, it seems like such an awesome experience!

  • Taking pictures of what's behind the wall is a great idea! And addition by subtraction, too. Our home was pre-built, otherwise we might have asked them not to fully tile the kitchen/baths or not to build the wall between the kitchen and living room.

  • Thanks John. That's great advice. There are a lot of new housing developments being built in our area and we're hoping to buy in a year or two. I like the idea of having some control over what goes into the home even if it's a fairly pre-determined plan.

    • John_OHFScratch

      Thanks Lisa. Good luck to you. You\’ll be pleasantly surprised how much control you have. It\’s a blessing and a curse though. Not everyone enjoys all the options.

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