During the home buying process, there may be many exciting highs and some unexpected challenges, but once you’ve signed the contract, you move to another exciting phase: Building your New Home. Managing your expectations, especially during the building process is important to do before any hiccups arise! The building process lands in the hands of the Construction Manager. For large builders, each community may have a Construction Manager who oversees the crews for each home. For smaller builders, once Construction Manager may oversee the crews in all communities. Equipping yourself with as much knowledge as possible as you embark on this phase of your journey will help you set realistic expectations with the construction process and how you can work within this framework to get the home of your dreams.

Will the builder let me visit the construction site of my new home often?
Builders should welcome the buyer to the construction site of their new home. There are some considerations that both may have for the other in these situations. First, a construction site can be dangerous with nails, metal, brick, stone and wood scraps, so it is advisable that you let the builder know when you’d like to visit so they can make sure that it is safe for you to roam the site. Second, there may be times when the builder would prefer that you visit, such as when someone is working on the home that can give you answers or show you parts of the home. Most builders will keep you informed about your home’s progress and share any updates with you as your home nears completion. 

Once I start building my home, what happens if I change my mind about some of the elements in my home?
Once the home building process begins, making changes to an established plan will almost always come with significantly increased costs and longer build time. It is advisable to make all the changes you wish to your home prior to the contract being signed.

How long will it take to build my new home?
Most homes take between 4 to 9 months to build. Some high-end custom homes can take over a year to complete. You should ask the builder early in your home shopping process about their build times. If you’re moving out of a lease or you’re selling a home before you move in to your new one, you’ll probably have to juggle a lot of schedules. You’ll want your lease to expire just as your new home is ready. If you have to sell your current home, you may want to coordinate the closings of your old and new homes so you can move from one to another. If the builder doesn’t complete your home on time and you’ve sold your home or moved out of your apartment, you’ll have to find a living situation until the builder has finished.  During your discussions with the builder, ask them how they can accommodate you if they take longer than expected to build your home. Most builders will do things to defray the cost of furniture storage and hotel accommodations if they anticipate significant delays in completing your home. Make sure the builder includes this language in the contract to ensure that you don’t experience concerns as all of your deadlines approach!

My builder told me that he wouldn’t write a contract unless he saw a prequalified letter from a bank. Why?
Many builders want to make sure that you’re a bonafide buyer that can afford a home. One way to do this is to require a prequalification letter from a bank before they spend time showing shoppers homes that they cannot afford. While most builders won’t go to this extreme, there are some that won’t even show you a house unless they see this document. Many real estate agents have started using this tactic as well. Getting prequalified is a good idea for any new home shopper prior to beginning the process of shopping for a new home. This information will let you know how much home you can afford and help you focus your search. Another reason that the builder wants to make sure that you’re prequalified is that they will invest a great deal of money building your home before you purchase it from them and they want to make sure you’re a buyer that can pay for the home. The same is true for an inventory home. A builder will have to take that home off the market while you’re finalizing your mortgage and they want to make sure there is a reasonable expectation that you can buy it if they do.

What items should I bring with me to a model home?
When you visit a model home, you should always bring your phone so you can take pictures of the home or homes you’ll be visiting. Take pictures of the rooms from different angles, so you have a good idea of what the home looks like when you’re back at your house. Also, take pictures of lighting fixtures, faucets, and fans that you find attractive. You should also bring your list of wants and needs and get some preliminary pricing for each item you think you’d like in your home. You may not get exact pricing on everything you want, but you’ll get enough of an idea of what some things cost when you’re back at home adding up numbers. At some point, you’ll want to bring your children if you have any to see how they move in the space. Bring a pencil or pen so you can m ark-up floor plans and get exact square footage. Bring a clipboard so you can make notes. You can also bring your pre-approval letter to show the onsite salesperson to make sure they’ll be fully engaged with you because you’ve demonstrated that you’re a serious buyer.

Bringing a camera is also a good idea when you visit your construction site. If anything looks odd, unusual or particularly great, take a picture of it. This will help you address this concern with the builder in the future.

If I want to visit a model home, which is the best day of the week to shop?
The most popular day of the week for families to shop for new homes is Sunday, followed closely by Saturday. Most onsite salespeople are off on Mondays and Tuesdays or Tuesdays and Wednesdays. During these days the builders will have a sales assistant or a real estate agent in the model. If you want to look at a model without a sales person following you around, it’s best to go on a day that they are not working. If you’d like an expert on the home to answer questions, it would be best to visit a model as early after they open (usually 10:00 am) on a Thursday or Friday. That way you’ll have the model and the salesperson all to yourself as you shop.

Managing expectations during buildout can help keep buyers as excited as they did the moment they signed the contract to help make their dream home their reality!