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Choosing the Perfect Homesite

The one perfectly unique part of your new home purchase is the home site upon which you'll build. In any given community, development or neighborhood, builders will be selling a limited section of six to ten floor plans, four to five elevations (the way the front of the house appears from the street) and upgrade items. Builders regulate the number and placement of each floor plan and elevation to make sure that homes that appear identical are not placed side by side or across the street from each other. This helps avoid a "cookie cutter-like" appearance to the neighborhood and helps hold home values for resale in the future by limiting the number of homes that may directly compete with each other as they come up for sale down the road. The one thing that is completely unique about your purchase is the selection of a home site.
Narrow Your Search Down
Now that you've decided the part of town in which you'd like to live along with other critical criteria such as schools, travel corridors, proximity to your job, hobbies, friends or family, you'll start narrowing your search down to the communities that are available that meet your needs. The fun begins when you get in the car and start driving around these communities to see what they look like in person! Generally, you'll drive through a community at least once prior to walking into a model. These "drive thrus" are important to get the look and feel of a community while you determine if it's the right fit. Try driving through on both a weekend and during the week, as the personality of the community may be different during different times. Look for things like home site size, community cleanliness, debris, neighbor activities and parking. Characteristics such as front, rear or side entry entrance garages make a huge difference in community appearance. Do people maintain their yards, park in the street, clean up trash or does the community look like it could use a good scrub down? How far apart are the houses and how close to the street are they? Are the streets wide enough to accommodate traffic, but narrow enough to discourage speeding? How is the noise from adjoining streets? All these things are critical evaluations you'll make as you drive through each community. Remember, if it bothers you a little at this point, it will bother you a lot the longer you live in the home.
Premium Lots
One thing that is clearly different between buying or building a new home and purchasing a pre-owned home is that the cost or price of the home site is included in your used home purchase and it may not be included in the "list price" of a new home. While the new home sales counselor is talking about the available home sites in the community, you'll hear the terms "home site premium", or "lot premium". These terms mean building your home on one of these sites will cost more than if you didn't select a "premium" home site.
Often, when a builder or developer is purchases a piece of land and develops it, they realize that corner lots, oversized home sites, sites with privacy, additional trees, greenbelt access or mountain or water views or access are going to be more desirable (and thus demand a higher price) than those home sites which do not feature these things. Often these home sites cost the home buyer "extra" than interior home site or those that do not feature outstanding characteristics. Generally a builder will have a good selection of attractive home sites that range in price from zero to thousands of dollars depending on the characteristics of the property. Unique home sites will not only add to your quality of life, but they'll help you when you're ready to sell your home in a few years too. Don't despair if you've found a perfect lot that comes with a premium, the cost a builder charges you for a premium lot is negotiable and you may get your perfect home site for less than you think!
Seperate Your "Wants" from Your "Needs"
The wonderful thing about home sites is that they're all unique. Every single one has its own view, elevation, slope and character. Take in all these considerations as you pass each one. It is here where you'll want to separate your home site "wants" from your "needs". An oversize lot is nice, but it comes with more landscaping costs, more yard work and maintenance time and upkeep and probably an increased cost from the builder. Corner lots are usually bigger, but there is additional traffic associated with them. Water view or waterfront home sites are limited in supply and builders will want to get a premium for them. Carefully examine all these elements as you review your choices. The time will come soon enough where you'll be asked to weigh the cost and benefits of a premium home site.
Homesites Appropriate for Your Home "Plan"
As you continue to move through the home buying process, you'll eventually select a new home "plan". Once you've selected your plan, your new home sales counselor will show you the home sites for which your plan is appropriate. Big homes don't fit on small lots and very often a builder is reluctant (or even forbidding by community standards) to put a smaller floor plan on a large lot. By now, the sales counselor should know what you want in both a new home and a home site, and they'll present you with a few options. If you have a favorite lot, and it's not in the selection they present you with, inquire if that home site is still available or appropriate for this plan. Review all the recommended selections and then it's time to get in the car and walk each home site.
Take Your Floor Plan into Consideration
As you approach each home site, you should have a copy of the floor plan in your hands. You'll want the builder to mark off the corners of the foundation on the site and show you exactly how your home will sit on this particular piece of property. From there, you can walk to your "kitchen" and survey the view you'll see each morning. You'll be able to see how you back yard would lay out in reference to the rest of the home and you can evaluate the view out your bedroom window. If you're planning on putting in a pool or outdoor kitchen, make sure these are marked too so you can make a fully informed decision about this home site. This is an exciting time, and many builders forgo this step and you'll never be able to fully evaluate this home site without it. Extra time at this step will always pay off down the line.
Once you have been shown all the appropriate lots for your home, sited each one with the sale representative, reviewed the costs and benefits associated with each, you'll be able to weigh each one and make the best decision for you and your family.
Tom Bevins is Senior Vice President of Hot On! Homes, a new home marketing and advertising company based in Dallas / Fort Worth, TX, with offices in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, OK, and Colorado Springs, CO. Contact Tom at tbevins@hotonhomes.com
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