In the 21st Century, most consumers start their research online. Home buying is no exception. When it comes to houses, an ‘aggregator website” is a good place to start. Aggregator websites combine information from several sources. There are real estate and new home construction websites that focus only on new homes, on pre-owned homes, and both. These introduce you to many builders and communities, giving you a good idea of what types of homes, communities, amenities and lifestyle choices exist in the homes in your price range.
Step 1. To start, go to your favorite search engine, type in a search term that most likely describes what you’re looking for and where you want to live. You may try typing in the words “new homes in Dallas” or “new homes in North Dallas” or, if you know the city or neighborhood, you can use it. There may be specific terms that a relevant to the area where you’d like to live, and you can add such as “new homes inside the loop” or “new homes near the tech corridor” or even, “new homes near university park.” Any term similar to those listed above will get you started.
Step 2. Once you’ve entered your search term, you’ll be presented with a list of websites that contain helpful information. At this stage, going to a specific builder may be a little premature. (We obviously recommend “HotOnHomes.com” and believe it will be the most helpful to new home buyers.) These sites allow you to view new homes and communities, watch videos about new homes, and review discounts and incentives that builders may be offering home buyers.
Step 3. There’s a trick for reading an internet search return page such as those that Google, Bing, or Yahoo! present to internet searchers. Each, “search return page” will probably contain a few paid advertisements for home builders at the very top, and possible at the bottom of the page. Some of these listings may even say “ad” beside them. These are placements that the builder is paying Google to put at the very top of the list in hopes that you’ll click on one of them. If you do, Google charges the builder for the “click.” Companies such as home builders, aggregator websites such as Zillow, or real estate brokers, pay Google to put these advertisements at the top of search return lists because they know that putting their ad on the top of the list gives will get them noticed by internet home shoppers. Each time a home shopper clicks on one of these ads, Google charges the builder or real estate brokerage firm a specific amount of money. Every single “click” you make can cost a builder as little as $1.00 or as much as $9.00 in highly competitive markets such as Austin, Texas or San Francisco, California. Builders want your business, and they’ll pay Google (or Bing or Yahoo!) a lot of money to help them get it!
Step 4. Your next step will be to select one of the search return results. Many aggregate websites will allow you to submit search criteria and filters to narrow down your new home search. Filters like price range and location can narrow a broad search into a handful of prospective properties or communities that match your criteria. Many websites allow you the option to put in the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, number of stories, garage size, lot (homesite) size, community amenities, lake or water view, greenbelt or park access, game or media room, and other features. When you’ve entered all the criteria you can, you’ll be presented with a list, or a map with pins, indicating all the new homes or communities that feature homes that match your criteria. The list will often feature several builders and show you homes that are available for immediate purchase or can be built to order.
Don’t be alarmed that everything on your list doesn’t appear on all the homes. Things like granite countertops and under-mount sinks are options that can be added later. You’re still in the very early stages of your search, and the goal of this step is to narrow down your search to communities and builders that can deliver homes in your price range and in the locations you want. Next, you’ll have a couple of critical elements that you simply must have in your new home. If you have children and you plan on sending them to a public school, the quality of the schools they’ll attend may be important. Start a list of those that you like and eliminate those that don’t interest you. Remember, if you don’t like the community or builder on the website, where the builder is putting their very best foot forward, then you probably won’t like them in person.
Most aggregate real estate websites also allow you to click through to a builder’s website (aggregate websites make money by charging builders for click “thrus.”) Once you’ve done this, you’ll get a deeper insight into the community, and the unique selling proposition (USP) of that builder. Once you’re on the builder’s website, you’ll see more of the homes they build, several floor plans and additional videos of their homes in other communities.
This “researching” stage is one of the most enjoyable steps of your new home search. As you see something on an aggregate website that piques your interest or appears as though it may fit with your wants and needs, make a note. Write all of these builders down on a list and then visit each of their websites to learn more about the builder and the communities in which they build. You’ll see that every community is a little different, and some offer floor plans that are not available in others. The builder’s website will have information that you cannot get anywhere else.