Buying New Construction in Charlottesville: Expert advice on what to expect and how to negotiate
The lure of new construction is undeniable. After all, who would not want a home that is truly their own? From fresh paint and new appliances to a perfectly landscaped yard, new construction homes are desired for many reasons, but most people love the appeal of a fresh start. There are numerous “new” neighborhoods popping up in Charlottesville and many others who are opening new sections and phases, so we have compiled this helpful guide to provide expectations and advice in the new home purchasing process.
Our Experience in Charlottesville New Construction
At Town, we have a lot of experience in Charlottesville new construction. Town founder, Gary Palmer, was previously the founder and owner at Integrity Home Contracting where he managed 300 projects annually and over $3.5 million dollars per year in construction and remodeling revenues. Agent and New Construction Specialist, Logan Hall has worked for two local builders and has overseen 40+ new home projects totalling over $15 million in new construction revenues. Below are some suggestions based on their experience and insight from BOTH sides of the new home purchase process.
1. Have a buyers agent in your corner who doesn’t work for the Builder
Make your transaction and building process as smooth as possible by first and foremost hiring a real estate agent who knows the area and who has EXPERIENCE WITH NEW CONSTRUCTION. The fact of the matter is, many builders prefer that buyers work directly through them, their realtors and their offices. Why wouldn’t they? This gives them control of all details during the process, whether they are good or bad for you. Builder’s contracts are written by their lawyers, financing is heavily “suggested” through their lenders, and closings are done by their title companies. Every detail and person involved has the best interest of the builder in mind. What many new homebuyers don’t know, however, is most builders include commission for a separate buyers agent in the cost of the home which means that, most of the time, you can get a quality agent, on your side, FOR NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU.
How your Town Agent will help: The answer is simple: We have A LOT OF EXPERIENCE with construction, remodeling, home contracts, home financing, and the entire process of building a new home. Town agents have unparalleled insight and experience that can provide expertise and guidance throughout the entire construction process. With over 15 years of combined experience in the construction and real estate business, we have literally seen it all.
2. Research Developments
Once you have an idea of the area in which you want to settle, begin researching the developments in the region. Maybe you have a couple neighborhoods already in mind, or maybe you are starting from scratch; either way, look at what types of homes are offered in the subdivision, how many total homes are set to be constructed and future road expansions (this is crucial). We also suggest looking for any amenities that are in writing, and set to be there in the future. We also recommend researching the builders, as no two are alike.
How your Town Agent will help: Realtors, in general, have access to more in-depth information, thanks to the MLS, company software and professional connections. At Town, we go even further as we have had personal experience and/or relationships with many of the local builders in the area (we have a lot of insight here). We also own and manage a local portfolio of investment properties and have years of experience doing so. We know the area and have a clear understanding of future growth and opportunities within Charlottesville real estate.
3. Visit the Neighborhood
There is no substitute for seeing a development in person. Drive through the streets, and look at things such as lot sizes and the proximity of homes. Take in the overall feel of the neighborhood. If you like what you see overall, we suggest making an appointment with the developer to get a feel for what kind of neighborhood they are shooting for.
How your Town Agent will help: Checking in at the model home with a Town agent at your side sets the tone for the whole transaction – a tone that states you are a serious customer who plans to be informed in your choices. Further, our experience in construction and new home contracts gives you an edge in negotiations and makes sure there are NO SURPRISES. We have the knowledge as to what questions to ask regarding pricing, standard finishes, contracts, material costs, upgrades and more.
4. Negotiate the Deal
When it comes time to start the negotiation process, the best thing to do to protect yourself during the process is to get everything in writing. Make sure any promised upgrades are noted in the contract, all timelines are spelled out and it is written out how the decision-making processes will work regarding who picks what for the home. Builders are typically quite firm in the prices of their houses, as the sales price sets a precedent for the rest of the neighborhood. As such, negotiating the initial price probably will not get you very far; however, asking to have your closing costs covered or for no-cost upgrades are much more favorable.
How your Town Agent will help: When it comes to new construction, details are everything. Many times, work changes and things mentioned in passing with the builder may seem cut and dry, but we understand they are not. We can speak to builders on their level to make sure your best interests are always front and center. We will make sure EVERYTHING is ALWAYS IN WRITING and no stone is left uncovered. Not only will we protect your interest during the process, we will also take the lead in negotiating everything from financing to incentives.
5. Review the Contract Thoroughly
Builders, especially those who are experienced in their field, often develop their own real estate contracts for use during transactions. This protects their interests and puts them at an advantage. Before you sign anything, have the contract reviewed by someone who is not affiliated with the construction team.
How your Town Agent will help: We have agents on staff who have worked on the builder’s side of new construction. This gives us the insight and ability to dissect, analyze and question absolutely everything in writing. We know the uncomfortable questions to ask and we know the best way to do it.
6. Prepare to Close the Transaction
As the negotiations come to a close, it is time to obtain financing and begin working toward the closing process. The builder or the builder’s agent will submit your contract to a title company to have a title report or abstract prepared on the land, and you will be responsible for obtaining financing. Once again, many builders will have a list of their preferred institutions, both for title companies and lenders. Do not be afraid to do your own research to find the best deal, though you may still be required to get pre-approved through their preferred lender – even if you do not use them.
How your Town Agent will help: On many levels, it may appear that the builder has the the perfect team in place to execute your financing and title work. The reality is they are likely a team that is assembled to share in the incentives of your transaction. We will examine the builder’s offer AND compare it to additional offers from other local service providers. We will provide detailed comparisons and explain the process to you in a way that’s easy for you to understand.
7. Follow-up Throughout Construction
During the construction process, check in with your builder and walk the site regularly. By doing so, you can see your house come to life and ensure that no small mistakes become permanent changes to the design of your home. Make sure to get a copy of the blueprint of your new home, both for your purposes and for the convenience of future buyers, should you ever sell. Find out what kinds of warranties are available on your various materials, such as the windows and flooring, and what kind of warranty the builder himself offers.
How your Town Agent will help: At Town you will have an expert agent with you during your walkthroughs to make sure what’s being built matches what’s on paper. Having years of construction experience, we also understand how to assess and identify quality work. We will make sure corners are not being cut and materials are on spec. We will also identify ways to save money and ways to improve quality along the way.
7. Get Final Inspections and Permanent Financing
All may look well to the naked eye, but even new construction homes come with issues at times. Sometimes it is the fault of the builder, yet many times it is no one’s fault at all. Ensure your brand-new home is in tip-top shape by scheduling all your final inspections prior to signing the permanent financing documents. If anything needs repaired or replaced, make sure this is done ahead of the final closing.
How your Town agent will help: This is where the rubber meets the road and the absolute last chance for questions and concerns. First, will first recommend an expert, third party inspector, that we trust to give us another set of eyes on the quality of product. Then we will go through all of the line items within the contract to make sure everything matches up and promises were kept.