If you look at homes in a new development, there’s a very good chance you’ll be shown a model home. After all, this home is a showcase for the builder and it usually comes equipped with a number of the more expensive upgrades that the builder has available. In some cases, you might even have a chance to buy the model home directly from the builder. This can be a very useful move for those who want new construction but don’t want to wait. With that said, buying a model home is not without its potential pitfalls. While model homes may look stunning and flawless on the surface, there may be more than meets the eye.
Before buying a model home…
It’s very important to go into the process of buying a model home with a list of things to do. While you might feel like you’re getting a great deal by buying a fully updated home for what might be a fraction of the price of having it built new, the truth is that you need to be just as cautious as you would be when buying any other home on the market. Below are a few tips that you should keep in mind not only before you buy a model home, but before you even consider a model homes as an option. Each of these tips will help you to ensure that you’re making a solid purchase.
1. Consult a buyer’s agent BEFORE meeting with a builder
If you were looking at a typical home, you’d probably start your search by finding a trustworthy agent. While you might think you can go into new construction and get a great deal on your own, you really do need to work with a buyer’s agent first. A good agent will give you all the information you need about the builder, including how trustworthy the company is and the real prices of the company’s most recently sold homes. A good buyer’s agent is going to be your best ally during this process, so make sure to visit with him or her before you ever meet the builder.
2. Ask to see ALL of the models for sale
Don’t sell yourself on the first model you see. Some builders have multiple model homes available, and there are likely more models around in other neighborhoods. Don’t assume that you’re looking at the best model on the market just because it’s there – make sure you look at all the others to get a good idea of what’s really available. Looking at multiple models not only gives you a better idea of the upgrades and floorplans that the builder has available but doing so will also give you a chance to determine if buying a model home is actually the right move for your needs. Just as you’d make sure that you saw comparable houses before moving into a traditional home, so too should you look at multiple models before making your final choice.
3. Beware of hidden construction flaws
One of the most common mistakes that people make when looking at buying a model home is assuming that the home is the best example of the work a builder can do. In fact, many model homes have a number of hidden construction flaws, usually cleverly hidden behind solid staging and some easy misdirection. The mistakes in the model are usually fairly forgivable, at least as far as the builder is concerned, because the model usually won’t be sold early on during the process of selling the neighborhood. If you happen to be the person in the market for the model, though, you may well be looking at a home that has some real hidden issues. Though the builder is supposed to disclose known flaws, you’d be surprised by how many of these flaws end up “hidden” until you have an inspection done.
4. Ask if the model home used to be the sales office
It’s always a good idea to know a bit about the history of your potential home. As a buyer, you’ll want to know if the model was used as the sales office for the development before it went on the market. While this might not seem like a big deal at first, you must realize that a model home that was used as the sales office might have some unpleasant defects. These can range from minor issues like increased wear and tear on the floors, to more major issues like strange wiring or even odd layouts that will make you life more difficult once your move in.
5. Make sure all warranties on construction or structural defects are on the purchase date, not the construction date
One of the benefits of buying new construction is typically getting warranties on the construction or any potential structural defects. If you’re buying a model home, though, those warranties might not be as long-lasting as you had hoped. It is always important to make sure that any promised warranties are tied to the date of the purchase, not the date of the construction. If they are tied to the latter, it’s possible to lose months or even years off of your warranties which can in turn leave you responsible for the full price of repairs when issues are discovered.
6. Research the builder
Always take the time to research your potential builder. This is an area in which having a good sales agent will help, but you can do some of this work on your own. You need to know what people say about the quality of the builder’s homes, including those who have bought models from the builder in the past. If there are complaints about build quality or dealing with the builder, the problems you face in the future might not be worth any money you save by buying the model.
7. Hire your own home inspector
Finally, you must insist on having your own home inspection done by a neutral third party. If you’re treating purchasing the model like you would buying any other type of home on the market, you know that your inspection will be vital to determine whether or not you’re getting the deal you’ve assumed you were going to get. Your inspector will catalog all of the potential flaws in the home, which will give you the ability to negotiate with the builder and to determine if you should continue with your purchase. No matter how new the construction might be, every home purchase should involve an inspection.
Never assume that a model home will be perfect just because it seems new. Instead, make sure to treat the home as was it is – a great home that might have a number of upgrades, but still a home that has potentially spent time sitting on the market. If you can treat buying a model home with the care it requires and work with a buyer’s agent who has your best interests at heart, you may be able to walk away with a much-upgraded house at a fraction of what it might typically cost. When you’re ready to start looking, make sure to visit CENTURY21 Northwest and check out the home affordability calculator to get an idea of what your price range should be as you start your search.