Buying a custom home can be like navigating a maze. There are steps to maneuver and numerous traps to avoid before you successfully complete the adventure. It’s exciting and fulfilling, but it can also overwhelm, leaving you wondering if you’re making the right turns or decisions.
Many custom homebuyers, first-timers and experienced alike, fall prey to common – and often costly – mistakes. Whether it’s paying too much for the home you want or choosing the wrong neighborhood, these five “gotchas” can turn what’s meant to be a pleasant experience into an unhappy one. A well-organized approach to buying a custom home can help you steer clear of these common traps.
Trap #1: Falling in Love with the “Shiny Stuff”
Everything in a just built home is so shiny and new. Whether it’s a house built on spec; a semi-custom home built in a development; or a completely custom home designed and built to your specifications, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option.
Don’t let yourself get lured in by the modern bells and whistles. Before deciding you simply must have those untouched granite countertops or pristine modern fixtures, consider these common scenarios when deciding if the custom route is right for you:
- Are you ok with a likely commute?
- Are you patient enough to wait for trees to mature?
- Do you like the cookie-cutter look of most new subdivisions?
- Will you be comfortable with the potential lack of privacy in a development?
Trap #2: Not Researching Neighborhoods
A beautiful location will soon lose its appeal if you don’t feel a part of the neighborhood. Do some preliminary research on the actual community before you settle on a lot. In addition to these tips on helping you decide which community best meets your family’s needs:
- Walk the communities and chat with any current homeowners you meet
- Find out from the city planner’s office what’s in store for your neighborhood
- Research zoning laws for the neighborhood
Trap #3: Not Asking What’s Standard and What’s Extra
Amenities and upgrades vary from builder to builder. Compare potential locations for amenities such as a health and fitness center or gated entrance, and for upgrades like appliances and flooring. While choosing finishes and furnishings can be one of the most enjoyable parts of buying a custom home, joy can turn to frustration if you find each selection increases the price of your home. Have a good idea going in what you want and negotiate what’s included early on.
Trap #4: Failing to Get the Right Home Warranty
It isn’t unusual for defects to surface during the first year you live in a newly built custom home. As a Northern Virginia homeowner, you’re guaranteed certain protections for material defects. Protect your family with the right home warranty. Make sure you’re covered for a sufficient period of time and that the warranty clearly spells out what is covered (or not). For real peace of mind, have a real estate attorney take a look.
Trap #5: Not Comparing Loan Options
Many builders have in-house lenders or ties to outside mortgage lenders. You are free to find your own financing as well. You may also need to obtain a construction loan. Contact at least three lenders and compare rates, points, fees, and other terms before committing the next 30 years of your life to truly owning your home. Take the time to read every contract, declaration, disclaimer, and bylaws before signing, and don’t put pen to paper on anything you don’t fully understand. If necessary, get an attorney to help you through the closing process.