Whether you are building your first home or have not been through the process for awhile, we wrote this 9 step guide to help you to know what to expect.
Every area and builder are a little different. But this is a great starting template of how to navigate from an empty dirt filled lot to a beatiful, functional new home.
Remember, these steps apply to the new home process from the beginning (a lot prepared for building or a torn down older home) to delivery of a completed home.
You may find a project that has already started, so keep in mind you might jump into the middle of the construction process.
Step 1: Do Your Research
This is the time to educate yourself. And congratulations, reading this quick guide is a part of that research, so way to be proactive!
The easiest way to learn about new homes is to find someone who has been through the process multiple times. Then, sit down with them and pick their brain.
Ask all the questions you possibly can. Listen and take notes. This person can be a resource as you go from thinking about your next home, to building it, to living in it.
Finding an Agent
So where are you going to find a person who has been involved in the construction of multiple homes and will be on your side?
Let’s be real here, most people only buy a few homes in their lifetime. And the chance that they have been involved in multiple new construction homes is slim to none.
This is why it is critical to find a real estate agent who is a new home expert. I have been through the process many times, with many different builders, different areas and I represent my clients needs, not the builder.
If you the process seems daunting or you want to learn quickly and efficiently, find a good professional.
Step 2: Finding Your Home
There are new construction homes going up all around my area at any given time. The same can probably be said where you live.
The next step is to find a home to build.
Communities, Complexes and Single Family Homes
Some new construction is built as part of a large community, complex or high rise building. Here you will find multiple models with different interior layouts and exteriors.
There will be lots to choose from, with lots of different move in dates.
Other new homes you will find on a vacant piece of land or built in place of a torn down older house. These may just be a few homes or even one single home, with a builder looking for one buyer.
Deciding what area you want to live in will determine what kind of construction you will find.
Visiting New Homes
This is the fun part. If you have an agent, make sure to bring them along so they will honor your relationship with them.
Most buyers are able to narrow down an area online, and then will visit anywhere from 1-10 new communities. There is no “correct” number of homes to visit.
When you find the right one, you will know.
Most likely, you will be visiting model homes. The model homes are totally decked out versions of the homes they will be building.
Depending on the type of community or construction, you may either meet with a builder rep or a builder. Their job is to sell you the community you are visiting.
Keep in mind what you want, do not fall for an over the top sales pitch and remember your agent should be fully on your side and looking out for your interests.
There are a staggering number of new home builders.
Some have been around for a long time, some build all over the country and others just one town or area.
Either way, it is a good idea to make sure you have a builder that is reputable. Ask your agent, check out their website, make sure they have other completed projects, etc.
Sometimes, there may not be a model home. Ask if you can go into another one of their completed projects. Most builders will accommodate this request.
Step 3: Contract Terms & Signing
Once you find the right house, it is time to sign a contract with the builder spelling out the terms of the sale and construction.
Builders usually use their own contracts. The builder rep, your agent and you will sit down and go through the terms.
If you have a question about the process or the contract, this is the time to ask before everything is finalized.
Usually, you will need to put money down as a deposit. Builders may require one large deposit or multiple deposits at different times through the transaction.
Some aspects of the contract may be negotiable. It never hurts to ask for a better price or a larger credit to use for upgrades.
This is the time also to have your financing in order as that will be part of the contract.
Step 4: Design & Finishes
Now that you have your home under contract, you get to customize it. Each builder will offer different levels of customization.
Some builders will allow you to make structural adjustments as well as picking your finishes.
Others you will only choose finishes. It will depend on your the community, home and builder.
Your Home Plans
Great homes start with great plans. New construction plans are done very early on in the construction process.
Depending on when you buy your home, you may be heavily involved in the planning phase, or you may not be involved at all. Either way, you will definitely see your home’s plans.
There are many different types of plans. Floor plans are the most focused on, as they show the 2D interior of your home’s layout where you will be living.
There are also site plans, that show your home relative to the land. Elevation plans show the exterior design. And there will be other types of construction and engineering plans that show how the home will be built.
These plans can be referred to as your home is built, and are a good reference in case any changes are made.
Your Design Appointment
Many builders have offsite design centers where they will have samples of their finishes for you to choose from. Many will grade them based on “levels” with increased prices as you get nicer finishes.
You may be in a design center, or you could be picking them from a book or other digital resource.
The design center appointment will be somewhere in the beginning of the building process, as you will be choosing how your home looks and is designed.
Step 5: Beginning Construction
Your home site will be prepared and the construction will commence once the permits are obtained from the local jurisdiction.
Preparation may include soil testing, grading, hooking up sewer/water and more. By the time you are talking with the builder much of this may have been already completed.
After the builder prepares the site, the foundation will be poured.
Your foundation will vary based on where you are buying. Commonly they are poured from concrete, either on a slab (no basement) or dug under the ground and poured with forms with a basement.
This an important aspect of the building process.
Step 6: Framing
After the foundation is poured, your new home will be framed usually using wood and other construction materials.
The “shell” of the home will be wrapped for weather proofing and also the roof decking will be added.
At any time you want to go check on the progress of your future home, it is fairly easy to let the builder rep know you will be stopping in.
Most of my buyer clients and/or myself will go by the construction site several times to verify that progress is being made.
Step 7: Plumbing & Electrical
After the framing is completed, the builder will have contractors do the “rough in” installation of the plumbing and electrical throughout the home.
Pre-Drywall Walkthrough & Inspection
Here is an important fact to consider. Once the drywall is put up, you won’t be able to see the electric and plumbing the same way again.
The only way to access most the wiring and pipes would be to cut through drywall and repair it afterward.
Take advantage of the house in it’s exposed state: get your own home inspector at this point.
The builder will do a walkthrough with you to show you the home before they put up the drywall.
Having the inspection done before the walkthrough is a good idea so you can verify any fixes were done before the walls are enclosed.
Some people will also have the builder take photos as they fix items you find on your inspection or during the walkthrough.
Step 8: Drywall, Siding, Roof & Finishes
After your pre-drywall walkthrough, things will start really moving quickly. There will be work being done both on the interior and exterior, often at the same time.
The builder will (or definitely should) be notifying you soon of your closing date and pushing to get your home ready for your final walkthrough.
The drywall will go up quickly after your pre-drywall walk. After that, the floors, paint, plumbing/electrical fixtures and lights, cabinets, counters bathrooms will be added and completed.
Any other finishes will also be done at this time. This is the detail oriented portion of what you will see in the home when it is finished.
The exterior will also come together, giving your home that “curb appeal” that will impress any visitors as they pull up.
Siding, windows, vents, driveway, roofing, deck and everything else that goes into the outside of the home will be added.
Inspections: Yours & The Jurisdictions
Throughout the building process, the builder will have the local jurisdiction, county or city performing various building, electrical, plumbing and other inspections.
The purpose of these is to get all of the work properly permitted and built safely.
Near the end of the builder completing your home, you should also have your own inspection.
This gets another set of eyes, that work for you, on the home and make sure that it was built safely and also can point out any functional items for the builder to fix.
Step 9: Walkthrough, Delivery & Closing
Depending on your builder, you may have one or two final walkthroughs. Most commonly, you will have one walkthrough about a week before closing.
This is the infamous “blue tape” walkthrough where you can mark any deficiencies you want the builder to fix or touch up.
This includes paint, drywall, any items you identified with your inspector and really anything that you want addressed the builder is willing to fix.
Builders want you to be happy in your new home, so they are likely to work with you on most reasonable requests to fix and touch up items.
After all, having the home up to your expectations is one of the advantages to building new.
The “delivery” of your new home is going to happen right before you sign the closing paperwork making it legally yours.
This is when the home will have everything complete.
If you found items you wanted fixed from your walkthrough and/or home inspection, this is the time to verify those as well.
The builder will also do a demonstration of your home’s main utilities. Knowing where the water shuts off and how to use new appliances will come in handy later.
Look around, and always feel free to ask your agent or the builder any questions that you have.
Post Closing Repairs
When you buy a resale home from a seller, once they move out, that is it. It would be rare scenario for them to come back and make any fixes.
But with a new home builder that is not always true. The builder is building other homes in your community and town.
So sometimes there are instances where a builder will agree to come back and fix items after closing.
If they could not get a certain material in time, or you find something defective during your delivery demonstration, you can work out with the builder for you to close and then have them come back and fix the problems soon after.
In fact, because of the extensive warranties that most new home builders offer, it is not uncommon for them to be in your home fixing items after you have moved in.
Ideally, this list of post closing fixes should be as small as possible (or not exist at all since you will be busy moving in). But if you do have an agreement, get it in writing.
Closing comes after all the planning, inspections, walkthroughs, mental placement of furniture, drive bys, contracts, loan documents and other fun things that go along with buying new.
Now it is time for you to go and sit down with the title attorney. You will sign loan documents if you have a loan, and also paperwork to get the title of the home transferred from the builder to yourself.
Congratulations on buying a new home!
More Resources for New Homes
For more advice on buying a new construction home, more information on types of new homes and more see our complete guide.
Have a question about new construction? Need to find an agent near you? Get in touch with me today.
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