Open houses are a great tool to find your next home. Whether you are looking for a new home, a resale home or are trying to decide between them.
Open houses allow you to drop in without an appointment during designated houses to see a finished constructed home to get an idea of what the builder’s homes will look like. You also can get more information from the builder’s sales reps and ask questions.
However, new construction home open houses are little different than typical resale homes. Here are some things to keep in mind when visiting new homes at an open house.
1. You Might Not Be Touring the Home You Will Buy
Most of the time, builders use a showcase home to sell their other upcoming homes. Known as a “model” home, this home will be completely decked out with the best finishes, staging and may even include features not available in other homes.
If you are visiting an open house at a large community, it is highly likely you will be in one of the new model homes, and not a home finished for a homebuyer (although they do eventually sell the model home as well).
However, even smaller builders advertising one or a couple new homes in an established community may hold an open house at a similar completed home nearby. So they also use model homes.
To get a better feel of what you are going to get, ask the builder rep or have your agent find out about what is offered in the other homes, what is not offered and what is considered an upgrade.
Sometimes, you can also ask to see another home that is close to completion that is NOT a model home in the same community. This will give you an idea of what a more typical home looks like being completed for one of their clients.
2. Bring Your Agent With You
Many home builders have specific policies regarding buyer’s agents. One of the more notable rules is that your agent must accompany you and register with you on your first visit to a community or home.
So whether you are just browsing around or seriously looking, make sure you call your agent to let them know you are going to look at a new construction community.
If the agent cannot attend, they may be able to call the builder and let them know they represent you. But this is case by case.
If you have a good Realtor, you will want them on your side (see the next tip). So the best way is to set up a time with them to see all of the new communities you are interested in. They can even suggest which ones they think will suit your needs best.
3. Get someone to Represent Your Interests
Having an experienced real estate agent on your side is crucial. There are numerous benefits to having representation when buying new construction.
The builder’s representatives and sales people are very helpful throughout the process, and essential part of getting to closing. However, their job is to look out for the best interests of the builder.
Even if you have bought and sold homes before, there are several nuances to the new construction process that are not the same in resale homes. And each builder is a little different.
It is never too early to involve the right Realtor. Ideally, you want one with extensive knowledge of new construction and has been through the process before many times in varying types of homes.
4. Ask About Completion Dates
Building a home takes time. If you go into a new community, you may not be able to move into that community for many months, even up to a year. In some circumstances, it could be longer for more complex homes.
Different homes and different homesites will have different completion or “delivery” dates. You can find out from the builder when is the earliest you can expect to be ready to move in.
This date could change if there are hiccups (weather, supply delays, etc), but for the most part I have found that the big builders and experienced builders can give you a very close estimate.
You can also inquire about when to expect the various walkthroughs you will get with a new home.
5. Give Yourself Time
The sales reps generally want to make sure that you get the whole picture of the model home, the community, amenities nearby, different options and floor plans and pricing. This process can take time.
You also will want time to go over in private afterward with your agent what you thought of the community and what their opinion of it is.
In homes that were interesting to my clients, we have spent close to an hour just to tour the different models and discuss.
Of course, if you get into the model home and realize it is not for you, it is completely fine to politely let the sales person (or your agent) know that it is not a match. This will save you time and them time.
If you cannot see yourself living their but want to still see the model to compare to other homes and communities, that is fine too.
6. Base Prices vs. Final Sale Price
Advertised prices that you will see for a new construction community or home are almost always the “base price”. The base price is the price if you chose the most basic floorplan, on a “non premium” lot, with the lowest level of finishes and the most basic elevations (exterior).
I can tell you that I have never had any clients get their home at the advertised base price. You will almost always want to make changes, whether something small like nicer appliances or larger like flooring, cabinets, bathroom finishes, deck, etc.
So if the base price is at the top of your budget, keep in mind that your home will most likely be very toned down from the model home.
You can also ask or have your agent ask the builder’s rep an estimate of what buyers spend to finish their homes. I have found often they share this info to help you gauge the cost of updates. Although it will just be an estimate, it can give you an idea of what people are spending to finish the homes.
The exception to this is on completed or near completed “spec” homes. A spec home is being built by the builder without a buyer in mind yet. The same goes for a home where a buyer backed out of the contract, since it is already constructed.
These homes have little to no updating left to be done, so the price is more realistic of what you will need to come up with at settlement.
7. Get Prepared
Are you REALLY going just to do research? Or if the right home was available would you buy it?
When you go to look at new homes, even just for an open house, things can happen fast. Some communities may have lots of homes upcoming and you can wait to put a contract on something.
But others may be nearly sold out. Or, perhaps you just found a single detached new construction that is in your ideal location.
If you are just doing research, and are really not interested in buying, there is no problem with that. But if you could buy now, then make sure you are ready to write an offer.
It is never too early to have a conversation with a real estate agent, lender and to discuss finances with anyone else who is involved with the decision of buying the home.
When you find the right home, you want to make sure you are not scrambling trying to get everything in order at the last minute.
When are Open Houses at New Homes?
So when can you go to visit an open house? New construction communities tend to have much longer hours each week for open houses than a resale home.
However, some smaller builders may hold less of them.
Remember, if you want to see a new home, your agent can also schedule an appointment to meet you there with an appointment. The model homes (or actual home) are available for private tours as well..
Typically, new construction home open houses are held on weekends, and also some in the evening during the week.
I am a real estate expert and a full time real estate agent in Virginia. We have extensive experience with new construction homes in Northern VA.
If you in my area, please reach out to us with any questions about new homes.
Seeing new homes at an open house is a great way to find your next property. These tips will help you stay prepared and know what to expect.