Before You Shop For A New Home - Get Help!

By
Real Estate Agent with Village Real Estate Services, Inc.

 It's been awhile since we bought our home.  But, if we were buying it today we'd sure would do things differently.  When we purchased our home over 11 years ago, we were not represented by a real estate agent.  We bought it directly from the builder.  We just signed anything the builder asked us to sign.  We used their escrow and title companies.  And, we did a "walk through" with their superintendent.

If wevwere purchasing the same home today we would do things quite differently.  We'd would get a REALTOR® to represent us in the transaction.  Then, if for some reason the we and the builder disagreed, there would be recourse.  The contract we would use would be the standard California Association of REALTOR® form instead of the contract devised by the builder's attorneys. 

The one thing we did do right was get our own lender.  The loan the builder was trying to get us to use had less than favorable market rate and terms.

Another thing  we'd do differently is hire a qualified home inspector to inspect the home.  Steven Smith's article Testing 1, 2,3  is a good one to read about the perils of buying without hiring your own home inspector.  When we purchased, we did a walk through with the builder's tract superintendent.  He asked us to place blue tape anywhere we saw anything that needed to be corrected.  We were merely doing a visual inspection for cosmetic defects.  After we moved in we discovered many operational defects.  As an example, one of our bathtubs wouldn't drain.  We found out that there was construction debris in the line.   

Steven's article mentions that frequently GFI's don't work.  This is a serious defect.  They are special electrical outlets that are designed to interrupt the circuit if an electrical appliance accidentally make scontact with water - like a curling iron falling into  running water.  If the GFI doesn't work there's a danger of shock and/or electrocution.

Something home inspectors frequently point out during home inspections for my clients is "reverse polarity".  In many cases, the seller is the original owner and the home was delivered to them this way by the builder.  This means that the wires in the electrical outlets are reversed.  It's a common condition that can be hazardous if the "hot" side of your electrical system gets connected to certain types of lamps or equipment.  This condition usually goes unnoticed because the outlets usually work even if improperly wired.  Yet, they may be unsafe.

Our home had a roof leak about two years after we moved in.  We got up one morning to see a huge stain on the ceiling in the bay window of our living room.  There was a steady drip, drip, drip from the ceiling.  The contractor did fix the roof for us.  During  the incident, two of our chairs got water damage because of the leak.  The contractor sent out a furniture cleaning crew, but the solvent that was used was so harsh the fabric fell apart.  The chairs are living in our garage to be recovered at our expense.  The chairs were not brand new, so the contractor refused to do anything but clean them.    

The reason the roof leaked was a construction defect that would have been spotted by a qualified home inspector.  When the roofers built our home, they overlapped the flashing backwards.  So when we got the first heavy rain (yes in California it took two years before this happened) the defect caused the rain water to funnel into the house instead of carrying the water away and draining properly.

To this day, we have a sink in our laundry room that only has cold water.  The hot water line was not installed properly and we didn't call the contractor out to fix it during the warranty period because it was low on the priority list of things we needed repaired.  So now we'll need to pay someone to fix something that wasn't broken...it just wasn't ever right to begin with.  We'll probably not do that until we have a plumber out to work on something else or most likely when we sell our home.  This is not a critical thing, but it is something that a qualified home inspector would have caught and it would have been corrected when we purchased the home.  You can bet a buyer will want hot water in that sink!

So, if you're considering buying a new home, a few words of advice:

1)      Ask a REALTOR® to represent you in before you begin to shop.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the service of the REALTOR® may be at no cost to you.  If you don't know a REALTOR® in your area, please let me help you find one.  I participate in  a  national referral network of highly qualified professionals.

2)      Hire your own lender.  The loan offered by the builder may not be the most favorable for you.  If you don't have a lender, your REALTOR® will be able to refer you to someone they trust and recommend.

3)      If you do nothing else, hire a qualified home inspector to perform a complete inspection on your new home before you sign the final papers.  A good resource is the American Society of  Home Inspectors  or if you are in California, try the California Real Estate Inspection Association.

Good luck with your new home purchase.  With the right people to assist you, it can be a pleasurable experience.  May you enjoy many happy years in your new home.

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Marlene Bridges, REALTOR®  800 777-1775

South Orange County Real Estate Website

Orange County Seniors Lifestyles Blog

SRES - Seniors Real Estate Specialist®

CRS-Certified Residential Specialist®

President - Laguna Hills/Laguna Woods Chamber of Commerce

Marlene is a highly experienced  South Orange County CA REALTOR® specializing in residential Real Estate and the sale of Homes and Condos in South Orange County, California and Saddleback Valley cities of: Laguna Woods, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo.   

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Rainmaker
147,171
Kaye Thomas
Real Estate West - Manhattan Beach, CA
e-PRO, Manhattan Beach CA
Marlene- Good advice.. I always do an independent building inspection on new construction.. often the builder balks a bit but makes lots of sense..
Jun 25, 2007 04:43 AM #1
Rainmaker
238,196
Marlene Bridges
Village Real Estate Services, Inc. - Laguna Hills, CA
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate
Kaye - Thanks for reading and commenting.  You're right, the builder often balks.  All the more reason to hire a REALTOR® to handle that for you.
Jun 25, 2007 04:54 AM #2
Rainer
94,474
Bob Carney
Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations & Sales - Mc Henry, MD
Licensed MD/PA Real Estate Agent

Marlene, great advice for all new home buyers.  Too many times they think they are at the complete mercy of the builder...nah!!!  You covered it all.

Jun 25, 2007 05:08 AM #3
Rainmaker
238,196
Marlene Bridges
Village Real Estate Services, Inc. - Laguna Hills, CA
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate
Bob - Thanks so much for the nice comment.  You're right and Home Buyer's should not be at anyone's mercy!
Jun 25, 2007 05:11 AM #4
Ambassador
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Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI
(RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE
I want you for my realtor!  I know you'll take care of us the right way! I noticed that all the new home construction here...the agents hardly advise to do a home inspection. I think this is good advise. (A lot of agents ...when it's new home....they just get it in contract and feel they don't have to do a darn thing because it's new...how lame is that?)
Jun 25, 2007 05:12 AM #5
Rainmaker
139,665
Vicki Lloyd
The Lloyd Realty Group - San Diego, CA
(619)452-9798, Real Estate San Diego California

Hi Marlene -

Do you really think that a homebuilder would allow you to use the standard CAR contract?  That would of course be my preference, but I haven't seen that happen.  If they did allow it, I bet they would require an extra 10 days for it to be reviewed by their own lawyers before anyone would sign it!

I absolutely agree that a home inspection by an independent professional is well worth having.

Vicki

Jun 25, 2007 05:52 AM #6
Rainmaker
238,196
Marlene Bridges
Village Real Estate Services, Inc. - Laguna Hills, CA
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate
Hi Vicki - I believe that builders are more amenable to the buyer's requests during the current market than they've been in the past.  It certainly doesn't hurt to ask.  And, what's the worst that can happen?  They say no to the CAR form and you still have an agent reviewing the builder's contract on your behalf.  Middle ground would be the extra time for their legal department to review---certainly worth the time.  Thanks for excellent question and your comment.
Jun 25, 2007 06:28 AM #7
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Jeff Belonger
Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc - Cherry Hill, NJ
The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans

Marlene....  I agree, you don't see too many agents recommend a home inspection on a new construction home. And even when choosing someone to do the inspection, you need to be careful here also. My sister and brother-in-law bought 5 years ago and are now being told that they need a major electrical upgrade. Apparently the home inspector missed this, because of the amps.  Great reminder.

                                                                                                             jeff belonger

Jun 25, 2007 08:32 AM #8
Rainmaker
238,196
Marlene Bridges
Village Real Estate Services, Inc. - Laguna Hills, CA
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate

Jeff - I was sorry to hear that the inspector missed checking the amps.  Just curious, how did they discover they had a problem? 

Jun 25, 2007 08:40 AM #9
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Jeff Belonger
Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc - Cherry Hill, NJ
The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans

Marlene.... they are installing an air conditioner and an electrician came in to take a look at their electrical system. Told them that it was under power to begin with. Stating that they need more amps, even if they weren't going to add the new air conditioner. 

                                                                                                             jb

Jun 25, 2007 08:54 AM #10
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750,230
Jeff Belonger
Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc - Cherry Hill, NJ
The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans

Marlene.... they are installing an air conditioner and an electrician came in to take a look at their electrical system. Told them that it was under power to begin with. Stating that they need more amps, even if they weren't going to add the new air conditioner. 

                                                                                                             jb

Jun 25, 2007 08:57 AM #11
Rainmaker
238,196
Marlene Bridges
Village Real Estate Services, Inc. - Laguna Hills, CA
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate
Jeff- That's a tough one.  Sorry to hear about it.  That can get pricey.
Jun 25, 2007 09:08 AM #12
Rainmaker
552,472
Lynda Eisenmann
Preferred Home Brokers - Brea, CA
Broker-Owner,CRS,CDPE,GRI,SRES, Brea,CA, Orange Co

Hi Marlene,

Great post, and very important to hire your own inspector on new construction.

I had the same situation several years back on a very upscale home in a very small custom builder developement. I called the  inspector and he said "Yes, I often find more in a new home than resale". And in this case he found all sorts of things, it really amazed me. One more thing about having a Realtor, the builders are not exempt from most of our disclosures in CA, yet I'm not sure they are all used by builders.

 

Jun 25, 2007 02:25 PM #13
Rainmaker
238,196
Marlene Bridges
Village Real Estate Services, Inc. - Laguna Hills, CA
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate
Lynda - Thanks for sharing your personal experience with a home inspector on new construction.  Interesting that he often finds more than in a resale.  I appreciate your info on the CA disclosures also.  Thanks!
Jun 25, 2007 04:52 PM #14
Rainmaker
139,041
Ana Connell
G & C Properties - Burbank, CA
Burbank Real Estate Agent
Great post!  Great information and thank you for sharing your experience!
Jun 27, 2007 03:22 PM #15
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Marlene Bridges

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