Here in Denver, the market seems to improving and I'm guessing that many of the builders that were here during the hot times, may creep back into the Denver market as things get better.
So if you are a home buyer and are tempted to visit a sales office, here is just some advise for you.
1. Do you have an Agent? These days, builders are very particular about their marketing efforts, what's working, and what isn't. Builders welcome buyer agents that accompany their clients to their sales offices. If you have an agent that you are speaking with, TELL THE BUILDER YOU ARE WORKING WITH AN AGENT. This is a very important step. It allows your agent to get paid by the builder (which can save you from having to pay them to assist with the transaction) and it will let the builder know that you have a relationship with an agent who has probably researched how the building process works.
2. Understand Standard Features vs. Options: Models are fun, beautiful and UPGRADED to the nines. Builders to this to show ALL the potential of their floor plans. Ask for a "Standard Features" list and have the onsite sales person show you what's included and what's not. They are pros for their product.
3. Stay off the building site: This is a safety issue more than a control issue. Builders are liable for any injuries onsite and plus, if OSHA drives by and sees people wandering around the building without hard hats, the builder could get in trouble, be told to stop construction, and therefore delay your home.
4. Builder Lenders and Incentives: More often than not, builders will offer incentives to use a specific lender. They can be a certain amount off the home or it can be applied towards upgrades, whatever the "incentive", they are able to tie it with the use of a lender. Agents are not able to do this as it goes agains RESPA, but builders have different rules they follow when it comes to this.
5. Special Option Requests: Most models will have built ins or certain items that were installed just to enhance the appearance of the home and are not always available for your individual home. If you request something that is in the model but not on a regular option list, this may be considered a special or custom option. Be prepared for the builder to collect the full amount for this option. The reason for this is if for some reason you cancel and they have installed that item, it adds a cost to the home they need to recoop from the next buyer which isn't always done and the builder takes a loss on that item. They collect the full amount so that they have already made money on that item and it allows them to either pass on that cost to the next buyer or make a little on that item.
6. Construction Meetings: Many builders will offer or require the construction staff to meet with the buyers so they can see how the home is being built and also offer an opportunity to correct anything that may be wrong with framing, electrical, plumbing, etc. Room additions or subtractions can be mistaken and a "frame walk" is the best opportunity for the buyer and builder to get on the same page.
7. Communication: By allowing an agent to participate with the builder, the on site sales staff will usually contact the agent to assist with communication to the buyer. This allows the buyer to stay informed without being overly contacted by the on site staff. Discuss this communication preference with the staff and things will run much smoother.
Another aspect of the communication is to not contact the trades or construction staff directly UNLESS the construction requests you to do so. The reason for this is so there are no miscommunications and the on site staff is in the loop as well. The construction and onsite staff probably meet weekly to go over status' for each home being built so they always need to be on the same page. Especially for homes that are being built with buyer (not an inventory home built just to be there).
8. Take pictures, have fun: Having a home built can be an exciting time so be sure to visit the office and let them know you're going to take pictures. It's helpful to take pictures of electrical and plumbing so if you ever need to make repairs or modifications, you know what things look like behind the walls.
As a former on site salesperson, I gained a lot of experience that I hope to pass on to my clients.
If you are looking for an agent to represent you during the building process, I'd be happy to share my expertise and look forward to helping you with your new home!