New construction homes in St. Johns, FL are being built and sold at a rate not seen in the area for several years. I am often asked what a buyer’s real estate agent could possibly do to enhance the experience when the builder’s site agent is already involved in the transaction. The answer is - plenty! Whether you are buying a builder’s inventory or spec home or having a home built from the dirt up, consider the following advantages to having a real estate agent represent you and guide you through the process:
The builder is using the services of an agent; why shouldn’t you? A builder’s sales agent represents and protects the best interests of the builder, not of the buyer. He or she is paid by the builder to sell homes at a profit to the builder which is as it should be. But as a buyer, do you know enough about the current real estate market, the building process and industry standards to protect your own interests? A real estate agent with experience selling new construction does.
Working with a buyer’s real estate agent will cost you…nothing. Commissions for real estate transactions are almost always paid by the seller. As a buyer, you can have a professional real estate agent represent you and your interests at no cost to you.
Real estate agents with new construction experience know the builders and the communities in which they are building. An experienced agent knows the reputation of the builders, their pricing structure, what upgrades and incentives different builders have offered in the past, how often they meet their build deadlines, how well they respond to warranty items and much more. That information is invaluable for people considering purchasing new construction.
Real estate agents can put you in touch with a builder’s past customers for references. Yes, a builder’s site agent can provide you with references from past customers and you can bet they will select customers who were happy with their experience. A real estate agent who has sold new construction will be able to connect you with a builder’s past customers irrespective of that customer’s level of satisfaction with the builder. With an investment as big as the purchase of a home, wouldn’t you prefer to hear honest, unfiltered feedback?
An upgrade is not always be an upgrade. I recently spoke with someone who was considering purchasing a new construction home and was thrilled to hear from a builder’s site agent that this builder offered granite countertops as a standard feature while most other builders charge a premium for them. This was simply not true. There are a number of builders currently constructing homes in that particular community and almost all of them include granite as a standard feature. Of course the quality of the granite used may vary among builders but the fact is that including granite in the home this buyer was considering building was not a great extra feature – it is the standard in the community.
One of the most important things a Realtor® does is help you negotiate price, terms and conditions of a home purchase. An experienced agent knows the sales contract thoroughly and knows what terms and conditions are frequently negotiated. He or she also knows what kind of flexibility there may be in the price or upgrades of a home based upon current new construction market conditions as well as whether builders are looking to quickly move new homes they have in inventory and would therefore discount their prices. Agents specializing in new construction will also have their “ear to the ground” so they know if a builder is about to release new floor plans, buy lots in a particular community or pull out of a community or area. This is important information for buyers to know.
How does the house you are considering building compare with others in the community? A real estate agent can help you think about things that will affect the future resale value of your home such as the location of the lot, the upgrades you are considering and how the size of your home compares with that of others in the neighborhood. An agent can and should do a comparative market analysis for you before you sign your contract so you can see how your home compares to others in the neighborhood. Unless you are certain that you will live in the new house indefinitely you don’t want to end up buying a home substantially more expensive than the neighborhood can support or you may have a difficult time selling it.
Are there resale homes that will provide you with the same things you are seeking from new construction? Unless you are determined to build new construction you may find that you can get the same features, floor plan and upgrades in an existing home being sold by the owner as you can in a brand new home, usually at a less expensive price. The resale home may be in the same community or even on the same street. A builder’s site agent is unlikely to have previewed the resale home and may not even be aware that it is being sold; a buyer’s agent will.
Believe it or not, there are many builders who prefer that buyers use their own agent! Educating homebuyers about things like lot selection, permits, the phases of construction, certificates of occupancy, closing costs and punch lists is time-consuming. Many builders would prefer to work with buyers who have an agent to help them navigate through and understand these things. This frees the builder’s sales agent up to do what he or she was hired to do: sell homes for the builder.
Your agent will continue to work for you even after the home is under contract. An agent with new construction experience can be invaluable in the building process. He or she can check on the progress of your home periodically and report back to you. If you do not live near where your home is being built your agent can send you pictures of the different stages of the building process and can arrange to meet an independent inspector at your home site if you’ve chosen to hire one. Some agents will accompany their customers to the builder’s design center as well to give input on the styles, trends and designs that are currently being incorporated into new homes.
Warranty items are not always the highest priority for a builder. Most new construction homes come with a warranty and before the warranty period is up homeowners submit a list of items that need to be resolved by the builder. By this time the builder has sold other houses and is probably continuing to build. As a result, as well-intentioned as he may be, he may not place the highest priority on addressing minor warranty items. Your agent can be invaluable in helping you get the necessary attention to resolve this. While your only leverage with the builder after purchasing your home is your ability to bolster or tarnish his reputation; an agent is a direct source of current and future business and most builders will not risk losing that source over a punch list.
There is simply no downside to having an experienced agent guide you through the process of buying a new construction home. Knowledge is power and working with an agent will help you become aware of what to expect and become fully informed on the entire process. Where else can you get professional advice at no cost? If you are considering purchasing a new construction home, do yourself a favor and speak to a real estate agent with new construction experience first!