Quite often people will call us after they visit a new home community around Dallas and say, “Which builder is better; who should I go with?” This usually ends in a very quick conversation with both the potential buyer and us hanging up frustrated. The buyer is frustrated because they want a simple, quick, Yes-or-No answer on the biggest purchase of their life. And we are frustrated because they broke several rules of being a savvy new home buyer which we’ll discuss later. But first let’s talk about perceptions.
As much as we hate being inundated with ads and billboards for new things, the reality is that branding and pricing are two critical tools used very successfully in the home building industry. Exclusive communities pick high end builders with high end finishes and we the consumer translate that to quality. Even if the home is out of our price range, we put a bookmark in our minds of what is the gold standard and then try to find a product, in this case a home we can afford, that gets as close to that standard as possible. This perception that more expensive houses or the builder with more commercials is always the better builder is false. Even when builders tell you what type of flooring they use, or insulation, or HVAC system, it still doesn’t mean that you are getting the best home for your money.
The yearly best builder rankings can also exacerbate the problem when companies go on huge popularity campaigns to get votes or worse, we translate most homes built in Dallas-Fort Worth to mean that a builder constructs the best quality.
There is No Perfectly Built Home or Perfect Builder
Even when two buyers go with the exact same builder, the experiences that the two buyers may have can be night and day. So what’s the reason for the discrepancy? It all comes down to the team that put your house together and the materials used during that specific time of year on that specific lot. In other words, your house is one-of-a-kind and even when you go with a production builder, the reality is your house is still custom – as no one else will have your house, on your lot, using the exact same materials that came from the factory at that exact time. The bricklayer that did your house may have half the experience as the mason that did the house next door by the same builder. I’ve seen two houses right next door to each other, both built at the same time, but one has massive foundation issues. All of these factors contribute to the fact that no builder can be perfect on every house, all of the time, in every community. This is why we try to focus the customer’s attention on proactive monitoring and not so much on some article that said Builder X was voted #1 in Dallas two years in a row. Assuming all builders are using trades with a reasonably good standard of quality, it’s best to put your energy into some of the nuances around warranties, inspections, and what value you can get for the same amount of money. If your family uses a lot of energy then maybe you focus on which builder uses the most green construction methods. If you want perfectly flat walls and floors, then go look at some recently finished homes the builder has completed, but just remember, your home will be one-of-a-kind. It’s doing this proactive research and questioning that will ultimately answer who is best for you.
The Trust Factor
Unfortunately, many financial transactions have become more complex over the years. You have mechanisms where people digitally sign documents that they really don’t read, industries that have little regulation, and various relationships that allow multiple parties to get a piece of every dollar you spend. All of this leads to a society of skepticism. You see it all the time on the news with poor consumers getting cheated on a used car sale, a roof replacement, or some other big investment.
So when it comes to homes, many consumers feel that someone is out to get them and screw them over. And if it’s not fear of losing money, then it’s how much can they can “save” by doing it on their own. They may get answer A from a new home sales rep in the model, get answer B from their Realtor buddy in another city, and then logically assume that answer C is how they should proceed.
So when buyers ask us, “who should I go with,” it truly requires working with the buyer over a period of time to walk the homes, ask the questions, and then make an informed decision on who will produce the best outcome. Most builders and Realtors are not former sleazy used car sales people. However, price does matter. Like many things in life, if you want paint that never fades, floors that never squeak, and a foundation that won’t crack in Dallas soils, you will need to pay extra. When you have two builders in the same neighborhood at the same price point, the investigation takes longer, as you really need to get into the finer points on the differences. And always remember, you won’t go to jail for talking to a recent mover and asking how the construction process went for them.
Being a Savvy New Home Buyer
Looking at new homes is fun – a lot of fun! It’s so thrilling that many people will throw out everything they’ve ever learned about planning and financial management for the sake of touring a pretty new model home over the weekend. And once they’ve been sucked into the possibility of actually owning something brand new, they’ve completely overlooked all the important questions and steps necessary to not only get the home, but enjoy the house – one, two, or even ten years later.
The first rule of buying smart is to slow down and understand your options.
Being a smart new home buyer means taking your time and doing the research – it is understanding your financial situation, your family, your lifestyle, the market, before you venture off to see 10 model homes in one afternoon.
So when people call with the, “which builder should I pick,” question, we already know they have rushed into the process and want an easy way out of a hard decision. The first rule of buying smart is to slow down and understand your options. You have to understand the builder’s perspective along with the goals of the super nice sales rep in the model home. While everyone has good intentions, you have to live with that home long after the community has closed-out. This is why slowing down and speaking with a new home specialist is one of the first things you should do.
You can test drive a new car… You can’t do that once you’ve closed on your newly built home.
As consumers today, we are trained to want to cut out any “middle-man” and go direct to the supplier. There are times when this makes sense and times when it doesn’t. Building a new home is a time when it doesn’t make sense. You can test drive a new car and even drive it for a few days before deciding it’s not for you. You can’t do that once you’ve closed on your newly built home.
Savvy buyers will focus on location first and really understand commutes. Do you really want to live in Frisco and drive to downtown every day? It may be worth it if you’re single and have plenty of time. It may not be worth it if you have to pay for babysitters and drive like a maniac for almost an hour to get to your kid’s soccer match.
Savvy buyers understand there is money that can be saved by working with a Realtor. Certain times of the year builders may give bigger incentives. Sometimes, buyers may even be able to get a rebate. But the impatient buyer gives up all these options when they roll up to a model home and rush through the door with no counsel.
Savvy buyers realize that sometimes paying more now, is actually cheaper in the long run, and the one person who had a really bad experience with Builder A, was really a unique, weird situation, where several compounding factors led to such a high level of dissatisfaction.
So, when you’re ready to buy new, spend a little more time upfront researching, selecting your team, then enjoy the process of looking at pretty houses and the best option should eventually reveal itself.
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