When my close friend asked me to help her find ideas for homes she could purchase in the Tampa area, I started by touring new home models.
More often than not, buying a new home is not a bargain. With so many people going into foreclosure or giving up their almost new homes in a short sale, it doesn't pay to buy a new home.
However, it does pay to check out the new home models and talk to a new home sales representative. I learned a lot by listening to the sales pitch and touring showcase homes.
Deciding on a favorite builder and model
One of the best ways to narrow down the home-buying search is by picking a favorite floor plan and builder. Since my friend is a more artistic person, I knew she would favor a builder who offers a more creative floor plan with sweeping views, art niches, oversized baseboards and moldings. Some builders just cram as many bedrooms in as possible so you end up with 2,500 or more square feet of boxy rooms.
After my friend picks a favorite builder, she can figure out which floor plan she prefers. Instead of buying an inventory home, she can find the same floor plan being sold as a short sale or foreclosure.
Being mindful of the year built
As part of her sales pitch, the new home sales representative I met strongly suggested only buying new because homes built in more recent years were built to meet tougher codes and hurricane standards. The electric bills are at least half as much, she said, because of better insulation and windows. However, my friend doesn't need to buy a new construction homes to reap these benefits. She just needs a resale home built after 2008, based on what the saleswoman said. Also, I told my friend she has to be very wary of any home built in 2006 since that was the year there was a drywall shortage, and some builders used the toxic Chinese drywall in Florida.
Picking a neighborhood
When touring new home models, it's a good idea to drive through the subdivisions. One subdivision I visited was in a good part of town. The downside of the community was that they charged $125 a month for mowing and lawn maintenance. The taxes were also higher because it was within city limits. Another subdivision had higher CDD (Community Development District) fees because it was newer and the fees had not yet been paid off by earlier homeowners. Finally, the third neighborhood I checked out was in a less desirable side of town. The pros included a nearby dog park, good access to the highway and low CDD fees.
Paying attention to the lot
When buying a new home, it's fun to look at the site plan and pick a lot. However, it's not free to get the better lots. Most builders charge a premium for lots on the pond or with conservation views. Other desirable lots include cul-de-sac lots, over-sized pie shaped lots. When another close friend bought a short sale home last winter, she landed a home with a premium lot overlooking a pond. However, since it was a short sale, she didn't pay more than comparable homes with less desirable lots. Some new home builders charge $2,000 to $20,000 for prime lots.
In some cases it does make sense to buy a new home. My husband and I purchased our new home during the beginning of the housing bubble. I don't regret it even though the value of the home plummeted. However, my single friend isn't looking for her dream home; just a good investment for this stage of her life. If she can get her dream home at a bargain though, I'm sure she won't complain.
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