Part Two. The New Home Sales Process – Selecting the Floor Plan.
Now that you have been qualified by the new homes sales professional and you have shown interest in a particular floor plan, they will take the next step to totally engage you in that plan to commit you to taking the next step, fall in love with the home and desire it. They will take you to the model you are interested in and point out all the features and describe how happy and comfortable you and/or your family will be living in the home. They will enforce all the benefits of owning a home in their community including the community and amenities it offers. If you are a renter they should point out all the benefits of owning a home instead of renting. The sale professional will point out the features that make their homes different from other communities and if there are specific “Green Features” they will enforce how that will save you money and protect the environment.
In today’s new home market builders want to sell their inventory or what they call “Move in Ready” homes. You may be able to put a deposit on a home to be built on a specific lot later but some builders may not be willing to set a price for lots or homesites in their future phases to protect them from any pricing upside.
Their goal during this and every step will be to have you commit to a floor plan and a particular lot and ask you to write a check today as a deposit to hold the home. Or, if the sales professional is sharp enough they will have you start the contract/purchase agreement process immediately.
Before you take the next step in determining the floor plan you like you should have a good understanding of the price for that plan. In most cases the price the sales person presents or is shown on the price sheet will be a base price for a home that has yet to be built or a base price for a home already completed. To understand what is included in the base price you should be presented an “Included Features” sheet for each model home you viewed. For a home yet to be built the “Included Features” sheet should detail what the standard finishes, features and equipment are included in the base price and what upgrades are shown in the model.
If you are viewing a finished model, most likely that home will have a considerable amount of upgraded finishes, fixtures and equipment. This is meant to entice you to fall in love with the home and add these features to your new home. Selling upgrades on new homes can be very profitable for the home builder. Not all builders have the same standard features, so be sure to understand what each builder is offering so that you can compare the value presented by each builder or community. Also be aware that many larger builders have various communities and will vary the standard features at each community. If you are moving from out of town, don’t expect what was standard or included elsewhere will be standard in new homes in San Diego.
Take consideration as to what is included in the landscaping. The model home landscaping has been designed by landscape architects and professionally landscaped to enhance the look of the homes. Most builders in the San Diego area will include basic landscaping for the front yard only and at time may be minimal to meet the standards set up for the community. The builder should provide a list of plant materials and a layout of how your front yard will be landscaped. Most builders do not include rear or side yard landscaping. If you do not choose to have the builder landscape the rear yard at an additional cost they will provide you with a graded lot with or without any hard surface patios. When examining the exterior details, look for adequate hose bibs, irrigation equipment or systems and a gas stub out for you barbeque. You can always put off the landscaping until after you close on your home and move in and choose any designer or contractor you desire.
After you have done your comps of other communities and builders, you should be able understand the base price difference between similar communities in the same location. This is where having Realtor that is familiar with the market and has experience researching the value of homes already sold and what else is currently on the market can be of great benefit to you the buyer.
There are many choices out there for 1, 2 or 3 story homes. If interested in single story, you will find that many new communities may offer a limited number of single story homes in each community which are in great desire. Due to the lot size restrictions the builder can earn more by building 2 or 3 story homes. So pricing on what single story homes they may have a premium and the cost per square foot will be higher for the single story homes. Not all builders want to build single story homes however, with some local planning department requirements they require to have the builder provide a certain percentage of them.
It is a good idea to have a checklist with you when looking for a home, one that can keep track of the features included that are necessary for you to be happy living in the home. Here are a few questions or concerns you should think about:
Layout and Flow
Imagine how you will live in the home. Maybe you want more or less separation between the master bedroom and other bedrooms. Is there a bedroom on the first floor? Picture how family or guests will enter, exit or navigate through the home. Is there a center meeting place for the family? Do you entertain a lot? If you will be moving your existing furniture or buying new you will need to determine how that furniture will layout, fit and function. Make some copies of the floor plan so that you can sketch a layout of your furniture or consider an Interior Designer to assist with the process.
Is there ample amount of cabinets for your kitchen storage? Pay special attention to the depth of the cabinets, especially the upper cabinets. The standard in most homes is 12”. One way for a builder to cut costs is to provide shorter upper cabinets. Most will include a 30” tall upper cabinet and will allow you to upgrade to a 36” tall wall cabinet. Pantry closets are convenient and may make up for the lack of cabinet space. If the model shows a kitchen island you need to confirm that it is included as it varies from builder and community as to whether they are. Hard surface countertops are nice but they are not always standard in new homes and could be a considerable expense to add them in the upgrade process. Consider how you will work in the kitchen and if there is ample work space on the countertop for staging and preparing your meals. Does it make sense the way the appliances are laid out? Is it easy to access each of them? Are the standard appliances of ample capacity or will they need to be upgraded?
If you are moving from other areas of the country to Southern California you will discover that most new homes do not have the storage you may be used to in other areas. You may find that some homes have good size closets, however with the lack of basements or oversized garages it may be difficult to store bulky items. It may be necessary to install custom storage features in your garage area that will add to the expense of the home.
Keeping in mind the comments of the storage above, you need to analyze how your vehicles will fit in the garage. Model homes show their garages empty and spacious, not with cars in them. If you have an oversized vehicle you may be limited on space to maneuver or for adding storage features. many builders offer tandem garage spaces where one car is parked in front of the other. This works fine if the garage is a 3 car garage. Many home owners use the tandem space for storage instead of the 3rd car. The tandem space in home plans can also be modified to add additional living space such as an additional room depending on the plan and options the builder offers.
Take a good look at the bathroom layouts to see how they will function for convenience, function, privacy and storage. Picture how your house guests will be able to access guest bathrooms. You will find that in Southern California, master bathrooms are often open to the master bedroom or suite with only the toilet room being supplied with a door.
Homesites or Lots at most new home communities are smaller than in other parts of the country. Consider how it will work for you and/or your family. Is there room for the kids, entertaining, adding an outdoor kitchen or barbeque area or a swimming pool or spa? What exposure to the sun does it have? South facing yards can get pretty hot in Southern California and there might be extra costs involved to add a sun screen for your patio to use it on those nice sunny California days.
Included here is a sample of a “Features Sheet” which details each room and the exterior of the home demonstrated what is standard and what is shown as an upgrade or option. They can be very extensive and in many cases very confusing. Be diligent in understanding exactly what you get to avoid surprises later in the purchase process.
If you are buying the furnished model then usually what you see is what you get in the pricing but the builder will have to disclose all that is included. Some will even sell the models exactly as shown with all the furniture.
When you first toured the models and looked at pricing you may have thought the new home would be in your budget. It may well be, however you will have to take into account and add to the price the added features that you will desire to be upgraded and the extra costs needed to complete the home including window coverings, landscaping the rear yard and many other hidden costs that I will talk about in a later article. It will be up to you to determine how much over the base price you can afford to put into the new home. You may not know how much the options and upgrades cost until you will sit down with the sales professional or their design studio. Depending on your wish list, you could spend very little and still stay close to the original base price or you could find yourself adding another 20% or more to the base purchase price.
Okay, you’ve committed to a plan and the sales professional knows that. The next step will be to determine the lot it will be built on.