When real estate agents gain a new client looking to buy a home, they typically have a consultation, by phone or in person, to discuss what the client is looking for and to set expectations on the agent’s representation.
But what if the client expresses an interest in buying new construction? How does that alter the conversation with your client?
Whether your client is interested in a resale or new-construction home, a typical home buyer consultation may include questions related to the client’s requirements in a home (e.g., number of bedrooms and baths), budget, neighborhood and school district preferences, level of maintenance in a home, as well as whether the buyer has talked to a lender and is pre-approved.
“You start getting to know the buyer’s likes and dislikes,” says Katie McCartney, a Realtor and owner of Revealty in Columbus, Ohio. She adds that whether a person is a first-time buyer or one who’s been through the process before can make a big difference in the initial consult. “New buyers tend to be more general in their preferences, while well-seasoned buyers know exactly what they want.”
David Feldberg, the broker/owner of Coastal Real Estate Group in Newport Beach, Calif., said that his initial consultations typically take about 15 to 20 minutes — usually by phone — in order to determine the client’s general preferences and then he will take them on a first round of showings to start narrowing down those preferences.
“We start by casting a very wide net because the client doesn’t always know what they want in the beginning,” he says, adding that questions related to the age or style of homes or if clients want land can indicate whether they would be interested in new construction as an option.
“You can see on a person’s face in one second if they are into a home or not,” Feldberg says. “If we go into an older home and they make a face, then I may say, ‘Let’s talk about new construction.’ ”
Budget can also be an indicator of whether new construction may be a good option. “A client’s budget can dictate very early on where they want to look or can look,” he says.
“It’s easy to know if your client is interested in new construction if they come right out and say they don’t want to have to worry about repairs and maintenance and they want brand new fixtures and appliances,” McCartney says, “but sometimes it comes down to discussing priorities.”
Regardless of whether you discover new construction may be in line with your client’s preferences or they tell you outright that they are interested, you still need to discuss the process of shopping for and buying new construction with your clients — before heading out to look at communities.
“With new construction, it’s important to educate clients on the options,” McCartney says, including discussing the types of new construction (e.g., production, semi-custom, custom) and which would be the best fit for the client. “You want to talk about what different types of builders offer, such as the amount of customization.”
You can see on a person’s face in one second if they are into a home or not. If we go into an older home and they make a face, then I may say, ‘Let’s talk about new construction.’ — David Feldberg, broker/owner of Coastal Real Estate Group in Newport Beach, Calif. Price point and community location are also important factors for clients to consider, as well as time frame and the level of customization, all of which can go into a client’s decision of whether they want to build from scratch or look for an inventory or spec home that is nearly or completely finished. This can involve some homework on your part to learn about the builders and communities that may align best with your client’s preferences. And that means reaching out to builders ahead of time.
“I call first to establish contract and give [the builder’s sales agent] my name and my client’s name, so I don’t have to worry about registering with the builder while my client is there,” McCartney says. “That way, it’s not a hassle for a buyer and that way, I keep the focus on my client.”
And that’s another important point to make up front with your client: that they will also be working with the builder’s sales agent or representative through the sales and construction process. Your role as the buyer’s agent is to provide support and guidance as needed.
“I make sure the client ask questions first,” Feldberg says. “I don’t want to get in the way, but I will ask any questions that haven’t been asked yet that I feel should be.”
Feldberg is also upfront with letting clients know that he will go with them to visit communities and that registering them with the builder ensures he gets paid. “I tell them I’m getting paid to represent you, so let me do that,” he says. “When you sit down with a builder’s sales agent, it can feel different [for your client] than just walking into a resale home. Chances are your client hasn’t bought new construction before, so having you there with them can help ease any concerns.”
McCartney points out that clients should keep in mind what the actual sales price will be for a new-construction home. “There can be a disconnect with buyers over the actual price versus the perceived price,” she says.
Most resale home prices are subject to price point ceilings that vary by neighborhoods or areas of town, while most new-construction homes, particularly if building from scratch, start with a base price that can increase as the homebuyer adds various options.
“With new construction, it’s about minding your budget and minding your wants and needs,” she says.
Judy L. Marchman is a freelance writer and editor who, during her 20-year career, has written on a diverse number of topics, from horses to lawyers to home building and design.
She currently writes for NewHomeSource, and, in a nod to her equestrian background, copyedits for Southern Racehorse magazine and The Horsemen’s Journal. Judy is also the proud owner of a newly built home and has gained plenty of story inspiration from her home ownership experiences.