While your job as a Realtor definitely includes getting to know your market and finding existing homes for sale, when you work as a buyer’s agent you should also become an expert on new homes in your area.
Some buyers prefer existing homes, while others only want new. However, you’ll find that the majority of homebuyers are willing to consider both used and newly built residences in their search for their dream home.
In order to provide exceptional service to your customers, you should discuss the needs and aspirations of your buyers in the context of their budget and loan pre-qualification and then show your buyer both resale properties and new homes.
In order to make a match with a builder who can meet the price range of your customer, along with their wish list and timeline, you’ll need to do your research and stay up-to-date with local homebuilders.
“As a Realtor, your first step should be to identify all the builders in your community and get to know them,” says Bill Allard, a sales manager and Realtor with Century 21 M&M Associates in Turlock, Calif. “We invite sales managers from new home communities to come into our weekly office sales meetings to talk about available inventory, new releases of lots or homes and to bring in flyers and information about special sales programs.”
Allard says builders typically have a standard procedure to register real estate agents and their buyers. “Usually they require you to be with the buyer in person when they first come to the community,” he says. “But once you get to know the sales manager, you can sometimes negotiate so that your buyers can go to the model homes without you. You’ll still earn a commission as long as you’ve called the sales manager ahead of time.”
Realtors need to be proactive to learn about new homes in their area, although some builders reach out to real estate offices to encourage agents to bring their buyers to their communities.
Erin Hungerford, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Richmond, Va., says she works the new home community as she does the rest of her sphere of influence.
“I attend networking events where builders are in attendance, go to events held by the local homebuilders’ association and things like the Parade of Homes or ‘Home-a-rama’ events,” says Hungerford. “I visit model homes when they open and stay in touch with the builders and their sales managers as I would with anyone else who might give me a referral.”
Allard says if you can build a strong relationship with new home community sales managers, you could even generate some referrals from them for new homebuyers who have an existing home to sell.
Realtors should sign up for email alerts and information about price changes and available inventory from all local builders with a reputation for solidly built homes and good customer service.
How to Become a New Home Resource
“Realtors have to become a combination of a construction expert, an interior designer and a home inspector,” says Ken Harrell, a broker and owner of Weichert Realtors All Points Properties in Flower Mound, Texas. “You need to know your buyer’s tastes and needs and you need to know about current design trends compared to what you find in older homes.”
The best place to start gathering knowledge is with builders themselves. Harrell suggests visiting model homes in different price ranges and asking for clear explanations of standard features and optional upgrades.
“It’s best to shop around at new home communities before you take your client around because you can make it easier on them if you’ve identified places that fit their price range,” says Hungerford. “It’s especially important to price out upfront what the total price will be from different builders for a home with similar features, because they all include different things in the base price.”
Ask to spend 30 minutes or an hour with a site superintendent to learn about the products that go into the builder’s homes and to understand the building process, suggests Harrell.
“You need to know about things like the type of water heater being installed and whether they’re big enough for the house; the type of windows being installed and other energy efficient features,” says Harrell.
Whether your buyers are purchasing a home in the upper price ranges or a less expensive new property, you want to make sure they’re getting the best possible quality for the money. Hungerford says you can increase your own recognition of quality materials by visiting homes that were recently completed and walking through partially completed homes. You should also visit design centers to review available product choices.
“You want to make sure you’re setting up your buyers with a builder who provides excellent customer service before and after a sale,” says Harrell.
Allard suggests checking with the Better Business Bureau and searching for complaints and compliments on the Internet.
“You should network with other Realtors in your office and your area to ask them about the experience they’ve had with particular builders,” says Hungerford. “I’ve called other Realtors to ask them if a builder was easy to work with and whether their client was happy.”
Builders often provide names of customers for references and testimonials. Although, these are customers the builders are sure will provide a positive referral — Harrell says you should call and ask them detailed questions about their experience with the builder, whether the builder met his or her projected construction timeline and the quality of the home now that they’ve lived in it.
“You can also ask homeowners who’ve moved into the community about their experience,” he suggests. “You should go to another community that the builder developed and ask homeowners there about the builder.”
Allard suggests asking the builder about future plans for amenities and predictions for the homeowners’ association fee or any potential taxes or assessments. Most builders offer a standard warranty for buyers, including 10 years of coverage for structural issue. Realtors should become familiar with warranties, so they can review them with their customers.
Matching Buyers and Builders
“Shopping for a new home can be overwhelming for buyers,” says Hungerford. “One of the best things you can do is to have a deep consultation with your buyers before you go to a new home community and help them narrow their priorities. You don’t want to walk away with every floorplan and leave the buyers confused.”
It’s also important to make sure the floorplan the buyers want will fit on their preferred lot. Allard suggests walking on the actual lot with a site supervisor and your buyer to make sure the lot is the right size and meets the buyers’ expectations.
For many buyers, it’s essential that the builder meet the estimated timeline from contract to moving day. “When you look into the reputation of a builder, one of the important pieces of information to gather is whether they actually meet their timeline most of the time,” says Hungerford. “I know which ones in our area have more on-time deliveries and which ones have a lot of delays.”
Realtors play an important role in representing a buyer purchasing a to-be-built home, particularly when it comes to recommending a reputable builder and ensuring that the buyer receives the best possible customer service before, during and after construction.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.
She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.
Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at Bankrate.com, HSH.com, The Motley Fool, DailyFinance.com, Insurance.com, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Investopedia.com, MoneyCrashers.com, GetRichSlowly.com and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.