Want to get know builders in your area? Ask the right questions.
If you are a novice when it comes to newly built homes, it’s time to identify some common questions for builders so that you can quickly gather the information you need to help your customers and address their concerns.
Experienced professionals like Jaci Stone, a Realtor with Century 21 Beggins in Tampa, Fl., always preview models and talk to builders to check out the quality of construction before their clients visit a model home.
“When a new community gets started, it’s important to find out what school district the residents will attend, which amenities are planned, the layout and size of the lots and the tax rate,” says Patti Romano, a Realtor with Re/Max Legends in Spring, Texas. “Most builders provide you with a folder of that information and will include a list of standard features included in the base price, but if any of that is missing, you need to ask for it.”
Beyond asking about the number of homes to be built, price, square footage of the homes and the lot size, Realtors should dig a little deeper to provide expert advice to their clients.
General Questions To Ask Builders
1. How long have you been in business?
Miguel Berger, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Tech Valley in Albany, N.Y., says it’s important to get a general sense of a builder’s experience.
2. What do you do that’s unique?
“I try to stay on top of what every builder is doing in our area and when I ask them about they do that’s special, it brings out some details that you might not otherwise know,” says Stone.
3. How much customization can buyers do?
“There’s a wide range of personalization that builders offer,” says Romano. “If you want a two-foot extension, 90 percent of builders won’t do it — but you never know until you ask. In general, you can only move walls in a higher-priced home and some builders won’t do that at all.”
4. What price range do you normally build in? Is your project in our area different from that?
Stone says learning about a builder’s history can help you put their current development plans in context.
5. Can you show me a home under construction so I can see what type of quality is standard in your homes?
Even if you don’t personally know a lot about construction practices, asking a builder to point out elements of the home that show their quality is a great way to begin to compare builders, says Stone.
6. How long does it usually take for you to build a new home?
Even though weather issues and other factors make a difference, it’s good to get an idea of average build times so you can share that information with clients, says Romano.
7. Do you have any inventory available for clients who can’t wait for a home to be built?
Many builders offer emailed updates on homes that are available now and those projected to be ready soon, which can be helpful to buyers with a specific timeline, says Beth Lovell, office manager and broker of Re/Max Legends in Spring, Texas.
8. Do you pay closing costs?
Most buyers are eager to hear about incentives, says Stone. While specifics vary from one community to the next, she says Realtors should ask immediately whether builders make a general practice of paying closing costs for buyers.
9. What type of warranty do you provide?
“A lot of states regulate the warranties builders must provide, but it’s important to ask upfront to make sure the builder stands behind (their) work,” says Berger.
10. What’s your registration process for Realtors?
“Most builders require Realtors to register their clients in order to earn a commission,” says Berger. “It’s good to know how it works so you can educate your clients.”
Specific Questions To Ask Builders
Once you’re with a client who is seriously considering purchasing a newly built home, it’s time to ask more direct questions to provide your client with expert guidance.
1. What’s included in the base price of each home?
“Most model homes are ‘souped up’ like a car with every option, so it’s important to make sure you and your clients know what’s included and what’s an optional upgrade,” says Berger.
2. What kinds of incentives are you offering buyers?
“If there are several communities to choose between, you need to know which ones are offering the best deals for your buyers, such as $25,000 in upgrades and closing cost assistance,” says Lovell.
3. What’s your timetable for these homes?
Berger says this is important both for the buyers’ moving schedule but also for locking in a mortgage rate.
4. What else are you building?
Prices vary for the same model in different communities, so Romano suggests asking where else a particular model is being built and the price range.
Berger says Realtors should ask builders to share their plans for future phases in a community, including the type of homes being built, price ranges and the timeline.
5. Can every floorplan be built on every lot or are there restrictions?
Realtors can provide help to their buyers when they need to match the floorplan with a particular lot, Lovell says.
6. What amenities are planned for the community? When will they be in place?
“If there’s nothing but dirt in place, you need to know how soon a swimming pool or fitness center will be built, because those amenities are important to your buyers,” says Stone.
7. What does the homeowners association (HOA) fee cover? Is the community part of a “Community Development District” (CDD) with a bond that must be paid by homeowners? If so, what’s the typical payment and when will it be repaid in full?
“Some communities have a 30-year bond to pay for infrastructure in a development,” says Stone. “Sometimes you’ll see a high HOA fee with a low CDD fee or the reverse. Either way, you need to make sure the buyers understand what they must pay and what they get for the money.”
Asking detailed questions — and knowing the right ones to ask — can help you help your buyers of newly built homes.
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.