When it comes to selling new construction homes, it’s imperative to be knowledgeable, well informed and a true resource for your clients.
Jim Bell, founder of Beasley Real Estate in Washington, D.C., agrees. “It’s important that real estate brokers have some background in design, architecture or the construction process to best advise their clients on aspects of new-home construction.”
Buying a new home is a big milestone and buyers want a real estate agent that can guide them and help them through the process. In this article, we take a look at some basic construction features you should be able to speak to and some realities of new-home construction that you can help your client better understand.
Kitchens That “Cook”
A key room for today’s buyer, the kitchen runs the risk of creating a big new-home foul: a beautiful room that is in no way practical. Though it may be equipped with every bell and whistle — beautiful cabinetry, stunning tile, upgraded appliances — if the main components don’t come together to create a space that is functional, the room just won’t work.
“Before you know it, a lot of angry sandwiches are being made,” says Rachea Pendley, a sales counselor with Highland Homes in Austin, Texas. “Realtors should encourage their clients to imagine themselves using the kitchen space as they tour a new home. Don’t just walk through and say, ‘how pretty.’ Ask them if it ‘cooks.’ The arrangement of the kitchen should be the primary consideration.”
Pendley suggests having buyers consider the room’s traffic patterns, storage space and whether the kitchen trifecta (cooktop, fridge and sink) is in an arrangement that meets their needs. “If the kitchen is set up in a pleasing way for the client, the cosmetic details can follow.”
Family Rooms that “Live”
In today’s market, you can’t talk about a kitchen without also mentioning the home’s family room, as most new-construction homes will have an open floor plan. With families now spending about 60 percent of their home time in this shared space, it’s no wonder the open design concept has become so popular.
When looking at family rooms, Pendley has a few suggestions on how you can better help your client: look for windows that let in ample natural light; look at possible entertainment center options; and imagine the room’s traffic patterns — sometimes a room looks huge, but its useable space and forced furniture placement make it feel tiny.
Outdoor Living Areas
If real estate agents want to help clients enhance their home’s resale value, Pendley encourages looking for a home with an outdoor living area. A bit beefier than a covered porch, this added living space should offer additional lighting, a gas outlet for a grill, space for furniture and should feel like an outward extension of the home. “Not only is this space becoming a popular area to entertain or eat alfresco with your family, it’s a great transitional space between the yard and the home, giving everyone a place to relax outdoors — whether it rains or shines,” she says.
The Command Center
The shift in how we live our lives has forced the evolution of how today’s homes are structured. Due to lack of use, the traditional formal living room is no longer a mainstay in new homes. What’s replaced it? The home office.
“Look for plans that have a home office at the front of the house, as this can add to the sense of separation between your ‘work space’ and the bustling activities that go on in the family and kitchen areas,” suggests Pendley. She also notes that built-in desks or small “home command center” niches in the kitchen or family room are popular options that allow homeowners to work in while still having a sense of family togetherness.
Windows to the World
A major component to the look and feel of a room, windows play a much bigger role in homes than just letting in the light. “Windows are always one of the most important issues in a new home,” says Bell. “High-quality windows will insure insulation and energy efficiency, ample light, safety and prevent long-term maintenance issues. If not done properly from the start, window replacement can become very costly.”
Going for the Green
In today’s sustainably minded, eco-friendly market, it is becoming increasingly important to homebuyers that they find homes that are environmentally responsible. “Look for builders that have a green building program,” says Pendley. “More specifically, look for a builder that uses energy-efficient materials that are designed for the region in which they are building. Residential construction materials used in the South will, and should, differ from the materials used up North.”
She also notes that real estate agents should be aware of the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). The HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. The lower the number, the better.
Building Principles and Practices to Know
One of the biggest things a real estate agent should understand and familiarize themselves with in new-home construction is the timeline. Building a home from start to finish can be a lengthy and involved process including many meetings and decisions: exterior selections, design appointments, pre-construction appointments and homesite walks. These meetings ensure that the builder understands the client’s needs, that the client will be satisfied with the end results and that all parties are on the same page.
“Realtors can help here by conveying to the clients that the construction of a home can be like a roller coaster ride — there’s many ups and downs,” says Pendley. “The downs can include lapses in progress because of inspections, discontinued selections, messy job sites or hazardous conditions. The ups include witnessing an empty homesite sprout into a structure, the installment of the design selections the client chose and, of course, seeing the final they will call their home!”
Another area in which Pendley suggests a real estate agent be educated is in the design phase. She notes that it’s important that real estate agents be able to help steer their clients away from options that are considered too trendy and toward options that can elevate the home’s resale value.
Real estate agents should also speak to the builder’s sales representative regarding the average level of upgrades they see happening in the community so they can assist their client in not over-upgrading their own home.
Real estate agents should also ask the design team about which selections are popular and what’s been selected in neighboring homes so their clients can gauge their own selections.
Jennifer Segelke Jeffers is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist with more than a decade of editorial experience. She is the former editor of Austin Monthly Home and Centro Y Sur.
Jennifer has written for publications such as Latina, Modern Luxury, Qantas, LOCALE, GivingCity Austin and Andrew Harper Traveler.