The homebuying process is one that is full of decisions. Do you want a house or a condo? Should you shop for a new or an existing home?

If you settle on a newly-built home, a whole new set of decisions enters the picture.

Before you hop in the car to shopping for new home communities, however, there  are a few things you should do to protect yourself during the purchase process.

Lay the foundation properly, and you’ll make it to closing with nary a hitch.

1. Get Clear on your Finances

Walking into a new-home purchase without knowing how much you can afford to spend on a house puts you at the mercy of the builder and/or his lender.

Since buying this home may be the biggest financial decision of your life, you owe it to yourself to be shopping with as much knowledge as possible.

Speak with a lender before viewing even one home! I can’t stress this enough!! Find out how much you can spend and then stick to that price range when shopping for a home.

Then, compare lender quotes before making a final commitment. Sometimes the builder’s preferred lender offers the best deal – but not always. Get the cost of each loan from every lender you speak with.

Find more information on how to shop for a mortgage from the Federal Trade Commission.

2. Choose a Community

New home communities offer various amenities. Many are managed by a homeowners association, which takes on some of the outdoor maintenance chores, such as snow removal.

But, they also come with an added monthly fee, so consider the fee’s impact on your budget.

Then, make a list of features you desire in a new community. Some of the criteria you may choose include:

  • Proximity to schools.
  • Outdoor recreational opportunities
  • An area with lots of children or, on the other hand, few kids.
  • Your commute time to work.

Once you know your budget, and what you’re looking for in a neighborhood, it’s easier to narrow down your shopping areas.

3. Research the Builder

There are a number of ways to do this, but starting with the Better Business Bureau is a good first step. Check for complaints against the builder and the company.

Ask me (your agent) what I knows about the builder and the homes they build.

Find out what other communities the builder has helped developed and visit one or two of them. Paying close attention to the build quality and floor plans.

Stop and chat with any residents you come across to find out if there are any common problems with their homes.

When you visit the communities on your list you’ll be greeted by an in-house real estate agent. If you find a home you like it’s only natural to assume the whole process will be streamlined if you use this in-house agent for the purchase.

This is NOT a wise decision, and here’s why: That agent represents the builder – NOT YOU!

Just as you wouldn’t dream of hiring your soon-to-be former spouse’s attorney in divorce proceedings, so should you never use the builder’s agent in a new-home purchase.

Buyer’s representation costs you nothing – the seller (the builder in the case of new homes) pays all real estate fees. So there is really no reason not to hire your own representation, for such an important investment.

Ask the builder for a walk-through of the new-home buying process—find out the schedule, the number of inspections that will be performed and get a features sheet list.

Arm yourself with as much information as possible when shopping for a new home and the process will go smoothly.

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