New homes in St. Johns, FL continue to be built and sold at a rate of hundreds per month. I'm often asked what a real estate agent could possibly do to enhance the buyer's experience when there is already a builder's site agent to help. The answer is - plenty! Whether you are buying a builder's inventory home or having one built from the dirt up, consider the following advantages to having a Realtor® guide you through the process.
Real estate agents with new construction experience know the builders and the communities in which they are building. An experienced agent knows the reputation of the builders, their pricing structure, what upgrades and incentives different builders have offered in the past, how often they meet their build deadlines, how well they respond to warranty items and much more.
Real estate agents can put you in touch with a builder's past customers for references. Yes, a builder's site agent can provide you with references from past customers and will most likely select customers who were happy with their experience. A real estate agent who has sold new construction will be able to connect you with a builder's past customers irrespective of that customer's level of satisfaction with the builder. Wouldn't you prefer to hear unfiltered feedback?
An upgrade is not always an upgrade. I once spoke with someone who was considering purchasing a new construction home and was thrilled to hear from a site agent that the builder offered granite countertops as a standard feature while most other builders charge a premium for them. This was simply not true. There were a number of builders in that particular community and all but one of them included granite as a standard feature. Of course the quality of the granite used may vary among builders but the fact is that granite was the standard, not an upgrade.
One of the most important things a Realtor® does is help you negotiate price, terms and conditions of a home purchase. An agent with new construction experience is familiar with the builder's lengthy sales contract and should know what kind of flexibility there may be in the price or upgrades of a home based upon current market conditions. They also know how quickly builders are looking to sell their inventory/spec homes and may therefore offer great pricing incentives. Agents specializing in new construction will have their 'ear to the ground' so they know if a builder is about to release new floor plans, buy lots in a particular community or pull out of a community or area. This is helpful info for buyers to know.
How does the house you are considering building compare with others in the community? A real estate agent will help you think about things that will affect the future resale value of your home such as the location of the lot, how long it will take for the community to be built out, the upgrades you are considering and how the size of your home compares with that of others in the neighborhood. An agent can and should do a comparative market analysis for you before you sign your contract so you can see how your home compares to others in the neighborhood. Unless you are certain that you will live in the new house indefinitely, you don't want to end up buying a home substantially more expensive than the neighborhood can support or you may have a difficult time selling it.
Are there resale homes that will provide you with the same things you are seeking from new construction? Unless you are determined to build new construction you may find that you can get the same features, floor plan and upgrades in an existing home being sold by the owner as you can in a brand new home, often at a less expensive price. The resale home may be in the same community or even on the same street. A builder's site agent is unlikely to have previewed the resale home and may not even be aware that it is being sold; a Realtor® working with a buyer should.
Believe it or not, there are many builders who prefer that buyers use their own agent! Educating home buyers about things like lot selection, permits, the phases of construction, standard features in a home, certificates of occupancy, closing costs and punch lists is time-consuming. Many builders would prefer to work with buyers who have an agent to help them navigate through and understand these things. This frees the builder's sales agent to do what he or she was hired to do: sell homes for the builder.
The builder is using the services of an agent; why shouldn't you? A builder's site agent is paid by the builder to sell homes at a profit to the builder, which is as it should be. As a buyer do you know enough about the current real estate market, the building process, design and style trends and industry standards to protect your own interests? A real estate agent with experience selling new construction does.
Your agent will continue to work for you even after the home is under contract. An agent with new construction experience can be invaluable in the building process. He or she can check on the progress of your home periodically and report back to you. If you do not live near where your home is being built your agent can send you pictures of the different stages of the building process and can arrange to meet an independent inspector at your home site if you've chosen to hire one. Some agents will accompany their customers to the builder's design center as well to give input on the styles, trends and designs that are currently being incorporated into new homes.
Warranty items aren't always the highest priority for a builder. Most new construction homes come with a warranty and before the warranty period is up homeowners submit a list of items for the builder to address. By this time the builder has sold other houses and is probably continuing to build. As a result, as well-intentioned as he may be, he may not place the highest priority on addressing minor warranty items. Your agent can be invaluable in helping you get the necessary attention to resolve this. While your only leverage with the builder after purchasing your home is your ability to boost or tarnish his reputation, an agent is a direct source of current and future business and most builders will not risk losing that source over a repair.
There is simply no downside to having an experienced agent guide you through the process of buying a new construction home. Knowledge is power and working with an agent will help you become aware of what to expect and become fully informed on the entire process. Where else can you get professional advice without paying an hourly rate or retainer? If you're considering buying a new construction home, do yourself a favor and speak to a real estate agent with new construction experience first!
Julie Bentley is a FL licensed Realtor® who has been selling new construction and resale homes in St. Johns, FL since 2012. She has helped many people buy new construction homes from a variety of builders in the greater Jacksonville, FL area. Let her leverage her new construction experience to your advantage! (904) 576-0706 www.jbentley.watsonrealtycorp.com
Buying a home can be overwhelming and many Buyers look to their Realtor® to provide information not only about homes they are interested in but also about the community, residents, schools, etc. While a good Realtor will be able to direct you to reliable sources for that information, he may break the law if he answers some of the questions himself. The Fair Housing Act was enacted in 1968 to prevent housing discrimination and it limits the kind of information a real estate professional can legally provide to a customer. That shouldn't be a problem, though, as there are other ways for Buyers to get the information they seek.
Below are three questions buyers commonly ask and, because an agent can't legally or ethically answer them, tips on how to find the answers.
Are There Many Children In This Neighborhood? Answering this question could be considered steering the customer to or from a neighborhood, which is a Fair Housing violation. I usually recommend that my customers get this info by driving around the community and observing. Ideally you could check out the neighborhood around the time school lets out or on a weekend to get a feel for the demographics. You can also possibly find clues in yards or driveways such as trampolines, bicycles, swing sets and strollers.
Is This A Safe Community? Of course nobody wants to buy a home in a high-crime neighborhood but your Realtor® is not the source you should rely on to determine the safety of an neighborhood. Many law enforcement agencies now publish crime statistics and maps on the internet. If that isn't available you can call the local police or sheriff's office to get the information.
We'd Like to Live Close to Other People of the Same Religion/Ethnicity/Political Party As Us. Can You Help Us Find A Neighborhood Like That? No, no, no! Please don't even ask this question of your agent as steering you to (or away from) an area based upon that criteria is a blatant violation and could result in your agent and their brokerage losing their real estate licenses and/or paying hefty fines. You will need to determine the geographic area you want to be in and your Realtor® can help you find homes within that area. If you are interested in living near people of the same religion consider attending a local house of worship and chatting with other attendees. If you would like to be in a particular ethnic community you'll need to identify the area and ask your Realtor® to show you houses there. Perhaps visiting restaurants and grocery stores that cater to people of that ethnicity will help you. And if it is important to you to live among people of a similar political mindset you can look at voter registration records or speak with representatives of local political parties to identify those areas.
While these tips may be helpful, nothing is more effective than talking to local residents. If you are able to spend some time in public gathering spots such as parks, playgrounds or coffee shops you can strike up conversations with locals. Tell them you are considering buying a home nearby and chances are you will get an insider's perspective of living in that community - the good, the bad and the ugly - that will help you more than any data or Realtor® can.
Julie Bentley, a St. Johns FL Realtor®, has been helping families who are relocating to St Johns, FL since 2011. Her customers have moved from places as far away as Hawaii, Israel and Australia and many knew very little about the area before beginning their home search. Julie has been able to help these families get all of the info they want without violating the Fair Housing Act.