If you’re looking for what questions to ask when buying a new house, look no further.
As more millennials begin to buy homes, and older generations keep their homes longer thanks to recent refinancing at low rates, new construction houses are more popular than ever.
The demand is fueled by low interest rates, remote work options and younger people arriving at their peak earning years which should lead to sustained demand for new homes to be built.
However, not all new houses are created equal.
Many new construction homes will be advertised for a very attractive price. You may see signs out front of a new community that say, “Starting from $250,000!”. Be cautious of the details around such an ostensibly great price.
Some builders will include the cheapest base features and skip on quality materials to achieve low prices for their brand new homes. They will offer short warranties (if at all) on the most important parts of their new houses such as the foundation or walls.
My mother always told me, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This advice has served me very well in avoiding scams and “bait and switch” marketing where a builder may lure you in with a low price, only to add additional costs at every turn.
Once you discover that the low price means you’ll have laminate counters, cheap cabinets, and thin walls, you may decide to upgrade those options, and of course the builder will let you… for a price.
The best builders use the highest quality materials, offer the longest warranties, and stand behind their brand and their reputation. The best builders will not be the cheapest option.
You get what you pay for and a house is not something you want to skimp on.
Thankfully I’ve renovated a house before and my partner worked for a construction site inspection company so we’ve seen a lot!
Here are 15 questions to ask a builder when deciding whether or not to buy a new construction house. These questions will help you determine hidden costs, possible problems in the future, and the general level of quality the builder offers:
15 Questions to Ask When Buying a New Construction Home
Look at the big stuff first. The stuff that causes most homeowners nightmares when there’s a problem:
1. How thick is the foundation floor? Does it have remesh or rebar in it? Four inches thick is standard.
2. What type of warranty do they offer on cracks, leaks, and defects in the basement floor and basement walls?
3. If the house has a full basement (as opposed to a crawl space or slab) ask about the foundation walls specifically. Are they poured concrete or precast concrete walls?
Precast walls (when purchased and installed from a reputable manufacturer), will offer the highest levels of insulation and less moisture transmission than regular poured concrete walls.
4. What are the specs on the furnace and air conditioner? High end heating and cooling appliances not only indicates a more reputable builder, but will also save you on heating and cooling costs during the time you own your home. Is the furnace high-efficiency or standard efficiency?
5. What type of windows does the home come with? Are they builder grade or premium?
6. What type of insulation is used in the ceilings and walls? Especially in colder climates, cheap insulation can double your heating bills in the winter. Good insulation is an easy way to get more value for your money and help the environment because you’ll be using less energy to heat your home.
Compare insulation by comparing the “R” value. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
Here are more ways to save money while saving the environment:
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7. What pound carpet is included in the base option? 8 pound or higher is preferred and indicates a builder that does not cheap out where it counts. Heavily trafficked carpeted areas will get worn down quicker with cheaper carpet.
8. How does the builder prevent squeaky floors? A good indicator is if they use an advanced glue in addition to ringshank nails when installing flooring.
9. If there are interior rooms located above the garage, is the ceiling of the garage insulated under those living spaces?
10. Do base models come with granite/quartz or do they use a cheaper laminate countertop? Because kitchens and bathrooms are so important for resale value, countertops made with granite/quartz will hold their value longer than something like laminate.
11. Will the builder grade and sod the yard around your house after finishing the home? You don’t want to move in only to find a muddy, half completed lawn that slopes towards your home. Something you’ll want to look for once the sod is installed are big divots in your grass that may indicate the soil is eroding from underneath the sod and the grass is not taking to the ground.
12. Is there a ceiling light fixture or fan in every bedroom? Are rooms at least wired to add a ceiling fan if you choose?
After One Year
13. Will the builder warranty their work on the drywall and framing? Common issues to ask about are nailpops, cracked drywall and warped wood. This is because as the house settles during the first year after it is built, moisture will evaporate from the wood and foundation and cause the home to slightly expand and contract.
A really great builder will schedule an inspection about a year after you move into the home to repair these natural issues at NO COST TO YOU.
14. Is there an HOA and what is the monthly or annual cost to live in the community? How much are the taxes? (The builder can’t do much about this, but you may want to factor this into your budget.)
15. How will the builder ensure that driveways and sidewalks damaged during construction are repaired prior to finishing a neighborhood? Those big trucks can wreak havoc on subdivision sidewalks and roads.
Buying a house can be a daunting experience for anyone. Building a new house can be even scarier because there are so many unknowns. Bookmark these questions to ask builders when buying a new house and remember, not all homes are created equal!
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Wow, this is a really good checklist to have when buying a new home. None of this would have crossed my mind, so I’m glad you have enlightened me if I decide to go down this path.
So much to be aware of and on one of the biggest purchases of a lifetime… it can be daunting for sure. I’m glad you liked the post and would love to hear about if/when you go this direction.