On Buying A New Home Without A Realtor

With the launch of the new website we’re having a second look at some of the most popular posts of recent months. This bit, on the possible hazards of buying a new home without a realtor’s help, attracted a lot of attention.

In recent weeks we helped a couple look at dozens of nearly new houses out behind Chapters, and as far out as Westbrook. It’s been a hectic season in that area. New home prices are on the rise and that’s put a lot of pressure on the resale market.

These clients offered on two very pretty houses but in the end rejected both based on the inspection results. They were exhausted, and fair enough. They’d wanted and needed to talk to us really early and very late, every day for weeks. We were fairly worn out too. And we’d put other business aside to help.

Then they suggested they might buy new, and wondered why they would need our help if they went that route. They seemed to think that buying a new house was as simple as picking a floorplan and a desirable lot, some paint colours and some cabinets. Most of all, they clearly thought that they could strike a better deal for themselves, and that if the builder didn’t have to pay us a commission the house could be sold for less money to them.

And sure enough, last week when we sent them a listing that we thought would suit them well, they told us they’d bought a new home just the day before, and thanks for your help, and see you when we get back from our cruise.

We should have seen it coming. There were plenty of signs. But it’s disappointing that we couldn’t convince them of our worth in that particular sort of search. I'll have to get better at explaining myself to people, I guess. In this instance I honestly think they would have profited (literally) from our continued help. And yes, it’s also sorely disappointing that we didn't get paid for those (seemingly) endless hours that in retrospect would have been better spent helping other clients.

In the interest of getting better, then, we'd like to point out right now, and respectfully, that there are plenty of ways a new home search can go wrong. We don’t know which house our (former) clients bought, but here are just some of the questions we hope they thought to ask.

  • What happens if the builder doesn’t deliver the house on time? How long can they delay closing without penalty? How often does that happen with this builder?

  • Have there been many Tarion warranty claims against the builder?

  • How has the model we chose performed in the resale market? Some are much more popular than others, aren't they?

  • Do we get options on how to clad the exterior of the house? A stone or brick exterior will prove more popular than vinyl, won’t it? Where exactly are the smartest places to spend my money?

  • Is the driveway being paved? How long will that take?

  • Is this model generally built on bigger lots?

  • What sorts of houses are being built around the one we chose? If we spend $600,000 on ours and a load of $300,000 townhouses are being built around the corner, that might hurt the resale value, don’t you think?

  • Has a lot of the future builder inventory just been bought up by investors? If yes, then how to you see that affecting the future of this subdivision? Could a lot of these investor-bought houses end up as rentals? And if they haven’t been bought up, why not? Why don’t investors see these homes as among the best bets?

  • Is there a sidewalk on our side of the street, or is it on the other? Which is better?

  • How about streetlights? Will there be one of those things lighting up the master bedroom every night?

  • What about lawn furniture? What do you builders mean when you talk about lawn furniture?

  • Where are the mailboxes going to be located?

  • Should I have the builder finish the basement? How is that basement organized? Will the support beams and posts allow for good open space down there?

  • Are there any restrictive covenants in this subdivision?

  • How long has this lot been for sale? Has the price gone up recently? Can you explain exactly how the free upgrades work? And HST. Can you run through that again? Can I change my mind?

  • Are you just telling me what I want to hear?

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great new home builders out there. And the model homes are staffed by knowledgeable, ethical sales people who want you to be happy. Just know that when you walk through the door with a half a million bucks in your pocket and declare with a big grin that you no longer have an agent, the first thing to go through the rep's head is likely not, How do I save this person money?