What needs to be considered when purchasing a newly constructed home?
There are several elements and priorities that need to be considered when purchasing a new, completed home. Obviously the part of the country the home is being purchased, the makeup of the individuals that will occupy the home as well as the personal needs of these individuals all need to be considered.
This is a discussion of purchasing a finished home sitting on a landscaped piece of property. This is not a discussion regarding the construction of a new home from design to completion. This will be a part of a separate discussion.
- Size / What is the correct size for a new home and how much SF is required to satisfy the individuals that will occupy the home? So many times the determination of size is made simply on how much the buyer can afford at the time of purchase. This is a very short-sighted approach to this vital aspect of your new home. Issues to consider.
- How much personal time is actually spent in the home and in what portions of the home is this time spent.
- The size of the kitchen, for example, is basically a function of the interests that the homeowner has with cooking. Is the cooking a necessity , hobby or somewhere in the middle?
- The size of the family room ( usually the area where the television and sound systems are located ). Do the buyers tend to remain solitary and therefore larger bedrooms might be a wise decision? Or are the buyers more social, and tend to remain together for the majority of the time spent within the home.
- How important is the size of the master bedroom? Is the bedroom used for lounging or is it merely an area for the evening and sleeping?
- Size of the individual bedrooms. Will the bedrooms be used as children’s rooms where toys will be stored, and studying may occur. Or will the bedrooms be simply guest rooms and a minimum space is suitable?
- Is there a need for a dining and living room? In many cases the size of the family or great room has a tendency to either reduce or eliminate the need for a formal dining and living room. Again this is personal choice, however, space is money and the creation of spaces not fully utilized is a personal choice but does cost money.
- How important is the garage space, if any, to the buyers. Does the buyer have a hobby or profession that would benefit by a larger garage space? How many cars or other vehicles are being considered to remain at the home?
- Specialty rooms such as individual game rooms, entertainment rooms, work out areas, special studies or libraries, artistic rooms for painting, designing, etc., hobby rooms specifically designed with a hobby in mind. All these type of spaces are additional to the actual functional needs of the buyers, but play a part in the size needs of the home.
- Other functions such as exterior covered porches, interior basement areas, attic storage areas, closet needs, etc. all must be considered in the buyer’s evaluation of the space needs for the home.
Don’t forget that space is expensive, the larger the total enclosed space, the more expensive the home will be. In many instances builders will provide a general range of square foot costs. This depends on the location of the home as well as the local economy. However, values such as $175.00 to $275.00 per square foot of space is common place. Based on these values, it can be determined that size is money and the larger the home the more expensive to construct.
- Style / Style is determined for the most part by the individuals purchasing the home. Style is the allusive element of whoever we all are and the home you chose would normally reflect this same type of style. However, as elusive as the term style, there are some analytical and standard construction issues that can be applied to various styles of residential structures.
Prior to listing and commenting on the various typical styles, it must be understood that there is NO rule to style. Some architects will shudder when they read this, but for the most part, the buyer of a new home can simply create their own style. The blending of various basic styles and the re-invention of them has resulted in some of the most unique residential structures in the world. The style is you, the buyer, and the end result should be a structure that supports your life style.
As I describe these various styles, remember they can be combined, substituted, modified, etc. , don’t tell the professional architect when you hire them, just tell the what you want and they will comply with your requirements.
- Colonial / this is your typical Salt Box, two story basic rectangle colonial, Colonial cape, or any type of structure that was simple to construct during the respective Colonial era in the United States. The Colonial style is simplistic and functional, however, the function was based upon the fireplace for heat, the positioning of windows for solar gain ( not the current solar intrinsic details, but merely allowing the sun to penetrate the living area ), the economical use of more roof than siding surfaces, etc. The Colonial is a simple, economic means of creating a living area.
However as with anything else there are pros and cons, compromises and trade-offs in all designs and styles.
Pros of the Colonial design: economy in cost, economy in space, symmetry with window and door spacing, normal and common appeal to the majority of buyers, good market value when selling.
Cons of the Colonial design: common design and boring in some opinions, lack of open, common spaces, normally many small rooms, less window surface, no skylights, no solar panels, no real ability to consider high tech mechanical and electrical systems without Colonial design modifications.
Again, I stress that all designs and styles can and are modified, the proceeding evaluation is in reference to the strict design parameters and style of the typical Colonial design.
- European / for this description I will identify the European design as any Tudor, federalist, or Mediterranean designed structure. Many of the principles of the Colonial style are incorporated within the European style. The biggest difference is the size of the structure, the size of the rooms as well as the grandiose as opposed to modest elements of the Colonial design. Normally the European design incorporates many more stone building products whether it be granite, marble, travertine, etc.
The selection of a European design usually indicates the origin of the purchaser or the need for a larger more ostentatious presentation than the simple and basic colonial designs. In addition the selection of any of the more European designs has a tendency to represent a more custom structure in the neighborhood than the numerous colonials that line our sub divisions.
- Contemporary / Modern / this is the more open, straight forward acute angled structures that are the favorite of many of the more current architects. The contemporary design incorporates function and durability over ornate trim work or classical detailing. The large use of glass and metal are typical elements in this type of structure.
The majority of purchasers that chose this style are younger more aggressive, style oriented individuals that understand the need for functionality and a simplistic design. The exteriors of this type of structure is less cluttered and detailed than the other styles. The siding is usually a straight wood or metal siding with very limited window and door trim. The roof structure can be less steep in pitch and in many instances flat.
It has been noted that the contemporary or modern home is not as easy to resell when the time is right. I feel that this is basically due to the analytical makeup of those who consider style what they want. There are simply less purchasers that prefer this style than others. Of course the location of the home as well as the economic climate will also dictate the sale ability of this type of structure.
- Others / of course there are several variations on a theme. Styles of structures vary based upon numerous factors. However the selection of a specific style is certainly more easily accomplished when purchasing a new home, however, contractors have a tendency to combine styles to offer the current most popular model of home.
- Cost / the cost of the home is certainly a major consideration when selecting the size and style of your new home. As I have mentioned the larger the home the more the expense of the construction. Your builder will be capable of providing you with a close approximation of the cost per SF of each style in reference to the size of the home you are considering. Independent of the size of the structure or the style there are numerous variables that will strongly influence the final cost of the home.
- Land cost / the cost of the land that the home is being constructed on obviously has a direct impact on the final cost of the entire project. The size of the parcel of property, the specific circumstances of the land such as;
- How far from the street is the building site. This distance will determine the length of the driveway as well as how far the utility companies will need to run your new services such as sewer, water, electric, communication and gas.
- Does the parcel of land have utility access in the adjacent street or will a septic system, artesian well be required within the site itself to accommodate the structure.
- Does the parcel of land have any site circumstances, such as ledge (rock) or water issues? If these site circumstances occur, the cost to develop the parcel of land is increased.
- The location of the land to schools, shopping parks, etc.
- The location of the land to elements of compromise such as high tension wires, landfills, facilities of incarceration, etc.
- Structure cost / the cost of the structure is dependent upon the size and style as previously mentioned however there are other factors that will determine whether the buyer decides to purchase a newly constructed home.
- How is the structure built, is it stick built, modular design, panelized etc.
- What types of mechanical systems are incorporated within the structure? Are the systems state of the art and do they provide the most efficient use of energy for the home.
- What type of electrical systems are incorporated within the home, type of wiring, size of the service as well as internet accommodations must be addressed.
- What types of finishes are used throughout the project, interior, exterior, etc. Are the lowest economic finishes used or does the structure incorporate some higher levels of finishes.
- What are the maintenance costs of the structure, will the exterior require constant upkeep, painting, replacement.
- Type of windows and doors, are they standard, easily replaced, or are they custom windows and doors costing substantial money, but difficult to find replacement parts, etc.
- Maintenance costs / what will be the maintenance issues of the home
- Upkeep of the mechanical and electrical systems, are they again, state of the art and minimum maintenance or are they so over designed and cutting edge that maintenance could become an expensive issue.
- Water and or site issues are controlled, or are they going to be a constant issue such as a steep driveway, a long driveway, substantial lawn cutting, landscaping issues, etc. All of this type of maintenance cost will be a yearly cost and should be evaluated.
- Interior finishes such as carpets, vinyl flooring are more expensive to maintain and will require replacement much sooner than hardwood floors, marble, granite, etc.
- Energy costs, has the home been constructed within Energy Star Standards? What is the level of insulation, caulking, etc. that will directly affect the cost of heating and cooling the structure?
What is important is that when purchasing a newly constructed home, there will be compromises that will be required to accommodate the already constructed home. This discussion is NOT about the ability to start from scratch with design and construction. This discussion is when the purchaser finds a home that has been constructed, is brand new, but is in a finished status and is on the market.
There are opportunities for buyers to involve themselves at various stages of the builder’s progress. Of course the opportunity to negotiate and bargain the final value of the home is somewhat limited due to the fact that the purchaser is involved somewhere in the building process. They have committed to purchasing the structure prior to its completion. It is not like the builder has a newly constructed home , completed, and costing the building contractor holding costs, to keep on the market. This concept is important, and the buyer must understand the compromise between the ability to negotiate and the ability to customize. Both situations have their own set of pros and cons, however, the final evaluation and financial importance can only be determined by the purchaser of the finished home.
It is my personal opinion that the ability to negotiate on a home that is sitting, completed and costing the builder substantial holding costs, exceeds the ability to totally customize the new home to the buyers wants and desires. However, that being said, I am a builder and understand that everything in a home can be changed to accommodate taste and style, this is a biased opinion, due to the fact that I understand the strength of the buyers position in such a circumstance.
Good luck, hopefully this discussion provides a little more expertise and information to enable you to make your decision.