I’m about to make what might sound like some rash generalizations, and I will make this HUGE caveat – they don’t apply to all builders (and when I say “builders” I usually mean “builder’s sales representatives”). They probably don’t even apply to *most* of them. But, unfortunately, when you walk into the beautiful model home you won’t have any idea if these things apply to the person that greets you or not so you kinda have to assume that they do until they prove otherwise. BTW, I’m generally an optimist when it comes to people. I’d rather start out by assuming the best and be proven otherwise. It’s just an easier and happier way to live, at least in my mind. BUT when we’re talking about one of the single largest purchases of your life, I have to advise erring on the side of caution. So here we go …
Mr. Builder, what’s that big vacant lot behind the house I want to buy going to be?
STOP! No matter what they say, they can and most likely will be wrong. Want to know why? Simple. They don’t have a crystal ball. All they might be able to accurately tell you is how it is currently zoned. Guess what? That zoning can change tomorrow and it might now be the future home of the biggest Mega Lo Mart in all of North America. What should you do? Ask the question, then call the city and ask what the zoning is and what exactly that means in terms of types of businesses that would potentially call that land home. Also ask what the zoning could be in the future. Most cities have rules about how drastically zoning can change. Finally, unless it’s the absolute house of your dreams, DO NOT buy it if it backs up to a vacant lot. It’s a gamble no matter how much research you do. It’s a gamble with your happiness living in the house, and it’s a gamble with your resale value when you need to sell it.
Mr. Builder, when will the school/pool/other phases be finished?
Ask the question, and they will have an answer. And they will probably genuinely believe that they are giving you good information. Maybe they are, but here’s the problem. The builder rarely has any control over any of those things. School buildings are entirely dependent on school districts. They might be planning to start the school in 3 months, but those plans can change. So call the school district and ask and then know that even those plans can change. It’s kinda like the vacant lot problem. Until it’s actually there, there are no guarantees. The developer of the subdivision likely controls the pool and any subsequent phases of a neighborhood, which is almost never the builder. (There’s only 1 major builder I can think of in North Texas that also develops its own neighborhoods and that’s DR Horton.) Here’s what it boils down to – the builder only controls what is on the lot where they are building a house. Them answering questions about anything beyond that is just educated speculation. It’s important to direct any questions about anything not on the lot to the people who actually control it.
Mr. Builder, should I have a REALTOR help me buy this house from you?
Oh boy! The $1M question! Here’s where you can, IMHO, discern a truly reputable builder from one that might not be the best to do business with. And here’s why. The really good builders know that a REALTOR can actually help them do a better job for you. If the builder starts doing an artful dance around that question and talking about how you can get a better deal if you don’t involve a REALTOR, be afraid. Why should you be afraid? Great question! At the end of the day, the person you’re talking to (the builder sales rep) represents whom? The builder! Sure they want to you to be a happy customer, yada yada yada, but at the end of the day they still represent the builder and they are required to do what’s in the builders best interests. Having a REALTOR on your side levels the playing field. Remember I said the really good builders know that REALTORs are there to help? Those same good builders won’t make comments like you can get a better “deal” without a REALTOR because they pay REALTOR commissions out of an entirely different budget that what they work with negotiating with a customer.
Having said all that, it bears repeating that all of these are rash generalizations that only apply to some builders. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing builders that run their businesses in an honest & respectable manner and the great news is that they also build terrific homes. And in the end there are 2 things to remember – 1. Get your information from the right sources, and 2. Call me when you get ready to build a home. I’m here to make sure you buy the right home from the right builder.
How’s that for a disclaimer???