by Moureen Allard
Long Beach CA Real Estate Agent. A good way to get onto the property ladder is to buy a new home from a house builder. In my previous articles, I’ve outlined a number of deals (schemes) aimed at first-time buyers in particular, which can be advantageous in a number of ways.
I find that some first-time buyers can be frightened of buying a new home, but developers love you. You aren’t in a chain, which means you don’t have a home to sell first, and therefore, you aren’t waiting for someone else to sell his home so you can move. This is good news for a developer that doesn’t like complications, long chains or deals falling through.
In public relations terms, it can also look good for a house builder to be seen to be helping first-time buyers. Nothing can be more heart-warming than a story about a developer, generally regarded by the public as a money-grabbing chancer just out to make a quick buck, selling a first home to a young purchaser.
We’ve all seen the photographs in the press of a nice young person or couple, sitting on the sofa in their lovely new home (usually staged in the show flat so the picture looks better). To be fair, some house builders really do care about first-timers, and you can identify them pretty quickly by going onto developers’ websites to see what initiatives and guides they have for first-time buyers.
A new starter home in Britain ordinarily means a one- or two-bedroom flat. Some developers call them apartments, making them sound terribly posh, but apartment means the same thing ass flat. The marketing departments of new-build homes prefer to use the word apartment, as it makes the property sound more luxurious.
As many first-time buyers are buying later in life now, they’re starting to miss out a rung, or even two, on the leap up the ladder into a larger flat, or a small starter house. This gives more options, and often, you get better value from a larger flat or small house than a one-bedroom flat. As one-bedroom flats are popular with first-timers and investors wanting to rent them out, the prices can appear higher for the space you’re actually getting. The catch, of course, is you need that extra bit of cash in the first place to buy a bigger place.
Whatever you choose, you need to understand the pros and cons of buying something brand-new.
New beginnings: the pros of buying a new home
- No one has ever lived in your home before and you’ll be the first person to enjoy its unsullied freshness.
- There’s no work for you to do, saving time, effort and money.
- New homes are more eco-friendly and up to four times more energy efficient than older properties, leading to a smaller carbon footprint and lower bills.
- New homes often come with the latest design and technology: fitted kitchen and bathrooms, high-pressure showers and wiring for sound and home entertainment systems.
- Security is generally better, from secure double-gazed windows, fire-resistant materials and circuit breakers, to smoke alarms and modern locks, knocking down insurance premiums and giving you more peace of mind. There might even be a concierge or porter in a reception area (or foyer).
- Modern materials mean you don’t have to worry about leaks and woodworm.
- Forget about surveys and upward chains, delaying when you move in.
- Often, you can personalize your home by choosing carpets, curtains, tilling and paint colors.
- Sometimes, plumbed-in new appliances are included in the price, which means not having to choose, buy and install them yourself.
- You’re unlikely to be confronted with many nasty surprises, such as problems with the electrics or bad plumbing, as most new homes are covered by 10-year building warranties. However, beware of developers cutting corners and giving you a polished look that hides a tired infrastructure.
The cons of buying a new home
- A new home usually costs more than an older property. You are paying extra, because it has been untouched and there won’t be anything for you to do.
- Depending on when you move in, it is likely you will have to put up with noise, dust and other disruptions while the rest of the scheme is completed. Typically, this can take two to three years.
- Even in the best of new homes, you have to expect some ‘snagging’. This means tradesmen will have to come back to sort out glitches and problems with the building work. It can be frustrating and time-consuming if they have to return several times to right a wrong.
- You might not yet be part of an established community and there might not be all the promised facilities – shops, cafés and leisure amenities – on site or nearby. And if the developer starts to run out of money, some might not be how they looked on the brochure, or they might not appear to all.
- As you could be buying your home ‘off-plan’ – which means buying a home before it’s actually built – you are taking a risk that might not turn out exactly as you expected. Also, you have to wait until it’s ready before you get to move in.
So, should I buy a new home?
- The quality and care of new property has improved a great deal over the last decade, but do keep in mind that the size of homes has shrunk. If you are into buying every square foot you can for your money, a new home might then not be for you.
- I think you need to consider longevity, too. Ask yourself how long the property will work for you. If there’s not a lot of storage and you’re about to get married and start a family, perhaps you should think about other options, like buying a second-hand property you can do up and extend.
Buying off-plan is where a buyer purchases a property before it’s built. Because you can’t see your home, you have to rely on the architect’s plans, brochures and other information from the developer, as well as computer generated images (mocked-up pictures on a computer to give you an idea of the real thing).
In some instances, a show flat or show home will be constructed to give you a better indication of what your home will look like. You can get a good idea of space and how different areas will look, so a show home can be useful if you’re buying off-plan.
How to buy off-plan
Buying a home off-plan requires research. The developer and/or agent should be able to give you the property’s layout and room sizes.
Before you take the plunge and sign on any dotted lines, however, go and check out other schemes the house builder has created. This is extremely important, because you can actually see what the design is like, and how good the quality of materials and construction will be on your own site. Talk to residents that live there if you can, to get their take on the developer. If anyone has moved into your own scheme already, do have a chat with fellow-residents there, too.
The next step will be choosing a plot: a piece of land where the house will be built, or in the case of a flat, which until you will occupy. He trick here is to really walk around the site and this is when you want your compass to hand. Which way the flat or house is facing is crucial, and depending on when you want the sun facing a balcony, terrace or even a mailing living room window is all-important. Some people want sun in the mornings and some evenings. Only you know how you live and which you prefer.
Be careful where the traffic flow (do you really want to be on the side of the building where rush hour occurs?), and be aware of what is near your home. Avoid being close to the dustbins, maintenance area or too close to parking lot. It is believed a first-floor flat or higher can be safer than a basement place. However, if there’s no lift it might be hard to coax future buyers to scale six flights of steps if you’re on the top floor.
Moureen Allard – Realtor® LONG BEACH, CA REAL ESTATE AGENT
Top Orange County Real Estate Agent
4531 E. Anaheim St.
Long Beach, CA 90804
License # 01258832
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