Choosing the Right New Build
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Maybe your home search has been filled with outdated kitchens and worn-out bathrooms. Or, perhaps the opportunity to design your dream home in a new community development is too tempting to ignore. Whatever your situation may be, choosing a new construction as your new home is a rewarding journey that offers a blank slate to fill in with all your must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Whether it’s looking through blueprints and lot plans, scouring community maps, or deciding how much square-footage you need, choosing new construction requires a plethora of early-stage decision-making that can often be overwhelming.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to help you choose the right type of build for you.
Make a list of your wants and needs for your ideal home
Set aside the time to visualize your dream home and list all the features you would love to have in your home.
Have you always wanted an open concept floor plan? A Jack and Jill bathroom in your master bedroom? French doors that open to a spacious backyard? Jot it all down!
While dream amenities are important, you also want to be clear on the absolute essentials. Maybe that means a spare room that converts into a home office, or a fenced-in outdoor space for your kids to play in, or even a first-level ensuite for aging parents.
Another consideration is how long you plan to live in the home. Will you try to sell it in a few years? Will you raise your growing family there? Will this be the home you retire in? A rough idea on future plans can help determine if you’re building for immediate needs or for the needs you may eventually have. If you plan on selling your home within a few years, you may not want to plan too many niche customizations; but, if your plan is to set roots for a while, then building a home with flexibility to suit changing needs might be the way to go.
With your list of wants and needs in hand, you’ll have strong guidelines to help your builder bring your dream home to life.
Choose the type and size of home you’re looking for
A two-bedroom condominium in the heart of the city, an urban townhouse or a fully detached home in the countryside – new homes come in all shapes and sizes.
As you get acquainted with builders and new community developments, get specific about what kind of home you would like to have built.
With a growing family, you may decide it’s essential to have a four-bedroom house in a new housing development in your favorite suburb. If you’re just entering the housing market and want to start small, you can opt for a modestly-sized townhouse.
If you’re working with a large national or regional builder, they may offer homes in a range of sizes, often grouped by price range in new master-planned communities. These planned communities could offer everything from townhouses to condominiums, one-level attached villas and several sizes of single-family homes for homebuyers to choose from.
Choose your lot
Site selection is a pivotal part of the homebuying process. If you’re buying a home in a new community development, your builder can offer you a variety of lots to choose from.
Your builder will also provide you with digital or hard copies of plot plans and maps for your residential neighborhood. These will outline the street layout, mapping where homes will be plotted and which lots are up for still available. You may also see where parks, schools, and other community amenities will be developed.
When choosing a lot for your home build, keep these factors in mind:
Location: An interior lot is the most conventional – these homes face only one street, with neighbors on either side, and a backyard behind the home.
Some families may prefer a corner lot to accommodate a large yard or minimize proximity to neighbors. Other homebuyers may find the corner lot catches too much traffic or requires too much lawn maintenance.
Lots at a T-intersection facing incoming street traffic may deal with a constant shine of headlights. If this is a concern, you can speak to your builder about potential solutions to minimize disruptions.
Access: Lots at the entrance of a subdivision or next to a major intersection could get homeowners to main roads more quickly, but they could also be noisier. If you or your family members take public transportation, it may be convenient to build within walking distance to a bus stop or train station for an easy commute.
Families with children may be drawn to lots placed next to a park, nearby schools or even on a quiet cul-de-sac so their kids can play in a street designed for less traffic.
If you’re buying in a new development, you can ask your builder for the community development plans to gain insight on what’s in store for your subdivision, including the construction of churches, grocery stores and shopping centers.
View: Lot options with a penthouse, lakefront or mountainside view come at a premium but if you can’t afford the hefty price tag, you can opt to buy the lot in front of these homes. Homebuyers looking at condominiums can also check on what the vantage point may be from all sides of the building – some lots may be cheaper if views are fully or partially obscured.
Slope: If your potential lot has a gentle slope, your builder could plan for a walk-out basement, while a steeper slope could leave you with less usable backyard space.
Exposure: If you’re planning to garden or host outdoors, you may want to ensure your lot faces southwest for plenty of afternoon sun. If you prefer a low maintenance yard, northern exposure may be better suited for you (and, this positioning will also keep you cool in the summer).
Ask your builder about the sunlight conditions of your lot, or you can visit lots and model homes at different times of the day to see for yourself.
Design your floor plan
New construction homes are built for you and with you. Because new builds factor in customizations — especially if you’re buying in the early stages of construction — they’re usually just a shell before they’re purchased. Builders will often have the framework for a home laid out, but no work is done on the inside, including plumbing, electrical and walls.
Builders working with homebuyers in a new housing development often provide them with a flexible floor plan, giving the buyer the control on aspects of the layout and design throughout the home. While the square footage is set, you can tweak your layout to accommodate your desired number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other spaces like laundry rooms. Later in the homebuying process, you can select cabinets, appliances, flooring, and other elements to match your desired color and overall aesthetic.
When choosing your floor plans, it’s important to factor in your list of wants and needs, the condition and shape of your lot, the landscape around your home, and the future marketability of your home, especially if you plan on selling a few years later.
Floor plans list the total square footage of your new home, but this only refers to the finished portions of your house, or “heated areas.” Garages, porches, unfinished basements, attics and backyard space are considered unfinished and aren’t included when calculating square footage.
Your home’s blueprints are a detailed map of your potential home’s layout. While two homes may share the same size in square-feet, they can look completely different because of the way the space is laid out. An open concept main floor may make your home feel larger and more spacious, but some families may prefer a more traditional floor plan where walls separate the dining room, living room and kitchen for privacy.
As you consider floor plan options, think about how your family will use the space. The right floor plan will suit your family’s needs while making the most efficient use of the space.
Talk to your builder if floor plans are confusing or you need advice on the best layout for your needs. Builders are experts at constructing homes to address families’ lifestyles – they could talk you out of placing a bathroom right next to the dining room, or suggest you place your living room and master bedroom at the front of the house where you’ll capture the most natural light.
Floor plans even list an overhead view of where windows, doors, closets, built-in cabinets, major appliances, light switches and electrical outlets will be placed in each room.
Pay attention to the measurements laid out in your floor plan. Use a tape measure to compare the size of rooms in your current home to what your new home’s may have to help visualize the difference. You can also assess whether each room has enough space to comfortably fit furniture you have in mind.
Visit a model home and learn about your potential neighborhood
Now that you’ve narrowed down your ideal home’s specifications, ask your builder to visit showrooms in the community development sites you’re interested in.
You can do your homework beforehand by looking at Google Maps and plot plans for an overall look at your potential new neighborhood but visiting the parks, amenities and building site can give you a much more detailed feel.
Pay attention to the different lots available, how far apart they are, and what kind of natural light they’re getting, depending on the time of day that you’re there.
Visiting showrooms and walking through model homes with different floor plans are a great way to understand first-hand various layouts and where your personal preferences lie. Take pictures, jot down notes, and ask any questions that come to mind.
Remember: model homes are stunning because they are likely packed with upgrades and finishes that cost extra. Ask your builder which amenities and features come standard with the home and which are upgrades. You can even ask for a private tour of a basic model home if they’re available.
It’s also worth asking your builder about any future plans for commercial expansion in the area, and how long it may take for your development to be fully completed. If you’re the first ones moving into a new community, you could secure a bargain for your new build as one of the first phases but you may be surrounded by construction as your neighborhood grows.
Use virtual tours to explore your customization options
Traditionally, homebuyers visit showrooms and model homes to get an idea of what they’re buying. But these days, with the help of technology, families can use virtual reality to help with their home buying process.
Virtual tours and virtual reality technology can help homebuyers who can’t visit the specific building site, or those having trouble deciding on floor plans and customizations guided solely by blueprints and color swatches. Most programs allow you to tour the space with 360-degree views, and some even allow you to input your desired customizations to see if they work for the space before investing in them.