Home buying is an important personal decision and a big financial investment. You want to find the home that's right for you and the builder who provides the best overall value and service. Home buyers and professional home builders agree there are a number of things you can do to make the buying process enjoyable and successful.
Do your research.
Know what you want, what's available and how the buying process works before you start thinking seriously about signing a contract. Browse through newspapers, magazines and industry/government publications. Consult with family, friends and co-workers. Attend consumer seminars and check the Internet. Most importantly, visit model homes and talk with builders and salespeople.
Pre-arrange your mortgage.
If you plan to borrow funds to finance your home purchase, talk to your lender (bank or mortgage broker) about mortgages early in the process. Knowing in advance how much you can spend comfortably (down payment and monthly mortgage payment) and getting pre-approval for a mortgage means you can proceed from "just looking" to a signed contract with confidence. It is also important for you to know that you can secure your interest rate to protect yourself from a possible rate increase, and if the rate drops, you still get the lower rate! Most financial institutions will offer a pre-approval service at no charge and you are under no obligation to accept their offer. Most builders have a bank that they are partnered with who offer the builder’s customers a lower interest rate than the current posted rates.
Check the builder's qualifications.
There are many reputable, professional builders in the industry who provide great homes and great service. As you talk with builders or their salespeople, ask a few questions: How long has the company been in business? Is it a member of the Canadian Home Builders' Association? Will the builder give you references? What after sales service does the builder offer? Does the builder supply a guaranteed third-party warranty and what does it cover? "Personal fit" is also important: Does the builder (or salesperson) listen to you? Understand your needs? Offer useful advice? Do you feel confident that the company would be good to work with?
Be open to discussions with the builder or sales person.
Today’s builders are committed to customer satisfaction. They and their salespeople are there to listen, to work with you and to offer the assistance that you need to make informed decisions. Check the home carefully. Whether a builder has a model home, a sales office or sells directly from drawings and plans, you'll have plenty of opportunities to look closely at the quality of the builder's home and what's included. The builder's "spec" list will detail the construction materials and finishing products. Ask to see a description, and samples, of the standard features included in the base price of the house, along with the description and cost of options the builder offers. When viewing a model home, don't hesitate to try out windows, open drawers and look into every nook and cranny- the builder wants you to be convinced of the home's quality and solidity.
Keep track of the homes you have visited.
Most home buyers visit a number of builders, sales offices and model homes before making a final decision. Keep a list of the advantages, disadvantages and general impressions of each company and home you visit.
Make a list of questions.
Asking the same questions of everyone lets you compare builders, their homes and their services accurately and fairly.
- Price – what is the base price versus the price of the show home? What is included in the standard house and what are considered options or upgrades?
- Upgrades – what is the extra cost for each upgrade?
- Changes – what is possible to change and what is not?
- How long does it take to build a new home?
- Warranty & After sales service – what can I expect?
Check out the lots.
Developments may have restrictions on the location of individual home models in order to ensure a varied and attractive streetscape. The builder’s sales person can help you with that information. Also, when looking at which lot to purchase, consider such aspects as light and sun patterns, traffic, noise, privacy and so on.
Understand the total cost of buying.
Get detailed prices and estimates on everything involved in buying a home. Your builder and lender can advise you on the costs of securing a mortgage, taxes, lawyer fees, mortgage insurance, and so on. Ask your lawyer to give you a detailed breakdown of closing costs, including land transfer taxes where applicable. Call movers for estimates. Determine if you need to buy new appliances, window coverings or furnishings. Include room for “extras” in your budget - chances are that you will want to add some upgrades and extra features to the builder’s standard model.
Source: Calgary Region Home Builders' Association