Production Home Help Needed
March 9, 2014 6:39 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are thinking about having a home built -- a production home -- in one of the many subdivisions in our growing area. We have purchased a home before (and sold it later; not in our current area) but it was older and had been flipped. What do we need to know about the production home process?

Do we need a realtor? What happens if I want to provide my own lighting fixtures/kitchen cabinets/backsplash tiles, etc.? Are they going to force us to use their standard choices? How do we assure we are getting a quality home? I know that it all depends largely on our builder (we're in Chapin/Irmo area of South Carolina if there are any locals around) but I'd love to hear any and all advice. Please tell me about your production home experiences and what you wish you had known.
posted by danielle the bee to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I never even thought abut using a realtor, and I'd guess none of my neighbors did, either. Buying from the builder is a pretty straight-forward process, and there was a waiting list just to put down earnest money, so no haggling on the price. Not really sure what a realtor would have done to help.

At least in my area, everything was standard. You couldn't bring in your own fixtures and so on, because that just slows the builders down. They've borrowed money to build the subdivision, and they want to turn that around to you as soon as possible. They usually have plenty of choices for different colors and such, but custom is out.
posted by Houstonian at 7:14 PM on March 9, 2014

Best answer: We had one built in the Seattle area three years ago. The builder actually had buyer's agents (realtors) on site to deal with potential buyers. We went with one of these and were glad we did. Thanks to him we got the builder to build the home out of order (so we got the lot we wanted, as the various home models, and even their exterior colors, had already been assigned to sites). He also personally came out and installed a second staircase on our deck since the builder stupidly put egress to the lawn on the opposite side of the steeply-sloped yard from the gate.

The builder did offer options, but no customization whatsoever. If you want something custom, you should get the cheapest or least intrusive option from the builder and customize it yourself later.

The builder we went with specialized in buying out distressed developments from other builders. The builder who originally had the contract for our development went into bankruptcy so the builder who built our house got it for a greatly discounted rate. The houses were pretty good deals; we had trouble finding anything comparable (new or used) for less than $50,000 more than we paid.
posted by kindall at 7:26 PM on March 9, 2014

Best answer: A realtor can help when things go wrong. They laid the wrong tile at my parents' house and it was really nice to have the realtor to help get it fixed (especially because it turns out her husband is the boss of the construction manager on the house).

When the house is being built, visit as often as you can -- at least once a week. That way you can catch mistakes before it's too late (wrong tile!). If there's anything you're concerned about, call your rep with the builder and your realtor to make sure it's fixed ASAP.

Some builders are more flexible than others about customization. Some will let you do it but it will cost you a fair bit. Lighting fixtures and backsplash are easy to change after you move in, and may be cheaper done that way too -- just let them put up builder grade fixtures and no backsplash, then hire a contractor to put in your preferred materials (rather than pay an inflated price to get not-quite-the-right-ones from their set of choices). Other things cost a lot and/or are difficult to change later, like floor tiles, so better to pick what you like to begin with. If it's something they'll have to install anyway and you like the choices, then it's worth paying to upgrade. If it's something they'll have to bring another tradesman in to do and you can do it relatively easily aftermarket, you may save money (e.g., water softener).
posted by katemonster at 7:30 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was just out of college when I bought my first home which was a condo being built, so I knew exactly zero about buying any home and my contributions are from the "captain obvious" camp. But I'll add them anyway because it would have been helpful to me to know these things.

1) Find out what comes with the house. I thought a new condo would come complete with things like places to hang drapes/curtains/window shades or blinds, and with appliances. My home did not come equipped with all appliances, it had a dishwasher and an oven/stovetop but no refrigerator, and no washer/dryer, just the hookups. Adding appliances is a hassle and additional cost, and spending the week after I moved in installing window treatments was annoying. It sounds dumb but I just sort of assumed if you bought a new home it would actually come completely ready to live in.

2) There was no option to bring in your own fixtures etc, you would just choose from several different levels (basic/no extra charge on up through the more luxurious options that cost more). I only considered what would be the absolute cheapest to me and the most functional - like berber carpet. I did not consider resale value. If I knew I might sell in the shorter term (like 5-7 years maybe) I would definitely want to have an eye for resale value at this point - I was very lucky that I ended up selling that condo to someone who wanted functional rather than actually appealing (someone who wanted to just rent the place out).

I used the realtor that the construction company had stationed at the model home, which turned out fine, but in retrospect I think it's suboptimal to have the same person acting as a dual agent. He was just lucky that I knew nothing and didn't think to bring in my own buyer's agent. If any issue had actually come up I would want to have an agent representing my own interest on my side, not someone who supposedly is trying to represent both parties' interests - common sense suggests that the builder who gave the realtor the business is going to be more important for them to side with.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:28 PM on March 9, 2014

Best answer: Nthing katemonster.

When I built my production home, I had my own realtor, and she was invaluable in assisting with the process. It didn't help that my builder was a bit of a space cadet, but having her deal with the builder's realtor got things done a lot quicker.

Agree that if you are able, visit often. I did, and called the builder out on at least two things they missed before it was too late, including a non-standard window that I added to the dining room which was initially not framed in.

It's possible that the customizability of the home contributed to the mistakes or forgotten items, as mentioned above - the builders may have been used to the cookie cutter nature of the various available floorplans, but I customized a lot because I could.

For our builder, I was actually required to go and pick out / purchase my own light fixtures for the whole house in advance, as well as visit the flooring store and pick out my choice of colors, etc. A certain dollar amount of the home's sale price was allocated to flooring, and I just paid the extra to the floor store directly for the overage. For the fixtures, they just cut me a check for their standard lighting fixture allowance at closing. I did have to let them know in advance where I was going to use ceiling fans so they could install the proper heavy-duty mounting boxes.

They also let me come in and run my own wiring (cat-6 and rg6 coax, and romex in the unfinished basement) throughout the whole house in between when the framing was complete and the insulation was installed.

In answer to your final question, there's nothing much I wish I had known at the time but didn't, mostly because I had an excellent realtor who told me everything I needed to know.

Also agree that it really depends on the builder what kind of choices you have or don't have. I was lucky that my builder was flexible and offered lots of relatively simple-to-implement options - aforementioned extra window, winder garage, etc. It was really nice to be able to tweak minor things like that. I would strongly suggest doing some research or contact some of your potential builders and see what kind of flexibility you can get before choosing someone.

Good luck in your new home!
posted by SquidLips at 9:12 PM on March 9, 2014

Best answer: We bought one 20 years ago, and are still here. We had our own Realtor already. I was glad we did, but educating ourselves about buying a house was even more important.

We choose our lot and floor plan, limited to what plan fit on which lot. I think nowadays this may be more strict in some developments.

We checked the construction frequently, and caught a few mistakes (wrong roof!) by being diligent. Since it was so long ago, my advice may be out of date for some tips. We were making home-brew at the time, so frequently brought beer to the construction site. Lubrication never hurts.

Our builder allowed us to do some customization. We asked for quotes for those items. Here are a few things we added or upgraded: insulated and finished garage, upgraded flooring from linoleum to tile, washer and dryer hookups for both gas and electric, added door from kitchen to backyard, instead of a window. We also bought our own light fixtures. They allowed us a lighting budget, and anything over that was out of our pocket.

Unanticipated problems: Our refrigerator was taller than what they had planned for, so the little cabinet above it is higher up on the wall than the other cabinets. The shower door in one bathroom was installed backwards, and had to be fixed. That was under warranty, a plus when buying a home like this.

The builder tried to get us to close before the finishing touches were done. I'm glad we didn't, because some neighbours had to wait months after moving in. They put a lot of pressure on us to close early.

Keep your receipts and documentation for closing day, in case they need to give you credit for anything.
posted by annsunny at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2014

Best answer: I've bought directly from a builder and I've had my own agent. Here's what you need to know.

1. Builder's grade stuff is typicaly included in the price of the house. You can negotiate for more, or you can take the "allowance" and go buy exactly what you want. In many cases, you will go to a "showroom" and you will be shown a dizzying array of options for cabinetry, faucets, paint, etc. My first house builder had a showroom the size of a big-box store, and there were options for EVEYTHING. Tile, carpet, hardwood, cabinets, countertops, appliances, relflective stuff in the attic, ceiling fans, et. They'll show you the bog standard, and you pay a bit more for upgrades (you can NEGOTIATE this into your contract--so do it!)

In our house in Nashville, we were given a couple of cabinet, vinyl and countertop choices, and then sent to an appliance store and a lighting center with an allowance. Anything we wanted above and beyond was on us. We bought a special sink and faucets.

2. I dont care what they tell you, pay for an inspection. Just like on an old house. In both cases and inspection turned up stuff that needed to be attended to. Also, have the inspector back for the walk through before closing, to insure that they fixed eveything they said they would.

3. Negotiate. If they won't budge on price, ask for a better lot, or for a deck, or for an upgrade allowance.

Good Luck

(also, pick the paint lowest on the chip. I selected Antique White, and it was yellow as a canary!)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:03 AM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: If you do decide to get your own appliances, MEASURE and make sure that everything will fit. We made this mistake with a washer/dryer in a closet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 AM on March 10, 2014

Best answer: Have a bit of liquidity - Hubby and I didn't have enough when we bought our home 2 years ago and we were set back by it, as we needed to draw on our savings.
I usually recommend people in my neck of the woods, where a custom detached home goes for about $400 000 - $500 000, to have at least $20 000 in readily accessible money available for appliances, landscaping deposits, moving costs etc. But where I live is expensive.
posted by Deodand at 9:15 PM on March 10, 2014

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