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I currently live in New Jersey and I am planning on moving to an over 55 community in Florida. The community I like has very little in terms of pre-built new homes and I would really like a brand new home. They will build a new home for me. However, I am concerned about two things:

  1. Will it be a lot of work on my part?
  2. Are they going to rip me off when building the home because I do not know construction? How do I minimize these risks?

I currently live in a home that I inherited and as such I consider myself a first time home buyer.

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    They will build a new home for me - this sentence raises so many questions. You should probably have your contract reviewed by a real estate attorney with Florida license, for starters.
    – littleadv
    Commented Apr 1 at 1:17
  • @littleadv I definitely agree with you on the attorney. However, that is not the issue I want to discuses in the post.
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 1 at 3:08
  • The answer to both the questions is "yes". There could be books written to elaborate on either and your third one.
    – littleadv
    Commented Apr 1 at 4:48
  • @littleadv There's not much to review. As typical in residential real estate, it's almost certainly going to be a statewide standard contract.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 1 at 18:34
  • For big ticket items (external fence, patio screening, etc), where possible, DIY after moving in. You could save 1/3 to 1/2 the cost. For things like carpeting, cabinets, appliances, etc. it will depend on the willingness of the builder to give you this option and as well as how much of a credit they'll give you if you DIY. In some cases, it may make more sense to pay the builder the upgrade fee rather than DIY. In order to move in, you need a certificate of occupancy from the city. If these alternatives are involved and not resolved in a timely fashion, they may delay occupancy. Commented Apr 2 at 14:40

3 Answers 3

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They will build a new home for me.

Before going any further make sure you understand what this means. Generally in a planned community there are two ways people get a house while the community is under development.

  • The purchaser points to an empty lot and they then sit down with the developer who lets them pick from a small subset of home styles, with a large number of option regarding appliances, cabinets, flooring, and interior colors. Sometimes they can even make a few exterior choices.
  • They point to a completed house and say I want that one. But they have very little power over the appliances, options, and colors, because the house is essentially complete.

In the first situation you will have to put down a deposit even though construction hasn't started and might not for months. You also have zero idea about when the house will be ready.

In the second situation you will have to put down a deposit, but the house is done and you could move in within weeks.

It is the same way regarding buying a new car. You can pick the options you want, vs buying one off the lot.

Will it be a lot of work on my part?

If you go the route of option 1, you will have the opportunity to see the house while it is being constructed. You will have deadlines regarding making your choices. every wall and surface involves options. Do you want this type of pad, or that type of pad. One costs more, the other is available today.

Are they going to rip me off when building the home because I do not know construction? How do I minimize these risks?

If you care about the stuff you can't see, then either you will have to visit at key stages in the building process, or get a home inspector to visit during those key phases. Each visit by a home inspector will cost you money.

They will build a new home for me.
Will it be a lot of work on my part?

If this is a place where the developer has put in the roads, and the basic utilities to the lot and the rest is up to you; then yes you have a lot of work ahead of you.

An architect has to design a house that will work in that specific lot, and within the zoning regulations. You will then have to decide on a ton of options regarding surfaces, colors, appliances, lighting fixtures. More options than in the first situation above. Instead of picking from 3 styles and grades of cabinets, you can pick from dozens of manufactures with dozens of styles and grades. All of witch impact cost and schedule.

Are they going to rip me off when building the home because I do not know construction? How do I minimize these risks?

This means even more visits to the site. Even more reliance on the home inspector.

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  • "sit down with the developer who lets them pick from a small subset of home styles" I am literally sitting across the street from a fully custom planned community. Every house is the same architectural style, but none of them have the same layout. A development a few miles away is a planned community on a lake, there the homeowner selects a lot, then chooses a design from one of 3 different nationwide homebuilders; design, price, quality, warranty all differ.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 1 at 18:32
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The key thing here is who is the builder. Search online for reviews and gotchas. I've "built" two homes here in Florida and have to say the process is pretty much painless.

Most builders are pretty flexible and can mostly accommodate special requests. They have the process down and customer satisfaction is very important. Typically, one gets to pick the finishes and upgrades and the options are pretty endless. The identical model can have two very different sales prices when options are considered. Will you go for the 42" or 36" cabinets in the kitchen? etc...

The tough part about building as opposed to buying an existing home is all the work that needs to be done after the close. Most builders use a pretty cheap paint, and you will probably need to paint the interior. Unless you pay for them, blinds, curtains, and ceiling fans will need to be installed. You may not like the blinds in an existing home, but you can put off changing them when convenient. In a new home there simply are none and HOAs don't like the short-term solution of hanging a sheet/blanket in the window.

A place to save money is having the builder install "rough ins" rather than the actual item. My last builder wanted about $600 to install a deep sink. Instead I had them do a rough in, less than $100, and installed my own deep sink.

Their custom lighting tends to be expensive and limited in selection. You are almost always better to take the standard lighting, and buying what you like at Lowes/HD.

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If they're building the house, they will build it to their quality standards, which typically means going cheap on things that the buyer won't immediately notice.

You might spend more and have to make more decisions, but wind up with a place that's better built and more specifically adapted to your needs, if you just buy the land and then hire your own contractor to design and construct the building.

If you're building new, you really don't want to rely on a contractor someone else is selecting. Get recommendations, check reputations, look at examples of past work, and get proposals; then select.

Of course if this is a community of cookie-cutter tract houses, the seller may push you hard toward their contractors and/or designs. Pushing back may mean shopping for a home elsewhere.

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  • I do not think they will let me buy the land and have somebody else build the house. From what I understand that is typical for an over 55 community.
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 1 at 1:03
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    True. Unless you are willing to hire someone to come in and sanity check their work, at additional cost, or have the knowledge to supervise them yourself, you seem to be sorta stuck. If you have the time you could hang around the construction site taking pictures and making them nervous... but unless you're up close you won't be able to do much about inspecting electrical or plumbing work. Best suggestion I have, then, is to talk to other residents about what they wish the builders had done differently and communicate the ones that are important to you...
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 1 at 1:19
  • The idea of hiring somebody to check their work makes sense to me. How do I find a good person to hire?
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 1 at 1:47
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    @Bob This is common, you hire a licensed home inspector, similar to when you buy an existing house. Not all of them do new construction, the same caveats on competency apply. You'd arrange for inspections at specific times, e.g. after the foundation was poured, before the drywall is installed, etc. Obviously, the more inspections the better chance of finding and correcting issues.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 1 at 18:38
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    @Bob I'd also suggest you visit the site regularly, even if you don't know much. When we built a house long ago, we were there weekly. One, it keeps the contractors on their toes. Two, if something looks bad you can bring it up to the inspector, send them pictures. Three, take pictures so you can document where stuff is for future repairs and modifications. Four, you're likely to learn something, gain a greater sense of ownership, and less worry.
    – user71659
    Commented Apr 1 at 19:12

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