Our First Look at New Construction Homes

by Kevin on October 13, 2008

Last week we started this series — taking a look back at our first home purchase. We bought our home one year ago in September of 2007. Last week we struck two more homes from the list. I mentioned last time that we might need to look at new construction homes.

We were quite frustrated at this point. We had found a couple of homes that we thought we really liked. Things hadn’t worked out for a variety of reasons — poor home maintenance issues, selling agent not calling back, etc.

We decided to take a look at some of the new home developments in our area. As you might expect there were multiple developments up and running. The credit crunch had not yet turned for the worst and prices were stable (and still are).

Having Criteria Really Helped

We developed some criteria to judge homes on (not in any particular order):

  • price, affordability
  • how close it was to both of our jobs
  • what the highways/interstate roadways near the neighborhood heading toward the city and work would be like during rush hour
  • quality of the builder, house, and neighborhood
  • what the surrounding area was like (was this the only nice neighborhood for miles, was their a mall next door, etc.)

This may it pretty easy to rank the neighborhoods we looked at. Everything closer to the actual city (Birmingham) was more expensive. The further you went out, the cheaper homes got. The good thing is neither of us work downtown so this wasn’t too much of a problem.

Three Possibilities

We searched online and found three developments we liked in three distinct areas of town:

Cheap Garden Homes and Train Tracks

The first homes looked great online. The plans were nice and the builder had shockingly put up decent photos. It was in a very new, packed area so traffic would be bad. My wife drove down one day and said everything looked fine… except this one nagging detail. Within throwing distance of the houses ran a train track. A track that would be used pretty much every night.

What was the builder thinking? Scratch that, what were the home buyers that had already bought thinking? Who wants a train rolling through their backyard at 10pm every night?

Another one off the list…

Out in the country, odd floorplan

The second set of homes we looked at did not have good photos online (apparently for good reason). The builder had an okay reputation and the layout of the neighborhood was pretty standard. The only thing… and it was a big issue for us… is the houses were hideously ugly. We made that judgment primarily based on the “front door” being on the side of the house.

Yup, you read that correctly. You pull into the driveway and walk around the side of the house to get to the “front” door. The houses were nice from what we could tell, but the neighborhood was just getting started so there would be a lot of construction going on in the neighborhood for quite some time.

You wouldn’t think that the front door would kill a deal like that. For us, it was so weird that we ended up passing. It was also on a two lane (very busy) road and traffic to and from work would be difficult.

The “Goldilocks” House — just right

My wife called me on my cell phone at work. Excitement was in her voice — “You’ve got to come see this neighborhood. I think this is it.”

A pretty bold statement, so we made plans to go see the model home that evening. It was very close to my work — about 5 miles down a busy highway. The homes were close together, but not as close as some of the neighborhoods we had looked at. The model home was gorgeous. There were several floor plans available, and one in particular we thought was a winner.

The only catch: there were only two spots left in the entire neighborhood that floor plan could be built on, and one was already under construction. The other one was down at the bottom of the hill and would be built absolutely last.

If we wanted the one currently under construction (it was just framed), we needed to move quickly. We would need to verify our pre-approvals for the amount the home was selling for, talk to our realtor, and make some quick decisions on personalizing the house. If we signed the contract now we could still determine the interior paint, brick, and kitchen options.

It was time for a serious talk.

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Amanda October 14, 2008 at 7:39 am

Buying a home really is one of the most stressful moments you will ever encounter. My husband and I bought our first home in April of 2007, and it was a nightmare. We looked at over 60 homes in the area we liked. They were all too small, too expensive, or too dirty. We had one deal fall through due to poor maintenance. We were living with my in-laws at the time and as you could imagine, I wanted out. We picked the next house we looked at, which ironically, was also the first house we looked at. The house we purchased was everything I did NOT want in a house; cookie cutter neighborhood, vaulted ceilings, no screen porch (we live in FL, this is a necessity), and it was straight out of 1987. Lucky, the house had no major problems; everything that needed to be done was cosmetic. Still to this day I do not care much for our house. I have tried to make it my own by changing light fixtures, flooring, and even a new kitchen. I am ready to move on, even though we are probably stuck here for quite some time due to the market. For our next house, I don’t care if we look at 400 houses; I now know what I really want.

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