As the economy begins to show signs of recovery from the recent recession, the development of new communities is beginning to rise. With new choices now available, buyers can be more discriminating as they shop for a community to call home.
More and more new home developments and communities in Orange County have been popping up in high-demand areas like Irvine, Huntington Beach and Ladera Ranch. That’s why we asked Gary Allen, an expert developer of luxury, custom-home communities, for the facts homebuyers need to know and what to ask when purchasing in these new community developments.
William Gary Allen has more than 40 years of experience as a real estate developer of luxury, custom-home communities. He is also a noted philanthropist, supporting higher education in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
I’d like to share with you some useful advice for consumers in the market for a home in a newly developed community (or one currently under development). I will go over basic facts you’ll want to find out as well as the hard questions you need to get answered during the process. These tips also apply any brand-new home, regardless of whether it is part of a planned development.
1. Do your research on plans for the community
Real estate developments are often completed in distinct phases and it may take several years for all phases to be built. If you’re going to be among the first buyers in a development, it’s particularly important that you have a clear picture of what the community will be like when it’s 100% finished. Immediate concerns may be how much construction activity — and the noise and mess that can come with it — will be underway close to your house and for how long. Longer-term, find out what’s planned for any vacant areas in the community, especially those that aren’t clearly labeled in any renderings of the site plan that agents, developers or builders may share with you.
Also look into just what types of houses can or will be built. In addition, see if there are architectural reviews or an architectural review committee that can protect you from having your property harmed by what’s being built next door. You’ll want to know that agreements are in place that will prevent someone from building a Key West-style home, for instance, in the middle of your traditional brick-home neighborhood.
2. Learn about community amenities
Amenities and common areas can have a great deal of influence on buyers. Golf courses, swimming facilities, tennis courts, jogging paths and even marinas are often part of brand-new communities being developed today. If the amenities are still in the planning stages, you’ll want to do some due diligence if these features are very important to you. In some towns and cities, builders are required to post bond for the community amenities being planned. Such information may be available at your local municipality’s building department.
3. Look into deed and zoning restrictions
Always find out about any deed restrictions or association limitations you may be subjected to. Some developments have very specific requirements about what is allowed outside and around your home, even including the types of flowers and trees planted in yards. Covenants, maintenance duties, homeowner association (HOA) rules and fees — all of these can have an impact on what you can do in and around your own house. Restrictions can be far-reaching, from rules on satellite dishes to the prohibition of vegetable gardens. Do your homework so you don’t get an unpleasant surprise when you want to add a shed to your backyard.
As for zoning, if you’re new to the area as well as to the community you may want to learn more about your municipality’s zoning ordinances. Zoning rules usually trump HOA rules, but not always. Should you want to maintain a home-based business, for instance, you may find that zoning laws allow it but your HOA does not.
4. Talk with people who already live in the community
If the community has been under development for a while, you have the advantage of being able to talk to your potential neighbors about their experience. They’re one of the best sources for unbiased answers to questions such as these:
- Were they satisfied with the quality and timeliness of their home’s construction?
- Are common areas and amenities being well maintained?
- Is the HOA responsive to their needs and easy to work with when problems arise?
- Has their property’s value been adversely affected by problems in the community?
- Would they make the same decision to buy there if they had it to do over again?
5. Do your homework on the builder
This is one of the most important tasks you have when buying a brand-new home. Whether the community you’re interested in has several builders to choose from or just one, you should do all you can to understand the building process and to become very familiar with the contractor who will be creating your new home.
In addition to confirming that the builder is properly licensed and insured, you should ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel completely comfortable with your choice. The purchase of a home is a very substantial investment for most of us, perhaps the single largest purchase we’ll ever make. That’s why it’s essential to thoroughly vet your builder’s experience and qualifications.
Among the questions to ask your builder are:
- Can you provide references from buyers of other homes you’ve built?
- What kind of warranty will come with my home?
- What standard features can I expect and what upgrades or options are available?
- What person will oversee the construction of my home, and will I be able to easily contact him or her?
- How long will it take to build my home?
- What is your schedule for me to inspect the home at certain points, and how will any issues I may find during the final walk-through be managed?
6. Make your dream (home) come true
Buyers should never hesitate to ask questions about every aspect of the development they’re considering. Remember that you have a great deal of power and influence on the final outcome of your purchase and your lifestyle in your new community. Be an informed consumer, find the community that’s just right for you, and then enjoy your brand-new home!
If you think a new home is right for you, start your research on new communities with a First Team agent. Our local area specialists can do the homework on builders and new developments plus even help negotiate for you when the time comes. Search for an agent online or contact us and we’ll match you with a new home expert near you.
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