Four Truths About Buying a New Home No One Tells You
Alan and Denise Fields
Four Truths About Buying a New Home No One Tells You
Alan and Denise Fields are nationally-famous consumer advocates who have been featured on "Good Morning America" and in People magazine. This is excerpted from their best-selling book, YOUR NEW HOUSE: The Alert Consumer's Guide to Buying & Building a Quality Home.
1. Bob Vila is not building your home. You've seen those TV shows like "This Old House," where Bob, Norm or Steve and a crew of careful craftsmen lovingly restore a home. The workers ruminate endlessly about the correct way to install this door or that siding. Many home buyers think they are getting this level of care when they build or buy a new home. And why not? It's not like builders are giving away these homes.
Sorry, folks, this type of skilled building is seen only on television. Real life means building crews who are more like Larry, Curly, and Moe-bumbling idiots who couldn't tell their butt from a two-by-four. The only thing these guys ruminate on endlessly is which bar they'll hit at quitting time.
One home buyer we interviewed said she was shocked at the level of workmanship on her $140,000 semi-custom home. Sloppy carpentry, lousy cabinet installation, incompetent roofers -- the buyer got the full treatment. "You think you're getting quality craftsmen," she told us. "What you really get is Larry, Daryl and Daryl, from the old Bob Newhart TV show."
This is the ultimate reality check on building a new home: Bob Vila is not your builder. As a result, you need to protect yourself. That's the goal of this book: we'll tell you exactly how you can do this and get the best deal for the dollar.
2. You get to pay for all those wonderful advancements of science. Building a home in the 1990s is a quick lesson in environmental "correctness." Water-saving toilets, extra insulation, super-efficient furnaces are now required by law in many communities -- and who do you think pays for all this? You, in the form of higher home prices. Sure, some of this stuff may pay dividends down the line (in lower utility bills), but you still have to pay for all these expensive toys today.
Stringent enviornmental laws translate into tougher building standards and limited supply of certain materials. And when the supply goes down, it's you that's left holding the bag. The builders' lobby estimated that the spotted owl related reduction of logging in the Pacific Northwest has raised prices by $3000 per house. Even more insidious are "impact fees," which are taxes on new home buyers to fund parks and schools in many communities.
Hence that home built today may be more "politically correct" than one built in 1969 -- but you get to pay for the privilege.
3. It always takes more time, money and patience than the original estimate. So, your builder says he can build you a $215,000 home in just four months? Six months later, you're pulling your hair out because that home is now $240,000 and isn't even finished yet.
The percentage of homes finished on time and on budget must be infinitesimally small. Nearly every home buyer we've interviewed across the country recounts a similar story -- it cost more and took longer than they anticipated. Recognizing this at the outset is the best course. In the following chapters, we'll give you specific suggestions for minimizing the pain.
4. "New construction" does not mean "soundly constructed." High price does not mean high quality. In the bizarre world of new homes, "new" doesn't have the same meaning as say, a new car. A new home means only that no one has lived there yet -- and that's a plus and a minus.
"New" does not mean the house was soundly constructed. A quickly slapped-up tract house with the cheapest of cheap materials may be "new," but it could cause years of headaches.
And just because you're spending a lot of money does not mean you're getting commensurate quality. A $300,000 house may be loaded with cheap windows, a lousy paint job and poor roofing -- if you don't pay attention, you might get a house that's really worth much less than you're paying... especially if you're stuck with repair bills and costly maintenance.
Some builders seem keenly aware that most of their customers have no clue when it comes to separating quality from shodding construction. Ray Redden, president of Redden Properties, an Atlanta, Georgia builder said in a recent issue of Builder magazine, "Most home buyer's preception of quality starts (and finishes) with how much moulding there is in the house." And sadly, there is a ring of truth to that insulting statement. The best solution to protect yourself from shoddy construction is to arm yourself with knowledge. While you can't become an expert in construction overnight, you can surround yourself with experts who won't be fooled by a shoddy house that's disguised with pretty moulding. More on this strategy later.
Reprinted with permission from YOUR NEW HOUSE: The Alert Consumer's Guide to Buying & Building a Quality Home by Alan & Denise Fields. Published by Windsor Peak Press. $11.95. Available in bookstores nationwide like Barnes & Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks or call 1-800-888-0385 to order.
If you prefer, you can buy it online from Amazon.com.
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