6 Key Tips To Know Before You Buy or Build
Who doesn’t love spending a lazy weekend peeking into newly constructed houses and getting a firsthand look and feel of what it would be like to move into that perfect home? There is nothing like walking into a freshly painted and decorated new home that is up for sale, and picturing ourselves coming home.
We look around: do we feel comfortable here? Do we like the style? Do we like the layout? Do we like the décor? Every time we walk into another new home for sale, we emotionally decide if it works for us or not.
But are we judging logically as well? What looks and feels perfect at the time that we walk through that new home is only scratching the surface of finding our dream home in which we will be living for 10, 20, 30 years or more. It is like going on a first date. Sure, the person looks good on the outside, but what about inside? Are we too quick to judge what is truly right for us just by a first glance at a seemingly attractive new home?
If you are shopping for your dream home—maybe your “forever” home,” here are some key tips to consider before getting emotionally serious about building or buying.
1 – Before you even begin to seriously look, decide on a budget. What can you afford to buy?
Nothing is more depressing than looking at a $500,000 home when you know you can only afford a $100,000 home. That just eats at the soul. Visit your mortgage lender. Find out from him or her what you qualify for, and, if you can, get prequalified. That solves a lot of problems, but remember, just because you qualify for a certain loan amount, that doesn’t mean that amount should be the price of a home you can afford. Work out a budget and include all the other hidden costs of buying and owning a home. Only then will you have a more realistic idea of the price of the home you can truly afford.
2 – Pick a city and a neighborhood. Remember, you will be living there for a long time.
This is where you will need to balance common sense and what you can afford. If your job is in Edinburg but you begin looking in the mid-Valley, there can be problems ahead. Do your homework. Visit your choice locations during peak traffic hours to experience what it would be like to live there, or after a heavy rain storm to see if the area floods.
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3 Find a reputable builder. Any “Joe Schmo” can build a home.
And there have been “builders” out there who were here one day and gone another. You want to find a builder who has been around a while and who has a great reputation, both with customers and with suppliers (lumber companies, building supply stores, etc.)—suppliers being just as important because you can tell a lot about a company by the way it treats its vendors. The RGV New Homes Guide magazine is a perfect place to start your search. Why? Because it only promotes builders who are active members of the BUILT TO SAVE® program, a home certification program designed to differentiate builders who build high-performance homes from those that build only to minimum code standards. Visit www.BuiltToSave.org for a list of registered builder members. See #6.
4 – Go look at model homes and newly constructed homes to see what appeals to you.
On June 12-13 and 19-20, 2021, the Rio Grande Valley Builders Association will host its annual Parade of Homes event. This is the perfect opportunity for driving around and looking at some of the finest model homes in the Rio Grande Valley. If you miss the Parade in June, you can still take a virtual tour of the homes participating in the Parade by going to www.RGVBA.org where you can see what you missed. Go to page 18 for a preview of this year’s Parade of Homes. And remember, don’t be blinded by the bling in the homes. Ask about what’s behind the walls and what you should expect in terms of energy efficiency and home comfort. The only way to know for sure that you are getting a superior quality and energy efficient home is to ask if the home is certified as a BUILT TO SAVE® or ENERGY STAR® home. Don’t settle for a home built to minimum code standards.
5 – When you look at a builder’s new home for sale, remember that it may be only a model for you.
For example, that builder’s new home you see in McAllen can possibly be custom built for you in the area of your choice anywhere in the Valley. All the builders listed in our magazine would be happy to work with you in choosing a neighborhood and lot, and assisting with architectural design options, or finding a home within your budget and desires. You are not limited to what you see in a model home. You CAN design your home and have it custom built to your needs!
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6 – Ask if the builder builds high-performance homes and is a member of the BUILT TO SAVE® or ENERGY STAR® high-performance home programs.
Be prepared. No builder will say that his or her home is NOT high performance. The question should be “Is the home CERTIFIED as a high-performance home?” Homes certified by BUILT TO SAVE® or ENERGY STAR® receive an official certificate which will be invaluable if you decide to sell your home in the future. It will be difficult to convince your potential buyers that you have your builder’s word that the home is high performance. Both BUILT TO SAVE® and ENERGY STAR® provide third party inspections and testing to verify that your home will give you energy efficiency, will be more comfortable, will have better indoor air, and will save you money on utility expenses—far more than a similar home built only to minimum building
A certified high-performance home also means that the home’s construction complies with the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which is a law in the State of Texas. Even homes built to minimum code standards should comply with the 2015 IECC. That would be another question to ask your builder because not all municipalities enforce this law mandated by the State of Texas.
Hopefully, these 6 tips can get you started and on your way to your “Happy Ever After” new home. With the right information, the right choices, and the right people, building or buying a new home can be a wonderfully enjoyable and life-changing experience.