So you have put a contract on a new home with a builder and you can’t wait to move in. Buying a home is exciting, especially if you are a first-time home buyer, but buying a brand new home that has never been lived in doesn’t mean the house will be perfect and you won’t have any issues. In fact, the first owner of a home generally has to work out the “kinks” of a new home…kind of like breaking in a new car.
>> See Buying New vs. Resale Home
One of the most important things you need to know: Get the home inspected by a licensed house inspector! Again…”new” doesn’t equal “perfect” and you need an expert to find all the things the builder missed (and give the inspection to the builder to fix what needs fixing). In fact, I have seen inspection reports on “brand new” never-lived-in homes that are longer (with more items to fix) than an older resale homes! And if you are building a home “from dirt” then you may want to hire an inspector who will inspect the home in various stages of completion: foundation, framing, wiring and plumbing, and then final (because new construction homes have problems too!).
Another thing you need to know: Read the Builder’s Home Warranty! You need to know what the builder will and will not cover in their warranty since every builder is different. Plus, you don’t want to do anything to the home that may negate the warranty. For example, if you improperly plant bushes or trees, or regrade the yard and level it out so that it cannot drain properly, then you may negatively impact the foundation and your “performance” may negate the warranty on the foundation. In fact, you may want to wait a year or so before doing any major landscaping and work out drainage issues first.
>> Read Buyer’s Guide to Slab-On-Ground Foundations by R. Michael Gray, P.E. and Matthew T. Gray, EIT.
Make sure you keep your home warranty in a safe place with your other important house documents (deed, note, inspections, survey, etc.). You may receive a warranty sticker at Closing or afterwards in the mail. Make sure you put that with you important documents as well!
Always do a final walk-through before Closing to make sure the house is completed and in good working order. Usually the builder’s Building Supervisor (aka “super” or “superintendent” or “constructions manager”) will walk the home with you. If you see items that need attention, add them to the “punch list” of items they need to fix. And you should never Close on the house until everything is fixed. A builder may promise to fix something after the fact, but I have heard many “horror stories” from people who regretted Closing on a home with unresolved issues because the builder never did fix those issues as promised..once the house was Closed.
Before you move in you may want to know the types of things you may need for your new home:
- Appliances (refrigerator, washer, dryer)
- Window blinds
- Window treatments (curtains, valences, etc.)
- Garage door opener
- Grass sod for back yard
- Rain gutters
- New locks for doors (learn more)
- Yard tools (mower, weeder, edger, etc.)
- Garage storage shelves
- Baby proofing
Once you move into the new home, then what?
- Take care of your foundation! Make sure you read Buyer’s Guide to Slab-On-Ground Foundations so you understand how to take care of your foundation. Consider installing a sprinkler system (call Leopold Sprinkler Systems).
- Plant some trees and bushes in the backyard for future privacy (in accordance with your home warranty). By the time you want to sell in seven years, they will be nice and tall. Red tip photinias are a popular shrub to create a hedge.
- Conduct regular, annual maintenance on your air conditioner and furnace to keep them in top shape and prevent problems (like a leaky drip pan).
- Secure your doors properly by changing the 1″ screws in your strike plates to 3″ wood screws. You may want to secure your windows with security film as well. Learn more
- Keep a binder with all your home improvement and repair receipts so that you have a record for when you end up selling this home.
One final note: If you ever sell this home, make sure the new owner’s transfer the builder’s warranty into their name…it doesn’t (usually) transfer automatically.