Q: I am a first-time homebuyer in the New York metro area. I am considering purchasing a new condo in one of the boroughs, where most of what I am looking at is new construction. If I am buying a new-construction condo, is there any real need or benefit to having a Realtor represent me?
A: Short answer? Yes. Now for the longer answer.
Here’s a hypothetical. You’re a novice poker player — in fact, you’ve never played a game before in life. And you’re playing in the World Series Olympiad Playoffs (yes, I’m aware of my sports metaphor butchery) against The Greatest Poker Player of All Time, or at least a champion player who does this all day long, and makes millions every year doing it.
And the stakes are high — you’re betting your house, and a big chunk of cash (think: downpayment money) on the outcome of the game.
But here’s the catch: Your opponent, the guy across the table, is willing to pay for you to have another experienced poker player sit on your side of the table and advise you on how to protect your stakes, play by play.
Now, of course, we’d all like to think that the relationship between builder and buyer is less adversarial than that between opponents in a poker game. And in an ideal world it is — I know a bunch of builders, and many of them have a deep-seated drive to make their homes’ owners happy. But, as you might have figured out by now, this is not an ideal world.
Let’s get clear on one thing: You will be represented by someone. Some person will necessarily be the go-between that communicates your wants and needs to the builder. It might be an agent or employee of the builder, who is paid by the builder — at least in part — to upsell you and to get things done in the builder’s best interests.
Or, it could be someone who works for you, who has a legal and ethical and moral mandate to zealously advocate for your best interests, not the builder’s. You get to choose: representation by design or representation by default. And the bonus is that, most of the time, if you play by the rules, the builder will pay for you to have a representative you choose, by design, to be your advocate. …CONTINUED
Right at this moment, a colleague of mine is representing a new-home buyer. After the buyer signed off on all the construction plans and finish materials, the builder unilaterally decided to change from the eco-chic, mahogany-tone bamboo flooring she’d selected to oak-finish laminate floors. On her own with the builder, she’d have been pressured to grin and bear it. Because she had her own agent, that agent has harnessed the full force of her broker and her company to insist that the builder make things right.
Most often, builders in today’s market offer a broker cooperation fee or commission to buyer brokers. However, in order for your own broker or agent to earn this commission, almost every builder requires that they accompany you to the development or building on your very first visit. So, if you’re that do-it-yourself house hunter who likes to tour around every Sunday afternoon but you think you want your own broker or agent to represent you in your eventual new-home purchase, you might want to take a trip or two out with your broker, hitting all the properties you need to go to.
Or better, yet, harness the full benefit of your agent’s insider knowledge and let her take you out to house hunt at the new developments. I live and sell in an area where there is fairly little new construction, but the times I have shown new buildings, I always make sure to inquire about potential seller concessions, the health and guidelines of the HOA (or the co-op, in your neck of the woods) and community specifics that might impact my clients’ ability to obtain financing and avoid big assessments in the future. Sure, you could always get a "What to Ask" list from your agent in advance, but that doesn’t account for all that "on-the-fly" stuff they would investigate during an on-site tour.
1. Get referrals from your family or friends to a broker or agent who is familiar with the new construction buildings or subdivisions in your area.
2. Make sure you don’t head out to visit these places unless and until your agent can go with you.
3. If that presents a logistical problem, have your agent give the sales office a call first; many builders are very motivated these days, and will allow your agent to register you as "theirs" over the phone.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.