Q: My husband and I are planning to by a home from a well-respected but expensive builder. He has five home plans in his newest small community. Do we just pay what he says, do we negotiate ourselves or do we hire someone to negotiate for us — and if so, who? –D.J., Florida
A: Congratulations on finding a home you like enough to buy! Very generally speaking, new-home buyers often pay what the builder is asking for the property. However, as the market has shifted to much more of a buyer’s market over the last few years, it has become much more common for some negotiating to take place between buyer and builder.
I haven’t heard of many buyers who say they haggled a builder down significantly on the home’s sale price, but I have heard of many deals on other aspects of the transaction, whether it be getting the builder to cover a buyer’s material upgrades, pay for several months or even years’ worth of the buyer’s homeowners association (HOA) dues, or throw in additional features or a closing cost credit.
In your situation, I strongly recommend that you don’t go entirely solo on your transaction, even if you are fine with paying the full asking price. At the very least, I recommend that you consult with a local real estate attorney and ask him to review your purchase contract, troubleshoot your transaction from a title perspective, and assist you with obtaining title insurance for your home.
Generally, in this sort of situation, you would negotiate the price and other basic terms of the transaction with the builder, rough out a contract, and then have your lawyer review it before signing. If you feel like the list price is already a good deal or acceptable to you, and you’re comfortable in your interactions with the builder, this is one route to consider.
However, if you’d like to be more aggressive about negotiating the terms of your transaction, I would encourage you to enlist the services of a local real estate broker or agent, ideally one with experience representing the buyers of newly constructed homes.
Get referrals from your friends, family and colleagues to a buyer’s broker, and ask the broker to help you get your transaction negotiated, documented and closed.
Not only will a buyer’s broker help you understand what the true fair market value of the property is before you make an offer or negotiate a price, a buyer’s broker can help guide you in terms of other terms that are up for negotiation, other than price. They can brief you on local standard practices, and help you understand the paperwork you’ll be required to sign.
Additionally, your real estate broker or agent will have inspection, mortgage, title, insurance and even attorney contacts she can refer you to for the other needs you’ll have in the course of your transaction — and your entire homeownership experience.
Some such brokers will work on an hourly basis; others may simply charge a flat fee for the transaction. Either way, having a good buyer’s broker on your side in this transaction can help you protect your money, time and interests.