Q: My wife and I recently signed a contract for a new house. We selected a lot and paid a premium of $15,000 for a plan that included a side-load garage and an additional $15,000 for the construction of a walkout under a screened-in porch. After several months of meetings with the sales agent, we settled on the final price, including all the additional options.

The builder now says that the walkout is not possible due to the slope of the lot. Do we have to pay the $15,000 lot premium and the additional amount for the $15,000 walkout cost because we signed a contract that included these amounts? We signed a contract for the total amount but what happens if the appraisal value of the completed home is less than the contract amount by the time the home is finished and we close?

A: New-home buyers often feel like David facing the builder’s Goliath. While builders are more negotiable on price and terms now than they have ever been, it often seems like builders offer take-it-or-leave-it terms and use their own contracts (rather than the standard forms used in transactions between individual buyers and sellers).

As if that isn’t disorienting enough, many new-home buyers work directly with the builder’s sales agent, rather than with their own agent (often, only because they had no idea the builder would have covered their agent’s commission!) so they end up in a transaction with essentially no professional representative that works for them and is responsible for their best interests (vs. the seller’s).

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