Brand new homes can offer buyers one feature that no other home can provide: an opportunity to have a home built exactly to the buyer's specifications. If you are interested in having a new home built, then chances are good that you are considering this possibility because of that reason. However, throughout the entire process of building, you should be certain that you are getting everything you want, and protect your purchase, too. Here are a few hints to help you:
Make sure the contract reflects your wishes
Many potential problems come from misunderstandings on the part of the builder or home buyer. You can eliminate much of the opportunity for trouble by carefully crafting your construction contract with the builder. The contract exists to protect your rights, but just as importantly, it exists to ensure that the builder has a detailed understanding of your wishes regarding how the home is to be built. Here are a few specific items you should make sure are in your home construction contract:
- Detailed specifications regarding fixtures, flooring and hardware - while you probably already have in mind how you want your bathroom faucets to appear, for example, don't merely rely on a verbal description given to a builder. Make sure that you list specifics such as manufacturers, model and part numbers for all items that will be installed in your home. Be thorough, and don't just "hope" that something will be done a certain way. Your builder wants you to be completely pleased with the home they construct, but they can't read your mind; let them know exactly what you want.
- Window of time for correction and repair - you should also include a clause which gives you the right to present to the builder a list of things that need correction after you take occupancy of the home. For example, if you move into the house and you discover that the builder forgot to install knobs on a closet door, you will want to have the right to get that problem fixed. This clause is different than a home warranty; it merely provides you with an opportunity of time, usually a week or two, to get any mostly-minor omissions or mistakes corrected at no charge by the builder.
Understand your warranty rights and options
Another consideration when having a new home built is to be sure that you are protected if a significant problem arises. Home warranties provide protection to buyers, but it helps to understand that home warranties can be divided into one of two broad categories. Each one provides you with different benefits, and shifts the financial obligation to different parties, as well:
In the United States, it is understood by courts, as well as written into law in most states, that new home buyers are provided with an implied warranty of fitness. This implied warranty stipulates that the seller possesses special knowledge that a reasonable buyer would not normally have. In this case, the assumption is that the builder has an in-depth understanding of how a house is constructed, and the buyer is trusting in the expertise of the builder that everything will be done correctly. The implied warranty protects a buyer should there be any problems in the home's construction that are not readily apparent to the buyer upon purchase. For example, if a structural beam in the home's attic is accidentally omitted, then the buyer would have the legal right to have the beam installed at the builder's expense in order to restore the home's "fitness."
An implied warranty of fitness does not have to be written into the terms of a real estate contract to be valid; it is an overarching legal right of the home buyer. However, these warranties are limited in scope since they usually only cover structural defects or potentially hazardous failings such as electrical wiring mistakes.
Homeowner warranty plans overcome the limitations of implied warranties of fitness by providing much more comprehensive coverage. These warranty plans are usually purchased by the builder on behalf of the buyer, and they provide either repair services or reimbursement to the homeowner for problems that occur within a specified period of time.
Warranty plans have a variety of terms and conditions, including limits on how long minor problems can be covered versus structural defects. In some cases, the home builder is responsible for repairs up until a certain date, then the responsibility shifts to the warranty provider.
If you are buying a warranty plan or receive one as part of your transaction, be sure that you understand all of your rights and responsibilities, such as deductibles and limitations for wear-and-tear. If there is something that is confusing, ask an attorney or real estate professional for assistance. Don't sign off on a warranty contract until you are fully satisfied that it is the best deal you can make to protect yourself.