New construction isn’t for everyone, but there are some serious benefits to buying a new construction home. Even though new construction means a home is less likely to come with the usual problems you might expect when buying a home, there are still a set of concerns and issues that can arise.
Get ready to take a crash course on things you NEED to know if you want to buy new construction in Seattle!
Small Builders vs. Big Builders
Seattle doesn’t have big builders; it just doesn’t make sense for them to build here. Typically in Seattle you’ll find smaller builders who build 20 homes at once. The big difference here is that small builders always put their company in an LLC (so if something goes wrong, you’d sue the LLC and this protects and prevents the owner from being personally sued). Most big builders don’t have an LLC, and their liability to the client doesn’t just end with the property. This is just a difference to be aware of, especially in Seattle.
New Construction Is NOT Perfect
As we went over in this blog post, new construction is not perfect. It can be easy to be blinded by the newness of everything when you’re first viewing the home, and it’s easy to miss the details. But the measure of the quality of a builder is in the details. You can’t really see what’s behind the walls, in the foundation, or the roof, but you can see the quality of the finish work, you can see how well the doors work, whether or not cabinets open and shut properly, whether or not moulding is lined up correctly, whether or not the sinks’ faucet valves have plastic pull tabs instead of nice metal switches, etc. If a builder did a poor job on these things, then this can raise alarm for other things that might be wrong with the home.
The Closing Date is an Estimate
Building a new home is complicated, and it involves dozens of different people to perform on time in order for the final product to be ready on time. Unfortunately, no matter how good the builder and the real estate agent are, you can’t control everyone’s schedule. These days, contractors are about the busiest they’ve ever been in Seattle, and we’re noticing a lot of delays.
This can cause some worry for people because of your loan. Your lender might try to lock you into a rate, and if you’re going to do this you need to make sure you have lots of extra time beyond the anticipated close date just in case.
For example, if you get a 30-day lock because it’s cheaper and it expires, you might be on the hook for 1% of the loan cost fee to re-lock. So if your loan is $500,000, that’s already a $5,000 fee! It might be worth it to spend more and get a 45- or 60-day lock. Having a longer lock can also be important because sometimes, the threat of delaying closing is the only tool we have to get a builder to do the repairs we need them to. Having this extra time gives us the leverage we need (and every time we’ve worked with new construction, we always have found problems that needed to be addressed).
You Need a Final Occupancy Inspection Before You Can Move In
With new construction, a city inspector will come out and make sure that a new home meets the requirements of habitability. The inspector will also come out frequently throughout the building process to check on the foundation, the framing, electrical, plumbing, etc. These inspectors are NOT checking for finished quality and how well the house is built—they’re making sure it meets habitability requirements for King County.
Hopefully this final inspection happens at least a week before closing (but sometimes it happens the day of closing!). But know that escrow should not let the loan close if they don’t get an ok from the inspector.