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13 January . 2020

Six home shopping strategies from the experts

Fall in love with the perfect home. Check all the boxes, sign all the paperwork. Move-in and start a brand-new chapter of life. It sounds idyllic, but maybe a touch too simple. Buying a new home is rarely so cut-and-dry, but it doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, equipped with the right knowledge and the right partners, buying a new home can be downright enjoyable! We connected with some of Charleston’s top real estate agents to pass their tried-and-true home shopping advice on to you. Read it below, then give them a buzz for even more home buying know-how.

#1  - Research the community

“Do your research.”

That’s what Kevin Richter, a top 10 Realtor in Charleston, told us.

It’s also the first thing Natasha Viswananthan from The Pulse Charleston mentioned.

And Christopher Louviere, Southern Real Estate? You guessed it. Research tops his list of home-shopping tips.

The plethora of information available online, particularly for master planned communities, can go a long way in helping a new home buyer narrow down their choices. Research amenities you’ll get to enjoy, find details on the HOA, look at the kind of events hosted by the community, and, of course, check out inventory and home plans available.

“There are so many variables when selecting a neighborhood, and you’ll be able to narrow down the things that are important to you by reviewing the information available online,” Kevin explained. “This will save you time and prevent you from visiting communities that won’t work for your lifestyle.”

He also suggests going beyond a community’s website for the most relevant information. “Take a look at the community’s social media presence, and read reviews from folks that live there.”

Christopher’s biggest piece of advice is to determine beforehand what kind of new build you want: full custom, semi-custom, or a move-in ready home, and to be aware of price difference among those choice. “Customization can quickly drive up the price. Keep in mind the price listed online is the base price, so budget $20k-$60k additional above that number to account for customization in cabinetry, flooring, and the works.”

#2 - Your first look

“I always suggest clients drive through a neighborhood around 5 pm as people are arriving home from work. You’ll get an opportunity to see who your neighbors would be and how they live and interact,” Kevin suggests.

It’s a recommendation that Natasha agrees with. “The best way to get a feel for a community is to drive around after work and on the weekends, see what events are going on, and see if you like the ‘vibe.’”

Kevin also suggests looking for signs you’ll have like-minded people around you. “If you have young ones, look for kids playing in green spaces and riding their bikes,” he says. “If you care about fitness opportunities nearby, look for joggers. Love dogs? Check for people walking their dogs and find the closest dog park.”

During your first drive through a new community, the amenities you admired online should be abuzz with activity. Check out first-hand just how close parks, schools, and shopping and dining are to your potential new home. You might even take a walk through a centrally-located park, where you can strike up a conversation with those that know the community best – the current homeowners.

 “With a community like Nexton, you’re not just investing in a home, you’re investing in a neighborhood and a sense of community,” Kevin says. “You’ll learn more just driving through than with any online research.”

#3 – Cruise through the models

The best communities offer plenty of home choices and options, from builders and floorplans to fits and finishes. It means you can get a home perfectly suited for your lifestyle, but it also means more decisions to make. Do a quick tour of each of the model homes in your price range, then double back to those you like best.

“You can fall in love with a new home pretty easy – there’s a lot to look at! Splashy kitchens, well-appointed bathrooms…and usually loads optional features. All of this can distract from your real goals and needs,” Christopher explained.  “I always have my clients make a list of non-negotiables: things they must have in their new home, like a large front porch or a first floor master bedroom. This allows us to narrow down builders and floorplans the first time through.”

Our experts also note that buyers often don’t realize that it will cost them zero out of pocket to hire a real estate agent to represent you on a new home purchase -- one that’s not affiliated with the builder. Having a knowledgeable Realtor on your side from the beginning can make your home shopping experience better and more efficient.

# 4 – Research the standout builders

Once you’ve narrowed it down to builders and floorplans that fit your lifestyle, it’s time for more research. Ask your builder how long it will take to build. Does that meet your timeframe? What is the communication process while your home in under construction? When do you get to make all the finish selections? What happens after closing?

“Each builder is going to follow up differently. Look at their customer services scores and warranty policy. Find out how they manage work orders and how responsive they are to requests and questions. Luckily, you can find most of this information online,” Kevin shares.

When possible, meet your construction superintendent face-to-face. “The best builders will work to make sure you’re entirely happy with your home. If they take pride in their work, they’ll be grateful to take the opportunity to talk about it.”

#5 – Negotiate the deal

As you get closer to a final decision, things get really exciting – but also a little daunting.

Natasha reminds buyers not to forget the details when making final decisions. “Make sure you pay attention to what the builder offers after closing - once the excitement of buying wears off, you will want to make sure you have a strong warranty in place to support you as your home settles.” 

And Kevin keeps his eye on his buyers’ bottom line. “Ask what closing costs, credits or concessions are going to be made by the builder when you use their preferred lender.”

#6 – Build your dream home

You did it. Out of hundreds of possible homes, dozens of communities, and more builders than you can remember, you’ve picked a neighborhood and home that you can call your own.

We could give you more advice here from our real estate experts, but there’s one very important piece of guidance we can’t forget to pass along: enjoy the process.

Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying coffee on your front porch, maybe taking a dip in the community pool, and retiring to your perfect-for-you master suite at the end of the day. You earned it.