You drive up to the house. You step out and look up at its sparkling new exterior and expertly manicured landscaping. A friendly face ushers you through the door, where distinguished features and fashionable decor surround you. You take a whirlwind tour of a model home, trying to imagine yourself in one like it. But are you taking full advantage of the opportunity?
A visit to a model home can either inspire or discourage you, sometimes in just a moment. Remember, your home will not look exactly like the model — you will make it your own — but this is your chance to explore the builder’s capabilities.
When you tour a model home, arrive prepared with the right questions and a keen eye. This guide will help you.
Which Features Come Standard and Which Are Upgrades?
Your guide may provide you with a brochure that lists this information, but ask about anything that you consider a must-have. Don’t assume anything. Ask not only which features are upgrades but how much each upgrade costs. A lot of tweaks can really add up financially.
Are Other Floor Plans Available?
Your builder likely offers a range of different floor plans (to act as a starting point). Ask to see diagrams of all available floor plans or take virtual tours of them. Better yet, ask if you can tour any other homes in the development that aren’t yet occupied.
Imagine going through your typical daily routine in each floor plan and consider how your family traffic will “flow.” Also consider special occasions like extended family gatherings or visits from out-of-town guests. Imagine how your ideal home would function in each situation.
What Community Amenities Are Available?
You won’t spend all of your time inside! You’ve probably thought about things like school district and commute times. But now is your chance to consider what’s right outside your door. Are there amenities like swimming pools or community gardens? Are there sidewalks or hiking paths? Will there be community-wide events so you can get to know your neighbors? Think about life in all seasons and for each member of your family. Again, ask about costs. Amenities may be managed by an HOA, so be aware of fees.
Can the Builder Help With the Loan Process?
You will want to talk through the buying process itself. The builder can likely connect you with their mortgage partner if you still need approval for a loan. Ask how they can help and what steps to take. Find out how much money you will need to put out up front and how long the building process will take. If you already have a trusted financial adviser, make notes so that you can speak with him or her before making a decision.
What Homesites Are Available?
The model might have an amazing lot or sit on an ideal corner. Consider how your house might compare. Ask the builder what homesites are currently available and which will become available. If possible, ask to visit them. Consider each lot’s size and layout. Think about its position relative to traffic, power lines, amenities, and noise.
Look for Quality Craftsmanship in the Model Home
Ask questions about which subcontractors provide such things as windows, tile, and plumbing. Make notes so that you can research these companies if you desire. But don’t just ask about craftsmanship — see for yourself.
Look for things like how straight the tile is laid, small gaps around fixtures, or major temperature differences between rooms. If you see something that concerns you, don’t be afraid to ask about it. Remember, the model home should represent the builder’s utmost quality, so if something isn’t up to par here, you can’t count on it in your own home.
Before you visit any model home, prepare. Talk with your family and decide what you really want and need in a home. Then, take full advantage of your tour to ask any and all questions. You should leave feeling satisfied that you’re equipped to compare the options and make an informed decision.