Deciding to purchase a new home involves a lot of forethought and planning. A vital part of that planning: Model home tours. As you begin the search for your new home, you’ll want to tour various model homes to get a feel for what home features you do and do not like. As you do, try using our guide to model home tours to help you make the most of your visits.
Preparing for your Visit
Before you jump in your car, do some research and heavy lifting on the front end – trust us, your future self will be grateful. Having a strong foundation from which to begin your search will ease future stresses.
Brainstorming Your Dream Home
Think about what you want for your new home. How many bedrooms and bathrooms will serve you best? Open floor plans are all the rage, but is it ideal for you? Is it key that natural lighting be abundant? Do you want an outdoor kitchen? Envision what you want for your new home, and use this idea to generate a list of features you might like to see.
Take these features and organize them by priority, or into a wants versus needs list, or a “wants,” “needs,” “dealbreakers,” and “would-be-nice-to-haves.” Even if you’re working with an unlimited budget and will be custom building your home from the ground up, there’s always the chance you might not find everything you want; it’s important to know what can be sacrificed and what’s nonnegotiable if push comes to shove. Or, maybe you’ll see some features in a model home that you didn’t think about that you want to put in your new home.
Next, take your list to the computer and start looking at current listings. Use listing sources such as NewHomeSource to narrow your options by geographic location or community amenities. Pay attention to what the home prices are, and review your list of desired features: Are your expectations reasonable, given your budget? Use your budget and the knowledge of what’s on the market to reevaluate your needs and wants, as well as where you’re looking to buy.
While you look online, remember that even prefabricated new build homes have customizable elements. If there’s a builder who has a lot of the features you’re looking for, but not combined into one home, consider visiting their model anyway to see what custom options and upgrades are available.
Have some builders on your list that look promising? It’s time to start planning for your visit to their model homes. Whether you’re working with an agent or not, schedule visits so you’ll be able to see three or four homes within a day. Too many, and the specifics of each will blend together and no home stands out; just one per day, and you run the risk falling in love with each model home since you have nothing to compare them to (not to mention you’d be elongating the overall search process).
Ready to visit your first home? Let’s talk about what to expect during the model home walk through.
During Your Visit
Arriving at your first model home visit brings a whole assortment of emotions and thoughts: Will this be the one? What if I hate it? Will it look just as good as it did online? What was the advice Mom mentioned, something about not getting my hopes up?
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the “what ifs,” so it’s important to be focused during the tour. Here are a few tips we recommend to help out.
Know What to Expect
Here’s the tea: Model homes are designed and furnished with the builder’s best foot forward. They want to wow you! While this incites a lot of home décor inspiration, builders are sometimes a bit too good at their jobs – you may start out touring a home and walk out with plans to purchase a new dining table! Be sure to look past the glamor and glitz of the interior design, and consider the bare bones of the home, such as floor plan and size.
Another feature to wow you on the tour? The builder’s sales representative. Any time the model home is open for tours, there will be a sales professional to greet you and answer any questions you have. While first introductions can be awkward, don’t be shy. Ask the sales rep any and all questions that cross your mind; after all, they’re experts on the builder and surrounding community.
Envision Your Life
The glamor and glitz we were talking about can make it difficult to picture your life in a model home. Think about the furniture you have, and the lifestyle you live. Is the home a help or hindrance? Perhaps you’re upsizing, but this home feels too big to manage; ask the sales pro if there are any smaller floor plans available to tour.
Think about your day-to-day activities and how they might play out in the home. If your pups are already underfoot in your current living situation, pay attention to the size of the backyard. Entertainers might be thinking about how open the social spaces are. Even things such as your height and the location and accessibility of cabinets should be considered.
Still unsure? Ask if there are any move-in ready homes available for tours! Seeing an empty home, rather than one decked out with nice, big furniture, might help you better envision your own life in the house.
Take Notes and Photos
While it’s important to take everything in, it’s no use if the information falls out of your head the minute you leave! Take thorough notes and lots of pictures during your walkthrough. Write down features you like about the home, as well as anything you’d want to change; this information will make it easier to compare homes. Have a checklist of questions can help you stay on track, too.
It’s incredibly helpful to have someone with you while touring the model home. They can be a photographer and note taker, as well as the reasonable voice in your ear helping to make sure you don’t blow your entire budget on upgrading to a chef’s kitchen.
Utilize the Builder’s Sales Representative
The best way to get the most out of your visit to the model home? Ask questions! We mentioned the sales rep earlier, but it can be difficult to know what questions to ask. Here are a few to help you get started:
- How many homes and communities has the builder completed? Where have these been located?
- What is the builder’s approach to construction, quality assurance, and energy-efficiency?
- Which features are standard, and which are upgrades?
- Are there any quick move-in homes available, or ones that will be available soon? Are those available for touring?
- What is the design process like?
Share with them what you’re looking for in a home, such as design, style, and size; they may be able to point you toward a floor plan or upgrade you hadn’t yet considered!
After Your Visit
When you leave your visit, there are a few more steps we recommend to wrap up the entire experience. First, drive through the area and assess the amenities and overall community vibe. Check if you have easy access to the things you might need, such as hiking and biking trails or a fitness center, as well as entertainment options.
You’ll also want to take time to sort through and organize your thoughts and overall impressions of the home, builder, and community. Many adopt a spreadsheet approach to organizing everything, with one axis being all of the different categories on which they might rank a home, and the other being different home options. Helpful aspects to consider include:
- How many rooms and bedrooms does the plan have? What is the square footage?
- Does it have the _________ feature I’m looking for?
- Major pros of the plan? Major cons?
- What community amenities are available?
- What is the distance to work/school/family/friends?
- Are there nearby eateries/shopping centers that I frequent?
- Was I able to tour this floor plan?
- Additional notes on the home, builder, and community
Keep these notes in one easy-to-access place. Visit as many homes as seems reasonable (there’s no right or wrong number of homes to see) and continue to communicate with builders and/or your agent as much as you need to until you’re down to a list of final contenders – three or four options, maximum. At this point, it’s time to revisit the model homes and reconnect with the builders. This is your chance to ask any final, deciding questions. Talk the options over with your agent or other trusted individuals; if any of the homes you’re set on is out of budget, revisit with a financial advisor to see if you’re making a sound decision (and trust their advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear!).
Once you’ve gone through this process and are ready to make an offer on a home, don’t dillydally – go ahead! There is still a lot of work to complete, but touring model homes is a great way to truly begin to see yourself in your new home, and isn’t a step to rush through or skip over.
Have other questions on the new home buying experience? Drop a comment below and checkout the Learning Center at NewHomeSource for more articles on the process.