When Annie Yasko wanted to move from the house she was renting in Santa Barbara, Calif., waiting six to nine months wasn’t ideal, but a newly built home was still a solution.
“My landlord was overly intrusive and then moved into the converted garage on the property, so I decided it was time to get out,” says Yasko.
A month later, Yasko moved into a new house built by City Ventures in Goleta in Santa Barbara County, where a partially built home was available after an earlier buyer was unable to complete the financing.
“I looked at it on a whim, but I didn’t think new construction would work for me because I was in a hurry,” she says. “The buyer had only picked out the cabinets, so I was even able to choose everything else, including the floors, the fixtures, the appliances, the window coverings. The builder also gave me an incentive that I split between upgrades and closing costs.”
Some homebuyers bypass newly built homes because they think they won’t be able to move within 30 to 60 days as they could with an existing home. But builders often have homes available with a range of delivery dates. Some are ready for instant occupancy. Some of these quick move-in properties even offer buyers the opportunity to choose their fixtures and finishes.
Timeline For Newly Built Homes
Buyers who want to choose their lot, their floor plan and as many optional features as possible typically must wait for six months to a year for their moving date depending on the home’s size and style. At the other end of the spectrum are “spec” houses, which builders start constructing before they have a buyer, and model homes, which are sometimes sold when a community is near completion. Spec and model homes usually have limited or no choices for options but offer the benefit of a quick move.
Buyers who are willing to accept fewer choices have multiple opportunities for a faster transition into a new home.
“Ideally, we want to be able to meet any customer’s timeline,” says J.J. Portlock, division vice president for Toll Brothers in Portland, Oregon. “In any community, we like to have a mix of products available including two homes that are complete and ready for immediate move-in; two homes that are at the drywall stage, so that buyers can choose some of their options and the house will be ready in three or four months, and two homes that are at the foundation stage that offer more personalization and will be ready in seven or eight months.”
In addition, buyers can choose their lot, floor plan and finishes, which Portlock says takes about 10 to 12 months to build.
“Spec homes allow us to capture more buyers who need to move quickly and also to model more floor plans than just building a model home,” says Portlock. “Each home is unique, but it helps buyers to be able to see homes at the drywall stage, with paint and landscaping.”
Brookfield Residential offers “My Style Quick-Move Homes,” which are partially built homes that the company deliberately holds to allow customers the opportunity to make some choices and yet be able to move within two months.
“We take these houses just to a certain level, so they’re finished and even landscaped outside so they can see how the house is sited on the lot,” says Gregg Hughes, vice president of sales and marketing for Brookfield Residential in Washington, D.C. “Inside, we put in the drywall and we paint it, but then they can customize it with their selections for the flooring, tiles, cabinets, counters and fixtures.”
The turnover time, says Hughes, is similar to a resale. Buyers who sign a contract June 1st, for example, would typically be above to move into the house by the end of July.
“We’re doing a couple of these in each of our communities,” says Hughes. “We select the structural options that most buyers in the community choose, such as a morning room or a room extension. We also select among the most popular exteriors and popular interior paint colors.”
Brookfield typically chooses two different floor plans to partially complete, so buyers have a choice and so that the streetscape is appealing.
“It can be hard for buyers to visualize what their house will look like if they just see the lot, so this allows them to see what it will look like from the street and from their neighbors’ houses,” says Hughes.
In the San Francisco area, buyers can find quick move-in homes that will be ready within two to 45 days, says Carrie Newbery, vice president of sales and marketing for TRI Pointe Homes in the Bay area.
“We don’t stop construction on any homes, but we build in phases, so at any given time there’s usually an opportunity for buyers to find a house with some choices already in place and the option to pick a couple of things like their countertops and flooring,” says Newbery.
TRI Pointe tries to have three or four partially completed homes at each of their communities, each with a different floor plan to provide buyers with options.
Choose Your Own Options – or Not
The timeline for a move is the prime reason buyers opt for a spec house with everything chosen or for the middle ground of a partially finished home. Relocation buyers and those who have sold a house and need to buy another quickly particularly feel the time constraint, says Newbery, but she says some people, especially families, are just too busy or don’t want the pressure of making design choices. In that case, a spec house can be the best solution.
“Our design team knows what people like, so they’ll make choices that appeal to most customers,” says Newbery.
For those who want to personalize their homes with a handful of options, a partially complete home and the support of a design center can make the process easier.
“We offer four color schemes that people can pick from,” says Newbery. “The designers can lay out options and prices for buyers so they can make a fast decision.”
At Toll Brothers in Portland, the amount of available options depends on the stage of construction.
“We don’t really hold onto houses – everything is for sale,” says Portlock. “The options available depend on how far the house is in the building process.”
Portlock says Toll Brothers adds some items to their partially built homes when they find that most buyers choose them, such as electric car chargers.
“We need to educate buyers on the opportunities for these homes, because even though structural changes can’t be made after the foundation is laid, it is possible to choose most of the things you touch and feel, like the floors, cabinets, counters, plumbing fixtures and lighting package,” he says. “After the drywall is in, the selections are a little more limited, but buyers have the benefit of visualizing the home.”
The only drawback to partially completed homes, says Portlock, is that the floor plan and lot are already chosen, so the one buyers may want isn’t always available.
“If someone has an extra four months or more, they may want to wait for their preferred lot and floor plan,” says Portlock.
Pricing for Quick Move-In Homes
Pricing for new homes depends on market conditions and the building phase. Sometimes a fully completed home may be offered at a discount if the builder wants to close out the community. On the other hand, a spec home with extensive upgrades could be more expensive because of those extra features and its immediate availability.
“Sometimes buyers ask for a discount on a spec house, but usually there isn’t one,” says Newbery. “The price is the same as if you picked your own lot, floor plan and options, but you’re also saving time.”
At Toll Brothers in Portland, Portlock says, the prices for quick delivery homes mirror those of presale homes, with the cost of the options priced into the house.
Brookfield Residential tries to keep a mix of to-be-built houses, My Style houses and completed houses available, in part because more buyers are looking at new construction as well as resales.
“We’ve seen an uptick because inventory of existing homes is so low and a 60-day wait to move in is easier to handle,” says Hughes.
The My Style homes are typically priced similarly to the to-be-built houses, says Hughes, because they offer flexibility for buyers who want to choose options and yet also provide a quick delivery.
Depending on how much say you want in your home’s design and your timeline, chances are your preferred builder will have what you need.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.