If you need space for a new baby by your anticipated delivery date, or want to be settled into your new home before next school year starts, you don’t need to give up on the idea of becoming the first owner of a newly constructed home. Buyers who are relocating to a new city place a premium on moving fast, but a new home can still be a viable option for them, too.
Thirty-one percent of recent homebuyers surveyed by BDX who purchased a resale house said they didn’t buy a new house because of timing. They couldn’t or didn’t want to wait for a home to be built.
However, many builders offer fully completed speculative or “spec” homes that are ready now for buyers. Many also have partially completed homes that can dramatically shorten the wait time until your move-in date. For example, instead of waiting six months to a year for your new home to be built from the ground up, you can move into a spec house as fast as you can arrange financing and get to the settlement table.
Spec houses, also known as “move-in ready,” “immediate occupancy,” or “designer homes” are built using the most popular options in the community, and within the average price range of most homes in that community, says Linda Mamet, vice president of corporate marketing for TRI Pointe Group, the Irvine, California-based parent company of regional builders in eight states.
“Builders design spec houses based on current market trends that are most likely to attract buyers and most likely to sell,” says Jeff Shelton, team lead for Hughes Shelton Realtors with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Tampa, Fla.
Even if you opt for a spec house that has only a foundation in place, you can speed up the construction process by six to 10 weeks because the water and sewer lines are in place and all permits have been approved, says Cindy Jez, vice president of new homes for Long & Foster Real Estate in Richmond, Va.
Why Buy a Move-In Ready House
The main reason buyers purchase a move-in ready house is because they need to move within a specific timeline because of school enrollment or job circumstances, or they have already sold their previous home, says Mamet.
A spec home gives buyers greater assurance of a specific move-in date since building has already begun, says Jez.
“Another important reason is the level of comfort people have with being able to walk through a home physically and see how it flows,” says Mamet. “Some people find it easy to envision what a home will look like, but others want to see it in person so they can look at the floors and finishes.”
Sometimes builders offer incentives on spec houses, but it depends on the phase of development in the community, says Jez. If a builder wants to complete a section or a community and has one or two spec houses available, there might be an additional price incentive to get them sold more quickly.
Some buyers may also be enticed by the fact that a spec house has a final price that includes all options, similar to buying a resale home, says Mamet. When you buy a to-be-built house, you’ll see a base price without the additional expense of additional design options.
Quickly buying a move-in-ready home can make easier to lock in good financing rates, too. “Another benefit of closing on a house within 30 days is that you can lock-in your interest rate,” says Shelton. “This is especially important in a rising rate environment, but you never know what will happen to rates if you have to wait a year before you can lock-in a rate and close your loan.”
For some buyers, purchasing a spec house satisfies their desire for a newly built home and relieves them of the stress of choosing options. One reason Mamet calls them “designer homes” is that an interior designer has put together the color palette and finishes.
“Some people want a simpler, streamlined experience with the choices determined by an expert,” says Mamet.
Typically, the finishes in spec homes accurately reflect what current homebuyers want, but sometimes buyers can personalize even a new, move-in-ready home.
Buyers can purchase homes with the most choice when they purchase pre-construction and can choose the floor plan, the configuration of the rooms, the exterior style and all the features and finishes, but that takes an average of six months to complete the build. They can choose a house already under construction with the floor plan, exterior style, and configuration of rooms already in place. The level of personalization they can add depends on where the builder is in the construction process. The third choice is an already complete, turnkey house. But even then, you can sometimes add window treatments and appliances for personalization.
Finding a Spec House
If you’re looking for a spec house, try narrowing your search to your preferred location and community, and then checking the websites of builders in those communities. Builders typically list spec houses with an estimated completion date on their websites, so buyers can match their timelines to the homes. You can also find move-in ready homes on NewHomeSource.com if you select the “Quick Move-In” filter when browsing all of the new construction listings.
Another option is to consult a real estate agent with new home sales experience. Most agents get updates from builders about the availability of homes. Buyers can also search the local, multiple listing service for spec houses.
If you want to customize your home and have plenty of time to wait for it to be built, a spec home may not be for you. The good news is that for buyers with a time constraint, newly built homes can be a workable choice.
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.