So you’re considering buying a new home and you’re thinking it’s time to schedule a model home visit.
While it may sound as simple as hopping in the car and heading straight to your nearest new-home community, it’s an important part of the process that requires a lot of thinking.
Before you make that drive to the model home, take a look at these four steps to help you prepare for your visit.
1. Start with a checklist of what you want in a new home.
If you don’t yet know what you want, you could be visiting dozens of model homes before you find one that speaks to you. Save yourself some time by creating a checklist for yourself.
What kind of location are you looking for? What kind of commute do you prefer? Do you have a desired school district? Are there certain community amenities that are make or break for you? What’s your desired architecture style? Which are the options and upgrades that are must-haves and which ones are simply wants?
“We sometimes help prepare that checklist sitting down with a prospect,” says Lisa Carter, senior vice president of sales for Edward Andrews Homes , a Georgia-based builder. “The individual needs to have their five main reasons they’re making this move.”
2. Do your research.
Once you have your checklist in place, it’s time to do some research.
A quick search on New Home Source or the builder’s website for each item on your checklist will help you narrow down which model homes and communities are worth the visit.
Did you decide on your favorite style? Figure out which builders offer homes that suit your look. Did you find your favorite location? Find out which builders are available in that area and research statistics and nearby amenities. From there, your list of models to visit should seem fairly manageable.
“Visiting the surrounding community is some of the legwork that should be done before visiting a builder’s model center,” says Jeff Benach, co-principal of Chicago-based Lexington Homes . “I always recommend (home shoppers) check neighborhood crime stats, walking scores and closeness to public transportation.”
It’s also important to research your financial capabilities. Do you know how much home you can afford ? If not, try speaking to a lender.
“(Home shoppers) need to speak to someone who can guide them,” says Carter. “When looking at a neighborhood, what is the base price of the home and how much does that leave me to do options that the model home can inspire me to want to pick?”
Which leads us to the fun part — actually stepping foot into the model home.
3. Keep an open eye out for design and upgrades.
Once you cross the threshold of the model, one thing will almost always be immediately clear: these homes have been professionally designed to help you imagine what your new home can be.
“When visiting a model home, potential buyers should be aware of the fact that these models have been designed and merchandised from top to bottom by professionals,” says Brittany Biddle, director of design and production for Houston-based interior design firm MP Studio. “As model home designers, it is our job to create beautiful spaces that people can see themselves living in.”
From designer furniture, the highest-quality counter tops, dazzling wood floors and floor-to-ceiling draperies, everything will be designed to show the shopper how you can personalize your new home.
However, if what you see isn’t quite your style or the color scheme doesn’t appeal to you, it’s important to keep an open mind.
“The models look a very specific way and it is important to not get hung up on the model’s current appearance,” says Biddle. “We encourage buyers to use their imagination as they walk the space — to envision their own style and how they see themselves functioning as a household.”
Walking the model home is also the perfect opportunity to check out the quality and craftsmanship of the builder themselves. Is the flooring laid straight? Are the cabinets free of blemishes? How does the molding appear?
“Our model homes are intended to inspire buyers and highlight design options,” says Carter. "But even more significant, our model homes showcase the quality of finishes and our builders craftsmanship."
4. Ask questions.
Finally, touring the model home is your first chance to meet face-to-face with the builder. Now is your chance to ask all the questions that have been swarming your head ever since you decided to buy a new home.
For starters, find out which of those beautiful home features come standard and which are upgrades. Debbie Naftel, director of design for Edward Andrews Homes, says many builders may even have a standard features page outlining what comes standard and what is offered as an upgrade, which you can take home with you.
“Listen closely, take notes, take photos and compare the standards to what you’ve seen in the model,” says Shana Jacobs, executive creative director for MP Studio. “This will help you make the most informed decision and help you to know which upgrades you will want in your new home.”
Additionally, ask if you can take a look at a spec or available home to see what your floor plan may look while it’s empty and you can get a better grasp of the builder’s quality.
Last, make sure you clear up any questions about the new-home process you may be wondering about.
Most builders will offer a plethora of materials to guide you through the selections process and sales representatives will be on hand to answer your questions regarding time commitment, community amenities, the surrounding neighborhood and more.
Drew Knight is a freelance writer for Builders Digital Experience (BDX). You can find him online at LinkedIn.