Touring model homes is a great way to help you decide on a house purchase — as long as you don’t get swept away by all the pricey upgrades and the professional decorating. Here are a few tips to help keep you focused on the basics rather than the bells and whistles.
Marketing magic. Remind yourself that professional stagers are hired to decorate and furnish models, making them far more attractive than the average home on the market. Those special paint colors, window treatments, elegant furniture and upgraded appliances will not be included in the base model you are considering.
Focus on the floor plan. Will this house suit your family’s needs? Does it have the correct number of bedrooms? Is there sufficient closet space? Do you prefer the master bedroom downstairs or upstairs? Look past the cosmetics of staging to the house itself.
Is it built well? In addition to assessing the livability of the house, keep an eye out for telltale signs of sloppy work: ill-fitting trim work, upstairs floors that squeak, crooked light and plug plates. After touring the model, drive through the neighborhood and find houses in various stages of construction. Go inside and look at the workmanship. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to judge the work, take pictures of framing, plumbing, insulation, and outside masonry. Then find someone with construction experience and get his or her opinion. Search for online reviews of the builder. Check public records and sites such as the Better Business Bureau for lawsuits and complaints.
Ask about design changes. It’s fairly common for floorplans to be modified as the neighborhood is built so the model you’re touring may be different from the house you would be building.
Price your upgrades. Finally, be sure you know what upgrades are available and how much they will cost — in comparison to the model home.