Many Silicon Valley home buyers prefer to purchase a brand new home, or at least a younger one.  (Through my web tools, I that see a lot of people search online for “New San Jose Homes” or “New Los Gatos Houses for sale” or “new construction in Silicon Valley”.)

Often this is partly because real estate consumers believe that a more contemporary home will be better structurally and have nicer amenities – those are often true. (New home construction may include better materials, a more open floor plan, walk in closets and other features that are not so commonly found in resale properties.)

Just as frequently, though, a priority for these home buyers is that they expect that a new home will require little or no maintenance.  Further, some buyers are so confident in the perfection of a new home that they decline the chance to have the new home professionally and independently inspected.

Finally, some consumers are so blinded by the love of new (or remodeled) housing that they aren’t very selective and sometimes view all contractors or builders as equal.

All of these are mistakes and today I want to discuss each one.

Myth 1: New Homes Don’t Require Much Maintenance

Perhaps the worst and most prevalent misconception regarding new homes is that that many proud owners of new homes believe that don’t have to “do” anything but live there. This is terribly misguided and often causes a well built home to fall into disrepair in just a few years.

Whether you buy a brand new house or one which is 50 years old, there are certain things you must do on a regular, ongoing basis. These are maintenance items which cannot be skipped even with new construction. Things like:

  • cleaning out the gutters & downspouts so that leaves and debris don’t cause the water to back up into the roof
  • changing furnace filters
  • washing the carpets
  • sealing the granite countertops
  • painting periodically (outside wood should be done every 5 years or so)
  • correcting leaks as soon as they are discovered
  • sealing any cracks
  • reapplying caulking around tubs, showers, faucets
  • keeping an eye on the grading so water falls away from the house

If you let these sorts of things go and live with deferred maintenance, it will be far more expensive to fix it when you do the repairs. Additionally, when you go to sell, buyers will perceive that the home has not been taken care of.

Just recently I showed a home for sale in the Almaden Winery area; it is only about 15 years old and should have been in great shape.  As my buyers and I walked through it, though, we noticed a myriad of little things that were wrong – chipped paint, stained carpet, all kinds of indicators that the home had been lived in but not well loved.  Although my clients liked the neighborhood and the floorplan, they (and I) wondered what else was wrong with that home. Too many doubts and they did not move ahead with an offer on that property.

Buyers: if you are purchasing a home that is 8 -20 years old, try to learn about the level of care that’s been given to the home.  Do the sellers have records of getting the furnace maintained, for instance?  Ask!  Neglected homes, even newer ones, will cost more in the long run.

Myth 2: New Homes Don’t Need to be Inspected

“It’s new, there can’t be anything wrong with it” is the belief that some consumers have about new construction.  Builders, contractors and other professionals can all make mistakes, though, just like the rest of us.  Wood may arrive on site already carrying termites.  Shortcuts may have been taken or something misassembled.

Some builders will let you have a professional, independent inspection before closing escrow, but some won’t. Since many builders use a proprietary purchase agreement form (not one used in resales such as the CAR or PRDS contract), you may or may not have the right to bring in a good ASHI or CREIA home inspector.  Read the purchase agreement before you sign and know what you can or cannot do.

For those which do not allow it, many times they have a warrantee for a set period of time and if you have gripes that are covered, you may not have a problem if you get it inspected after close of escrow.

Myth 3: All builders & contractors make equally good homes – if it’s new, it’s good

Just like there are better restaurants, hotels, attorneys, doctors and even Realtors, there are better and worse builders and contractors, too.  Don’t assume that just because a property is newly constructed – or for that matter, newly “flipped” – it’s perfect.  New does not always translate to good!

How can you find out if the builder is any good?  Thanks to Yelp, it’s easy to find online reviews.  Google the name, the company name.  If it’s a subdivision that’s underway, consider talking to some of the residents. Ask for references!  Realtors and other real estate licensees often do know of good builders and contractors. Ask around.

If it’s a flipped house – which we are seeing a lot of now because of investors buying up distressed homes – it is very important to check into permits and finals and also to learn how long the home’s flipper has been doing it.

Some clients of mine purchased a newly flipped home a few years ago.  They knew that the owner/contractor was somewhat new at the trade of flipping residential real estate, but it wasn’t until they moved in that they discovered that the refrigerator niche was too small to accommodate a normal sized fridge.

One final note and that’s that even with gret builders, new homes often come with hidden costs: the need to landscape, fence, add window coverings, etc.  Always consider that you may need to pay more for what you want than what it may seem upfront.

Newly constructed homes can be a dream come true for many house-hunters. It’s important to be careful in the selection & purchase of a new home just as with a resale home.  And it’s extremely important to keep that new home well maintained once you’ve bought it!

Related posts here on this Silicon Valley real estate blog:
Introducing a Beautiful Willow Glen Neighborhood, “The Willows”
The Almaden Winery Neighborhood of San Jose