38 REALTOR® SEP TEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
represents new home communities, and she hosts his open
houses at the model homes on weekends. If a buyer is ready
to purchase, she assists on his behalf. If a buyer is not ready to
purchase, she tries to establish a relationship so that she can
represent the buyer in the future.
Mathewson has held a real estate license since 1984. She
has also been a project manager for a south Florida Indian tribe,
overseeing the construction of a community center and new
homes, as well as project manager with Alamo Rental Car, where
she completed construction projects at various U.S. airports. She
received training in concrete, roofing, estimates, and all aspects
of construction before becoming a licensed building inspector. “I
know the three sides: construction, builder, and resale. I use that
when I speak to builders,” she says. She also downloads floor
plans and examines blueprints before working an open house.
After each successful new-home transaction, she praises the
builder on her blog. “I closed on a home in March, and the very
day it closed, I took a photo and wrote a blog post about what
my buyer liked about that home. I talked about the builder, so
other builders see that I talk positively about these projects and
I give them exposure.”
Managing New-Home Buyer Expectations
Lana Butsky, CIPS, broker-owner of Neapolitan Realty LLC in
Naples, Fla., cultivated a relationship with RBC Bank USA and
Royal Bank of Canada, a specialty lender for Canadians in the
United States. This afforded Butsky and participating builders a
niche opportunity for collaboration and mutual referral oppor-
tunities. Canadian buyers need someone to walk them through
the U.S. purchase process, especially for the financing and
mortgage approval duration, Butsky says, because in Canada,
the entire process spans only four to five days.
The new-home sales process in the U.S. became protracted
in recent years when lending for individual builders of spec
homes evaporated. Though spec building did begin to pick
up again this spring, for the most part, homes are not standing empty awaiting occupancy. They are in various stages of
completion—so buyers must wait to be able to move in. Agents
generally walk the buyer through the selection process with a
clear understanding of what the standard features are and what
will require upgrades.
Phillips notes that construction costs often creep up be-
tween the time buyers purchase a home and the time they
move in. Her role involves helping them understand the price
increase. “Builders do not put fluff in their price,” she explains.
And while most will not budge on price, “you can ask for up-
grades, a paved driveway instead of asphalt, or closing costs
to be paid by the builder,” she adds. “You have to be creative.”
You also have to get yourself out to the sites. “Get in your car
and drive,” says Butsky. “You have to attend all the builder grand
openings. You meet people at these events, and you partner and
keep in touch.” She routinely drives out to unfinished projects
to learn how they are progressing, lamenting the nails her tires
have picked up on these visits. “But when you have all this
knowledge, you can take your buyer by the hand and say, ‘This is
a place that I think will make you feel right at home.’ ”
Due Diligence and Vigilance
Agents should address the following issues when inquiring about a newly constructed home on behalf of their buyers, says Lana
Butsky, CIPS, of Neapolitan Realty LLC:
Ask for a sample of the builder’s contract. Most have their own, distinct from other companies’.
Ask for clarification of home warranty coverage. Warranties are often issued by a third party.
Obtain a list of costs. What is standard versus an upgrade, and how much do upgrades cost? And remember
that most builders pay commission on the contract price, not the final purchase price with the upgrades
Inspect for defects. New homes are not flawless. Request an inspection from a separate company.
Check out the neighbors. Review county records to learn what’s being built on adjacent land.
Consider HOA fees. What happens if the builder underestimates HOA fees and costs skyrocket
after development is completed? Visit a builder’s previously completed developments and gauge
home owners’ satisfaction with fees.
Learn about nearby closings. Review public records to see if the developer may be prone to
dumping unsold properties at auction, meaning that recently sold homes’ values may drop.