Experts say builders are more likely to be flexible on price at the very beginning and the very end of a development project. Early on, most developers want to move people in quickly so the project picks up momentum. Later, developers may be more inclined to accept lower offers when only a few units remain.
If negotiating the price doesn’t work, buyers commonly negotiate for better amenities (upgrade carpet, light fixtures, etc.) or lot location. Experts say a developer will rarely pass up a deal over a couple hundred dollars’ worth of carpeting, for example.
Some people buy a vacation home with the idea of turning it into a permanent retirement home down the road, which puts them ahead on their payments. Another benefit is that the interest and property taxes are tax deductible, which helps to offset the cost of paying for a second home. A vacation home also can be depreciated if you live in it less than 14 days a year.
* “Real Estate Investing From A to Z,” William Pivar, Probus Publishing, Chicago; 1993.
* “The Ultimate Language of Real Estate,” John Reilly, Dearborn Financial Publishing, Chicago; 1993.
Some people buy a vacation home to use as a permanent retirement home later, which allows them to get ahead on their payments. Another benefit is that the interest and property taxes on a vacation home are tax-deductible.
Some real estate experts predict that vacation homes will appreciate in value due to rising demand from the aging Baby Boom generation. You also may be able to depreciate the property if you live in the house less than 14 days a year. Again, check with your tax professional.
You also need to consider whether you can afford to carry two mortgages, pay for the extra utilities and maintenance costs, and how this investment fits into your total personal finance picture.
If you hire a professional inspector, look for one who belongs to one of the home inspection trade organizations. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Membership to ASHI is not automatic; proven field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems and appliances are prerequisites.
Rates for the service vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs go up with the scope of the inspection.
Land to support new-home developments usually is located on the outskirts of town. Potential buyers should ask the developer about future access to public transit, entertainment activities, shopping centers, churches and schools. Find out how far it is to the nearest library, for example.
Local zoning ordinances also should be reviewed. A rather remote area can turn into a fast-food-chain haven within a couple of years. Try to ensure that the neighborhood, if not strictly residential, will not begin sprawling out of control.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1991 American Housing Survey suggest that operating costs per house are lowest for brand-new homes, slightly higher for relatively new existing homes but lower on average for older existing homes. Measured per square foot of living space, however, operating costs are consistently higher for progressively older existing homes.
Utility costs are the largest component of operating costs. Energy consumption per square foot depends on size of the home, insulation, window quality, air leakage and efficiency of the furnace. Operating costs also include expenditures for both routine maintenance and major repairs.
Do not be tempted to move into a “glamorous” community where you might be able to afford the house but not the lifestyle. In addition, similar-looking new houses often come complete with restrictions imposed by the developer on house color, landscaping, renovations and anything else a homeowner possibly could do to make their house deviate from the preferred look.
Marketing experts try to appeal to buyer’s tastes by their promoting images for their developments. Don’t buy into it. Form your own opinions and only buy a home where you feel comfortable. After all, you’re going to have to live there.
One survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS shows that resale homes do have an edge over new homes. The trade group’s figures show the median price of resale homes increased 3 percent between 1994 and 1995, compared to 0.8 percent for new homes in the same period.