The Dos and Don’ts of Touring a Model Home

A couple walking through the neighborhood while engaged in deep conversation with a sales professional.

Know the dos and don’ts of touring a model home so you can choose the right home for you and your family.

As you’re searching for a new home, you’ll likely consider new construction and you will probably visit new communities and model homes with your Realtor.

“I always include new homes in my tour of homes for my buyers if it fits their criteria based on location or price,” says Leisa Ormsbee of JBGoodwin REALTORS in Austin, Texas. “The reason I do that is because a new home offers a lot of perks for the buyer that you can't get in a resale.”

When your Realtor takes you to model homes, sure, you can simply show up and take it all in, but the seasoned real estate professionals we’ve spoken with advise a little planning and a strategy for making the most of your model home visit.

Why? You may think you’ll remember everything you learned and saw at each model home, but it’s not possible – there are just too many details to retain. Read on for professional suggestions on touring model homes.

DON’T look at 10 model homes in a single day.

Michael Schaffer of LIV Sotheby’s International Realty in Denver, Colo., only takes his clients to tour two communities in a given day.

“At the end of the day, your memories of each community and model will be fresh and uncluttered, so that you can reflect and process your thoughts and feelings about each,” he says. “If you must take more tours in a day, for example if you are relocating and have a limited window of time to view homes, plan a break after every two communities to collect your thoughts as you rest and recharge with a meal or snack.”

DO look past the glitz.

With the rise of master-planned communities and resort-style living in high demand, Holly Holmquest Thompson of Houston Luxury Realty spends a good amount of her week waltzing through the glossy, perfectly styled model homes that we all dream of residing in.

“I always prepare my clients before reaching the first shiny doorknob of the first model home. I encourage them to look past the professionally placed furniture and accessories and imagine their belongings, their furniture within the space,” says Thompson. “Does their furniture fit with the room size? Does each room fit the way they live? The interiors of model homes certainly bring the wow factor into play with the buyers, but it is my job to make sure that my clients see the structure of the house and that it is the best choice for their family.”

Jennifer LaPoint of Realty Executives in Orlando, Fla., agrees.

“Ask to see an unfurnished, undecorated home with the same floor plan as the model home,” she adds. “That is truly eye-opening, because then you see what you are really getting. Also, ask what the total cost of upgrades are in the model.”

DON’T go in cold.

Review the floor plan options before walking through the models, advises Schaffer. First impressions stick, so while a particular model home may not have that extra bedroom, office or loft that you were hoping for, it may be available for you to build. Having the options in mind while walking through the model will help you to not subconsciously rule out a home that could be built to your liking.

Consider the community before focusing in on the specific models offered. Drive or walk around before visiting the model and get a feel for the area. Assess the community’s proximity to highways, stores, restaurants and schools and research the quality of the schools.

“Attempt to visualize how the development will look when it is completed,” says Schaffer. “Right now, it is partially built homes without lawns and that can be off-putting. Most developers will have artist renderings of the completed community available to view. If the community is not suited to your needs, it won’t matter if the perfect floor plan is offered.”

DO document your experience.

When Thompson takes clients on walkthroughs of model homes, she advises them to take notes of their favorite features, as well as the least attractive trait.

“This helps them draw comparisons between communities and start eliminating floor plans that don't fit their needs,” she says.

Magda Esola is a community sales manager for Fielding Homes’ houses at Masons Bend in Fort Mill, S.C. She encourages visitors to bring a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves and wish-to-haves so they can quickly assess whether a model is right for them. She also thinks it’s a good idea to take lots of pictures.

“Turn on all of the lights and take pictures of the rooms and details so you have a visual record of your tour,” Esola suggests.

DON’T be too quiet.

As a potential homebuyer, you have the right, and even the responsibility, to know what you’re getting yourself into. Esola welcomes questions from model home visitors and suggests you ask the following 10 questions:

1. What kind of warranties come with the home and who warranties them: the builder or a third-party company?

2. What is the average amount that customers are investing in designer options?

3. What is included in the home in terms of architectural options and design center choices?

4. How many builders are in the community?

5. How does the financing process work? Is there a preferred lender? If so, are there any incentives to use them?

6. What kind of amenities will be in the community?

7. What are the HOA fees?

8. How long does it take to build?

9. What is the design studio process?

10. Can prospective homebuyers come to see the home while it’s under construction?

These visits are meant to help you find a home that will fit your lifestyle and preferences. With these helpful tips, you’ll be able to get the most from your model home visits.

If you want to learn more about what a builder’s sales professional can add to your home shopping experience, check out our article, Getting the Most from Your Builder’s Sales Professional. And to help get ready for your visits, read Preparing for Your Model Home Visit.
Sarah Ristorcelli is a freelance writer and editor for leading print and online publications. Formerly editor in chief of Garden Design, she has also written and edited for Cottage Living, Modern magazine and Orlando Arts. You can find her on Google+.

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