My husband and I are in the closing process now in a fairly new subdivision on Lake Houston. In our two year search for our dream home I have done more research and feel more qualified than most realtors around the area. I have gone through interviewing about 15 different realtors before finally deciding to use a friend of the family from out of town to handle all of the paperwork side.
While I understand this thread was started three years ago now, there's a few tips I'd like to share for all future homebuyers.
In regards to realtors:
1. You do not have to use a realtor. The price comparisions, tax rates, and all other research can be found by the average homebuyer who has the patience to do some research on the internet. HCAD http://(www.hcad.org
) is a great place to start following by sites such as trulia and city-data.com. There is not a hidden secret computer program realtors use that the average person doesn't know about. All it comes down to is research, research, research!
2. If you go with a realtor, remember that your choosen realtor does not have to be local although stick with someone within the state you're purchasing. While a local realtor may know the subdivision, you should as well. Talk with the neighbors (assuming you live in the Houston area) and get a feel for the neighborhood. Invest your time and energy in getting a good solid feel for the community your about to build your home in!
3. We have found that most realtors are mainly interested in the commision, not about finding your perfect home. Time spent is time wasted for most of them. That's not to say that there are not good ones out there but do your research, interviews, and check, check those references! Afterall, you're hiring them. Their pay comes from the seller but they're working for you!
Now as far as the negotiating, you must decide what your finances can handle and what you are willing to spend as well as what "up-grades" you are going to want and at what cost. Go to the negotiating table with this number and list firm in mind. Don't lead off with this number/list. Start with a lower number and include several other up-grades that while nice, aren't must-haves. They'll come back with something higher than your original offer but lower than their "book" price inclusive of a few (one or two) upgrades. From this point it will be back and forth between you and the builder (also referred to in this write-up as "seller"). This will all be a game of give and take for all parties until an acceptable agreement can be made.
A few examples of give and take are as follows:
Senario 1: You would like tile floor, however carpet is the standard installed flooring. Solution: Specify that you'd like level concrete unfinished floors in the rooms you intend to put tile into and ask for a credit from the builder. It is often far less expensive to contract out the tile work (or do it yourself if you're handy) after Trendmaker has turned over ownership of the house to you.
Senario 2: The home comes with Level I Granite counters, yet you would like Level III or Silestone. Solution: Again, specify the cabinets are to be installed and prepared in such a manor as to allow the installation of a level countertop and ask for the credit of unused material and labor from the builder. With this item, keep in mind that in counter appliances and sinks will not be able to be installed without the counter-top unless the items are of "under-mount" type.
Last but not least, the contracts. Make sure you have educated yourself on the workings of the contract and all related legal documents. If need be, hire counsel to advise you. Remember to get everything in writing!!
While long-winded, I hope this helps just a bit. Good luck to everyone and God Bless!!!