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9 Things To Know Before Buying a New Tract or Semi-Custom Home

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

tract homes

Buying a brand new house is a bucket list moment for many people - and for good reason. The opportunity to move into a new home that you've helped design is a life experience not everyone will get to have.

So, if you've been researching that brand spanking new construction or tract home that's just perfect for you and your family, there are some things you may want to think about first that will make the whole experience smoother, maybe even a little easier, and hopefully with less regrets.

What To Know Before Buying a Brand New Home:

Here's a short video of what's in this post. Feel free to watch or scroll down to read all the details!

Whether you're just considering options or you've already plopped down a hefty deposit on the most attractive piece of dirt you've ever laid eyes on - this post is for you. We want to help you navigate the world of semi-custom home buying, so this can actually be the experience you've been hoping and dreaming of.

And, since every situation is a little bit unique and each home builder does have their own spin on how they do things, know that not all of these will apply to you. If some of them don't, there's no need to panic. Just take the advice that works for you and don't worry about the rest.

1. Upgrades Are Expensive:

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You know that gorgeous model home you walked through that took your breath away and made you willing to sell a kidney in order to put a deposit down?

Yeah, your house probably won't look like that. When you go to the design center to choose your finishes, you may be deflated to find out that the options that are included in your home price are not quite what you had in mind. Of course, you can upgrade almost everything - but it comes at a cost and most builders charge a premium. If you've ever done home upgrades before, you will quickly recognize that these upgrades will cost more through the builder than if you did them on your own.

This might present you with a difficult decision: do you make the upgrades with the builder so the house is almost done at move-in or do you wait, hire a contractor, rip out brand new materials and replace them after the keys are yours? Well, we have an answer for you and it's coming up next.

2. Upgrade Things That are Stuck:

If possible and if it's in your budget, upgrade anything that is stuck - like counters, cabinets, floors, and structural changes. Sometimes having these materials removed and replaced creates damage or other issues that can make it even more expensive, making the upgrade surcharge minimal in comparison. Plus, you won't have to move into your new home only to have to wear ear plugs to drown out the sound of a jackhammer as it digs out all that brand new tile you can't stand.

This means that anything that you can replace easily on your own - you should wait to do later. This includes things like faucets, lighting, built-ins, blinds, drapery and maybe even appliances.

Of course, if you have plenty of money in your budget AND you don't want to deal with any of this later - go ahead and upgrade whatever you want. The world is your oyster.

3. Your Backyard Will Probably Be Dirt:

tract homes

Yup. Most new builds come with minimal landscaping. Some have something in the front yard and dirt in the back. Others have very simple and minimal landscaping in the back as well (lucky!). Either way, you will probably have more you will need to do.

Here's what you need to know: landscaping is expensive. It's probably 2 or 3x what you think it will cost, particularly if you're pouring any concrete, adding live plants, a pergola or even a pool.

If you're in a neighborhood with a HOA, you'll likely have a time window in which to get landscaping designs approved and installed, so read the fine print and budget accordingly.

And, make sure you spend time asking around town for recommendations. Get quotes from at least 3 companies. Because, you know what's more expensive than the huge expense of landscaping? Paying someone else to fix bad work done by people who were dishonest or cut corners. Just because a yard looks pretty - it doesn't mean it's functioning properly.

4. You'll Need Lighting:

Most new builds will include some type of lighting, such as canned lights or fixtures in bathrooms, etc. It's probably not a great idea to upgrade through your builder. But, make sure you do have electricity run to places where you'd like to add lights, such as for over an island or a dining table.

Lighting can run from very affordable to extremely expensive depending on your tastes, so you may want to look around at lighting you like to see what you should budget in terms of lighting after market.

5. You'll Need Window Coverings:

tract homes

Most new builds do not include any type of window coverings. In some cases, you may be offered a stipend for some window coverings or they'll throw in something like basic wood blinds as an incentive.

You will most likely still need quite a few blinds, shades and/or drapes to add privacy and customize the look of your home. These can be very expensive, especially if you are moving into a home with extra high ceilings or extra wide windows that are outside the standard sizes offered at retailers.

You may want to set aside a little window coverings nest egg for this expense. For example, window coverings for a 3,000 sq. ft. home can cost somewhere around $10k and up.

6. Say No To Matte Paint:

Many builders include matte paint in most of the home. If you've ever had matte point, you may know that it is the hardest to clean. If there is the option to upgrade your paint to an eggshell, velvet, semi-gloss or just anything other than matte paint, do it. This will make your walls easier to clean, they'll look better and the life of your paint will last longer.

7. Get Touch-Up Paint:

tract homes

Whatever paint they use, make sure to ask for small cans of labeled paint from every are area of the home. More importantly, make sure you have the exact names.

Color matching is helpful, but it can be difficult to get the color just right. It's much easier to have the exact name of the original paint.

8. The House Will Settle:

Just like any other home, your home will settle. But, because it's new, this can result in some unsettling changes. For example, certain doors may become sticky. Cracks may start showing in walls or other places.

These changes may seem to come on faster than you were used to seeing in an older home you were in. This should only happen for the first year or two and then settling will slow down.

Your builder should offer you a warranty that will help with repairing any damage from settling. Save that info and their numbers so you can request these repairs before the warranty is up.

9. Set Your Expectations:

tract homes

There is a certain sterility that comes with a brand new neighborhood. No one knows each other. There aren't any block party traditions yet. None of your trees are grown in. Everybody is doing updates and there may be constant noise from construction workers, landscape trucks and pool installers on your street for years.

This lack of privacy may start to make you feel like you're on display and begin to curb your enthusiasm for your new build.

Try not to let this get to you. The first two years in a new neighborhood can have some growing pains. Some people will even move before those years are up! Rest assured, if you stick around, you'll all start to get to know each other, the construction will eventually be done, and you'll all be able to get the paper in your bath robe without worrying that an entire landscaping crew will see you.


Buying a brand new home is an exciting experience. Cherish the fun moments as much as you can and let those carry you through the challenging times and neighborhood growing pains that are sure to come.

Also, set aside some fun money for projects and updates that you'll want to do to make the house your own. Knowing you have this money reserved will make it much less stressful to spend it when the time comes.

If you'd like to read more about the pros and cons of buying new construction, check out this post!

Don't forget to celebrate this huge milestone and achievement. And, if you've got a tip for homebuyers of new construction, make sure to leave it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading. Please reach out if you'd like to know more about new homes available in the Sacramento area: 916.524.9733.

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