If you're a first-time buyer, determining whether to build or buy an existing home can be overwhelming. For many people, choosing new construction is a great opportunity to design their dream home and save money on repairs and replacing old appliances.
In fact, one-third of consumers looking to buy their first home are interested in new construction, and 37% of millennials are considering new homes, according to TD Bank's First-Time Home Buyer Pulse.
As you evaluate whether new construction is right for you, keep in mind some helpful tips and best practices when embarking on "new" home ownership.
Plan for customization
New construction allows you to design a home from top to bottom. You can select your choice of finishes, cabinets, bath fixtures, and more. Some builders even allow you to move walls in predesigned models and pick a lot within their community to place your home.
The First-Time Home Buyer Pulse revealed that when it comes to amenities, buyers are interested in having a backyard or pool, an attractive design, and energy-efficient/smart home technologies. All of these amenities can be designed to your specification when you build a new home. When considering customization, these costs should be factored in at the start of the project and included in your budget. A budget will help you feel more comfortable when selecting custom items and avoid any potential financial issues during construction.
It's important to keep in mind that you'll also need to visualize your new home from floor plans. Model views typically aren't available until the project gets underway. And, with this being the biggest purchase of your life, you should choose wisely -- research your developer and builder before you sign a purchase contract.
Explore financing options
Financing is a critical part of the home-buying process, and it's important to find a lender that provides open, ongoing communication along the way. This should be the very first step a buyer takes in the process -- even before finding a builder. Once you identify a lender, a mortgage loan officer will provide guidance and advice on financing options.
Keep in mind that new construction can be costly. However, construction mortgages can help keep expenses low with interest-only monthly payments during the building phase.
For example, TD Bank's Construction-to-Permanent loan allows buyers to make interest-only payments for the first 12 months on 80% of the construction costs. After the first year, when construction is complete, principle and interest payments apply on the entire loan. Construction loans are ideal for buyers purchasing their vision of a home.
Seek industry expertise
Mortgage loan officers provide expertise through every step of the mortgage process -- from obtaining a pre-qualification letter to "live loan" status updates, and renewing loan paperwork to the final sale. The best mortgage loan officer will guide you and your builder through the process and identify products that make sense for new construction.
They understand the many moving parts of a loan, weigh options, and help you find your "best fit" loan. They will advise you on the personal documents that you need to present throughout the process.
If you're interested in designing and customizing your home, new-home construction will be a great option for you. It's best to look for lenders and builders that can work together and offer you flexible financing options.
-- -- --
Scott Haymore is the senior vice president, head of Pricing and Secondary Markets for TD Bank. He is responsible for setting daily mortgage rates and for secondary mortgage market purchases and sales. Haymore has 20 years of mortgage, finance, and capital markets experience.