Finding Your Perfect Place: A Guide to Existing Homes, Custom Builds, and Tract Homes

Routinely, prospective home buyers reach out to us in an effort to help them find their next home amongst homes for sale on the open market.   Generally speaking, buyers have been focused on existing inventory and are not necessarily thinking about a brand new home, although that does come up from time to time.  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some folks at DR Horton (one of the nation’s largest home builders) which has begun my path to potentially challenge that norm.  As I venture into the prospect of more actively including new homes to our sales efforts, I  had to ask myself what the challenges are and why new homes often are not what folks are looking for and I believe it all boils down to perceptions and expectations - often misaligned.  

The home buying journey is an exciting one, but it can also be overwhelming. There are three main paths you can take and I thought it might be helpful to put pen to paper to outline some of the primary differences between these paths to help homebuyers choose the right path with properly tempered expectations.  So, what are the three primary paths?  Buying an existing home, building a custom home, or opting for a tract home from a large builder. Let's explore the pros and cons of each option to help you navigate this important decision.

Existing Home: The Established Charmer

Imagine settling into a home steeped in history, with mature trees and a charming, established neighborhood. Existing homes offer a sense of community and a quicker move-in timeline.

Pros:

  • Move-in ready: Existing homes are typically available to move in much sooner than custom builds.
  • Established neighborhood: You'll inherit the character of the neighborhood, with mature landscaping and potentially a close-knit community.
  • Lower upfront cost: Generally, existing homes are more affordable than custom builds.
  • Potential for character: Existing homes offer unique architectural styles and details you won't find in new construction.

Cons:

  • Limited customization: You'll need to adapt to the existing layout and finishes. Renovations can be costly.
  • Potential for unseen issues: Older homes may have hidden problems like outdated wiring or plumbing.
  • Competitive market: Finding the perfect existing home in a hot market can be challenging.

Custom Build: Your Dream Home, Realized

Building your dream home from the ground up allows for complete personalization. Imagine a gourmet kitchen, a spa-like bathroom, and a layout perfectly suited to your lifestyle.

Pros:

  • Complete customization: You have complete control over every detail, from the floor plan to the finishes.
  • New and energy-efficient: Your home will utilize the latest building materials and technologies for maximum efficiency.
  • High-quality materials: You choose the level of quality you desire for fixtures, flooring, and appliances.

Cons:

  • Higher cost: Custom builds are typically the most expensive option.
  • Longer timeline: The construction process can take months, leaving you in temporary housing.
  • Unexpected costs: Hidden issues during construction can lead to budget overruns.
  • Management burden: You'll need to make numerous decisions and manage the building process.

Tract Home: Affordability and Efficiency

Tract homes, built by large companies like DR Horton, offer affordability and a streamlined buying experience. These homes are typically built in developments with similar floor plans.

Pros:

  • Lower cost: Tract homes are often the most affordable option, with efficient floor plans and standardized materials.
  • Faster closing: New construction communities often have move-in ready homes or short construction timelines.
  • Warranties: New homes typically come with builder warranties for peace of mind.
  • Lower maintenance: New appliances and modern construction can mean fewer repairs in the early years.

Cons:

  • Limited customization: You'll choose from pre-designed floor plans and finishes.
  • Cookie-cutter feel: Tract homes in developments can lack unique character.
  • Potential for quality concerns: Focus on speed and efficiency may lead to concerns about build quality in some cases.
  • Potential HOA fees: Living in a development often means adhering to homeowner association (HOA) rules and fees.

Setting Realistic Expectations

The key to a successful home buying experience is setting realistic expectations.

  • Existing homes may require renovations and may not be perfect, but they offer established charm and a quicker move-in.
  • Custom builds give you complete control over your dream home, but come with a higher price tag and a longer timeline.
  • Tract homes are budget-friendly and efficient, but lack customization and may feel generic.

The Right Choice for You

The best option for you depends on your priorities, budget, and life stage. If you crave a unique home and have the time and resources, a custom build might be ideal. For those seeking affordability and a quick move-in, a tract home could be the answer. And if you value established neighborhoods and a sense of community, an existing home might be perfect.  It’s important for you to choose your path with your eyes wide open.  Buying a cost-effective tract home with expectations of custom home features, materials and finishes will ultimately lead to disappointment and frustration.  That doesn’t mean you’ve purchased a bad product, it means that your expectations for the schedule and budget you selected may have been misaligned.

Ultimately, the most important factor is finding a home that reflects your lifestyle and brings you joy.

So, bringing this whole thing back to the question that inspired it to begin with:  Should Blue Sky Realty Partners heighten emphasis and potentially bring on new staff to focus on new-build properties for our home-buying clients?  That led me to researching reviews on some of the major companies to better understand the challenges. While some negative reviews are valid, many appear to be based on misaligned expectations as we talked about above.  If you choose to consider a new build from a tract home builder, Blue Sky Realty Partners will be in your corner - and will advise you to research your builder, have a look at the reviews and understand why some of the nation's largest home builders get negative reviews:

  • Focus on Speed and Efficiency: Tract homes prioritize quick construction times and affordability. This can sometimes lead to concerns about build quality. Materials might be chosen for affordability over longevity, and construction crews might be incentivized to finish quickly, potentially sacrificing attention to detail.
  • Limited Customization: While some tract builders offer some options for finishes and layouts, the overall design is pre-determined. This lack of customization can leave homeowners feeling like their home is just one of many identical ones in the development.
  • Communication Issues: Large builders manage multiple projects simultaneously, which can lead to communication breakdowns between sales representatives, construction crews, and homeowners. Unexpected delays, unclear communication about change orders, or unresolved issues after closing can leave homeowners frustrated.
  • Uneven Quality Control: With a high volume of homes under construction, maintaining consistent quality control between communities can be a challenge for some large builders.

It's important to note that not all large builders have negative reviews.  However, these are some of the common themes that can lead to dissatisfaction among some homeowners who choose tract homes.

Here are some things you can do to mitigate these risks:

  • Research the builder's reputation: Look for reviews from previous homeowners and check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.
  • Get a thorough home inspection: Don't rely solely on the builder's inspection. Hire a qualified home inspector to identify any potential problems before you close.
  • Understand the warranty: Make sure you understand exactly what's covered under the builder's warranty and how to make a claim.
  • Ask questions: Don't hesitate to ask the builder questions about the construction process, materials used, and warranty coverage.

Writing this blog has better prepared me as Blue Sky Realty Partners ventures deeper into new home sales and I hope that it is a helpful tool for you, a prospective home buyer, to choose what best fits you, and venture down that path with your eyes wide open.

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Beds
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2,804
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Year Built
6
Days on Site
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MLS
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Neighborhood: Creek Bridge
3
Beds
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Neighborhood: Creek Bridge
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Beds
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6
Days on Site
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3
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2F11/2
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2,164
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
6
Days on Site
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3
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Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
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Days on Site
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2
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Year Built
6
Days on Site
1259793
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4
Beds
2
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Year Built
6
Days on Site
1259794
MLS
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4
Beds
2
Baths
1,774
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
6
Days on Site
1259799
MLS
$488,035
Neighborhood: Summit Place
5
Beds
3
Baths
2,511
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
14
Days on Site
1258806
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Beds
3
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Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
14
Days on Site
1258807
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Beds
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2,618
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
14
Days on Site
1258819
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3
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
2,164
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
14
Days on Site
1258860
MLS
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3
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
1,749
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
20
Days on Site
1258081
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Beds
2F11/2
Baths
2,164
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
20
Days on Site
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MLS
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3
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
2,697
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
20
Days on Site
1252201
MLS
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3
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
1,381
Sq.Ft.
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Year Built
28
Days on Site
1257237
MLS
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Beds
2F11/2
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Days on Site
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33
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