Home Buyer’s Guide
For Your Next Home
The Ultimate Buyers Guide for your Next Home
Where to &
buy a house
You’ve decided that your next home should be new construction. Great choice! Now it’s time to find it. So, where should you start?
It’s important to do your research — there are many builders and even more new home communities in the Ottawa area — and that searching can take time. Finding a way to fit research time into your busy schedule will go a long way toward helping you find your dream home.
If you’re like most new home buyers, who prioritize by location, size and price, knowing the general area you want to live in and how much you can afford is the first step. Then it’s time to research the builders in the area and the developments they are building.
Checking out new home builders in Ottawa
There are more than 50 new home builders in the Ottawa area. To narrow down the choice, here are 6 things to consider when researching builders:
- Websites: Start with a builder’s website. It will usually have basic information about the company, summaries of their communities, floorplans, elevations, pricing and site plans.
- How do they stack up? You’ll want to assess the builders you’re considering. You can do this through reputable sources such as Tarion, the Better Business Bureau and, to a degree, social media and online searches (if you trust them), to determine how strong a reputation a builder has and how reliable it is likely to be. You also want to assess for customer experience, the builder’s after-sales service and how it deals with warranty issues.
- Tour models & communities: Aside from getting ideas on design and how spacious a home is, visiting builder model homes allows you to evaluate the construction quality. You may not feel qualified to assess the technical aspects of home building, but you can tell when a paint job is sloppy or the trim is not tidy. This speaks to a home’s overall quality. Builders also now have virtual tours you can take online anytime. (More on touring models below.)
A comparison: It can be difficult to compare one builder to another since they may not follow the same criteria, but when you’re researching, note things like:
- A comparison: It can be difficult to compare one builder to another since they may not follow the same criteria, but when you’re researching, note things like:
- What’s included in the price?
- What is the deposit and interim payment requirements after you sign your sales agreement?
- How does their price per square foot compare to other builders?
- What are the energy efficiency ratings for their homes?
- What’s included in their “feature sheet”? (This is a list of specifications and included features such as how much and what type of insulation they use.)
- How long have they been building and how many homes have they built?
- Previous communities: Drive around other developments the builder has done, both recent and older. Do they appeal to you? Have they matured well? Do they seem to promote a connection to the community?
- Referrals: Do you have family or friends who have bought a new home recently, or do they know anyone who has? What was their experience like? Referrals can be a great way to find a builder who will work for you.
Your builder: questions to ask when buying a house
There are many things you can ask a prospective builder. Here are some to get you started:
- What makes your homes better or different from other builders?
- What is included with your homes? (Note: This can change with various models.)
- How much can I personalize my home and what is that likely to add to my investment?
- What can I expect in after-sales service?
- Do you build beyond the building code? If so, to what level?
- How do you communicate with buyers and how often?
Visiting a builder’s model homes can help you understand how the interior space works and assess the quality of workmanship. You can also take virtual tours online from the comfort of your home.
Discovering a community
Once you’ve narrowed down location, exploring the communities in that area can help you to decide. Of course, it helps if you have already created the list of things necessary to fit your lifestyle and needs.
What if there’s nothing to see? If you’re considering a new development where construction has not yet begun, exploring the community is a little difficult. That’s where the site plan can help.
Site plans are common for a project and can usually be found on the builder’s website. It will show where streets will be, how the lots are positioned, and where amenities like parks and schools will be located. Combined with renderings of the homes the builder is selling, you’ll be able to get a sense of how the community will develop and look.
And drive through other similar communities the builder has done for comparison. Note things like street widths and layout, how the homes integrate or are set back from the street and how amenities complement the community’s design.
If construction has begun: You can drive through the community but be careful; after all, it is an active construction site. Make note of how well streetscapes are coming together, whether any of the amenities (like a park) have been developed yet, the attention to detail, and whether or not the area resonates with you.
Understanding floorplans is difficult even if you’ve looked at them before. That’s part of the reason most builders construct model homes or have virtual tours online; they help buyers visualize the space. But don’t limit your search to just the models. They are only a small sample of the homes available and the best floorplan for your needs and lifestyle may not have a model home built.
- Have the floorplan with you when touring the model or viewing the virtual tour online to compare. It will help you have a better understanding of how the floorplan translates into a physical space.
- Compare models and floorplans with where you live now. How? Sketch out your floorplan and list the measurements for each room, then have this sketch handy when you’re touring models or looking at floorplans.
- Share the floorplans you’re considering with friends and family, even if you feel you’re good at reading them. Others can often see things differently or pick up on things you might not.
Which floorplans are the ones buyers most often purchase? The ones that have model homes. It’s much easier for a buyer to make such an important decision when they can see and walk through the home.
Exploring the models
This is an important step in the new home buying process. A builder’s model homes can help you:
- Understand the space
- Evaluate the builder’s workmanship
- See what some of the finishes and features are
- Determine if a layout will work for you
Most models are furnished and this is a good thing: A furnished model will give you a better sense of the rooms than an unfinished one. But you also need to look past the furniture and the finishes to see what the rooms themselves offer. And keep in mind that the model is staged to show off the home and doesn’t necessarily represent how people with their own furniture live. Your furniture might not work in the space. That’s fine if you plan to buy new furniture, but if you don’t, be aware.
Model homes often have lots of upgrades that are not part of the included features and finishes.
A reminder: Floorplan drawings and finishes offered by builders are always evolving, so be sure to contact the Sales Representatives who can help explain any updates or differences. The Sales Representative is your best information resource, whether in person, by phone or via email. Don’t hesitate to talk to them.
Narrowing the choices
Once you’ve researched and explored, it’s time to make your short list. Aside from the community, builder and floorplans you’re considering, be mindful of how long you hope the home will continue to meet your needs (will it grow or shrink with you?) and what kind of a resale value it is likely to have.
The 5-year plan: It’s common for buyers to stay in their home for 5-10 years. Is your lifestyle likely to change significantly in that time? Think ahead to where you might be when it comes to making your home choice.
What about resale? If this is your forever home, choose a home for you, not for resale. But if you do see another move in your future, it’s often wise to keep resale possibilities in mind, even though you should buy based on what meets your needs. The neighbourhood can determine resale value as much as your home, but both are important. If you’re keeping resale in mind, opt for a layout that can be flexible to meet future buyer needs and select finishes that tend to appeal to a wider audience, which are generally neutrals.
Other considerations: Check for any builder incentives such as a design centre bonus, and don’t forget about what’s outside the house, like:
- The orientation of the lot and home, which affects sunlight coming in certain rooms at certain times of the day;
- The street you’re considering — main connecting streets offer direct access to bus stops and receive better attention for snow clearing, etc. but quieter streets offer more privacy, safer places for kids to play and ride their bikes;
- The view that you will look out to see every day from the front and back of your home; and where mailboxes, utility boxes and catch basins will be located.