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Buying a New Home in Houston: What You Should Know

Houston leads the United States in new home construction and is the “capital of master-planned communities in the country,” according to John Burns, CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Master-planned communities are similar to subdivisions, but include additional amenities like commercial centers and golf courses.

“Last year, Houston built about as many single-family homes as the entire state of California,” Burns said at the Urban Land Institute’s Suburban Marketplace conference in Houston earlier this year.

In the first quarter of 2014, Houston-area builders closed on 6,553 new homes, bringing the calculated total for the year to 26,463, according to a MetroStudy report. This was a 2.8 percent increase from the prior quarter and a 15 percent gain from the year before, the study shows. 

In Houston, thousands of new homes are concentrated in subdivisions that offer various floor plans and amenities like playgrounds, hike-and-bike trails and pools, says Chaille Ralph, chairwoman of Houston Area Realtors (HAR), a trade group for Houston Realtors. Prices range from $180,000 to more than $400,000, she says.

Choose Your Neighborhood

Future homeowners should first select their neighborhood, weighing their options and priorities. For example, do you want to live closer to your workplace? Or, maybe you’d prefer to live in a more established subdivision that has been around for several years. The majority of home builders in Houston have several decades of experience and have a good track record of completing homes on time, Ralph says.

Production builders construct the majority of subdivisions in Houston, she says, building multiple houses for a single neighborhood. Unlike custom building companies, which allow customization throughout the building process, production builders offer limited changes. While production builders require that you stick to their floor plans, they typically will allow customization in some areas, like choosing wood floors over tile, she says.

Most floor plans will be similar to those of other builders and usually follow whatever the current trend is for new construction. The biggest variation is in the material and color used on the home’s exterior, Ralph says.

“You can’t start [from] scratch with [production builders],” she says.

Unlike custom-built homes, which can cost into the millions, production-built homes average $100 per square foot to build and typically range from 1,800 square feet to more than 4,000 square feet, Ralph says. But the wait time to buy is often shorter, ranging from 30 to 120 days depending on demand, she adds.

Do Your Research

Before you choose a builder, you should investigate its reputation and history. To find companies in your area, contact your local home builders’ association or search the National Association of Home Builders’ new homes listing website.

Choosing the right amenities is important because upgrading or changing your tile or counter tops is not easy once installation starts. Ralph suggests that you consider what kind of material you prefer for your home’s exterior or whether you want formal dining and living rooms, since many builders now have floor plans without those more traditional rooms. Buyers should make sure they’re aware of what kind of maintenance the material or finishes used for the floors, counter tops or fixtures require.

 

Once construction on your new home is complete, make sure you and your real estate agent walk through the house several times and take photos of any aspects you want changed, so even smaller details, like ensuring that the molding goes completely around the kitchen island, are not overlooked. If there are any changes that occur at a later date, make sure you get them in writing, she says.

“The extra set of eyes is beneficial,” Ralph says. “You should really go through the house with a fine-tooth comb.”

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