Jenny Sharpe | CalRE#02063086 | REALTOR® | Call or Text: (949) 910-2994

Tips For Buying A New Build Home In Orange County

  1. Ignore the advertised price.

The base price shown often doesn’t even include basic necessities such as appliances, or even the lot that the home is built on! You should expect to add a minimum of 10% onto the advertised price just to receive a habitable home, and closer to 20% for one with the level of finish you would expect a home in that price range to have*. If you’d like your new home to look like the model home, then go ahead and add 30-40% onto the price. While most new home builders in Orange County won’t negotiate on purchase price, a good buyer’s Agent knows that there are other things they can negotiate in their buyer’s favor that a builder will cooperate on in order to achieve a sale, while maintaining their published sold prices. There are many ways to put the deal together.

*In some Orange County new build communities there are builders who offer homes on an “everything included” basis; when you work with us, we can show you which neighborhoods and builders offer this.

2. Don’t fall for the wrong home because it has the right finishes!

Ask the builder to let you see a home with the same floorplan that is currently being built; they will usually have several of them at various stages of completion. This will involve walking onto a building site, and sometimes you will see a home that is just studs, but it will enable you to see the home for what it is, without all of the fancy finishes builders use to add perceived value (finishes you won’t be getting in the home you buy).

  1. Size Matters

When viewing a model home, pay close attention to the size of the furniture and finishes. Often, a builder will stage a model home with furniture that is smaller in scale than most furniture to give the appearance of spaciousness. Take a tape measure, and measurements of your furniture, with you and double check whether the property is spacious enough for you or just has the illusion of space. Take a look at the image below of a half sized bed used to make a tiny bedroom appear larger.

Home Staging Tricks

4.  Location, Location, Location

The model home will be situated on the best, and the largest, lot. The lot that you purchase will usually be smaller and not as nicely situated. Sometimes, depending on how many homes have previously sold, there may be comparable lots available which are larger in size and feature a view or a premium location. Expect to pay significantly more for such a lot.

  1. Structural Differences

Don’t assume that only the cosmetic finishes and appliances are upgrades; often an attractive structural feature, such as a foldaway glass wall or very high ceilings, are an upgrade that costs a significant amount of money to recreate in your new home. Without these structural features, the home that you purchase may look entirely different to your expectations, and far more ordinary than the stunning model home.

  1. Landscaped gardens are an expensive upgrade

Every model home will have a perfectly landscaped designer garden with inviting seating areas, fire pits, and water features; the home you purchase will usually be delivered with a dirt yard, unless of course you want to pay a premium to have it finished by the builder. Most Orange County new home builders don’t even offer finished landscaping as an option, so you’ll be receiving a new home with a dirt lot. You will need to budget for landscaping on top of your home purchase cost. The vast majority of people who purchase new homes in Orange County end up living with a dirt lot for months, even years after moving into their new home.

  1. Don’t finish the extra space

Most new build homes in California don’t have basements or attics, however, if you have the option to have extra finished space such as this, ask the builder to ‘rough in’ the plumbing and electrics in the areas you’ll need them, and then hire a contractor to finish the space after you close on the home. This can save you tens of thousands of dollars. If you’re working with a buyer’s Agent, they can help you to identify areas such as this in which you can make great savings.

  1. Don’t Overbuild

If you choose to add every possible upgrade to your new home in order to match the model home, you may be in for a shock if you need to sell it anytime soon. Most people who buy new build homes don’t put a lot of upgrades into them and so the comparable sales prices (‘comps’) of the same floorplan may be significantly lower than yours, making it harder to recoup your entire investment. If you’re buying a new build home, we only recommend splurging on the finishes and upgrades if you plan to own the property for at least five years.

  1. You can get a deal on the model home… If you’re willing to wait.

When a new home builder sells out of their inventory of a floorplan, they no longer have a need for that floorplan specific model home. Because it has every upgrade available, its price is usually significantly higher than all of the versions of that floorplan that have sold, which are now this model home’s comps. These lower comps make it harder for the builder to sell the model at their asking price, and even though builders don’t usually negotiate on their prices, they usually will when selling off a former model home. Just remember, if you’re buying a former model home, nothing in it is really new and you should expect some wear and tear from thousands of people walking through the home and testing features during its use.

10. Work With A Buyer’s Agent

One of the most important things to do when purchasing a new build home is to work with a buyer’s Agent who represents your best interests. Often, builders and their sales team will tell potential buyers that they don’t need an Agent representing them and that the deal can all be handled by their team. Occasionally they will suggest a financial incentive to the buyer for not using an Agent. This should be a red flag to you as a buyer. Why wouldn’t they want you to have someone who doesn’t work for them looking out for your best interests?

A buyer’s Agent usually represents you at no cost to you, and often the ‘deal’ offered to you by the builder won’t be as good of a deal as the one a good Agent would have obtained for you. A good buyer’s Agent can help you navigate the purchase and will be familiar with the builder, and, importantly, any known issues that other buyers have faced with that builder. For example, do you know which floorplans of which builder have turns too tight to get a King-sized bed up the stairs and into the master bedroom? Do you know which neighborhoods have unnecessarily strict HOA’s and which are so inefficient that the sidewalks in their neighborhood of million dollar plus homes are littered with dog feces? Do you know which builders homes have so many latent defects that residents have formed together to take legal action? A builder is unlikely to volunteer this information and an unrepresented buyer won’t find it out until too late. If the builder doesn’t want you to be represented by an Agent, question why.


If you’re thinking of buying a new build home in Orange County or in any of the Villages Of Irvine, reach out to us via text, call or email for a no obligation chat about how we can help you.