Why would I use a buyers agent to build a new home when I could work directly with the builder?

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(above) Heritage Strasburg, one of our beautiful 55+ communities in Lancaster, Pa

This is a very common question we get when working with our 55+ customers in Central Pennsylvania. Although purchasing a 55+ resale home in this area is often a better bargain, building your dream retirement home is something many of our retirees have been working towards for a long time. It’s easy to understand why a buyer might initially have doubts- after all, the builder’s representative knows a whole lot more about the community than any independent real estate agent does, right? How could a buyer’s agent be of any use?

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How can a buyers agent help me while I’m still just researching?

We would say this is the time that we are usually MOST helpful. Our knowledge of the area and builders is at your disposal when you work with us! We often act as our buyer’s main point of contact during this phase. We understand while you are researching communities it is easy to get lost in who to contact, who to ask what, etc. Since we do this every day, we can often take over or assist you heavily in getting these questions answered. That being said, once you are ready to take the reins and schedule or ask builder representatives the questions yourself, you are more than able to (as long as you’ve disclosed your relationship with us to said builder). We can also organize video chats if you are out of town, show you the areas, and once we learn enough about your likes and dislikes, we can also do research for you to make sure you are considering all of your options!

We’ve also created several documents to help you compare costs and amenities in each of the communities we deal with- never be afraid to ask us for all the nitty gritty details you really want to know!

We could go on and on about how much we can offer you while you are researching, and we sincerely believe the sooner we can start helping you with your research, the better!  When we meet new clients who have been going at it themselves for a while, we can literally see the weight lifted off their shoulders once we step in, so PLEASE let us help! You are never too early in the process to ask for an agent’s help!

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How can a buyer’s agent help me while my home is being built?

Agents like us, who have many years helping buyers work with builders, can utilize those years of experience to prepare you for what to expect, what is normal, and what is not. Depending on your needs, we can attend your various appointments, help you compare the different new home options, advise you on what upgrades or options would better prepare you for resale, offer advice when something goes wrong, intervene if something doesn’t sound right, or simply be there as someone who’s with you along the way, explaining anything that doesn’t make sense!

We are lucky that in our area, most of our builders are local, honest, and fair, but that doesn’t mean that mistakes aren’t made and an extra set of eyes and a knowledgeable professional at your disposal will ever hurt.

In our area, we also deal with many clients who are moving to our area from out of state.  Sometimes the builders in this area are not used to buyers not being easily available for last minute appointments or changes. Our out of town buyers also love that they have someone local who they can rely on to do small errands such as picking up keys, video chatting, attending installations & deliveries, etc. We also love sharing our preferred local professionals and vendors to our clients who are new to the area and need to find all new services!

What does the term ‘buyer agent’ and ‘builder’s representative’ mean, anyway?

In this article, the term ‘buyer agent’ means a licensed real estate professional that DOES NOT work for or represent the builder or builder’s broker. The buyer agent represents the buyer, looks out for the buyer’s best interest, keeping any confidential information private, and finds the best possible property for the buyer. Buyer agency is valid when the buyer signs a Buyer Agency Agreement with the agent, detailing length of contract, commission amount, and the scope of what that licensee (buyer’s agent) can provide, in addition to many other terms.

In this article, the term “builder’s representative” refers to the professional(s) who the builder has chosen to bring them buyers and usually, the professional(s) who walk the buyer through the building process. Often this is the person present at open houses, providing pricing or answering your questions, and often, the person who represent the builder while you are going through the process. The builder’s representative may be a licensed real estate salesperson, in which case they typically have a seller’s agency relationship with the seller. This means they are legally working for the seller/builder and looking out for the seller/builder’s best interest. The builder’s representative may also be an employee of the builder, in which case they are also obligated to look out for the seller’s best interest. Of course, you may also work with the builder or seller directly in some cases. However, the builder or builder’s representative will not be working for you – unlike your buyer’s agent.

By comparing the two, it should be clear where the risk is by not having a buyer’s agent represent you in the transaction- there’s no professional working on your behalf alone. If given the opportunity, why would you not have someone knowledgeable working for your best interest? If the seller has an agent, why shouldn’t you?

The good news for you is that both a buyer’s agent and seller’s agent (or any real estate licensee, for that matter) are now required to disclose any known material defects on the home the buyer is purchasing and deal honestly and in good faith. We are very lucky in our area that we have both great builders and great builder’s representatives working with us, and many of them do want to do what’s right. Many builder reps will tell you that they will still do their best to keep your best interests in mind without you having a buyers agent, and we have found in our area, they honestly do try that. However, (besides blatant lies or not disclosing material defects), they are always going to be obligated to make sure the seller is taken care of first, then you- that’s business, and that is what their contract states.

The terms “seller’s agent” and “buyer’s agent” and their responsibilities to customers & clients are also more heavily detailed in the Consumer Notice (link is at the bottom of this article).

But I never used a buyer’s agent when I built my home 30 years ago, why would I now?

Actually, buyer agency is a fairly new practice in real estate.   Thirty years ago, even if you had an agent who was helping you to find a home and walk you through the process, that agent (called a subagent) was legally representing the seller in that transaction (although this was often not disclosed to consumers).

In the last 30 years, many laws and practices have changed to protect consumers and make sure they understand more about some of their biggest financial decisions, especially including real estate. That is one of the reasons that every licensee is now required to disclose known material defects in a property and must deal honestly and in good faith despite if they are working directly for a consumer or not. It is so hard to imagine for us to believe that this was not always a law in real estate, but its true- real estate sales people could lie through their teeth and would not get punished for it in the past! We, as consumers, are extremely lucky now that buyer agency was created with the buyer in mind, to allow a consumer to have representation that looked out for their best interests.

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Its only adding to, not hurting your process.

It’s important to note that while utilizing a buyer’s agent to purchase your new home you are NOT changing your relationship with the builder or the builder’s representative/sales person. Whether you use a buyer’s agent or not, the builder’s representative is going to be working on the builder’s behalf, not yours! 

Also, just because a buyer’s agent is brought into the discussion does not mean you will be paying higher fees to build or communicating directly with the builder or builder’s representative any less (unless you want to be). Bringing a buyer’s agent simply means you are allowing a professional working on your behalf to be involved when you need them. Think of it more as adding to your “posse” as opposed to limiting it- we are here to back you up and offer support. Of course, we can also negotiate or communicate on your behalf if you authorize us to do so. However, unless something goes wrong or you are not able to communicate for some reason, we do not usually need to do this.

By bringing a buyer’s agent to your first appointment at a new home community, you are simply allowing yourself to have representation and someone looking out for YOUR best interests throughout the process, instead of the builder being the only party with representation. Best of all, the builders (at least in our area) have already agreed to pay our commission if a buyer is clear from the beginning that they plan to utilize our services.

But what if I’ve already visited or contacted the builder directly?

Even if you have already visited the community or spoken with a builder sales rep, you still may be able to bring in a buyer’s agent (in our area, this just depends on the builder and how flexible they are). Whenever you decide you’d like to utilize a buyer agent, try to involve that agent as soon as possible and be clear to the builder rep that having buyer representation is important to you. However, you should know, depending on where you are in the process and on the builder’s policies, it is possible that the builder will say they will no longer allow a buyer’s agent to be involved unless you pay the buyer agent commission out of your own pocket, which is always another option, but obviously much less desirable!

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(above) The Zimmerman Team in 2018 (from left) Shannon Yorty, Annie Zimmerman, Mindy Zimmerman, and Kate Santmyer

So, maybe the important question should be: why would a buyer NOT utilize a buyer’s agent when building a house?

When it comes down to it, we sincerely believe that buyers who decide to not utilize a buyer’s agent while building their dream home are typically only doing so because they don’t understand they can or because they lost their chance by not having an agent with them from the beginning. After all, why would you not utilize an experienced set of eyes and ears when its costs you the same amount with or without their expertise?

 

Feel free to take a look at our online reviews too, our past clients say it best!
https://www.55places.com/agent/mindy-zimmerman

If you are looking for more information about relationships that you can have with a PA real estate agent, here is a link to the Pa Consumer Notice document referenced above:

https://www.dos.pa.gov/ProfessionalLicensing/BoardsCommissions/RealEstateCommission/Documents/Board%20Documents/Written%20Consumer%20Notice.pdf

 

This article was written by Annie Zimmerman, a real estate agent on the Zimmerman Team  with Iron Valley Real Estate in Lancaster, Pa.

 

Lancaster, PA in the news- 2018

Hi all! Its been a while since we posted, so we thought we’d sum up the year with some of the great press that Lancaster, Pa has had over the last year. It is so easy living in this city to take our city and its amenities for granted. That being said, this truly is a great area and we are so thankful that the rest of the nation is finally recognizing it! Check out these great articles…

 

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Lancaster, Pa was voted the top place to retire in the Nation!

Yes, that’s right, we are #1 this year (which we already knew… but this time U.S. World News agrees)! “Lancaster… has a mix of suburbia, farmland and charming downtown with arts, theater and dining….It rose in the list because of increases in housing affordability and the overall happiness of its residents.” read more >>

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Thrillest names Lancaster one of the “15 Cities in America that Secretly Have Great Food Scenes”

“If anything, Brooklyn would envy this much farm for its farm-to-table restaurants, and at such low prices for high-end dining.”
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Forbes votes us one of the “Top 10 Coolest U.S.Cities to Visit”

Not surprisingly, many of the obvious destination cities like Savannah, Ga and Richmond, Va make the list, but among them lies our quaint and lesser-known town. Forbes says, “This newly hip Victorian city…is still one of the U.S.’s best kept secrets… The center of Amish country is bucolic but boasts a bustling food scene and is quickly becoming a cultural hotbed.” read more >>

 

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Lancaster is voted one of the “Best U.S. Cities to Live”

 U.S. News says: “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, offers a balance between natural and commercial spaces that residents appreciate. Expansive farms rub elbows with manicured suburbs, which lead right into the bustling city. A short drive can take one through each of these environments… From close-knit church communities to the indie coffee shop scene, Lancaster holds something for everyone.” read more >>

 

LUCALUCA gets a rave review from the NY Times

NY Times writes a great article on Lancaster’s LUCA restaurant: “I felt a primal reaction to anything on the menu that touched flame, including cocktails…”
read more >>

Stonecroft Village, a 55+ community in Womelsdorf, Pa

stonecroft-17Hey everyone! This article is the start of our new series of entries about some of the many 55+ communities in Lancaster County and its surrounding areas. Our first one is about Stonecroft Village. This is one of the more popular communities that we deal with for many reasons (which we will delve into later)!

Overview

Stonecroft Village, located in Berks County, Pennsylvania, was started by Landmark Homes in 1998. It is located right next to the charming town of Womelsdorf, Pa. When finished, this community will have 214 home sites, which will be all single family homes. Lot sizes range from approximately .20-.28 acres. Homes in this community range in price from the $170,000’s – $400,000’s and are anywhere from 1380 – 2178 sq. ft. All homes include a 2-car garage, at least 2 bedrooms, and 2 full baths. There are many 1 story or 2 story options. Homes can be built on slabs or they can include basements, and (depending on the lot you choose) you can also make the basement a walk-out. Basements can be finished or unfinished, and full or partial- whatever suits your needs! If you decide to build a home on a slab, many floor plans offer an option to add stairs to unfinished storage above. The HOA fee is $75/mo. which includes use of the clubhouse, common area maintenance, and trash. Generally, the reasons people love this community are the setting, the low HOA fees and home prices, and the great reputation of the builder.

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Because many people move to the greater Lancaster area to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life, this community really stands out to them after visiting. Firstly, its located just outside of the small town of Womelsdorf (pronounced Woom-ools-dorf- yes, quite a tongue twister to most people from out of the area)! This town takes you on a tour of PA Dutch Country at its finest.  Hershey, Reading, Lancaster, and Philadelphia are a few major cities nearby that are a delight to visit.  Just a minute after you pass through Womelsdorf, you come to the small mature residential area which Stonecroft Village sits across from. Stonecroft Village was built on land that slopes slightly upwards, so it is not your typical community built in a flat field. Trees and then mountains occupy most of your backdrop when looking at the community. Inside, residents can enjoy the beautiful 23 acres of land that the community owns and will stay undeveloped while sitting out in the gazebo which overlooks the pier and the fishing pond that is part of the community common grounds. Geese and ducks populate the pond most of the year or strolling long one of the walking trails.  Deer are often seen grazing around the perimeter or in the nearby fields and turkeys milling around can be heard.  It boasts a country feel while conveniently located near necessary resources.

Berks County has so much to offer in outdoor recreation. There are several lakes and state parks including Blue Marsh Lake National Recreation Area and Tulpehocken Creek Valley Park.  There are walking trails galore where you can fish, hike, hunt, ski or visit historical sites like the Daniel Boone Homestead or the Reading Railroad. Hershey Park and Dutch Wonderland, two great amusement parks are also within 45 minutes of this community, which are great if you want to take your grandchildren for the day! In Reading, about 15 miles away, you will find plenty of outlet shopping as well as Target, K-Mart, Big lots, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Superstore as well as the Reading Mall. Major grocery stores are about 10 minutes away, and pharmacy and doctors’ offices are about 5-10 minutes away. Many residents have told us they love shopping at the local farm stands (usually Amish or Mennonite owned) to get all of their fresh baked goods and produce at a great price. You can find out more about the county by visiting their website.  To see an interactive map of Stonecroft (as well as all of the 55+ communities we will be reviewing), including where hospitals, grocery stores, tourist attractions, and more are in relation to it, click here.

Activities

Besides relaxing in the gazebo by the pond, watching the ducks and geese, residents can enjoy walking the walking paths (some of them are completed, more will be in the next few years). The clubhouse is located in front of the pond which has an exercise room complete with basic weight lifting machines, treadmills, and a television. There is also a library area complete with a fireplace and sitting area to visit or relax. A large craft room is to the right where residents meet to make quilts or participate in other activities such as card games and parties. As this is a new community, new activities are popping up every day, so if you have an activity that you’d like to participate in, odds are others will want to try it too! New activities are always welcome at this clubhouse, as they always are in newer 55+ communities like Stonecroft.

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While this community does enjoy their fair share of organized activities, after talking to many residents, we hear that a lot of their interaction is also just impromptu conversations while walking around the neighborhood. Many of the residents walk the community early in the morning or walk their dogs throughout the day, and this is how many of them get to know each other.

Ask the Neighbors…

We asked one of our past clients who is now a resident of Stonecroft Village about her favorite parts about living at Stonecroft Village.  “The people who live here are very warm and friendly,” Beth said, “One thing that is important when you are 55 and older is you have think about your resources and we have a network of people here who are very willing to help each other out and work with each other.  You don’t feel isolated in any way which is nice about living in a community. You can reach out to your neighbor and they are there for you.  We are located in the a perfect area nestled between Lebanon, Wyomissing, and Reading yet it feels almost country with beautiful surroundings and yet you have access to everything you could want.”

Homes

One of the best things about Stonecroft is the wide range of options you have when choosing to purchase home in this community.  You can choose between already owned (re-sale) homes as well as new construction to build your own “dream home”.  Landmark Homes is a reputable builder in central Pennsylvania that has created beautiful homes for over 35 communities since 1998.  Some of their homes have been featured in Lancaster Newspaper’s “Lancaster’s Distinctive Properties” Here is a link to one of Landmark’s articles.    They offer both 1 and 2 story models are energy efficient and offer many different floor plans. Homes range in price from $170,000’s – $400,000’s and are anywhere from 1380 – 2178 sq. ft. If you would like to see a list of the floorplans available, you can visit this page. Most of our clients favor the Heron model which offers 1803 Sq. Ft. of one story living with 3 bedrooms and 2 Baths.

While Landmark has many floor-plans to choose from, they only have a few available to view without an appointment in the community. Those are (mention spec homes available to see, what they are priced at, and what floor-plan they are). One of the many benefits of having Landmark Homes as your builder, is since they have so many communities, they have examples of almost every floor-plan built in at least one of their communities, so you are able to see any floor-plan you’re interested in. It just might not be available to see in Stonecroft! You will see by looking at the floor-plans that Landmark offers, that they are very well thought out. Landmark is constantly considering what buyers want, and is coming out with new floor-plans that reflect that!

All of the homes are natural gas heat, with the choice of gas cooking and gas hot water (electric is included in the standard price). These homes have public water and sewer as well.

Standard features in these homes include:

  • Ceramic Tile floors in entry, kitchen, laundry, and baths
  • Upgraded carpet with 8# pad
  • White panel interior doors
  • Open rail white spindle staircase on two-story plans
  • Custom cabinets—hickory,maple, or alder
  • Stainless steel double kitchen sink
  • Quality Kenmore stainless steel smooth top range, dishwasher, and microhood
  • Forced air gas furnace and hot water tank
  • Thirty-year composition roof
  • Insulated garage door and pre-wiring for door openers
  • Fifty-year Hardie Board lap siding
  • Front yard landscaping with timed underground sprinklers
  • One year builder warranty

One thing that we love about working with Landmark as a builder, is that they are extremely flexible with changes to the floorplan- without making you pay an arm and a leg for simply making the change. That being said, if your change will cost a lot more in materials, then yes, you pay for those materials. BUT if your change (like taking out a window or a wall) saves them in materials and labor, then you are REFUNDED that amount to use towards other upgrades! This kind of seems like a no-brainer to most, but most builders (in our experience) do not do this!

Additional Costs

At $75/mo, the HOA fee at Stonecroft is one of the lowest monthly fees of the 55+ communities in this area. The fee includes common area maintenance, trash removal, and use of the clubhouse. For some buyers, this community is immediately ruled out because the monthly fees do not include snow removal in the driveways and sidewalks (the streets are plowed by the town) or lawn care. But, as we’ve said, this is one of our most popular communities above the clients that we show around the 55+ communities. We think its smart to consider- in most cases, it’s just as easy (and cost-effective) to hire an outside landscaping company to do the snow removal and yard work. If you can do the yard work yourself for a few years or months, you can save yourself a lot of money having the freedom to choose when you pay for someone to do the outside maintenance.

Another cost for Stonecroft (besides home prices), are the taxes. Unfortunately, this area has some of the highest taxes of the local 55+ communities. However, because the community keeps sales prices lower than many other communities, they can end up being about the same as some of the higher priced communities in the lower taxed areas.

Pet-Friendly

One great thing that many buyers like about this community is that they allow backyard fencing, which especially excites dog owners. Most community HOA’s do not allow this as it sometimes is perceived as not pleasing to the look of a community. Of course, to build a fence, one must get approval from the HOA first to make sure it follows their basic guidelines for appearance. Landmark Homes communities are the only 55+ communities that we deal with which allow fencing (Home Towne Square & The Crossings at Sweet Briar are the other two).

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What Can A Real Estate Team Do For You?

You may hear some real estate professionals say that they belong to a real estate team. What is a real estate team? How is a real estate team different than an agent who works alone? Is there a difference in … Continue reading