Buying in a new subdivision is an attractive prospect for some purchasers as many developments pop up around the country. Here’s what you need to know
Many New Zealanders live in cities that are facing a squeeze on housing stock and as a result there are a lot more subdivisions being planned as developers and builders scramble to supply more homes. Auckland, in particular, has seen some major new suburban enclaves being created.
Many of these have been designed as communities, with a variety of housing options, and prospective buyers can look at a range of show homes and to some extent tailor floor plans and finishes, and upgrade some features. This is a very attractive prospect for some purchasers and gives you the chance to be part of a new neighbourhood from the ground up. Here are a few things that should be considered when buying a new build in a subdivision.
1. Location, location, location
The old real estate adage that your first three priorities should be location are just as important for subdivisions. Things such as work commute times are just as vital and in many ways you need to be extra vigilant as the area is in the process of being created.
Proximity to existing amenities such as shops and schools, motorways and arterial routes, sports facilities should all be checked out. Confirm what is being built as part of the new subdivision and provision for things like community spaces, playgrounds, walkways, etc. Some subdivisions are on a scale that shops, restaurants and other amenities are part of the package.
2. Check things out
Do your homework and thoroughly check out the developer’s credentials and history of previous subdivisions. Did they deliver? Were there any issues with the local council or cases taken by aggrieved buyers? If possible visit one of their previous developments. Have a good look at the quality and finish of homes that have already been completed in the subdivision you are considering. Confirm what is being planned for the whole subdivision, not just the part where you are buying. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Confirm who the tradespeople are who will be working on the build — are they from reputable firms?
You also need to be cognisant of all the things that apply when buying an existing home — what is the zoning and how might this affect the neighbourhood in the future? Look at the engineering reports on the land to ensure it’s stable, and if there any issues like flood risks. You can avoid a lot of hassles and heartbreak in the future by researching everything thoroughly before you commit.
3. Get a lawyer
You will need to appoint an independent lawyer to check all contractual material relating to the build, land title, easements, covenants, etc. Make sure you understand what the warranties cover and what is not covered and for how long. Often warranties are staggered, eg, the exterior will have a longer time period than something like plumbing or electrics.
Ask your lawyer to explain to you what is involved under the particular warranty system if you have to make a claim. Find out what provisions there are if completion of the build is delayed.
Ensure you know what covenants are in place regarding use of your land, for example, some subdivisions will have prescriptions on whether you can have a back yard shed, where your washing line is sited, whether you can have campervans or a number of vehicles parked permanently in your driveway. This will effect how you live in your home so it’s important that you look at the fine print and be aware of all these things.
4. Prioritise spend
Location and square metres of the site and house are the most important considerations when looking at a house build. These are the things that you can’t change and that will affect everything else about the home. Prioritise your spending — the quality of exterior building materials, insulation, size of rooms, number of bedrooms, house footprint, etc, should be at the top of your budget. These are the fundamental things you can’t alter and will affect the quality of the home. You can always upgrade carpet, light fittings, benchtops, etc, over time as finances allow. Don’t compromise on the big picture in favour of details you can easily modify later.
5. Measure it up
Be sure you understand the floor plan. Ideally, the developer will have a show home that is very similar to your build. Meticulously check off your floor plan against that of the show home and understand the impact of any differences. Has the show home had many upgrades or is it the standard package?
You will probably be able to take a virtual tour but these still don’t really give you a real sense of the actual dimensions. Measure everything out in an existing living space so you get a vivid picture of the size of rooms and how the layout works. Don’t forget to check measurements of things like ceiling heights throughout the house, hallways, doorways, space between the toilet and basin/shower, kitchen worktops, size of decks/verandahs, size of doorways leading to outside living spaces, etc. Also check on things like water pressure, council services, broadband etc.
Your home will be brand new when you move in but be aware of what basic maintenance the building will need. Also, confirm what landscaping is included in the package and the amount of time it will take to keep this up to scratch. As the saying goes: Low maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance.
Most subdivision homes will have fixed prices and there is no wriggle room to negotiate price — they have a basic spec that they have to comply with. However, sometimes developers may throw in some upgrades from the standard package for the same price to tempt buyers.
Your dream home is complete and you are ready to take ownership. It’s an emotional moment. Don’t get too carried away though – arrange for a pre-purchase inspection by a professional before you take full ownership.
Words by: Sarah Beresford. Photography by: bauersyndication.com.au