A Matter of Amenities : Home Buyer Leads a Model Existence

Greczmiel is a Sacramento-based free-lance writer

"All we have left is the model," the sales agent said.

I had just completed a tour of the only two-bedroom, two-bath design in a typical California housing development. At a base price of $82,000, I had found what I was looking for.

Now I was told the only thing left was the demo. "Uh, how much more is the model?"

The models usually are the first houses built in a development. They are easy to spot, with flag poles planted in the front yard, spotlights and metal fences that guide potential buyers into a nearby sales office.

Inside and out, they feature a number of options that aren't included in the price of a basic tract house. From landscaping to deluxe carpets to completely furnished rooms, the show home is designed to present the house at its best.

Options Offered

The sales agent informed me that the asking price for my model was $87,000. For $5,000 above the list price of the tract houses, I would receive the following options:

1--Upgraded carpet and pad, $1,420.

2--Ceramic kitchen counter tops, $250.

3--Mirrored bedroom doors, $150.

4--Den option in the second bedroom, $250.

5--Parquet entry way, $90.

6--Rear landscaping, patio, and timed sprinklers, $1,800.

7--Wiring for an alarm system, $490.

8--Wallpaper, drapes and built-in wine rack and book shelf, $1,500.

His Bid Accepted

All that adds up to about $6,000. I bid $2,000 less than the asking price, and my bid was accepted.

The house received the builder's full warranty, and before I moved in, the carpets were steam-cleaned, paint scrapes were touched up, and a number of other little things were put in order to my satisfaction.

I had what Citation Homes representative Allen Purdy calls a "turnkey home." All I had to do was move in.

Some builders even offer the furniture in the model to the buyer at substantial discount. However, in my case, the furniture was being put into a new development.

Long Waiting Lists

The "turnkey" aspect is very attractive, and it's the reason that many builders have long waiting lists for their model homes.

Many of the people on these lists have come straight from "get rich-quick" real estate seminars where some speakers incorrectly preach that show homes can be bought for less than the price of a basic model.

The reality of the situation is that you can expect to pay 7% to 10% more for a model home.

There are some disadvantages. Models usually are the first houses built in a development. That means the heat pump has been running longer, the paint is older and the roof has been up longer.

Also, models are often located in high-visibility areas for sales purposes, so your potential new home might be near, or on, a busy street.

Anxious to Close Out

When's the time to buy? Well, since these houses are used as demos, they are usually the last units in the development to go on the market. This waiting for the project to be sold out can work in your favor, as the builder is anxious to move out and close the sales office.

Another thing to keep in mind is that being financially able to close the deal quickly will prove very attractive to the builder, and can possibly move you up on the waiting list. Some builders, like U.S. Homes, offer special financing on their models.

The key is patience and the ability to move fast.

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