*If I'm making upgrades to a new home, is it reasonable to pay for the upgrades in advance?
Yes, it is totally reasonable for a developer to ask for payment in advance of the requested modifications, as the builder is changing the home to your specific needs and would likely need to remove many improvements if you were to fail to complete the purchase.
On a scheduling note, it is important to understand that making changes to a design package will slow down the project and proposed date of completion.
*Can you buy from a developer and make your own upgrades?
It has become very popular for a buyer to jump into the purchase of a new home shortly into the home's framing. Even though the floor plan is set, it may not be too late to combine two rooms or create an office alcove or partition off an area. A buyer could certainly change finishes and have input for countertops, floors, fixtures, hardware and smart home technology, which is generally all a buyer needs to feel that the home suits his or her personal needs.
*Does it make sense for a private party to buy a fixer-upper and build a home for themselves?
Building a home has always been a dream for many people. First you need to acquire a fixer-upper/teardown. Then you need an architect, a civil engineer, a structural engineer, a builder, a landscape architect and a landscape installer. A home generally requires over 20 different trades all coordinated by a builder. Construction financing is difficult to obtain and complicated to understand. There are also many time considerations and risks.
*Does every new home provide the same warranty?
Not every new home is covered by a 10-year builder's warranty. For example, if the developer applied for a remodel permit and saved a wall of the previous structure, the developer not only skirted many fees that are "new build"-specific but also skirted the obligation to provide a 10-year warranty. The developer will typically provide a far less comprehensive warranty for a period of time at the discretion of mutual agreement between the developer and the buyer. Be sure to read and understand the warranty so you know what is covered and what is not. Perhaps have the warranty reviewed by an attorney if you feel the language is unclear or ambiguous.
*What is hot, and what is not?
What is really hot these days is a home that is walking distance to a coffee shop or cafe. Also popular are homes with spectacular views of the ocean or the city, the canyon or the treetops. People are drawn to homes that have loads of privacy and a beautiful yard, although the "perfect" backyard is becoming very difficult to find with so many properties encroaching on sunlight and privacy. One final big must-have is privacy.
*What should I do if my neighbors' tree roots are lifting my driveway?
Immediately contact your neighbors and let them know of the damage to your property. Ask them to take responsibility. If they aren't willing to take responsibility, you may need to seek legal advice. You can decide to kill the tree roots; however, if you injure the tree and cause it to die, you are likely to be sued by your neighbor. Also, you may not be able to prove the damage was done by that tree's roots. Consult with your real estate attorney for further information.
Ron Wynn writes "The Real Estate Expert." To find out more about Ron Wynn and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.