New Construction Vs Bank Owned Homes – A Brewing Battle?


It is an inevitable starting point for many buyers right now. Before I can finish saying hello, I am bombarded with requests to see bank-owned and short sale housing. Frankly, were we to change places, I would most likely do the very same. I am aware enough of the opportunities this market has created in the foreclosure arena to dedicate a more or less weekly post to bank-owned property spotlights, after all.

However, there are values everywhere right now. Resale homes have been dragged inexorably closer to the shallow end of the pool by the bank properties, and builders have been forced to sell off their inventory homes at even deeper discounts than usual. There is no part of the market that isn’t coughing up a bit of water.

Ah, brand new construction at foreclosure pricing … can it be?

New construction homes in Phoenix Foreclosure Pricing

In some cases, yes, it can.

Builder spec homes just might provide the alternative to bank-owned property that Phoenix area value hunters seek. A spec home is either one which the builder constructed without a waiting buyer in the wings or one in which the original buyer bailed out on the transaction after construction commenced. These homes make great options for buyers who prefer brand new construction, but don’t want the lengthy wait involved in having their new home built from scratch. A buyer can typically move into a completed spec home within 30 days. Of course, if construction is complete, the new buyer will not be able to make any cosmetic choices in regards to flooring, cabinetry, etc. The big discounts, however, are often very persuasive arguments for that sacrifice.

Eager to dump existing inventory in the best of times, builders are even more anxious to get their specs off the books in this market. As evidenced by the near standstill in new permits being pulled by builders for new projects, it is cut and run time for many. I am seeing completed spec homes with significant levels of upgrading being advertised for sale well below base price. In other words, if you signed a contract to build from scratch, you would pay more for a home with absolutely no upgrades than you would for the completed home with cherry cabinets, slab granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, premium culdesac lot, etc.

Another advantage that a builder can offer a prospective buyer right now is tough to beat in-house financing. Not usually a fan of running my loan through the same guy who is selling me something, any conflict of interest concern tends to melt away when they disclose the cheap rate blocks they have purchased for their customers. In addition to the low sales prices, I have isolated several builders who are paying up to the maximum allowable buyer closing costs. A recent client is getting a fixed rate in the 4’s with an additional buydown for the first two years. At no out of pocket cost. All he has to show up to closing with is a downpayment. Not too shabby. *

You have to be careful, however. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are many struggling builders throughout Maricopa County. While a little financial pinch works in the buyer’s favor, too much can lead to unfinished subdivisions, mechanic’s liens and other fun stuff. You want to do your research (or better yet, work with a knowledgeable Realtor 😉 to ensure you are not walking into a doomed project. I recommend national builders with ample working capital and developments that are nearing close-out.

Ghost towns make poor investments

You don’t want to get stuck in a ghost town.

Bear in mind that you may have to venture a bit further from your desired location if brand new construction is your bent. Scottsdale is largely landlocked, with only the valuable land in the North remaining open to development. There is infill construction in central Phoenix, but the majority of new home projects are located in South Phoenix (Baseline corridor), North Phoenix (I-17 corridor) and pushing ever Westward towards LA. For those in the Southeast Valley (Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Queen Creek), there are still plenty of options.

I spent the last week looking at a fair amount of them, as a matter of fact.

I had one of those purported foreclosure buyers who ended up buying a brand new spec home from a quality home builder instead of any of the bank-owned homes in the same price range that needed work, had no available warranty and disclosure information and no special financing incentives.

The moral of the story is not to rule anything out. Look less at the property label (bank-owned, resale, new) and more at the property itself. You just might be surprised at the unexpected bargains that are available to be had across the full color spectrum of the 2009 Real Estate market.

Give me a call if you want to find just the right shade of perfect.

The color of money

* I always advise speaking with a reputable outside lender to compare programs/costs


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