Top Ten Tips for Buying New Construction in Portland

new construction buying tips

Let’s face it: There aren’t a whole lot of homes available in the central, older parts of Portland in this low-inventory real estate market.

Luckily, there’s been new construction happening all over Portland in the past couple of years. In fact, the City of Portland has been issuing new construction permits at a rate of about 600 a year for the past four years (new construction has been very slow for a long time in Portland, read our article on that here, but things look like they could be changing), but these are a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds under construction and planned in Portland suburbs!

Unfortunately, many Portland home buyers don’t want to tour new homes because they may be too far away from central Portland, or they just aren’t sure if it’s worth the investment. Another hurdle to cross is that new construction homes can just feel uncomfortable – nobody’s lived there, and it can be difficult to imagine a neighborhood springing up around what may currently be a series of half-built homes and empty lots.

My top 1% buyers team is here to make the whole process more comfortable. There are many pros to buying new construction, including a smarter and more energy efficient homes (we have multiple Green designations to help talk about those features with you), safer and seismically sound construction, and less chance that you’ll have to sink major money into repairs during the first couple of decades that you’re also trying to pay down your mortgage.

Here are my real estate agent tips for smarter new home construction purchases!

1. Get the lay of the land. If the home is in the City of Portland, use to research the lot where the home is being built. You can learn a lot about the site before you even step foot on it — whether it’s in a flood zone, what the grade is (which affects the stability of the soil) and what might have taken place there before it became a home site.

2. Research the builder. Do they have experience with residential construction? What do their previous new home developments look like today? Builders are completely different from one another. One builder may only build to code while another goes the extra mile to make the home green, or to make it with better quality materials in general. We know many of the builders in town.

3. Bring your real estate agent every time you go to a new home development, even if it’s just to look around. Looking around leads to stopping in a model home, and suddenly you’re in the grips of the builder’s representative! Your own buyers agent representation in any real estate transaction is important, and it’s strategic to get us in early, especially when it comes to buying a new home. The builder’s representative is working for the builder. In addition, having your buyer’s agent there at the start of your home search process allows us to start learning what you are looking for in a home and help you discover even more options.

4. Decide if you need a custom build. Many home buyers look to new construction because they can buy “semi-custom”, meaning you get to decide on finishing touches like paint colors and cabinetry. This is where a lot of builders make extra money, so check prices carefully. Even then, some folks who go semi-custom end up redoing or adding on to the home at a later date. This can add up to tens of thousands more than what you would have paid originally! As your real estate agent, I can help you find the perfect lot to build your custom home, and put you in touch with trusted architects and builders who can create a truly customized masterpiece — perhaps even for less than some of the spec homes out there.

5. Look at the community, not just the home. Most new construction in and around Portland is happening in planned blocks of hundreds of even thousands of homes. Each developer has their own specific vision for the group of homes they are assembling. How streets are laid out, how much open space is left open, and the number of homes per acre can have a huge effect on your quality of life during the time you live in the home. Those developers may be marketing their communities a certain way, but certain hard facts will be more helpful: How many homes are planned for the development? Will multi-family units be added? Will public transit connect the community to the rest of the city? Is there an HOA? Is there a park and a school nearby?

6. Speaking of HOAs, do your research. Find out what the rules are, and what dues and fees are involved. Is there a general maintenance fund? If so, how much is in it? Even in new developments, something can go wrong, and homeowners could end up footing the bill. Typically HOA monthly fees start out really low, and then jump up after a few years.

7. Don’t rule out the ‘burbs. While there is some new construction happening in spots around Portland, most of the homes are going to be out in places like Happy Valley, Tualatin, and Lake Oswego. Great communities, and an hour or less to Portland. And yes, this Portland buyer’s team can travel!

8. Find out about services to the development. Some are in recently converted agricultural land on the outskirts of Portland. Your new home may include a cable hookup, but unless the cable company has already built infrastructure out there, you may not have TV or internet for a while!

9. Research the zoning rules for the area, as well as surrounding areas. Some Portland-area new home developments are right up against agricultural land. Some consider this idyllic, others may be concerned about agricultural runoff, spray, noise and smells. If you do enjoy living next to undeveloped land, consider how long it will stay that way. Your developer may have gotten the zoning rules changed — will the owner of the property adjacent do the same?

10. Ask your real estate agent. There’s a lot of research to do when it comes to new homes. It’s not all up to you! A good buyers agent will help you consider what you may not have on your own, and present you with all the information you need to make a well informed decision.

Interested in a new home in the Portland area? Want to talk about housing availability? Contact your Portland Buyer’s Team – we’re the local real estate experts.

March 17, 2017

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.