Buying an existing home can be a complicated and expensive affair. Buyers can try to reduce their transaction costs by using a discount real estate broker, or simplify the process by using an agent-matching service like UpNest, but there are no guarantees. Even going with a huge company like Redfin, or taking advantage of seemingly straightforward incentives like home buyer rebates can have mixed results. Redfin’s effectiveness compared to a traditional realtor is up for debate, and home buyer rebates aren’t even legal in some states.
So it’s not surprising that many people decide to build a new home instead of dealing with an overheated market. A customized home that’s never been lived in sounds like an appealing prospect. What’s not to love?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. A new study from Real Estate Witch surveyed buyers of newly constructed homes and uncovered their biggest regrets, their sources of satisfaction, and what they wish they’d known before they broke ground.
1. Most Buyers of New Construction Homes Have Regrets
Two-thirds of new construction buyers (66%) experience some form of regret regarding the process of building their home — a fact that’s especially surprising when you consider many of the homes were built according to buyer specifications.
2. A Top Regret of People Who Bought New Construction May Surprise You
One of the top regrets of people who bought a newly constructed home is that, well, they bought a newly constructed home — 26% of them said they wish they had purchased an existing home instead.
Buyer’s remorse is common among people who buy every type of home, but the fact that over a quarter of all new construction buyers wish they had bought an existing home means one should think extra carefully before buying new construction.
3. Attention to Detail Can Prevent Future Regrets
About 21% of new construction buyers report “minor regrets about their home,” and 19% “wish they had made different decisions while building their home.”
Avoid future regrets and nagging “what ifs” by putting ample thought into the building process early on. If you’re unsure about certain decisions, ask for an outside opinion!
4. A Majority of People Building a New Home Had a Negative Experience
A surprising 59% of buyers of new construction homes report negative emotions during the building process. The top negative emotion reported was stress (32%), followed by anxiety (30%) and frustration (26%).
Building a home can be incredibly satisfying in the end, but it’s a tough process for most.
5. Building a Home Can Test a Relationship
Over a third of new construction buyers (36%) said they regretted that the home-building process had created conflict with their partner or family.
Building a home is expensive and requires dozens of complicated decisions — a situation that’s ripe for interpersonal conflict.
6. Most Buyer Regrets Are Related to the Home Builder
Buyers of new construction direct most of their ire toward the builder of their new home, with 36% complaining that it required premature maintenance, 35% complaining of construction delays, 35% citing builders cutting corners, 35% specifying rising costs of material and labor, 31% citing poor quality construction, and 30% pointing to poor communication.
These results highlight the importance of selecting the right builder for your home. However, you may not have much freedom of choice if you live in an area that only allows approved builders. (We’ll touch on this more in a later item.)
7. The Pandemic Has Increased Construction Delays — But Not by Much
Before the pandemic, 35% of buyers said that construction took too long, a figure that’s risen to 40% now. That’s a fairly modest rise, considering all the pandemic-era supply chain and labor issues — and that data suggests that the real problem may lie in some buyer expectations.
8. Less Than Half of New Construction Buyers Think They Made a Good Investment
Only 48% of new construction buyers think their home is a good investment. That’s a strikingly low percentage, considering the home’s pristine condition, custom specs, the booming market, and the fact that, as of December 2021, the median new single family home costs only 3.7% more ($377,700) than a pre-owned one ($364,300).
Nearly a third, or 30%, of new home buyers believe a pre-owned property is a better investment, and 22% think new construction just isn’t a good investment at all.
9. Real Estate Agents May Be Partially to Blame for Buyer Discontent
Nearly half of respondents (49%) worked with a real estate agent when they bought their newly constructed home. The fact that so many later had regrets suggests that agents should do a better job helping their clients understand the full implications of buying new construction.
10. But Don’t Take Buyer Dissatisfaction Too Seriously
Despite a long list of regrets and complaints, nearly two thirds of new construction buyers (64%) said they’d buy a newly constructed home again.
While the building process is stressful, and minor regrets are common, a large majority of new construction buyers end up pretty happy with the final result.
11. Buyers Love Customization and Newness
When asked why they wanted to purchase a new construction home, buyers cited a simple preference for new over pre-owned (37%) and the opportunity to have control over their home’s design and features (37%) as the top two attractions.
Other notable reasons cited were enjoying the home-building process (33%), more affordability than existing homes in the area (32%), a smart home with the latest tech (31%), an eco-friendly green home (31%), builder financing and incentives (30%), and avoiding a bidding war (28%).
12. Many Buyers Wouldn’t Recommend Their Builder
Nearly a third of new home buyers (32%) said they wouldn’t recommend their home builder to friends or family, suggesting that frustration stemming from the construction process doesn’t go away once they’ve moved in.
Some buyers really hold a grudge. About 11% said they wouldn’t recommend their builder even if the builder offered a financial incentive for a reference, and 9% said they wouldn’t recommend their builder under any circumstance.
13. Sometimes Builder Incentives Can Work
Many home builders offer financial incentives to buyers who refer people to them, and nearly a third of new home buyers (31%) said they’d refer friends and family in return for incentives.
However, only 24% said they’d refer people to their builder without any incentives.
14. If You’re Building a New Home, Expect Delays
According to the study, construction delays were extremely common before and during the pandemic. Overall, 85% of buyers experienced delays during the homebuilding process.
Half of new home buyers said they experienced three months of delays, and more than a third of buyers (35%) said they experienced delays longer than six months.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, only 41% of new construction buyers said that pandemic-related issues caused their delays.
15. Delays Come From Many Different Sources
Looking at the full list of causes of delays, it’s clear that most were unavoidable, and that building a new home has so many moving parts that it’s almost inevitable that something will go wrong.
The top reason cited was a shortage of building materials (35%), followed by struggles making decisions about the home’s layout or finishes (35%), issues communicating with the builder (34%), weather (33%), problems with building permits (32%), issues with buyer’s financing (30%) or builder’s financing (30%), and issues with builder’s project management (28%).
16. Nearly All Buyers Are Underestimating the Expense of New Construction
Among buyers who built before or during the pandemic, an overwhelming 92% said construction was more expensive than they’d anticipated.
Aspects that turned out to cost more than budgeted included building materials (37%), finishes (35%), furnishings (35%), surveying or clearing land (32%), labor (32%), permits (32%), the lot (32%), and landscaping (31%).
17. Nearly All Buyers Wish They’d Made Different Choices
A surprising 88% of new construction buyers said they now wish they’d made different decisions when customizing the construction of their home.
The most common regret? Nearly four in 10 (39%) respondents said they wished they bought higher-quality finishes, while 30% said they wished they spent less on finishes. This polarization of opinion suggests there’s no general rule of how to pick finishes — only that you have to carefully stick to your own tastes.
18. Many Buyers Wish They’d Picked a Different Floor Plan
The floor plan of your home is going to determine the flow of your home, the placement of your furniture, and how your space can and can’t be used. It’s tough to get it just right, especially because it’s so difficult to look at a floor plan on paper and imagine how it’s going to translate to three dimensions.
So it’s not surprising that many buyers (35%) regret some aspect of their floor plan. Whether that open-plan living/dining area is a little too open, or you don’t have enough bedrooms, or it’s just too long of a walk from the bedrooms to the laundry room, many buyers of new homes wish their floor plan was a little different.
19. The Location Isn’t Quite Right
Location is a fundamental aspect of your home, and getting it wrong will lead to serious regrets — as it did for 30% of new construction buyers. Before you’re seduced by an irresistible bargain, make sure the area has all the amenities you need — things like access to public transportation, suitable schools, shopping and dining options, and green space.
Making changes to things like a basement or kitchen are possible, though expensive. But it’s not possible to move an entire home to a new location.
20. They Spent Too Much Money Building Their Dream Home
Building your dream home from the ground up is exciting, but it can be deceptively easy to justify going over your budget. Once the payments kick in, it’s common for owners of new homes to start to regret spending so much money on the front end — especially if they’re among the 66% of owners who already have second thoughts about the house itself.
Work with your loan officer and/or builder to come up with a realistic budget, and stick to it!
21. Many New Home Buyers Regret Bold Choices
Styles change fast, and owners who commited to trendy design choices may regret them within years or even months.
Experts suggest going with neutral colors that can adapt to different interior design aesthetics, and will age gracefully.
22. No One Likes a Dim House
Many new homeowners end up wishing their house had more light, whether it comes from natural sources like windows or skylights, or if it comes from light fixtures.
It’s extremely rare for anyone to complain that their home gets too much light, so when you’re customizing your home, err on the side of having more light sources.
23. You Can Never Have Too Much Storage
A very common new home buyer regret is a shortage of storage space.
Most homeowners understand they need closets in the bedrooms and cupboards in the kitchen, but many overlook the need for adaptable storage for things like holiday decorations, seasonal clothing, and the normal belongings everyone accumulates. Adding extra closets, pantries, or even a jumbo-sized garage is never a bad idea.
24. A Lack of Trees
One thing that many buyers of new construction don’t think about is the lack of trees on their lot. Even if they plant some as soon as they move in, it’ll be decades before they’re big enough to offer shade and aesthetic pleasure.
If mature, majestic trees are a required part of your dream home, you may want to lean toward a pre-owned home.
25. Some Housing Developments Only Allow Approved Builders
This is an especially concerning point, considering that the majority of new home buyers have regrets about their home builder.
Some housing developments or subdivisions only allow new homes to be built by approved builders — and some allow only a single builder. This can create scheduling problems, or quality problems if a contractor cuts corners to finish a project on schedule. If you’re building in a location that has regulations regarding eligible builders, look into their track record first, and talk to people who’ve worked with them before.
26. Some Buyers Have to Foot the Bill for Neighborhood Infrastructure
If you’re building your home in a subdivision or housing development, you may be expected to pay a portion of the costs of local infrastructure — things like streets, sidewalks, sewage and drainage systems. This can add a significant amount of money to your mortgage.
27. New Housing Developments Can Be Very Noisy
If you’re building your new home in a budding subdivision or housing development, there will likely be construction going on around you for quite a while. If you’re one of the first ones into the new development, you could be looking at years of neighborhood construction, as builders put up houses around your lot. This could generate a ton of daytime noise, not to mention dust and traffic disruption.
28. You Can Never Have Too Many Electrical Outlets
About 39% of respondents said they wish they had more or differently placed electrical outlets, while 35% said they wanted a different floor plan. A further 35% said they wanted more square footage, 34% wanted a different builder, 30% wanted an entirely different location, and 26% actually wanted less square footage.
29. Always Have Your New Home Inspected
Although we often think of a newly constructed home as being in pristine and perfect condition, almost two-thirds of buyers (65%) who had their new home inspected uncovered flaws in the home.
While 32% of the problems didn’t affect closing, 24% were serious enough to delay move-in.
30. The Most Common Inspection Problems Are Quite Serious
While some problems found during inspection are merely cosmetic (flaws in finishes such as flooring or painting were reported by 35% of respondents), the two most common types of problems discovered are flawed HVAC systems (38%) or safety-related issues involving features like electrical systems or staircase banisters (36%).
Equally worrying, 33% of respondents found problems with the home’s drainage, 32% discovered structural problems, 32% uncovered leaks or water damage, and 31% found foundation problems or roof problems.
The takeaway? If something goes wrong during the construction of your home, it could be a serious problem.
31. Premature Maintenance Is a Significant Problem
Many buyers think that a new home won’t need maintenance for quite a while, only to find out that many newly constructed homes need maintenance and repairs before they ever move in! In fact, nearly nine out of 10 new homes (89%) needed maintenance before the new owner even began living there.
The most common areas needing premature maintenance were electrical systems (41%), security system (40%), HVAC system (38%), plumbing (37%), flooring (35%), smart home features (35%), the foundation (35%), drywall (34%), the roof (32%), and landscaping (24%).
Of those problem areas, only one or two — landscaping and perhaps the flooring, if it’s a cosmetic issue — aren’t vital systems.