The What, Why, and How of Buying a Presale Home in Sonoma County
If you’re in the market for a new home, you typically have two options: purchasing something that already exists—otherwise known as a resale—or buying a presale home.
The difference between resale homes and presale homes is simple:
- When you purchase a resale home, you can move into it right away
- Buying a presale home means putting down a deposit before the home is built and then waiting for it to be completed
Presale homes in Sonoma County allow prospective homebuyers to get a foot in the real estate market with a brand-new home.
But how can you decide whether you’re better off buying a presale home or a resale home?
To help demystify the process of buying a presale home, we asked Lindsey Samuelsen, a licensed Sonoma County Realtor specializing in presale homes, land sales, and first-time home buyers, to explain the concept in simple terms.
Here’s what she told us.
SOMO Village: How can you decide whether buying a presale home is right for you?
Lindsey: The very first thing you want to do when you’re thinking about buying a home is to meet with a Realtor to explore your options. You can sit down and talk about whether buying a presale home or a resale home is right for you.
If you decide that you want to buy a presale home, your Realtor can point you in the direction of all the presale homes in the area that meet your budget, explain the timelines, and help you find what you’re looking for.
What are the most important factors to consider when deciding between buying a presale home or a resale home?
There are a lot of things that would come into play when you’re thinking about presale homes versus resale homes.
Supply, Demand, and Bidding Wars
The most obvious factor is demand. How many resale homes are on the market? Are you in a buyer or seller’s market? Are you going to be going into a bidding war?
In Rohnert Park, for example, we absolutely have a seller’s market. We have very little inventory and a lot of buyers are looking to move here.
That means you’re probably looking at bidding wars and buying over asking price. You’re also probably going to get an older home and it’s likely going to need work.
On the other hand, there’s a much higher inventory of presale homes here. That means you’re not battling with anyone in a bidding war and you’ll know exactly what you’re going to pay for your home. Buying a presale home means skipping the bidding process and entering a simple, fair transaction.
Energy Efficiency, Brand-New Appliances, and In-Depth Customizability
Presale homes also offer a ton of benefits because they’re brand new. That means they’re built to be energy-efficient. They’re coming updated with all the things that you need and want and, a lot of times you get to select flooring, carpet, countertops, and backsplash—you can sometimes even decide if you want extra rooms or a different layout.
The cost of redoing those things on an existing home is just astronomical. When you’ve already saved up for so long for a downpayment, you usually don’t have a lot of wiggle room left to then come and spend $50,000 or $100,000 to update or repair your house.
Presale Home Warranty
Another benefit of buying presale homes is that they come with a warranty—usually one or two years for appliances as well as a 10-year builder warranty. So, if there are any major defects in the house, those are covered.
If you’re buying a pre-existing home, buying a warranty means you’re paying out of pocket and it won’t actually cover the structure of your house. So, if you get a home and the foundation gives out, you’re on your own.
Which is a better investment, a presale home or a resale home?
A lot of my business is helping buyers buy new presale homes and also helping people sell their relatively recent presale homes that are maybe four or five years old.
In general, those sellers have gotten so much appreciation on their presale homes, just because those homes are so nice and so new compared to what else is out there.
How can you choose a presale home builder or developer to work with? Are there any differences to consider?
There’s a difference in what kind of presale home developer you choose—there are national builders and there are local builders and there are pros and cons to both of those.
National presale home builders can sometimes be a little bit more affordable, and maybe have a quicker building process; however, they tend to not be as focused on customer services, just because they build the communities and then they’re gone. They don’t have an ongoing relationship with the community.
On the other hand, when you’re working with a local presale home builder, it’s someone who really cares about the community and wants to make a good impression. They want to keep people happy because they’re going to be there for a long time. Local builders also engage local businesses to build and sell their homes, which is a huge economic benefit to the community.
You should also research past projects that the homebuilders have completed. Inquire about new home presales in your desired neighborhood and talk to people who have purchased presale homes before.
It’s helpful when you go to the model homes to see the potential of what your new home could look like. Make sure to have a thorough discussion with the salesperson about what upgrades are available, what the cost is, and what comes standard with the base price. Model homes can include $100,000+ worth of upgrades, so you want to know what’s realistic for your purchase.
What is the process of buying a presale home from start to finish?
You ideally want to start the process six months to a year out from when you’re ready to start thinking about buying a presale home.
Step 1: Contact a Realtor
Start by contacting a Realtor to get an overview of the process, what you need to know, and what sort of financial move you should be making. This is likely one of the biggest investments of your life, so you’ll want to take the time to prepare a roadmap with a licensed professional who can get you to where you want to be.
Step 2: Touch Base with a Lender
From there, you should just have a conversational meet-up with a lender and get an understanding of what you need in order to be ready to buy. The lender will give credit score-boosting tips, offer a credit repair program, and go over the financial decisions that might ruin your chance at qualifying for a home when you’re ready to buy.
Step 3: View Available Presale Homes in Your Target Area
Next, You’ll get pre-approved with the lender of your choice. Your Realtor will compile a list of what’s available in your price range and set up tours.
Your Realtor will schedule a tour of the various presale home models available at each development so you can go and you get a feel for it.
Ask yourself a few questions.
Do you like the community? Do you like what they’re offering?
And then from there, you can decide if you’re ready to enter a new home presales contract.
Step 4: Making Your Presale Home Purchase
If you’re ready to purchase a presale home, you’ll provide an earnest money deposit to hold your spot. This is often around 3% of the sale price.
Then your Realtor can see if there are any incentives that they could work with–anything they could get you like any closing costs or other credits.
Step 5: Customizing Your Preferences
Once you’re in contract, you’ll usually have the opportunity to make your custom selections for your presale home.
This includes things like countertops, carpets, flooring, and more.
After you decide on any upgrades or customizations, you are essentially just in the waiting period while your home is being built.
Pro tip: While you may be imagining all the fun ways to decorate your future home, do not open up new credit cards or run up your credit by buying new furniture and appliances during the escrow process without clearing it with your lender. This can potentially jeopardize your ability to close your loan. Wait until your keys are in hand, then do your home shopping!
Step 6: Deficiency Walk-Throughs
About a month before you’re scheduled to move in, you’ll get confirmation that everything’s on track and that they’re ready to move forward.
You have the option to get an inspection. The homebuilders will also conduct inspections and know that there are standards in place to make sure that these new home presales are built up to code and that they’re done well.
Once everything’s clear, you do a final walkthrough with someone that works for the builder — they mark up anything that needs to be touched up and show you features such as your tankless energy-efficient water heater, which most homes in California don’t have.
And then, once that’s done, your loan gets finalized, and just like buying any other home, they record the sale. The money gets dispersed as needed and then you get the keys!
What are the most important things to shop for when researching presale homes to buy?
Location, location, location, for sure.
You can put up an amazing community of presale homes in the middle of nowhere, but just because the homes look nice, it doesn’t mean anything for your appreciation and your long-term success of being a homeowner.
Instead, consider if this presale home community is in a desirable area — is it in an area that has access to things that are local attractions like great restaurants and outdoor activities… things that are going to draw people to that area.
Sonoma County is a world destination. It’s somewhere that people come from all over the world to stay and visit and move and enjoy and love. And I think, over time, it’s just proven over and over again to be a solid investment for both new home presales and resales, especially when we’re looking at places like Rohnert Park.
When we see all the development around, those are usually good indications that the community is moving in the right direction, and is and will continue to be a desirable spot.
We’ve got a lot of new things in the area.
We’ve got SOMO Village, which is incredible. I love the vision for that development.
We’re close to some of the best wineries and restaurants in the world.
We’re close to the beach, we’re close to hiking trails and outdoor parks, and there’s pretty much beautiful weather all year round.
How can you be sure you’re ready to buy a home?
I’d say it comes down to three things: being in your current position at work for at least two years (some professions can bypass the 2-year waiting period with an offer letter), having a 3% down payment ready and another 3% or so for closing costs, and then also having three months’ worth of payments in savings.
If you’re considering buying a presale home, reach out to Lindsey today. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-971-7437.
Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity.
If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you.
About Lindsey Samuelsen
Lindsey Samuelsen is a licensed Realtor, brokered by eXp Realty of California. Together with her husband Zak—the Samuelsen Real Estate Team—she has helped dozens of people with new home presales or selling their current house. Lindsey specializes in presale homes, land sales, first-time home buyers, real estate investing, and probate sales. Being a Realtor is her dream job and she loves helping people find their new place to call home. Lindsey grew up in Petaluma and now enjoys living in a newer Rohnert Park neighborhood, so she really knows the ins and outs of living in Sonoma County!
In her spare time, Lindsey loves experiencing Sonoma County by hiking, going to yoga, trying new restaurants, or checking out local live music.