I've got some catching up to do, but I hope to have that done within a week.
My wife Megan and I hadn't really considered new construction as we didn't think it could fit in our budget and my wife wasn't interested in a town home. Starting this search in February 2010, we have a plan to move into our home in September 2010. The idea was to start looking at houses Feb-May, get an idea what we both liked, and start putting offers in during mid/late summer. We liked this approach because it allowed us to look at houses without getting emotionally attached, we knew that most houses we saw wouldn't be on the market when we were ready to put an offer on it. It was mostly information gathering.
We set out to find the perfect resale. Found a good Realtor, starting looking up which locations could work and began looking up listings online. It wasn't long before we were able to decide if a house was worth seeing based on the pictures alone. Our Realtor was nice because she would point out things like, "It's not obvious on the map, but there is a jail across the street." For about 4-weekends, we'd meet up with our Realtor Phyllis and see about 5-7 houses. It was a rude awakening to compare what looked acceptable in the pictures to what the actual houses were. Not to say all the houses were bad, but many of them had pictures that didn't reflect what the quality of the house really was. At the end of the day, we saw about 20 or so resale houses. About 2 or 3 of them I would have put an offer on. Not one single home had everything we wanted. There was always some issue that we'd have to think about whether or not it was to be considered or not.
Couple examples (of the good homes):
- Very large lot, Brazilian cherry hardwood throughout : Very busy street, cars going by 45+ in a 35 zone.
- Beautiful kitchen, established borough neighborhood, overall impeccably maintained : Small bedrooms, low ceilings, 150+ year old house
Purely by accident, while searching listings, I came across a community by Pulte homes in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. This area is close to where my parents live which would be convenient down the road when kids come into the picture. Also a fantastic school district and overall 'on-the-rise' area. They offered singles starting at $300K. When I dug in and got more information, there wasn't only an HOA, there was a HUGE HOA. Literally $215-240/month and that doesn't get your lawn mowed. The community had an indoor & outdoor pool, gym and a country club with golf course. To make a long story short, the high HOA was a deal-breaker for me.
Eventually we found the Richland Greene community in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Quakertown was a little farther out of the city range than I had planned. The prices of the homes were within our budget and we felt comfortable with the reputation of the builder. The following pros ultimately lead us to move forward with Ryan Homes:
- Highly Rated school district
- Easy access to Turnpike & other major routes
- Accidental meeting with our potential new neighbor
- Ryan Homes Philadelphia branch is highly rated
- We would be one of the 1st lots built (6 of 27), most of the lots were available
- The model wasn't built yet, so the builder had a decent chunk of incentives in the form of upgrades
I could go on but I think that's enough for this post!