Builders or building companies often construct a model or “show home” to use as a live advertisement for their work, especially when they’re building a new subdivision or exclusive communities. This means that the home is usually illustrative of the builder’s very best work. It is an example shown to potential clients of what their dream home can be.

A show home will usually feature all of the possible upgrades and many designer touches. It’s a “new home” in the sense that no one has lived there, but everything is already done and move-in ready.

With the real estate market in a slump, most building companies are cutting back on new construction. In order to save money, many builders are selling off their model homes. Builders figure that they can gain some money now to tide them over and when the market picks up again, there could be new building trends or new neighborhoods to focus on that would necessitate building new model homes anyway.

So buying a show home from a builder can be a real win-win situation. There are just a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking at model homes.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Show Home

The biggest pro of buying a show home is that everything is top-of-the-line. Remember, this is the builder’s advertisement for himself, and when builders sell homes, the more upgrades they can sell, the more money they make. This means that show homes usually have upgrades on flooring, cabinets, countertops, molding, lighting, windows, doors, architectural details, appliances, and other fixtures.

Show homes are also usually professionally decorated. Builders will normally want to keep and re-use any furniture that they’ve brought into the home, but you often get extras like curtains, blinds, floral arrangements, or even art. In most cases, the builder will have had professional landscaping done as well.

You can often find extras like decks, fireplaces, spa tubs, or even a pool—things things that would add many thousands of dollars to the price if you paid to upgrade during the building process—already included.

This might sound ideal, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure that you ask if the house has even been lived in, even temporarily. Don’t make assumptions. Even though the vast majority of show homes are used as models only, the builder may have allowed someone to stay in the house, or even lived there for a bit himself.

Also keep in mind that even if the house has never been lived in, it’s still been visited, possibly by hundreds of people. The carpet had probably seen frequent shampooing to keep it looking new, and the walls may have had frequent paint touch-ups. Ask the builder up-front about any damage that has been sustained. Sometimes, if an accident occurred in the home, the builder may have repaired it cosmetically, but not necessarily with an eye towards durability.

Before you buy, spend some time in the house, moving from room to room and assessing the practicality of the home. When builders build show homes, sometimes they out-do themselves to make the home as beautiful as possible, but it loses some practicality in the trade-off. Sure, that double-sided fireplace may be a conversation piece, but does it leave you without a place to put your television?

When you have a home inspection completed—something you should do before you buy any home—make sure the inspector knows that it was a model home and have him or her check accordingly. Sometimes, since no one actually used the house for living, builders will cut corners like not properly installing appliances and merely fitting them into the openings, or leaving tub enclosures unsealed. Be sure that the house is really ready for living, not just looking at, before you sign on the dotted line.

Closing the Deal on a Show Home

As with every home sale, it’s important to have someone on your side. Buying a show home is a great way to find your dream home and enjoy all of the top-of-the-line amenities that you might otherwise be unable to afford. However, don’t let your excitement cause you to go in blindly. Find a Realtor or real estate lawyer that you can trust who will review the paperwork before you close the sale.

Remember that this is a buyer’s market. Even though show homes are rare finds, you shouldn’t feel pressured to close on the deal too quickly. Builders who have built show homes must have large, thriving businesses, so they will undoubtedly have more experience with home sales than you—don’t let them take advantage of this disparity.

Having a real estate professional walk you through the sale will help you avoid the pitfalls that come from being overeager. Take the time to protect yourself, and you’ll have a gorgeous new home and be the envy of your family and friends. Good hunting!


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