In the current housing economy, it’s tempting to buy a “short sale” or recently foreclosed home, especially one that was built during the recent housing boom and is being offered at a bargain-basement price.
But that strategy is full of pitfalls and potholes. It’s well-documented that owners of homes in foreclosure tend to neglect their property, knowing there’s no point in maintaining it. They are likely distraught and distracted at the prospect of being evicted from their home, and understandably might focus on more important things than fixing the gutters or repairing a leak.
The result is often a home in poor condition with extra expenses required to bring it back up to par, much less to your standards. After all, a home is the center of your family’s life, a safe haven, a shelter. Walking into a money pit of repairs and service issues — some of which you may not even know about until after you’ve moved in — threatens that security and quality of life. Is it worth the risk?
By comparison, a newly built home provides you with exactly what you want from the get-go. It reflects your specific needs now and into the future, as well as your style and other aesthetic preferences. It’s fresh, unblemished, and ready for making memories.
A new home offers other advantages over an existing home, and especially a short sales or foreclosure, including:
Better Quality. As a professional builder, we are dedicated to delivering a high level of construction and finish quality in our new homes. Not only do buyers demand that our homes be better-built (and rightly so), but we also have the knowledge, skill, strong trade partnerships, and commitment to continually evaluate and refine our building practices and materials to improve that high level of quality.
Better Plans. We and other quality builders were offering “customization” long before it was necessary to satisfy or attract potential homebuyers. That means we work closely with you to determine your needs and find a floor plan and house style that matches your tastes and lifestyle requirements.
The result is a floor plan that is uniquely yours: functional, comfortable, flexible, and efficient. Trying to find exactly what you want and need in that regard in a foreclosed home or older house is unlikely, and probably would require remodeling.
Better Technology. Today’s homes and their occupants demand a high level of technological capability and convenience. Personal computers and other electronics have become part of our daily lives. Homes now require a “future-proofed” design that won’t become obsolete anytime soon, everything from a docking and sync station for smart phones to a network of cable and communication wire for flat-screen televisions.
Technology is moving so quickly these days that few homes built even five and certainly 10 or more years ago simply can’t compete on that level, leaving you and your family wanting (and needing) more. Current wiring and wireless networking systems are available and increasingly affordable … ready for the foreseeable future.
Better Service. If the recession taught the building industry anything, it’s that customer service needed to be improved. Existing homes, bank foreclosures, and short sales offer zero service after the sale.
Meanwhile, a professional builder offering a new home tailored to your needs — especially a company that survived the downturn — is well equipped and eager to make sure the experience is satisfying from start to well past the finish, giving you peace of mind and the highest quality living environment.
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In the current housing economy, it’s tempting to buy a “short sale” or recently foreclosed home, especially one that was built during the recent housing boom and is being offered at a bargain-basement price.
Here is an interesting video created by the Seattle Pacific University – School of Health Sciences. We had an opportunity to contribute a few thoughts from an active adult home builder perspective. To view, click on the link below:
With the support of my family, I recently announced to our team that I will be leaving the day-to-day operations of Landed Gentry Homes and Communities effective October 10th. It was a difficult decision to pare back my involvement with the family owned company where I have spent my entire career.
I’ve truly enjoyed my time being on the front lines as a homebuilder and community developer. These past 14 years have been full of opportunities to learn from phenomenal growth and extremely difficult times. Though the thing I am most proud of is that in spite of a difficult environment, we have a team that is still building brand new homes that are meeting the lifestyle needs of individuals and families across the region.
The general management duties will be spread amongst other senior managers of the company; Kendra Gentry-Decker, Kendall Gentry and Dave Moreland. I will remain on the company board, provide behind-the-scenes support and select special project work.
I want to thank my parents, Kendall and Nancy Gentry, the founders of Landed Gentry, for the opportunity to lead and build this amazing team of people that I have been privileged to work alongside every day. They gave Kendra and me enough freedom to be a part of transforming this company into something that is hardly recognizable from what it was over a decade ago.
Though I will miss the being here on a daily basis, Landed Gentry will always be a part of me. Landed Gentry’s future continues as we leverage the benefits of persevering through these times. I look forward to what is next for us all.
Wishing you all my best,
When we’re on the job site, we want to make the most progress possible on our clients’ new home. Building is a dynamic and exciting process; one that we try to make trouble free and easy to understand. Once we get going, things happen quickly, so we work with our clients to make decisions well ahead of time to help ensure they get their home on time, on budget, as promised.
Before the first scoop of dirt is moved, we collaborate with our home owners to make most of the big decisions, but that is rarely the end of the process. Once we’re underway, owners often think of a few things they’d like to change. Such changes may range from a change in bathroom cabinets, a different floor pattern or material in the kitchen, or just adding an extra light switch or two.
We document such requests, called “change orders,” to make sure that all parties have a clear understanding of the scope and cost of the change. It is important for the homeowner to understand how change orders affect the building process. When owner and builder communicate well, the impact of change orders on construction schedule and budget can be minimized.
A change order made after construction begins always has a cost attached. The cost may be the time and labor it takes to make the change or it may be the price of additional materials or products required — sometimes both.
The timing of a change order has a big impact on such costs. Typically, the later in the building process, the more expensive the change order. Some changes, of course, are simply impossible or truly cost prohibitive, such as altering the foundation or adding a basement once we’ve started building a home’s structural frame.
We respect our clients’ desires to get exactly the house they want. We know that some finishes (or even floor plans) may be hard to visualize until they’re actually installed or built. Changes will happen! For that reason, we’ve become more sophisticated and systematic about managing change orders. Our process not only ensures good communication and provides assurances between everyone involved, but also helps us maintain the building schedule and minimize additional costs.
The change order process: The most effective change order processes follow a general pattern that creates a paper trail and provides reliable cost information up front, including:
- Centralization. Your change order requests are managed by one person, typically your selections coordinator, to help ensure effective communication between everyone involved. This includes specialty trade contractors, suppliers, our job site managers, and, of course, our customer. We discourage owners from making special requests directly to a trade contractor, as this is a quick route to misunderstandings and disrupted schedules.
- Documentation. Customer requests are transferred to an electronic or paper-based change order form that initiates a paper trail and helps ensure greater accuracy and communication.
- Terms. We anticipate many of the changes our homebuyers make. We have a good idea of the cost and time most changes require. As a result, we can often communicate the terms quickly so that owners can make an informed decision in plenty of time to make the change or decide against it.
- Confirmation. It’s important to everyone involved that no change occurs without a client signature. Clients must approve the cost and terms, as well as the style, finish, or other details about the change. In addition, clients must be aware of how the change may affect their move-in date or other aspects of the construction schedule.
- Inspection. We may request a client to visit the new home’s job site when the alteration is being made so they can see it happen, ask any questions and insure satisfaction.
- Payment. Costs for change orders may be billed separately, usually as soon as the change has been made and completed to a client’s satisfaction. Sometimes we ask for a percentage of the cost or full payment up front before making the alteration, depending on the type of request.
By using a dedicated, document-based change order system, our clients are assured that any changes they consider — whether minor or extreme — are taken care of in a timely fashion without confusion, miscommunication or unnecessary costs.
Do you know what most often hinders the success of a new-home project? Fear. Fear of the unknown, of unscrupulous contractors, shoddy materials, of somehow getting caught in a money pit and ending up holding the bag.
This high-level of concern is understandable. Often our clients’ home is their largest single investment. For many, this is their first experience building a home. And for all there is a lot to learn about new home construction.
As professional builders, we understand and respect our clients’ concerns. Our job is to demystify the building process, help our clients identify and understand their concerns and overcome them quickly and confidently.
In addition to being good listeners and problem-solvers, professional builders operate on solid business principles and practices that alleviate the majority of what clients often fear about the homebuilding process, including:
Reliable partners. We seek out, work with, and retain top-quality subcontractors and materials suppliers. Our trade partners possess similar philosophies and approaches to running a successful business and are committed to the same high level of construction quality and standards. This helps mitigate disputes, foster cooperation and produce better-built homes.
We constantly review our trade relationships to ensure that their pool of subs and suppliers consistently delivers high-quality work at a fair price. That diligence protects your investment and helps remove the fear of poor workmanship and unreliable performance.
Record keeping. The best builders are diligent (some say obsessive) about documenting their new-home projects to make sure costs, schedules and progress align and meet their standards of quality and those of their clients.
For the same reason, professional builders demand similar diligence and reporting from their trade partners — not so much to keep them in line, but more to enable their own accounting processes to be complete, accurate and current.
As such, professional builders can present completely transparent and reliable reports at any time to their clients to ease concerns about whether their new home project is on track.
Protection. People having a new home built for them are often afraid that they’ll somehow be on the hook for unpaid work or materials once the job is over and their builder has moved on to his next house. It’s a legitimate fear and an all-too-common reality.
These concerns are easily managed by professional builders. As part of their standard business practices, they pay their bills on time and only from each project’s budget. In addition, they routinely collect lien releases from their trade partners upon satisfactory completion of their work.
Collecting lien releases on a timely basis (as the project progresses, not just at the end) removes the chance that a subcontractor or materials supplier will make a claim for payment against a new home; in fact, the best builders provide copies of those lien releases so that owners can rest assured that the bills have all been paid.
Sophisticated builders practice “fear management”. They take a professional approach to their business and are sensitive to the concerns of their clients. They help clients manage any anxiety from project inception through final walk-through. The key, as always, is communication. Helping clients manage their fear goes a long way to keeping communication lines open and promote a satisfying experience for all.
Brian Gentry – Landed Gentry Homes & Communities
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The construction of a new home has a particular rhythm, fluctuating from dynamic progress in the early stages, to a natural and predictable ebb of activity as the house nears completion. Our clients find it useful to understand this tempo. They know what to expect and they can better appreciate the building process as their new home takes shape.
Initially, the building process shows almost daily progress. As we build the foundation and structural frame, the general, three-dimensional shape of the house quickly takes form. The house becomes real and tangible; room sizes and locations become obvious within a few weeks.
The beginning phases of construction happen faster than the finishing stages. At the outset, large-dimension components, such as wall studs and roof rafters are assembled into three-dimensional forms. At this stage, several workers often build those and other structural elements at the same time on different sections of the house. The job site is a hive of activity, and there is obvious progress.
Likewise, the windows and doors, roofing, and siding materials install nearly as quickly as the home’s foundation and structural frame, resulting in a nearly finished exterior shell. Meanwhile, the electrician, plumber, and heating contractors work inside to install their respective behind-the-wall systems before the framed walls are filled with insulation or covered over with drywall and other substrates.
It is a very encouraging time for everyone involved.
As work continues, however, the pace begins to slow considerably as the focus shifts from the so-called “rough” or early stages of construction to the finishes. Dynamic progress gives way to very subtle, yet equally critical, improvements and finishing touches toward the home’s completion.
While the placement of insulation and drywall occurs somewhat quickly, and produces the dramatic effect of having the walls and ceilings nearly finished, the process of taping and texturing these surfaces to make them ready for paint, wallpaper, or other textures is necessarily slow. A drywall contractor may require a week or more to properly prepare an entire house. In addition, few other contractors can complete their work during this phase of the finishing process.
Typically, from this point to a home’s completion, the various trade contractors that once worked side-by-side must now operate in sequence. Carpenters, for instance, install the cabinets and countertops before the appliances and plumbing fixtures can be connected and finished.
Meanwhile, the painting contractor waits for the trim carpenters to finish before he can cover their work. And imagine how many faceplates, switch plates, light fixtures, and other finishes need to be fastened in place to complete the electrical system, not to mention carpeting and other floor finishes, tile work, and plumbing fixtures.
The laborious rate at which this stage of construction occurs can test the patience of any homebuyer. To help ease anxiety and take any mystery out of the process, we often schedule ‘walk throughs’ with our buyers. This provides us the opportunity to point out the understated progress going on in the latter stages of construction and assure our clients that their home is nearing completion.
Understanding the rhythm of homebuilding, from dynamic beginnings to the precision of its completion, helps our clients establish reasonable expectations and appreciate the realities of the construction process.
As a professional builder, we understand the importance of being in tune with the expectations of our homebuyers. We engage in continuing education to stay up-to-date with current trends in residential design and construction. We seek to anticipate what our homebuyers are looking for in a new house. We offer choices that fit each client’s budget and lifestyle. At the same time, we commit to high quality standards, remain on schedule, within budget, and service our work and the components we use to build each new home.
To achieve these goals, we must be very particular about the materials and products we recommend to our homebuyers.
Occasionally, a homebuyer may suggest something that’s not within our package of standard, upgraded or optional products. Although we constantly look for new and better ideas, some of the suggested products and materials may not meet the expectations we and our homebuyers have for lasting performance and cost efficiency.
To better understand the value of our role in offering a market-savvy selection of finishes, products, and materials for use in our new homes, consider the following questions and answers:
Q: My builder insists that I choose certain products and finishes by a prescribed date after signing the contract. Why is it so critical to meet those deadlines?
A: Making product selections early in the construction process, often before your home is started, allows us to insure that the products will get to the job site on time and within budget. Coordinating vendors and trade contractors involves a certain amount of “lead time”. This is the time it takes to receive a product from a supplier and schedule an installer. With timely selections from our clients we are able to keep a project on schedule and avoid paying a premium for rush deliveries.
Q: A contractor in my area says he’ll roof my house for a lot less than what my builder quoted, but my builder advised against using him. Why?
A: As with most things in life, a lower price doesn’t necessarily mean a lower overall cost. We seek out the best trade partners (like roofers) and negotiate the price of their work based on a variety of considerations. These include their availability, skills, experience, and ability to meet our deadline and quality standards. A low-priced roofer may not be sensitive to our schedule, leave the job unfinished or fail to meet our quality standards. This delays construction, often resulting in higher overall costs and extra work. Simply put, if the roofer is unknown to you and us, that’s a risk we’re uncomfortable taking on your behalf.
Q: I found some great outdoor light fixtures that would be perfect for my house. Can I use them instead of the ones being offered?
A: Some builders provide their clients with allowances to purchase certain products (usually finishes, like light fixtures) on their own. Even in those cases, however, we’re going to point our clients to the showroom of a reliable supplier; one with whom we work with regularly, can stay within budget and steer an owner in the right direction. An off-the-shelf or mail-order item, even a brand name, carries some risk for both builder and homebuyer. The builder must guarantee its installation and durability without truly knowing how it will perform in your home. It may also be more difficult to install than the line of products we offer, raising costs.
Q: Why does my builder charge more for the exact same faucet I found online for less?
A: A builder’s cost is more than just the price of an item. It may include the cost to ship and install it, to service it, and a nominal markup to cover overhead costs, insurance, storage, and profit. For all the products and systems in a home, we assume certain risks and costs on your behalf.
In order for us to give reliable assurances and properly service the products and features of your new home, we must be allowed to control and coordinate every aspect of the construction process. While we offer plenty of choices, those choices are determined based on extensive market analysis and years of experience in offering the most valuable commodity of all: your peace of mind.
“Honey I Shrunk the Lots,” an engaging presentation by noted Seattle architect Bill Kreager, FAIA, demonstrates how innovative site planning and high-quality, small-lot development can contribute to highly livable and sustainable communities.
Kreager first performed “Honey, I Shrunk the Lots” for a Skagit Valley audience in 2005. That presentation, to a large crowd at the Lincoln Theatre, was highly acclaimed. The upcoming presentation has been updated and will include examples from Skagit communities.
A local panel will follow Kreager’s presentation, identifying opportunities and obstacles for “shrinking the lots” in Skagit communities:
- Jan Ellingson, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (moderator)
- Brian Gentry, Landed Gentry Development
- John Doyle, Town of LaConner
- Ellen Gray, Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network
A reception will follow, from approximately 8:00 – 8:30 pm, allowing audience members to ask questions of the presenters, talk with each other, and share their thoughts with Envision Skagit citizen committee members and staff.
This event is free and open to the public. No ticket is required; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please let others know who might be interested in attending the event!
Envision Skagit thanks the following financial cosponsors for their generous support:
- Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland
- Northwest Washington Chapter – American Planning Association
- Economic Development Association of Skagit County
Economic hard times or not, new homes are still being built across the country and in our community. But housing industry and new-home style ‘experts’ have noted a change in how people are approaching those projects. The trend seems to be toward more conservative and value-oriented choices.
We’ve been paying attention to those trends. We are committed to be responsive to the needs of our homebuyers by being prepared to help make design selections or suggestions for their new home.
A few of the primary themes we’ve noticed include:
- People are looking for American made finishes and quality products that will last longer and reduce energy and resource use. Homeowners want to lessen ongoing maintenance and replacement costs.
- Given that higher-quality and resource-efficient materials and products may cost more, consumers are gravitating toward “minimalist” design schemes and a conservative color palette accented with a few bright, bold accessories.
- We like our technology! New homes are a great way to accommodate greater and more convenient access to it — namely, by providing an ample amount of wiring and cable (and multiple outlets) to plug in and recharge mobile gadgets.
- Regardless of square footage, we see a call for greater storage capacity. Modular organizing systems for closets and garages expand the usable space of those areas. We’ve also investigated the need for an electronic “clutter closet” near the most-used entry door (sometimes from the garage) to hold — and perhaps recharge — a variety of electronic devices in a convenient, central location.
- Grey is the new white … at least according to some style experts. Grey-stained wood and fabrics represents the “back to basics” trend of the new economy.
- Though not as opulent or outfitted as they were a few years back, outdoor areas remain a popular way to extend usable living space.
- Home offices continue to be in demand, accommodating in-home businesses or telecommuting trends.
- One thing that seems to be on the decline: a home theater, at least as a dedicated room within a house.
Reports indicate that buyers of new homes and other consumer goods have altered their value systems toward more conservative, durable and space and resource-efficient products. We’re keeping close tabs on those trends to meet our clients’ needs.
I read a positive housing article that was passed on to me, it lists “10 Reasons To Buy A Home, Now.” I don’t understand why this message isn’t on every homebuilder’s website, I guess it’s now on Landed Gentry’s website and that is what matters. For the millions of American’s homeownership is a positive thing, here are some meaningful things to consider as you consider your new home. Please take a few minutes to read and feel free to share it with others.
1. You can get a good deal. This is a buyers’ market. Prices on average have come down about 30% from their peak according to the Case-Shiller Index.
2. Mortgages are cheap. You can get a 30-year loan for around 4.3%. As recently as two years ago, they were about 6.3%. That drops your monthly payment by 25% or more. When inflation picks up, and it will, you won’t see these mortgage rates again in your lifetime.
3. You’ll save on taxes. You can deduct the mortgage interest rate from your income taxes and you’ll get a tax break on capital gains when you sell.
4. The home will be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms as you want. You can move the walls, build an extension or paint everything bright orange. These types of changes are impossible for renters.
5. You’ll get a better home. In many parts of the country it is really hard to find a good rental. Many of the best places have been sold as condos. Generally speaking, if you want the best home, in the best neighborhood, you’re better off buying.
6. It offers some inflation protection. Studies by the Case-Shiller Index suggest that, over the long term, housing has beaten inflation by a couple of percentage points a year.
7. It is risk capital. No, your home isn’t the stock market and you shouldn’t view it as the way to get rich. Sooner or later the economy is going to grow and real estate prices will head up again, too.
8. It is a forced savings. Part of a mortgage payment goes towards the principle repayment. You are just paying yourself by building equity. As a forced monthly savings, it is a good discipline.
9. There is a lot to choose from. Builders are sitting with inventory. They have also introduced new model homes that are more energy efficient, and in many cases more affordable to own. That means great choices, as well as great prices.
10. Sooner or later, the market will clear. Demand and supply will meet. As hard as it may be to believe, demand will exceed supply, the price of labor and materials will increase leading to higher prices.
Now is the perfect time to buy if you qualify for a mortgage, especially if you don’t have a home to sell.
Brian Gentry - Landed Gentry Homes and Communities