Empire_Avalon_Streetscape Empire Avalon in Caledonia

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases most of us will make in our lives. Some people prefer the character of an older home or the challenge of a fixer-upper, but if you’re looking for the latest in building technology, energy efficiency and the ability to select your own features and finishes, a pre-construction home might be the best option for you. Buying brand new has many benefits, from being able to choose your favourite floor plan and paint colours, to knowing that major structural defects are covered under your new home warranty. However, there are a series of important steps along the way that homebuyers should be familiar with. To shed light on the process we consulted with Empire Communities, one of North America’s largest private homebuilders with master-planned communities and condominium residences throughout Toronto, Southwestern Ontario and the southern United States.

Unless you’re building a custom residence, a new home is typically purchased from and built by a developer like Empire Communities, within one of its master-planned communities or condominium projects. And while buying new construction usually requires a long waiting period, Empire also has move-in ready inventory homes and condos that can be purchased and occupied within a matter of months.

Empire_Avalon_Move-inReady3 Empire Avalon in Caledonia

Before you start your home search, it’s important to assess your needs to determine the right budget, location and type of home. There’s no point in viewing houses that you can’t afford, so it’s recommended that you get pre-approved for a mortgage to calculate your budget and set expectations. Other things to consider include how many bedrooms you and your family will need, how much indoor and outdoor space you’d like for entertaining, and the amount of money to set aside for upgrades. When considering these factors, don’t be afraid to visit a developer’s sales office to browse available floor plans and ask the sales team your questions.

“At Empire, we can appreciate how much there is to consider when buying your new home,” says Sarah Calder, sales manager at Empire Communities. “It’s our job to ensure you have all the answers before making a purchase decision.”

Developers, like Empire Communities, typically offer a variety of property types, home designs, layouts and sizes to choose from. A freehold property is one that you purchase, own outright, and are responsible for the maintenance of the land and structure, while a condominium is jointly owned and run by a condo corporation. In this case, homeowners are responsible for their individual suites, but all of the owners in the community or building contribute to common areas, services and maintenance through their monthly condominium fees. While it may seem overwhelming to look through all the available floor plans, it’s important to find and compare homes you like and then narrow down your search.

Empire_Lush_Towns Empire Lush in Hamilton

Common home designs include townhomes, two-storey detached and bungalows. Townhomes are great options for young couples and first-time homebuyers as they’re typically lower in price, but have enough space for a small family.

If you have a bigger family and need more living space and bedrooms, a single-family home may be to your liking. Single-storey bungalows are popular with empty nesters and high-rise condos are great for those who want stellar views and onsite amenities like swimming pools and fitness centres. Those with a vehicle (or multiple vehicles) may want to opt for a home with a two- or three-car garage. And if you’re looking at a condominium building, make sure to budget for a parking space and storage locker as these may not be included in the purchase price.

Empire_Riverland_Featherstone Empire Riverland in Breslau

One of the most common challenges when purchasing a pre-construction home or condo is not being able to physically walk through the space. This is especially true when a model home isn’t available. Floor plans are an important tool when it comes to understanding all of your home’s features including room layouts, dimensions, walls, and the location of closets, storage areas, windows and doors. You may also notice optional items like fireplaces or alternate room layouts that you can choose to have for an additional cost. For more tips on how to read a floor plan, visit the Empire Blog.

Empire_Arcadia Floorplan A floorplan from Empire Arcadia

Floor plans will also include a series of renderings with different exterior elevations or styles available for that model. The aesthetics typically differ by the type of cladding (eg. siding, brick or stone), rooflines and window locations.

As the old adage says, real estate is all about location, location, location. Empire Communities builds in several locations, from high-rise condos in downtown and midtown Toronto to low-rise communities in Southern Ontario and the United States.

“Consider visiting different locations during your home search to see what your budget can get you,” says Calder. “For example, you may find that areas in Southwest Ontario will give you more square footage for your dollar.”

To help homebuyers find the right community, Empire has created the Life Reimagined quiz with questions about day-to-day activities, hobbies and goals. Respondents will be matched with one of seven master-planned Empire communities that best suit their lifestyle and values based on their responses.

When considering which home or floor plan is best for you, be sure to visit the developer’s model homes. Empire Communities offers some of the same home designs across different communities and they often have a series of fully-furnished model homes that you can tour. Condominium projects also have full-sized suites and sample kitchen and bathroom vignettes inside the presentation centre so you can get a sense of the materials and layouts.

Empire_Summerlea_SalesCentre Empire Summerlea Woods sales centre in Hamilton

“Viewing a model home is a great way to visualize your new space and get you excited and feeling confident about buying a new home,” says Calder. “Talk to a sales agent about seeing a model home that is similar to the type and style of the home you’re interested in. Many times, homebuyers may not know that there’s a model home in a different location that they can view.”

Once you’ve found the perfect home in the ideal location and are ready to sign the purchase agreement, next comes the fun part — designing your dream home! Stay tuned for part two of our series as we go through the design and upgrade stage with Empire Communities.

For more information on Empire Communities, visit empirecommunities.com.

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