Model homes are dreams constructed of brick, concrete, and wood. They let buyers fantasize in person about a perfect life in the house they’ve always wanted. Buyers can walk through the home and picture themselves cooking holiday meals, hosting family gatherings, and inviting friends for summer nights on the patio. 

Model home tours - a BIPOC couple tours a home with an agent
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Builders use model homes to put their best foot forward. They can show off unique features, innovative technology, and environmentally friendly additions that often lead to cost savings for the owners.  

However, the builders also want to feed into the fantasy of a dream life in an exquisite home. That’s why model homes are beautifully curated — designed to catch the eye and flutter every potential buyer’s heart. 

It’s easy to get caught up dreaming, but buyers must ground themselves to make the most out of a model home tour. The day-to-day reality for most families looks much different than the few entertaining scenarios they may envision. 

So how do buyers get the most out of model home tours? This article has all the information you need about the do’s and don’ts of touring model homes. 

Start your model home research before you arrive 

Remember that the builder’s website will have listings for all the floor plans available in the development. But the builder will likely choose the most popular of its plans to display as its model home. Some builders will have multiple model homes for buyers to explore (often a small, medium, and large option). 

If the builder has one home on display, it may be larger than most of their other floor plans. This allows the builder to show off all their bells and whistles in a spacious, appealing design. 

While the model home you tour may be gorgeous, affordability and sensibility are paramount. The size of the model home may not be suitable for you, both from a square footage and financial standpoint.  

While it’s not as satisfying to look at floor plans versus an in-home tour, knowing the right size will pay off in the long run. Think about your current situation and how long you plan to stay in the home. Are you planning on expanding your family? Is multigenerational living a possibility? Answering these few basic questions will help you decide the right size of home.  

Remember that just because the house you tour isn’t the right size, you can still understand how the builder creates flow within the home and the placement of certain features. 

Model home tours - a couple is being shown upgrades in a model home
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Standard vs. upgrade 

Model homes are designed to impress from every angle. From the artwork chosen to hang on the walls down to the door handles, each choice has been made to entice potential homeowners. 

Understandably, the builder wants to fill their home with the best materials. So, you may walk into a model home and fall in love with the marble countertops. But just because they’re featured does not mean they are standard in every build. You’ll have to pay extra if it’s considered an upgrade. 

Ensure your sales representative is clear on all the standard features of the home. Standard doesn’t necessarily mean “lower quality,” but it generally involves using simpler materials and more common finishes or colors. Upgrades will use more expensive materials and may allow for more customizations in different parts of the home. 

Again, think about how long you plan to be in the home and your list of priorities. For example, maybe a buyer is OK with going with ceramic tile over marble in the foyer. Still, they want the upgraded lighting options for the bathrooms to make it easier to see while getting ready in the early mornings. 

Going with as many standard features as possible will save the buyer money, but some builders will include a set number of upgrades for free as part of seasonal promotions. So, you may get some attractive additions for little to no cost if you buy at the right time with specific builders. Always shop around with different builders to investigate all the options available. 

Don’t forget to ask questions and take notes 

Buyers can get overwhelmed while touring a model home, and details can be forgotten, especially during multiple tours. Keep a running list on your phone of the pros and cons of each home you tour, and be sure to take plenty of photos.  

Try to take pictures in multiple types of light if you can (windows open with natural light versus curtains drawn with lamps lit). This will give you an impression of how the home will look at different times of the day.  

A couple reviews notes about a model home - Model home tours
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Here’s a sampling of some of the questions a buyer should be asking during the home tour: 

  1. How many builders are working on this development? 
  1. What is the average amount that customers are investing in upgrades? 
  1. What kind of warranties comes with the home? Do the warranties come from the builder, or is a third party involved?  
  1. Can I receive a list of all the standard options and upgrades? 
  1. Is there a preferred lender recommended by the builder? If so, are there any incentives to use them? 
  1. What are the plans for the amenities within the community? For example, will schools be built within walking distance?  
  1. If it’s a master-planned community, what are the HOA fees? 
  1. What is the building schedule, and who will be your point of contact? What is the process if there are building delays? 
  1.  Is it possible to see the home during construction? 
  1.  How long does it take to get an appointment with the design center, and what is the process? 

Remember that model homes are designed to dazzle, so buyers must look past the glitz. Instead, be aware of construction quality and look for those small details that can make or break a decision. Unfortunately, even something that seems insignificant, like a door only being able to open a certain way, may become a major irritation once you buy the home.  

Document your must-haves, maybes, and definitely-nots before you arrive. Take detailed notes and compare your two lists. Then, stay on track and don’t fall for the fantasy. If you remain logical and focused during a model home tour, your brand-new dream home has a much better chance of becoming a reality.  

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