New home diligence

new home diligence
New home sales (infographic from

It’s understandable that new homes are alluring.  After all, newly built homes are modern and efficient.  And there is the idea that new homes require minimal maintenance for the first year of ownership.  But new homes are not flawless.

Last week’s Florida’s Attorney General home builder settlement is the latest reminder that new home buyers need to exercise due diligence.  The multi-million-dollar settlement with PulteGroup, Inc came after a two-year investigation.  A simultaneous complaint alleges that the home builder violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by: failing to disclose to certain home buyers in Florida that the homes were being constructed in violation of applicable building codes; unfairly denying certain homeowners’ repair claims for various reasons: unfairly denying certain Florida homeowners’ repair claims without performing an adequate inspection of the home; and unfairly withholding a customer’s deposit in certain instances.  The details of the settlement can be found in the Florida AG’s December 28th news release ( 

This settlement comes two years after the Florida AG entered into a settlement with KB Home in 2016 for similar alleged complaints. 

Home builder complaints are more common than you think.  In fact, Home builder complaints occur throughout the country alleging violations that may include (but not limited to): code violations, improper warranty denials, and improper handling of deposits. 

Maryland’s Attorney General fined NVR Inc in 2012 because it was alleged that required warranty protections were omitted from their subsidiary new home contracts.  A number of other home builders were fined that year for failing to register with the Consumer Protection Division’s Home Builder Registration Unit.  And in 2016, the Maryland AG filed charges against a Rockville home builder for alleged violations of the Home Builder Registration Act, the Maryland Express and Implied Warranties Act, and the Consumer Protection Act.  And more recently, the Maryland AG filed charges in September against a Baltimore County home builder for allegedly “failing to comply with Maryland’s Home Builder Registration Act, Consumer Protection Act, and the Custom Home Protection Act.”

Unfortunately, many home buyers let their diligence lapse when buying a new home.  New home builder reps are friendly, helpful and often appear to be on your side, so it’s understandable how a home buyer may misconstrue the builder rep’s loyalties.  However, when buying a new home, you should conduct your due diligence.  You should also consider hiring a Realtor and a licensed home inspector to assist you through the new home buying process.

When buying a Maryland new home, you should know that the state regulates home builders.  Before considering a home builder, make sure that the home builder is registered with the Consumer Protection Division’s Home Builder Registration Unit.  Before entering into a contract with the home builder, review and understand the contract.  You may want to consult an attorney to make sure that your Maryland new home contract complies with the state requirements. 

You should also keep in mind that Maryland has established a Home Builder Guaranty Fund that is overseen by the Consumer Protection Division. The fund allows consumers to seek recourse “for losses resulting from an act or omission by a registered builder who constructs a new home for a consumer.”  For additional information about due diligence when buying a new home and obtaining the handbook “Buying a New Home, Consumer Rights and Remedies Under Maryland Law,” contact the Maryland Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (

By Dan Krell.
Copyright © 2019.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Unusual considerations when owning an unusual home

by Dan Krell © 2013

Luxury Real EstateBe different and be damned…” is a telling quote from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind.  Social commentary aside, the quote can be somewhat of a warning to those who build or purchase that unique, unusual, and one of a kind home.  Although it is just a quote from one of the highly celebrated novels of the twentieth century, “damned” is a strong word to use in a real estate column.  However, because of the many considerations of owning a unique home, there may be an occasion or two you might feel “damned.”

When would you consider a home as being unique?  Mostly, the degree of uniqueness can be to a person’s perception of a home as well as what they consider to be unusual.  However, there is some consensus to what is generally accepted as “mainstream” in the real estate industry; and if a home falls outside these norms through its construction, size, floor plan, etc – it may be considered as unusual/unique.

Some homes are so extreme in their construction, either in size and/or building materials, that it is clear they are unique and one of a kind; there are other homes that may have been converted from commercial or industrial buildings that may also indicate a unique flair.  However, there are many homes that appear to fit in their respective neighborhood, but the custom nature expresses a specific style and preference; which is often found in the luxury home market.

Some considerations you might think about when purchasing a unique home include: financing, insurance, maintenance, and resale.

If you’re set on purchasing a home that is unique, check with your mortgage lender about financing; lenders may have objections on lending on an unusual home.  It is also not unheard of that extreme unusual homes appraise lower than market value due to uncertainty of value.  Unusual homes, including the “Über-luxury” market, may require specialized loan products that are offered by specialized lenders.

Additionally, you should consult with your insurance agent as the home may not meet your underwriting guidelines for home owners insurance.  Many people don’t realize that insurance carriers may rate your home based on construction materials, zoning, size, etc, which can affect the premium.  And it’s not unheard of that an insurance carrier may also limit or even deny coverage because the home does not meet their underwriting standards.

Maintaining a unique home can sometimes be challenging too.  Many unique homes are constructed with materials that may be exotic, uncommon, and/or can be found in commercial applications.   Repairs and labor costs can be much more than the typically constructed home.  Finding replacement materials and qualified contractors to work with those materials may also be difficult.

Home ownership is often a labor of love for the home, and that emotion can be carried into the resale.  You could easily be disappointed in the time it takes to sell the home as well as the sale price.  Be prepared for an extended time on the market because your unusual home may have a very limited pool of buyers, and negotiation could be long and dragged out due to variances in perception of value.

Doing it your way” may be the theme of a popular song and an advertising campaign for burger joint; but when it comes to building or buying a home – being unique and unusual can sometimes come at a cost.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published the week of June 3, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Build your dream home and avoid a nightmare

by Dan Krell
© 2012

custom homeThe fact that home sale inventory has dropped off compared to recent years is not news. The reduced number of homes for sale has made it more difficult for increasingly discerning home buyers to find the “perfect” home. And for some, a perfect home even goes beyond a new “spec” home or new home development; so they consider a custom home as a way to uncompromisingly have all the features they really want in their new home.

There are many pros and cons to building a custom home. As you might imagine, one clear advantage of building a custom home over buying a resale is that you can choose your home style and floor plan to fit your taste and lifestyle. Customizing a resale to fit your needs has its limitations; besides the physical limitations of the home itself, you may encounter issues with zoning and/or a HOA. Buying a spec home or a home in a new home development also has limitations; you are typically limited to the home styles and floor plans offered by the builder (and some will not comply with customization requests).

Planning to build a custom home takes time and money. Choosing the right contractor and architect is highly important. Designing the home you want requires time for permitting and construction. Weather is often an impediment; poor weather conditions can prolong the process and possibly increase your construction costs.

Next, you’ll need to find a place to build your dream home. Finding the perfect lot can sometimes be difficult, depending on the type and size of home you’re planning. Among the many things to consider: you need to make sure that the lot is zoned appropriately, as well as being large enough for the home you choose to build. Additionally, you should consider utility availability to the lot: is public water and sewer available; is natural gas available. Other issues that could affect your lot: clearing trees, easements, and/or protection areas.

Custom HomeIf an unimproved lot is not found to meet your needs, another option is to buy a “tear down.” A tear down is an old home that is torn down to build a new home on the existing lot. Of course, there are issues that need to be addressed when going this route as well. Besides encountering building issues similar to those of an unimproved lot, you may encounter additional zoning and permitting constraints with a tear down.

Unless you’re willing to pay for your project with cash, you’ll have to secure financing. Depending on your project, there are various loans are available so consult your lender about terms and qualifying criteria. Some loans may combine the acquisition of the land and the construction; and other loans could provide the loan for the construction, and then convert to a permanent mortgage.

Although it’s great feeling to build the home of your dreams, you should also consider its resale. Tastes vary, so your idea of a dream home may not be everyone else’s. A large amount of non-traditional customization could not only turn off future home buyers, but could very well hurt your sale price.

Building a custom home requires due diligence. The Maryland Home Builder Registration Unit (of the MD Office of the Attorny General)provides consumer information about purchasing new homes and the Home Builder Guaranty Fund (

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.  Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.