In November 2022, I closed on my new construction home made by KB Home. It was a great purchase and very little regrets were made - I recommend buying a new construction home to anyone who can buy one. Even though the home is not in the greatest area (I’m a gentrifier), the fact that it has all the bells and whistles of a new home made it so much more convenient than living in an older house, especially when you work from home.
First Republic has a program called Eagle Community Home Loan that provided low interest rate mortgages for home buyers in “certain” areas, i.e. gentrifying areas such as where I purchased mine. This means that I was able to close at a 3.75% interest rate with zero points and $4k in lender credits even though mortgage interest rates were about 6% at that time - I believe the fed interest rate was around 3.75% at that time as well. A 6% interest rate would’ve meant about $1.1k/month more in interest! These really low interest rates are the reason First Republic went bankrupt. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a referral program at that time, otherwise I would’ve tried to have other buyers use them as well.
I’m not going to discuss all my options but the key functional ones are:
- As discussed on my post about the Tesla Powerwall, I was able to add a Powerwall to my home, but not additional solar panels.
- EV charging hookups (not the sockets, which I had to install myself).
- I installed ceiling fan hookups to all the rooms except the living room, which I thought I wouldn’t need until summer 2023 came. These ceiling fans significantly help cool the house and lower my electricity bill.
The Problems & The Fixes
A problem with a lot of new construction homes is that the builders rush. Here’s a list of problems I experienced:
- Electricians had to come by a few times to fix some switches that were improperly set up.
- The vinyl floors creaked in the master due to lack of spacing against the wall, which had to be fixed by cutting the dry wall and trimming some vinyl. I also had one uneven vinyl panel that was just hammered in to fix.
- My vinyl shower had a crack, which was fixed pretty quickly but made my house smell like plastic for a few hours.
- Cabinets were not soft close as ordered. They ended up fixing them all, even the ones that didn’t have an option to make soft closing, so this was an overall win.
- HVAC did not work on the first day I moved in. They refilled freon once but it leaked within a day. The HVAC repair folks (paid through KB Home’s warranty plan) came by and found a leak due to a nail (caused by KB Home) after cutting 4 holes into the walls that were then repaired.
- This was a pretty bad experience because without the HVAC, my house was reaching 60 degrees during the winter. It was freezing. And I had to argue with them for compensation - they finally let me buy a space heater, which only covers 1 room for my 4 bedroom house.
- CAT6 cables were poorly crimped, so I had to get them recrimped.
- CAT6 cables were not labeled in the master bedroom - I had to figure everything out by trial and error.
- Half of my windows had to be replaced due to various imperfections at installation. Most of these were replaced under warranty.
- Significant amount of repainting. Lots of yellow dye spots from the dry wall.
- Issue with the cabinet nails sticking out, which was fixed by removing some unnecessary wood.
- Various lights had to be fixed in the hallway.
Post-Purchase Upgrades & Installations
Here’s a list of key post-purchase upgrades and installations that I did after I moved in:
- Epoxy garage - doing myself was significantly cheaper than doing it through KB Home. The only problems was that I couldn’t park in my garage until this was done and my house smelled for a few days.
- Front door doorbell - the included doorbell system required a paid subscription, so I switched it to Wyze.
- Washer & Dryer - took 2 months for Best Buy to install because they could not get the correct people to come. KB Home only offered a really ugly washer & dryer, so I opted to buy my own.
- Refrigerator - bought my own to save costs.
- Blinds - bought my own for matching aesthetics.
- Water spout - KB Home only offered to drill the hole, so I had to buy my own matching Moen water spout myself.
What I Love
- Exhaust fans - the house includes two QuietCool Whole Home Exhaust Fans, which are great at cooling or heating the house from outside air. Many times, this fan makes the HVAC unnecessary and saves a lot in cooling costs. The only problem with this fan is that the switches are not smart and do not support any remotes.
- Solar Panels and the Tesla Powerwall
- Most other things that were included are smart including my Phyn water leak detector, my water heater, and my Ecobee thermostats.
- The master bedroom, loft (which I made my office), and living room all had CAT6 hookups. The living room also included a ceiling WiFi hotspot!
- All the windows came tinted, which may be required by California now.
I only had one regret: not upgrading my dish washer. The included dish washer is very basic and misses a key function I want: setting a delay on when to wash the dish washer. The main reason I want this is so that I can run the dishes overnight when electricity is cheapest.
I also dislike my Kwikset deadbolt because it does not support WiFi, only Z-Wave, which isn’t easy to set up. However, the non-smart aspects and the looks of the device are great.
Tips for Buying New Construction
- It took a month to get my bins. Fortunately, KB Home let us use their construction dumpsters. After multiple calls and escalations, I was directed to the Santa Ana office for Republic Services who gave me bins the next day. Call your local center!
- As an aside, your waste management company may offer walk-out services, meaning they’ll get the trash out of your side yard for you!
- During your walk through, blue tape everything and blast the HVAC! Perhaps even blast the HVAC as the first step before even starting the walkthrough.
Perhaps the most important tip is to find a real estate agent to become your buyers agent that will split their commission with you. My friend gave me half his commission (while 1099’ing me) and all he had to do was sign his name. If you’re looking for someone to split a commission with in Southern California, let me know.