After months of delving deeply into every real estate website on the internet — possibly even working with an agent and visiting many, many homes — you’ve come to the sad conclusion that your dream home isn’t on the market. Ah, but that cute new subdivision down the road — the one that’s really close to that good elementary school? There’s one model there that’s just perfect!

So what do you do? You stroll into the model home that also serves as the builder’s sales center. You’re greeted by a salesperson who reminds you a little bit of that agent you were working with. So warm! So friendly! So knowledgeable! And oh, the fun of all those selections! What cabinets do you like? Which lot? Best of all, which elevation?

You’re already to sign on the dotted line when . . . STOP! What are you doing? Are you actually thinking of making the most important and expensive purchase of your life without professional representation? Tsk, tsk, tsk!

Remember: the on-site salesperson represents the builder. Who represents you? In order to ensure the best price, make the process run smoothly, and troubleshoot innumerable problems along the way — in short, to make the sales experience a good one — you’ll need expert advice long before you call in your attorney for closing.

Here’s a checklist of things to consider when getting a buyer’s agent involved in your new construction purchase.

  • Real estate agents are licensed professionals, bound by law and professional ethics. A builder’s rep, while certainly not the “bad guy” is not bound by anything — other than pleasing the boss.
  • Ask a few tough questions of the agent you’re thinking of working with. Have they represented buyers in the new home sales process before? The process is somewhat different than a traditional real estate transaction in which the agent takes buyers from home to home, so make sure you’re working with an authority on the matter.
  • Early in the process, let the builder know you’re working with an agent. Make sure they have the agent’s contact info — a business card will suffice.
  • No, the house will not cost you more if you get a buyer’s agent involved. The builder will pay that standard 3% commission. In fact, in many markets, builders are paying bonuses and incentives to agents above the standard commission structure. Builders are familiar with what they bring to the table.
  • Think builders don’t negotiate? Think again. An agent will know best which points are negotiable — and obviously, they have the necessary skills and training to negotiate since they do it for a living.
  • From the initial sales contract to any riders along the way, do not sign any paperwork without your agent reviewing and advising.
  • An agent can keep written documentation of all upgrades and features you requested — and even remind you to ask for things you didn’t know were available. Along the way, your agent will warn you of any hidden or unexpected costs that may pop up.
  • During the sales process, an agent can ask questions you might not consider. Are prices going up when the next phase of lots is released? Is it possible to use suppliers other than the ones featured in the model home? How are builder concessions being applied? Are additional warranties available?
  • An agent will insist on and manage the process of a home inspection. Yes, a home inspection — they’re not just for older or existing homes. Many buyers of new construction believe that by purchasing a home warranty or compiling a “To Do” list for the builder at six month and one year anniversaries, they’re covered. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Just because a home is brand new doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t being made during construction — possibly, lots of them. A reputable home inspector — recommended by your buyer’s agent — will discover these problems before closing.
  • Along with your attorney, your agent can smooth all the details leading up to the closing by asking who pays for what. Title costs, inspections, warranties, and surveys are all a part of new home construction costs, too.

So have all the fun you want choosing tile, faucets, and siding. Just remember that a buyer’s agent will reduce your frustration and get you the best price possible. And what’s not to like about that?