Buying a Spec Home – Pros and Cons

While many of us are happy to buy a home that someone else has lived in, there are also many couples and families who are not so enamored with the idea, preferring to buy something brand new. There are many benefits to buying a newly built house after all; it should be efficient, in working order, and clean, though unfortunately this is not always the case!

When we talk about new build homes there are two options to consider. The first is the custom home that’s been designed specifically for you, with all the details that you wanted, while the second is what’s called a ‘spec’ home, and while there are benefits to buying the latter kind of home, there can also be drawbacks.

What is a Spec Home?

First let’s talk about what exactly a spec home is because it’s important to note that spec homes can have different names, depending on where you are in North America – you may hear it referred to as a move-in ready home, featured home, inventory home, or immediate delivery home, but basically these all mean the same thing.

A spec home is a house that has been designed and constructed by a builder without a specific buyer in mind. Basically the builder has taken the chance that he will be able to sell the home once complete, or near completion. Obviously the builder is taking a little bit of a gamble here, hoping that a buyer will come along before too long, and because of this he wants the home to appeal to as wide a market as possible. The architecture, therefore, will be based on a standard plan, probably using a design that’s popular for the neighborhood they’re building in. Usually the fittings will be what’s called ‘contractor or builder grade’, though some builders may offer the chance to upgrade for an extra cost.

The Advantages of Buying a Spec Home

Really there are three big advantages to buying one of these homes: the fact that you can move in very quickly, the fact that it’s completely new, and the fact that you can see exactly what you’re buying.

Move In Ready

A spec home is usually offered for sale very close to, or at its completion, and considering the builder is likely to want a quick sale you can often move in very quickly. The only thing delaying the process is likely to be your lawyer, making sure everything is in order, but if they can get through the legal process quick enough, you could be moved into your new home within a couple of weeks! This makes a spec home a great choice for a buyer who wants to move quickly; whether it’s your first home, or you want to be moved out of a rental home before the end of the month.

It’s Completely New

The fact that a spec home is completely new is appealing too, and though this isn’t always the case, some builders may allow you to choose your own paint colors and finishes, or negotiate some upgrades, if you approach them early enough. This way you to get to make some of the decisions and end up with a home that you’ve had at least some say in the look of!

You Get to See the Home Before You Buy

When you’re paying for a custom built home, it’s going to be some time before you really start to see it take shape, and during that time there are bound to worries over the quality of the craftsmanship. With a spec home you get to see it before you buy and you have the opportunity to inspect every corner of the home to make sure you’re happy with the finishes.

The Disadvantages of Buying a Spec Home

The biggest disadvantage of a spec home is choice, or rather your lack of choice. You will have to live with all the decisions that someone else has made. Things like the overall architectural style of the home, and the internal layout and room configuration, so a spec home isn’t for a buyer who prefers to be individual and wants a home that looks different to everyone else!

The same applies for the finishes too, whether we’re talking about paint colors, kitchen and bathroom fittings, lighting, and appliances. The builder is likely to have chosen items that he can get at a contractor’s rate, and while they may be of a good enough quality, they are unlikely to be high-end, so you’ll need to live with these things, or change them at your own expense.

As mentioned above, you may be able to have some say in the finishes, depending on how close to completion the home is. Though often you will still be forced to select from a list of options, so even then the choice is not completely your own.

Things to Remember When Buying a Spec Home

So if you’re still considering buying a spec home there are some important points that you should remember…

Even though the home is completely new, doesn’t necessarily mean everything is in working order. You MUST get a home inspection so that plumbing, electrical, HVAC and more can all be checked by an independent, unbiased inspector. And choose the inspector yourself, do not go with one recommended by the builder.

Use a real estate agent to help you through the buying process – you won’t have to pay them a cent yourself as the builder pays for this, but their experience will be invaluable and likely save you a lot of time and headaches.

Finally, don’t forget to ask if you can make any changes to the home, even if it’s already complete, as some builders will allow this. Paint colors and flooring are possibilities, while some builders may offer an upgraded appliances package.



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