I get asked this question all the time. “What do you do for comps when a home is only one year old? Can you compare it to brand new homes from the builder?” Here are a few things on my mind.
Builders vs you: It’s important to step back and understand that builders are able to let buyers customize features in a house, and that’s a big deal. This is one of the alluring things about buying a new home, and it’s not something a typical seller is going to do. Thus right away a builder has more power than an owner in the resale market.
Fading premium: Just as buyers tend to pay a price premium for a brand new car, the same thing happens in real estate. And just like a car begins to depreciate when it’s driven off the lot, the same thing happens with a home. When you’ve lived in a home, it’s no longer 100% brand new, so it may not command that same price premium in the market.
The market doesn’t care about your rear landscaping: I often hear, “But my home is better than the brand new ones because I put in rear landscaping. The builder models don’t have a rear yard.” That may be true, but the market might not care about that. The premium a buyer is willing to pay for a brand new house could still likely outweigh your rear landscaping (assuming we’re talking about standard landscaping).
Credits & incentives: Let’s remember builders can offer credits and incentives to close deals and keep prices high. When a market starts to soften especially, we have to ask what concessions are being included to continue to boost prices higher. This is key to understand because if brand new homes have padded prices, they probably aren’t ideal examples of what the market is really willing to pay. Here’s the better question. What would the market pay without all the concessions?
Resale homes rule: In an ideal world we want to find other homes that are one or two years old. Is there any price difference between the new models and resale homes not sold by the builder? That’s the big question and I realize it could be a fat chance we’re going to find something. But don’t be afraid to look through multiple years of sales too. Even if you have an older sale from a few years ago you can compare it to other newer ones at the time. How much of a price difference was there if any? Did the new ones still sell for more? Don’t forget to look to other competitive new developments in town too. You might get some insight there when it comes to brand new vs newer homes.
Keep an eye on the new stuff: I’m not saying to ignore new sales altogether or even to not use them. We should keep an eye on them for sure. Let’s just be cautious about flippantly choosing three brand new sales from the builder and calling it a day without really thinking through whether there is a price difference between brand new vs newer. If I was appraising in this situation I would hope to find at least one resale home somewhere, but I’d also be fine using brand new homes as comps too (but they might need an adjustment down).
The market: Keep in mind there are situations where the market may have gone up, but if the owner also lost some value due to a fading new construction premium, it’s possible the home might not sell for more than it was purchased for.
I hope this was helpful or interesting.
Questions: Which point resonates with you most? What did I miss? Any stories to share?