JAN 29, 2016

Some Buyers Replicate Model homes

When Dave and Judy Daniel decided to move from St. Cloud, Minnesota to retirement community Sun City Festical in Buckeye, Arizona, they knew exactly what they wanted: the model home. But it wasn't for sale, and it wasn't on the golf course like they preferred.

No Problem, said the salesman Ken Plonski. We'll replicate it wherever you like.

"There were many things we loved in the model," says Dave Daniel. "It was much easier than starting from scratch."

The Daniels are not alone in wanting an exact replica of a builder's samples house. While reproducing model homes is far from a trend, it is happening more that would-be homebuyers might suspect.

"It's not something that happens regularly, but it does happen," says Plonski.

Builders have always sold they're model homes, but generally at a project's end when they are no longer needed. Sometimes they'll sell their models at a project's outset to an investor, who will lease the homes back to the builder for as long as they're needed.

In other instances, a buyer might be allowed to sign a contract early on to buy the show-house down the road. But he'll have to wait, perhaps two or three years, to take occupancy, and he'll have to pay whatever price is in effect at that time.

Recreating models is another situation entirely. Here, builders are asked to reproduce an upgrade-laden model-- sometimes right down to the furniture and silverware.

There are any number of reasons people want a turnkey, ready-to-go home. Typically, they are well-to-do buyers who don't have the inclination to obsess over layout options, color schemes and the like. In other instances, buyers simply fall in love with what they see.

"We saw the model and it was beautiful," says Dave Daniel. "We were able to do all our planning from Minnesota because we knew what our new house in Arizona would look like."

Builders are probably more likely to be asked to reproduce a model in retirement and resort communities, where people are either pulling up roots and starting over in a new location or want a turnkey property that they don't have to bother furnishing. 

But the practice isn't unheard-of in the big city.

"It happens a fair amount, and it's happening more lately." reports Jeff Benach, a co-principal of Lexington Homes, one of the Chicago areas largest builders.

Homebuyer Jon Andes says he could have lived with any of the three models he saw at Lexington Hills in suburban Palatine, Illinois. But he chose the smallest because it could be built on a lot that backed up to a preserve. He asked the builder to build a copy of it, complete with all the extras.

"My wife has a tough time visualizing, so it was much easier for us to go this route," says Andes. "The last home we bought, the builder changed the orientation so the bedrooms were on the other side of the house from the model, and that threw her in a frenzy. It was not what she wanted."

In Southwest Florida, it's "very normal" for builders to reproduce their models for buyers-- right down to the decorative fruit on the dining table and wine bottles in the wine cooler, according to James Nulf, a partner in the Seagate Development Group in Fort Meyers.

"It's already done," Nulf said, " So they don't have to go through the process."

There's no questions that models help bring to life what is, for most people, a hard- to - comprehend floor plan. That's why builders invest heavily in model home parks, with sample houses decorated to the hilt. The homes are appealing, ecspecially to people who can fork over millions to buy one.

At the Quail West Community in Naples, Florida, base prices of furnished models start at just over $1 million. Options can add anything from $267,000 to $486,000 to the base. And if the buyer wants the furnishings, she can expect to tack on another $175,000 to $ 283,000.

To some buyers, it's well worth it. While most buyers want to "Put their own mark" on their homes, says Jill Bresnahan, a Quail West sales agent, some "Don't want to go through the agony of making selections and then second-guessing themselves, and then not knowing what it's going to look like when it all comes together."

Not all builders will be so accomodating. And others tell buyers to work with their decorator if they want the furniture package.

A few words of warning, if you decide to go that route: The model furniture "Looks nice," cautions Chicago builder Benach," but it may not be the highest of quality." Also, many pieces may be reused from previous projects, so they could be showing their age, even if you really can't steadily see the wear during your tour.


"The home is, simply put, beautiful- and deceivingly roomy."

- Michael Gallaher