Q: Several years ago, we signed a contract with a developer to purchase a new construction condo. After several delays, they finally told us we had to close in just 10 days. When we went to look at our new home, we found it to be very different from the floor plan in the brochure. Do we have to close? — Anne
A: Purchasing a new home pre-construction can be a great way to get all the designs, colors and features you want and to make the perfect home for your family in a trendy new community. For these reasons, along with a slick marketing team, these properties are usually in high demand. This, more than the wealth and experience of the developers, puts the buyers at a competitive disadvantage when negotiating the sales contract.
Having reviewed hundreds of these contracts, I have found them to usually be extremely one-sided, allowing the seller to plan changes and delay while requiring the buyer to close on the purchase on very short notice. With these contracts, even more than most, make sure to read and understand all the fine print and decide if you can live with the terms before signing and putting your large deposit into escrow.
Most of these contracts will allow the builder to delay for a variety of reasons and will even allow it to deviate from the floor plan and specifications under certain circumstances. Look at the floor plan you were provided, and you will likely find small print advising that the plans were for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change. This is what you agree to when you sign the contract.
I have seen many people purchase, own and love their new construction home. I am not telling you to avoid these deals, just to know exactly what you are getting into.
The seller, just like you, is bound by what the contract says and can be held responsible for its breach. The relevant laws rely on full disclosure, so if developers hide something or outright lie, they can be held to task.
To answer your question, you will need to review what you agreed to in the contract carefully. If the developer did not hide anything and lived up to the contract — taking into consideration the exceptions, fine print and all — then you will need to move forward or lose your deposit. However, if it failed to live up to its promises, you should find a good attorney to hold them accountable.
Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about industry legal matters and the housing market at each week. To ask him a question, email him at gary, or go to .