“Discovery Tours” are finely orchestrated sales events masquerading as a low cost weekend getaway.

Developers of large master planned communities, usually with extensive amenities such as indoor and outdoor pools, club houses, state-of-the-art fitness facilities, tennis and pickle ball courts, and perhaps golf courses, on-site restaurants and beach clubs, and organized social activities, use offers of a low-cost weekend at (or near) their neighborhood to attract potential buyers.

Many people find it difficult to resist a relatively low-pressure sales pitch in exchange for a cheap weekend away from home.  In fact, the developers are counting on that.

While you’re thinking, “I’m not obligating myself to buying anything, so why not?” the developer’s highly trained sales staff are studying the latest research on human motivation and refining every detail of the truly enjoyable experience you’re about to sign up for.

Whether you’re just looking for an economical mini-vacation or are seriously contemplating a move to this new community, weigh the pros and cons before you submit your name and contact info on the community’s website.

DSCOVERY TOUR PROS:

  1. The cost of the weekend is an excellent value.
    For somewhere between $99 and $499 (depending on the location), you’ll get two nights accommodations; at least one (probably more) free meal; access to most, if not all, of the community’s amenities; and a private tour of the community.
  2. You’ll have fun.
    The developer wants you to love the community, so every effort will be made to make certain you have a great time while you’re there.

DISCOVERY TOUR CONS:

  1. Most people sign up thinking they’ll never actually buy anything, so it never occurs to them to engage a buyer’s agent (just in case) before they sign up for the trip.  Of course, if they were right about never buying, the developer would stop spending all the money it cost to lure and entertain potential buyers.
  2. The Community Specialists (i.e. well-trained sales people) don’t have to use high-pressure sales techniques to get you to buy.  By employing their knowledge about people’s innate need to belong; their desire to not miss out on one-time opportunities; and their receptiveness to incentives; these salespeople excel at leading you to the conclusion that you made the decision to buy on your own.
  3. Once you’ve decided to buy, the sales person will close the deal by producing a contract for you to sign.  Most of the time, people sign it without asking any questions.  After all, the experience has been very positive to this point and it still hasn’t occurred to you that the developer has a highly skilled professional looking after his or her interests and perhaps it would be a good idea to have one looking out for yours, too.
  4. If you decide you’d like to engage a buyer’s agent at this point, it’s probably too late to do so without having to pay his fee out of your own pocket.  That means you will either be incurring a cost that would have been covered by the developer if you had contacted a buyer’s agent before visiting the community or you will be navigating the process of building a home long-distance on your own.

Perhaps you’re thinking “No problem.  Why would I want a buyer’s agent, anyway?”

The savvier question is, “Why wouldn’t I want a buyer’s agent?”

Consider this:

– Using a buyer’s agent doesn’t cost you any more than dealing directly with the developer or builder.  If you thought you’d save money because they’re not paying your agent’s commission, you’ll be disappointed to learn that’s not the case.  Your costs will be the same either way because the on-site agent’s contract with the builder set the commission long before you even thought of visiting.  The only thing that hasn’t been determined is whether or not that agent will keep all of it or split it with someone who represents you and has your back.

– While the on-site agents are extremely nice and genuinely want to be helpful, they ultimately work for the builder and are legally and morally obligated to protect the builder’s best interest.  They are not advocating for you.  In fact, on your first visit to the neighborhood, they’ll ask you to sign a form that confirms they’re representing the seller, not you.

Here are a few of the ways having an exclusive buyer’s agent could play in your favor.

– Alternatives. When you don’t know the area, you may find a neighborhood that seems perfect and may, indeed, be so; but what do you know about the other options in the area?  An exclusive buyer’s agent will help you learn about the possible alternatives before you commit to any one neighborhood.

– Builder familiarity.  Odds are, you’re not familiar with the local builders and their policies.  That’s when it’s helpful to have an exclusive buyer’s agent who knows which builders are likely to be flexible and what items they are likely to negotiate.

– Options.  The on-site agent will tell you about the incentive the builder will offer if you use a particular lender and closing attorney.  Who will help you figure out if that’s a better deal than you might get if you used another lender or closing attorney?

-Inspections.  Rather than discourage you from getting a home inspection, an EBA will show you the many reasons it makes sense to get one on a brand new house.  They also know which inspectors are the most thorough and dependable.

Before you register on a new community’s online website or sign up for a Discovery Tour, take the time to connect with a Buyer’s Agent.  You might be about to make a big investment.  Make sure someone has your back.