if you do not have a buyer's broker (agent), and you are buying direct from the builder, then you are sort of backed up against the wall. i always recommend that every buyer retains a buyer's broker (which does not cost you), because then, she owes you the one thing that you need: AGENCY. that means that she puts your interests above her own, which would be her getting her commission. that means that of course, she would handle the review of the form of contract that the builder uses and if necessary change some of its wording.
i do not know why you didn't investigate the builder's reputation a long time ago. other than qualifying for your mortgage, then finding a trustworthy and caring (for you) buyer's broker, you would then obviously call the better business bureau, as well as the state's attorney general's office for fraud to see whether any complaints were lodged against the buyer. then you would find out when they were filed, what they were about, how they were settled, or whether they went to court.
you should not think of the place where you hang your hat after a hard day's work as an investment, but i'm sure i can't persuade you not to: everyone thinks that their house is an investment. so then, you can do that, but more so, you should know that a house is the largest item in dollars that most people ever will buy in their lives. so it is scarry. if you had a buyer's broker, you wouldn't be scarred, and you wouldn't need to jump through hoops (of worry) on the very day you are to sign on the dotted: you'd have had your buyer's broker attend to every need you had, including the security and reputation of the builder.
the most important thing right now, since you are signing today, is that you carefully read the sales contract. if you don't understand something, ask for an explanation. if you do not agree with some of the wording, do this:
write onto the contract, in a separate paragraph: "this contract is contingent upon the approval of the wording contained herein by the buyer's attorney within 10 business days of the date of acceptance," then hire a real estate attorney to review it. i know, i know, i know, in CA, nobody gets a real estate attorney since you close in escrow, but in your case, if you are one bit mystified or afraid of being sold down the river, you should do this.
does your contract provide you the right to hire your own home inspector to come in within a reasonable time period after your contract is accepted to give you advice on any defects? and, did the seller ever give you papers that cover each and every structural element of the house? if yes, then your home inspector should be given a copy of them at the inspection. you can put a clause into the contract like this:
"this contract is contingent upon a home inspection, at buyer's expense, to be performed within 7 business days of the date of acceptance of this contract. if any defect is disclosed to the purchaser by his home inspector, then seller will immediately proceed to repair such defect at his own expense. such repair or replacement of any defective or faulty element of this real estate will be done in a workmanlike manner according to current code(s). buyer may inspect the repair/replacement(s) as soon as they are finished, to determine whether such defect is reasonably repaired or replaced. buyer reserves the right to cancel this contract, having all earnest money returned to him immediately, should seller refuse to repair or replace any defective item found in the home inspection as per this paragraph.
also, buyer has the right to walk through the property within the 48 hours prior to closing for a final inspection. property to be surrendered at closing to the purchaser with no structural defects, ordinary wear and tear excepted..." something like that should be sufficient.
watch out for any foundation problems!!! if they didn't build the foundation properly and it is cracked, get out of that deal asap!
gee, how i wish people did not act on their emotions on new houses. sure, they look great. the model is perfect. it is all "new." but that does not mean that the builder is a conscienscious builder.
a real estate attorney may require that the builder provide you with a warranty over structural defects and appliance breakdowns for a year or more.
there is SO MUCH to consider in purchasing your home. the only thing i want to really, really stress yet again to anyone that reads this advice is to ALWAYS hire your own buyer broker (it will not cost you). PROTECT YOURSELF. IT IS YOUR MONEY. IT IS A GREAT PORTION OF YOUR LIFE AND HAPPINESS THAT IS AT STAKE.
Realtor, broker owner, residential and investment specialist, consultant, 1031 starker trader, etc., 23 years.