Do you have a Realtor? Or are you doing this independently?
Contractor grade is a middle grade of material, you can always upgrade. Rental grade and sometimes when someone is flipping a house is low and it can usually really be seen in the flooring (laminate instead of hardwood, linoleum instead of tile, thin carpet etc....) Contractor grade materials are not the best but if you want the best then they will have to charge and sometimes the house will not appraise, that is one of the catches when trying to do upgrades in a new construction, making sure it will appraise when it comes time to close. It is easy to add $5K to a 30 year loan for upgrades, it doesnt affect payment much, just getting it to close can be a hurdle.
There are no negotiations on new builds in our area, we have a strong military influx of new people so demand can be high at times. All you can do is try but I have found that builders have already priced the new homes to sale so they are not sitting on them paying interest for too long.By the way, sounds like a really nice house, especially with $36K in upgrades!
I am not sure if your in Columbus, GA or Ohio....we have USDA loans here for rural development and a mortgage lender (which I am not and do not claim to be) told me that you would need a 620 credit score and a really good debt to income ratio to qualify for a no money down loan...we have recently closed two of these types of loans in Alabama. Hope this helps. Email or contact me if you have any questions about this type of loan.
You should be able to trust your Realtor.
I agree with the replies above, hire a structural professional, Home inspectors usually do not have the knowledge to determine foundation problems.....We put an offer in on a HUD home this past winter and the inspector threw up some redflags about the structure of the home and we had a structural inspector to come out and they said it would cost $16K to put piers under the home to lift it back to where it was supposed to be.....To make a long story short, we found her another home the next day....She was a little disappointed at first but was happy in the end (with a clear mind too).Now that being said, if she would of installed the piers the house would of been fine which someone else ended up doing because the house was a great deal and they could absorb the $16K and come out ok.Hire a pro if the home has had structural problems in the past!
Get a buyers agent, It is a huge investment and you need someone to help you make sure you are getting everything you deserve.
Dual agency is tricky but it is allowed here in GA & AL and it is done, we have done it, just got through a closing on one (and when I say got through, I mean barely got through) All kinds of issues came up for both parties, sometimes it can go smoothly but the agent has a duty to both parties and it can get messy. Some brokers do not allow it in our state. If you Love the home than move forward, if not, keep your options open....you may have put this in your post and I missed it but do you have a buyer brokerage with the agent you are dealing with? Or was he or she trying to get you to sign one?