So you’re buying a brand new house from a builder, an exciting and fun endeavour! There are so many wonderful things in the model house, and they all look so beautiful, but obviously they don’t all come as standard inclusions. Part of the new construction process is selecting where you may want to upgrade your home above the provided standards.
A whole lot of questions seem to arise at this point …
What are the most common upgrades buyers choose? What’s the best value now, and what will best help your future resale value? There are endless choices, so how do you choose what upgrades are best for you? Most buyers have a budget they need to work with, so what upgrades give you the best value?
In my world, this is the best plan of attack:
Options to include now:
- Kitchen tile: Get the best you can get now, because this is a big (and expensive) job to change later on. It’s under your kitchen cabinets, likely through the house to the front door. It needs to be installed UNDER everything else, so a huge disruption and not a weekend DIY kind of job if you decide to upgrade later. Extensive, bad tile is a huge turnoff for buyers. They envision hating it forever, or a huge, messy, expensive renovation.
- Kitchen cabinets: Again, get the best you can afford now, because you’ll be living with it for a long time, it’s costly and a very large job to change down the road. Opt for the valance underneath, and you can add in lighting later, if you wish.
- Anything Efficient, Energy Star, Green, or that will cut utility costs, increase efficiency or reduce carbon footprint. Ie, insulation, HVAC, water saving fixtures, appliances, and so on. No one likes wasting money, and buyers are becoming more and more educated on efficiency.
- Upgraded underpad – can make a less expensive carpet feel SO much better
- Basement bathroom rough in. If this is not a standard, it should be. It will really help with costs if you plan on finishing the basement and adding a bathroom in the future.
- Laundry room floor drain (in main or second floor laundry rooms). This is not required by code, but in my opinion it should be. Washing machines leak or overflow all the time! In a basement, usually not a big deal, but on the second floor above your kitchen it’s a disaster! This would likely be covered by your home insurance policy, but save yourself the headache.
- Pot lights. These are labour intensive, therefore expensive, to install after the fact. People love potlights, so if you’re going to upgrade lighting, spend your dollars on these. Most ceilings these days have a knock down california finish. If you’re running wires and cutting in holes for potlights after your home is built, you’ll have to respray the entire ceiling…costly! Lighting fixtures can be much more easily changed later, and if you have the patience and shop around, you can get some great deals on really nice lighting. A roughed in/capped fixture is a good idea too, so it’s easy to add a future pendant light over the island.
- Gas Fireplaces – people love them! They’re cozy, beautiful, and a nice added touch to any living space. If you can’t afford one at the time of purchase, at least go for a rough in. MUCH easier and more cost effective to do during construction, and will add value down the road. This would also apply to any added gas lines for a future bbq, stove, etc.
- If a covered porch is an option, and within your budget, you’ll be doing yourself and your future self selling that same house, a big favour. When built at the time of construction, these porches offer extra living space for a good portion of the year. Architecturally integrated into the style of the home, you’ll never have to buy a gazebo or umbrella, your bbq will always be in a protected space, permanent and reliable protection from the weather when sitting outside. They’re great for day to day enjoyment, as well as resale value, and VERY difficult, if not impossible to do after construction
Options you can do later:
- Finished basement. In a perfect world, we would all wait 1-2 years after construction to finish basements, or, use some wonderful new product to pour our walls and floors instead of concrete, which is imperfect, and needs time to dry and cure. It may feel and look dry, but it’s made with water, and it can take up to two years for an average residential basement wall to cure completely. So what does this really mean? When concrete dries it shrinks, and as it shrinks it will crack. Most of these cracks are harmless, called “expansion cracks” by those in the industry. But once in awhile, you’ll get a bad crack. The kind that are more than .2 inches wide, or the horizontal cracks on the walls. Cracks let water in, and water is the nemesis of basements. This would likely be noticed right away in an unfinished basement, as it would be quite obvious. But lurking behind the wall of the rec room, or under the floor of the theatre room, it could be slowing wrecking your subfloor, drywall, trim, carpet and anything else it touches. And you may not notice for a really, long time. Long enough that it’s now a huge restoration issue, instead of an easy fix.
- Crown mouldings/trim/ceiling details etc. These are relatively cheap and easy to do after the fact.
- Backsplashes. Again, if you have a limited budget for upgrades (as most of us do) this is an easy one to do later on when you’ve got a few extra bucks.
- Decking and patios are very nice to have, but can easily be done later if the budget is getting tight.
- Light Fixtures – builder basic light fixtures can be kind of … basic. These are fairly easy to do after the fact, and it gives you time to shop around, wait for sales, and so on. It’s also not a bad idea to live in the house for awhile, to see what rooms or areas have good natural light, where it could be a bit brighter, and the type of lighting required.
- Plumbing fixtures – taps and faucets are a pretty simple item to change, and they go on sale all the time. Shower controls are trickier, since they’re usually installed before the tile, so get a good one before you build, but shop around for taps and faucets for the kitchen or powder room later on.
- Driveway – if the builder offers a paved driveway free of charge, go ahead and do it. If it’s an upgrade, then hold off. Ideally, a driveway needs to go through at least one year of settling, season changes and frost heave before paving. If it’s not packed down enough and paved too soon, you’ll end up with a cracked, uneven driveway. May not be a problem to park on, but will be a real pain to shovel!
Good luck with it all and remember, working with a TrilliumWest agent to help buy your new home doesn’t cost you anything! You get our expertise and service for FREE. Now there’s an upgrade that you need now and one you won’t be paying for!