What is more enticing than to walk into a professionally staged model home and seeing the upgrades these designer beauties offer? Not much. Model homes showcase a builder’s best work; and, visually, they do not disappoint. Those “that’s-an-upgrade” comments turn into real dollars fast. Options and upgrades are expensive. Make sure that you’re aware of what you really need and what you want in your new home before you negotiate with the builder. Here are some things to consider when you start your home search. They can help you fall in love with the home you can afford!
Determine your baseline budget and how much you can spend on upgrades. If you have been pre-approved for a mortgage loan (recommended), you already know what you can spend on a home, upgrades and all. If not, you may have calculated what you think you can afford; but, may not realize that what you see and like is a home filled with thousands of dollars in luxurious upgrades. If you know your all-in budget, you can more easily figure out what you can afford to upgrade and what you can do without. It will also help you prioritize any upgrades you do buy.
Decide what you can do now and what you can save for later. The best way to look at this and assess what you want in the home and what you may be able to do yourself (or hire someone to do) later on. If you’re a real handyman, you may want to get the lowest cost faucets and light fixtures the builder has and eventually replace them with some that you can pick up at the discount or surplus store. The same is true with cabinet pulls, towel racks and even ceiling fans. Custom paint costs money, and so does wallpaper. If you can do tile yourself (and want to), you may opt to save the cost of expensive tile or slate and get it yourself later on. If you’re so inclined, you can save money on these things if you’re willing to install many of them yourself. However, don’t expect the builder to cut the cost of the home because you’re going to replace the faucets. It most likely won’t happen; but, you will save cost on the new item and the installation if you purchase and install the item yourself. A common thought is to buy the items (ceiling fans, fixtures, faucets) and ask the builder to let you install them yourself and hope to save a little money that way, but it probably won’t. Most builders will charge you more to install your items than if they install the ones that come with the home. Builders also cannot leave things undone to help save you time when you’re installing them on your own. A builder won’t receive a certificate of occupancy, (C of O) – a city document required for the sale of a structure – if they have exposed wires in the ceilings or no faucets over the sink and thus won’t be able to sell you the home. If you want to save money on some items, you’ll have to uninstall the ones the builder puts in and install those you want in their place. That can add up to a lot of time and money for you!
For some upgrades, it is probably wise to pay the builder for the item and the installation. For instance, if you’d like to install a gas stove once you’re in the home, and the builder will only give you an electric one as part of the home, it may be wise to ask the builder to install the electric stove and pay them to install a gas line to the stove area so it will be ready for the gas appliance when you get it. If you want to install a washer and dryer upstairs, you may request (and pay) the builder to install plumbing and electrical where you plan on placing the appliances. This is also a good idea for is outdoor appliances such as cooling or cooking units. Getting a builder to put in gas, electric, plumbing or water lines to areas where you plan on adding things is much less expensive than doing these things after the home is completed. Flooring, upgraded cabinetry, countertops, built-in bookcases, desks, storage, benches, and carpeting are other things that are probably cheaper to have the builder do at the time you’re building the home.