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. But options and upgrades can be expensive. Make sure that you’re aware of what you really need and what you want in your new home before you start to negotiate with the builder. Here are some things to consider when you begin 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, you already know what you can spend. If not, you may have calculated what you think you can afford. Knowing your all-in budget will show you how much you can spend on the actual house and homesite and how much you’ll have leftover for options and upgrades. Knowing your numbers will also help you prioritize any upgrades you do buy.
Decide what you can do now and what you can save for later.
One way to select which upgrades to buy is to determine what you may be able to do yourself or hire someone to do. If you’re a real handyman, purchase the faucets that the builder includes with the home and eventually replace them with some that you can pick up at the discount or surplus store. The same applies to cabinet pulls towel racks and even ceiling fans. 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 down the road. If you’re so inclined, you can save money on these things if you’re willing to do the work yourself. A common misconception is that buying some items yourself (ceiling fans, fixtures, faucets) and asking the builder to let you install them will save money. Most builders would not agree to this as it would be nearly impossible to warranty a home if the builder didn’t install everything in it. The same is true with items that you buy something and ask the builder to install it. Not only will this cause warranty issues for the builder, but it will also be expensive! The builder will also have to charge you for the item that they already purchased that will not go into this home. Builders also cannot leave things undone (such as a ceiling fan installation) to help save you time when you’re installing them on your own. A builder won’t receive a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), a city document required for the sale of a structure if the house has exposed wires in the ceilings or no faucets over the sink. Without a CO, the builder cannot sell the home. If you want to save money on some of those 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 the home comes with an electric stove, but you’d eventually like to install a gas stove, have the builder install a gas line to the cooking area. If you want to install a washer and dryer upstairs, request that the builder install the plumbing and electrical you’ll need. This is also a good idea for is outdoor appliances such as cooling or cooking units. Letting the builder to put in gas, electric, plumbing, or water lines is much less expensive than installing these lines or wires after the home is completed. Flooring, upgraded cabinetry, countertops, built-in bookcases, desks, storage, benches, and carpeting are other things best installed by the builder at the time you’re building the home.
Negotiate with the builder.
Options and upgrades are profitable items for the builder, and they are priced with plenty of room for negotiation. While you won’t have much wiggle room on the price of the homesite (if there is one) or the base price of the home, you should have plenty of room on the upgrades and options. Most builders use upgrades and incentives as attractive promotions to encourage you to buy the house. Granite countertops, tile or wood floors, a three-car garage, thick carpet or padding, smart thermostats, a beveled glass front door, elevation (façade) enhancements, faucets, French doors or high-end appliances are other popular upgrades. Most of these items not only add a great deal to the beauty of the home, but they’ll also help you sell the house down the road!
Prioritize your list and make your selections.
Once you know the cost of the upgrades you want, prioritize them. As you create your final list, you’ll want to ask yourself questions about where you’ll want to place each upgrade. Kitchens and bathrooms are usually good investments, especially for resale; but your list should be based on what is essential and valuable to you. Is it your starter-home? Maybe focus on the kitchen and bathrooms. Do you have small children? Safety features may be a priority. Forever home? Perhaps you want an upgrade that has little resale value to others, but it is one about which you feel strongly.
By the time you’re done with this exercise, you will hopefully be able to "see" yourself living in the perfect house for you!