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Builder Upgrades

What builder options should you consider? 
When buying a new home you have the ability to really personalize your home with many of the builders offered options.  I always attend the design meeting and advise my clients where they should spend their money.   

This list below represents many of the major items buyers will need to consider and my recommendations.  When buying a new home plan on spending an additional 5% to 20% on builders options.  Most builders don’t pay Realtors commission on the options just so you know.  So when your Realtor is advising you to spend money just know they have your best interest in mind.

  • Kitchen:  Nice Kitchens sell homes.   Upgrade to a cabinet that you love.  Cherry color cabinets are always a safe choice. They age nicely.  This is one place to spend money. Oak Cabinets are completely out of style and most resale buyers just don’t like them.
  • Granite counter tops.  Pick a color that goes well with your cabinet selection. The color of the granite influences cost and not quality. Please don’t go with Corian, most resale buyers just don’t like it.
  • Back splash.  Order it through the builder if it is in your budget. It can be a do-it-your-self project to save money or have a pro do it later. You will have a much wider selection of tiles to choose from in the after market. One advantage of having the builder do it is that they don’t install the 4 inch granite back splash on the granite counter so the tile goes from the surface of the granite counter. Has a cleaner look.
  • Appliances. Stainless steel is the trend right now and I would upgrade to what meets my needs.  Example would be upgrading to a five-burner cooktop because you like to cook. If you go top end on the cabinets make sure the look of the appliances match the quality of the cabinets. Nothing worse than great looking cabinets and cheap looking appliances.
  • Flooring.  Everyone loves wood floors.  Put as much in as you can afford.  Just FYI..Gun Stock is the most popular floor color if you are stumped on color selection. The color works well all around.    
  • Carpet. Pick natural colors.  This is an easy change out later down the road once the dogs and kids have their way with it.  You could go with builders grade carpet and just upgrade the padding. Are you considering Blue colored carpeting?…forget it.

Wood flooring in the kitchen is very popular. Make sure the cabinets and the flooring look good together. Contrast is fine.

  • Bathrooms.   Bathrooms are expensive to remodel so do it up right the first time.  Bathrooms help sell homes. I always suggest put your money into the master bath. Get 12 x 12 tiles and do it up. Upgrade the plastic shower pan to tile and a mud pan.  Go with frameless shower doors, the look is amazing. If your builder does not offer frameless shower enclosures or asking too much money for the upgrade, ask for a shower rod in place of the shower door and put it in after market. You will be glad you did.  

If you have a large floor area in your bathroom put the floor tiles on 45 degree angle for a great look.          Other baths; upgrade vanities to adult height if needed. Go with 6 x 6 tiles if on a budget.

  • Bay windows options.   If the bay window also adds additional floor space they can really open up a small room or add drama to a dinning or living room.  This will set your home apart from your neighbors.
  • Walk up outside stairs from a basement.  Get the doublewide stairs with double doors. This will let in lots of natural light.  Makes the basement more appealing. You could use this area as an additional bedroom when planning the basement build out.
  • Finished basements add value but cost $$$.  If you finish the basement put the bathroom in or at lease have the rough in plumbing installed and the area framed out.  This is something you can always complete as your family grows.
  • Radon Gas sensitive areas.  Ask your builder to install a radon pipe in through the roof.  It cost $400 and its there if you need it.  Test your home for Radon after you move in.  I am always surprised by how some homes can have very high unsafe Radon levels.  I sold a townhome that the Radon levels exceeded the EPA standards by 300%. Worth checking.

With the energy star building codes I think its more important now than ever to be prepared for the need to put an active Radon removal system in. The Building industry has been very slow to respond to this need. Be proactive.

  • Fireplace option.  In small condos and townhomes they seem to take up valuable wall and floor space.  I would say if its not important to you, don’t get it.  Great room flow will trump a fireplace every time.  If you are concerned about another heat source in case we lose power than consider it.
  • Garage door opener.   If you are looking to save money and you are handy you can install one in 3 to 6 hours.
  • Additional wiring.  Consider ceiling fan outlets in bedrooms and family room. Lighting under a kitchen cabinet is nice. Addition lighting in kitchen and family room is always worth considering.  No one likes dark spaces. Consider hard wiring for a home alarm system. Additional TV Cable jacks or wiring for surround sound, it is the time to do it.
  • Upgrade Moldings.   Yes.  It warms the room and makes the home have a nicer feel.  Family room, dinning and living room are wise to consider. I would personally do the entire house.  You can also do it after market if you don’t mind the construction.
  • Decks. After market is probably less money than what your builder is asking.

I hope this list helps.  My clients all say they are glad they spent the extra money on these options. It’s all about having a beautiful home while protecting your investment.

A good Realtor will help you through this process along with pre-dry wall inspections, Builder conflicts, pre-settlement walk-through and so much more. It always wise to be professionally represented in the biggest purchase of your life.


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Art Wenk
Pearson Smith Realty

43777 Central Station Drive, Suite 390,
Ashburn, VA 20147
8315 Lee Highway, Suite 430
Merrifield VA 22116 
Phone: 703-424-3191
Email: artwenk@msn.com

Contact Me

Direct: (703) 424-3191
Office: (571) 386-1075

Email: artwenk@msn.com
VA BRE License Number: 0225193875

Pearson Smith Realty
8315 Lee Hwy Ste 430, Merrifield VA 22116 

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