“Bureaucrats: they are dead at 30 and buried at 60. They are like custard pies; you can’t nail them to a wall.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright
An upgrade #5 carpet with a #2 pad. Some extra telephone and TV outlets. The den option with the double door entry. The list goes on and on. You have just completed the upgrade selection for your new home and feel pretty good about it. The option list given to you from the builder’s design center looked thorough enough, and you just plowed through it, choosing everything from flooring, to plumbing to electrical enhancements.
Once the builder has started on the house, he informs you that it is too late to make changes, except at a big non-refundable expense. Your builder has budgeted out his costs and everything has been ordered. But are there any upgrade choices the builder’s representative didn’t present because you forgot to ask about it? It seems as if this is every home buyer’s worst fear when selection time is over. Suddenly all kinds of advice and new ideas come pouring out from well-meaning friends and relatives.
If you have exceeded the cut-off times for adding anything more to the house at this point, there isn’t too much you can do. This advice, then, is for those thinking of going down that home buying path, but haven’t made their final decisions on upgrades. There always seem to be some upgrades and enhancements that can be added to your list that the builder may not offer you because, although they may be available, the builder does not have them as standard, pre-priced options.
The most common items I can think of that get overlooked by buyers and design center personnel alike are items that aren’t visually evident in the home. A biggie is insulation. Ask your builder about the thickness of the insulation they use in walls and between floors. If noisy living areas are not far from bedrooms, you may want to inquire about upgraded insulation to muffle the sound. Insulation is also important to energy efficiency. Is the new home a model of energy efficiency, or is there more that you can do through the builder to improve it?
What exposure is your new home? If one side of the home will experience brutal sun exposure, is there something you can do to add tinted or higher grade windows to that side, such as triple paned or the new “low-e squared” glass? What about more doors to the backyard, or a French door off the master to a deck or balcony? When asked, builders may be willing to add them or at least put in headers over windows that can be used for door openings later on, when the “hole in you pocket” syndrome is behind you.
And then there are what we in the industry lovingly call “pre-plumbs” and “pre-wires”. These are builder preparations for systems you intend to install later on. Pre-plumbs can be stubs for gas log-lighters in your fireplace, Jacuzzi tubs, central vacuüm systems, or a utility sink to your laundry room or garage, to name a few. They remain as behind-the-wall goodies you can use when you wish to add the full system later on. Pre-wires are for electrical enhancements for later on. An extra garage door opener, speaker wire in your family room ceiling, an intercom, or a security system.
Some buyers don’t think in terms of “extras” with some items they choose and regret it later on. A larger fireplace, more burners on the cook top, extra cabinets in the laundry room, more fans in bathroom areas, more security lights in the backyard, and even an outlet for Christmas lights in a place you don’t have to risk life and limb to get to, for instance.
Although new home builders have finally started to offer extra “flat work” (extra concrete for walkways or patios) to buyers, design center personnel may not be the experts in suggesting or designing it, so it may be something you have to inquire about. It’s not that the builders don’t want to make more money by permitting you to add these things; they sometimes don’t present them as part of their normal option package. What happens, all too often, however, is that by the time a buyer thinks of adding them, it’s too late in the construction process.
There are few buyers I have met that haven’t thought of something they would have added when choosing their options and upgrades, if they had the chance to do it over again. My advice would be to become the squeaky wheel when you are about to make these important decisions. Ask the sales person to give you examples of what others in the neighborhood have chosen for their new homes that isn’t evident on the builders’ standard option list. Then make a list of all the “behind the walls” additions you may want to opt for to take with you on that confusing, but exciting trip to the design center.