To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade Your Home: That Is the Question
You've found the perfect neighborhood, selected a home plan you adore and chosen a reputable builder. So you think all the stress and decision making in building a new home is now over? Think again! With so many ways to customize a home today, there are hundreds of upgrade options from which you will have to choose... cabinetry, countertops, carpets, faucets, appliances... the list goes on and on.
Also, if you are like many new home buyers, you have fallen in love with the model home in your community and hope to add similar upgrades to your own residence. Once you discover, though, the amount of money the builder put into all those extras, you will need to decide which upgrades you really want (and can afford) or whether you should take what the builder provides and consider making upgrades yourself sometime in the future.
According to Laura Jonke, design coordinator with Bob Schmitt Homes, Inc. of North Ridgeville, Ohio, and an American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) member, there are several advantages to upgrading during the building process including customization, financial incentives, resale benefits and convenience.
One of the best reasons to include upgrades in your building plan is to infuse your own style into the home. Whether you want to give your home a country look or a contemporary flair, the options you select will help convey that style throughout the house. Upgrades also offer the home buyer a better grade of product.
Another reason for upgrading is functionality. The standard refrigerator offered by the builder (often referred to as "builder grade") may not give you the side-by-side door style you prefer with ice and filtered water in the door. And, you probably will not get that great showering system with the multiple body sprays and large showerhead without incurring the cost of an upgrade.
One major benefit of upgrading during the building process is that it allows you to roll the cost of the upgrades into your mortgage loan. Although you may pay more in taxes initially, upgrades can be paid off with your monthly house payment at a lower interest rate than if you sought out a home equity loan in the future. In addition, most builders will include upgrades in your home warranty program.
What you choose now may play a big role in determining the resale value of your home in the future. Name brand appliances and popular custom upgrades will appeal to potential buyers. Concentrate on rooms like the kitchen and master bath which buyers "zero in on" when purchasing a home.
"For resale appeal, try to avoid creating spaces that aren't functional for anyone but your family," said Jonke. "Spaces should be versatile enough to accommodate a wide range of people and lifestyles."
If you decide to wait and upgrade after you move in, you'll have to deal with the disruption in your household. It is usually much easier and more convenient to have the builder upgrade items during the construction process and spare you the hassle and headaches of having a house that is torn up and areas that are unusable.
Advantages of Upgrades
Although there are countless areas of your home that can be upgraded, Jonke advises her customers to put money into the most-used areas of the home. Some of the items to consider include faucets, flooring, appliances, countertops, cabinets and lighting.
When it comes to faucets, upgrades provide more style and functionality. In the kitchen, consider upgrading to a pullout spout model in which the faucet wand can be extended to easily fill vases and pots or for cleaning purposes.
Moen's latest kitchen offering is Aberdeen. This faucet has a classic look, but features a unique "pause" button which allows users to interrupt the water flow while moving the spout outside of the sink so there is no mess on the countertop or surrounding areas.
In the bathroom, style is the name of the game. Choose a bathroom faucet such as the new Kingsley that offers traditional styling in a host of finishes -- including new Wrought Iron -- to complement your bath accessories. This faucet and others in the Moen line are built on the M-PACT common valve system which means a number of different trim options will work on the same valve body, allowing for instant upgrades from above the sink.
Upgrading to a better grade will prolong the carpet's life. With higher density carpets, the dirt doesn't break down the carpet fibers as easily, meaning the carpet will be less likely to show traffic areas. Upgrading can also provide more options such as a Berber or textured carpet.
It also makes sense to upgrade the sheet or hardwood flooring in high traffic areas of the home like the kitchen or utility room. Choosing vinyl with a polyurethane coating will provide more of a wear layer and longer-lasting beauty. Flooring upgrades increase the value of the home and provide better longevity.
According to Jonke, most people today are asking their builders to upgrade to glass top ranges, quieter dishwashers, and a built-in microwave with a ventilation feature installed over their range. Some new home buyers are also opting for the new GE Advantium oven which uses halogen bulbs for faster cooking.
Granite or Corian are the upgrades people want when it comes to kitchen countertops. If the budget does not permit these, Jonke suggests adding a beveled edge to the builder-grade laminate countertops. This provides an upscale look but won't break the budget.
Another option is to use a laminate countertop, but add a composite sink, like granite. This sink will provide durability, scratch and stain resistance and can be installed as an under or overmount.
Cabinet upgrades give home buyers the option of solid wood doors rather than veneer and also allow for stylish features such as raised panel doors or a Shaker style. Also, some cabinets can provide plenty of functional features inside the cabinet including pullout shelves, lid organizers, cutlery dividers, spice racks and wine glass holders.
Lighting and Technology
Jonke encourages clients to wire for lighting if they are even considering adding a fixture to a room in the future. It is always easier to wire during the building process and then cap it off rather than add a fixture after the house is built. Some upgrades to consider include ceiling fans, recessed or track lighting and under cabinet lighting. Also, wire for the technology age with Internet accessibility throughout the house as well as cable, fax and surround sound capabilities.
Universal design no longer has to bring an institutional look into your home. The growing population of seniors will appreciate the new stylized elevated toilet seats, tub grips, transfer benches, decorative grab bars, and tub and shower chairs. Finally, a safe and functional home can benefit from today's style options.