When you buy a newly constructed home, you are in control. Choose the features you want and leave the ones that you don’t—your options are limitless.
But with every gift comes a responsibility. With new construction, that means choosing which upgrades are most important to you, when to add them, and when to pass.
How to Upgrade a New Home—These Features Can’t Wait
Choosing new home upgrades isn’t always a now-or-never situation. Certain options, like appliances and countertops, are relatively easy to change out later.
Others are significantly more expensive and disruptive when the house is finished. It's best to order these from the builder’s upgrade package.
1. Lot and Location
Many things are difficult to change when your new home is complete, but its physical location is easily the hardest. Once a house is built, that location can’t be changed. So if a cul de sac, oversized back yard, greenbelt, waterfront, exceptional view, or anything apart from a standard location are important to you, spring for it upfront. The builder will most likely charge additional for these lots, as they are typically few and far between in a neighborhood and may cost more to build on. Think about living in your home day after day for the next several years. If a special home site is on your “must-have” list, go for it! And bonus, if the lot stood out to you, it most likely will for future buyers, helping to boost your resale value when it comes time for that.
2. Structural Elements
After location, structural elements tend to be the most expensive elements of a home to change after completion of construction, if they are possible at all. It will be one of the more expensive upgrades to design and create a bigger living room or add a gameroom to your home, but you'll pay much less than if you remodel later and have to move walls.
The same is true for other additions and structural upgrades, including:
- Bigger garages, extra bays
- Extra bathrooms
- Enclosed porches
- Solid wood staircases
- Accessory dwelling units (sometimes known as in-law apartments, “granny flats” or casitas.)
- Coffered ceilings
If there’s something you might want later but would have to tear things up to get, consider upgrading with your builder.
3. Electrical and Plumbing
As with structural upgrades, it's worth considering electrical and plumbing upgrades for your newly constructed home. If you eventually decide you want smart home technology or an extra bathroom, breaking down the walls to install the electrics or pipes will cost more money and hassle. Even things like two showerheads or outlets in the eves for exterior holiday lights will be much more cost effective when added during the construction process.
Basement plumbing options
Many new home buyers consider basement bathrooms. You may not be convinced that you need one now, but think about your future needs before you turn it down. Kids get older and want a private space to hang out with their friends. Relatives age and may need to move in with family.
If there’s any possibility that you might need another bathroom—in the basement or otherwise—consider having the plumbing roughed in. Having those pipes ready and waiting behind the walls for a future project will make it much easier to add a bathroom should you decide to install one. And if you don’t, they’ll add value for your eventual buyer.
4. Energy-efficient features
The more energy-efficient your new home is, the more money you’ll save on utility bills. New construction homes often have the most recent code standard energy-efficient features included with the price. There are some efficiency upgrades you can easily add later, including energy-saving windows and lighting, but you have more options when you make changes during the building process.
Some new home buyers can even opt for ultra-efficient home design, which uses the natural landscape to minimize energy use. These homes are built using more sustainable construction techniques and use renewable energy whenever possible.
Whichever sustainable option you choose, find out if you qualify for government incentives to help you cover the cost of the upgrade.
5. Exterior materials and insulation
New homes are built with the latest codes and energy efficiency standards. However, upgrading insulation in the walls and roof are some choices that will have a big payoff in utility bills down the road.
The more carefully you make these decisions, the more you’ll save in the long run.
A Final Word
Upgrading your new home means investing in your future. Take the time to research your options and talk to your builders about what they recommend. You'll save yourself the trouble and frustration of re-doing things later, and you'll enjoy the results for years to come.