To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade: That is the Question

There are many differences between purchasing new construction and pre-owned homes (obviously). For one, it’s usually a lot easier to make changes to a house in the planning stages than to one that has already been built (again, obviously). This is why a good agent is your BFF – their experience is KEY to knowing the best changes and options to request before or during your home’s construction.

Builders offer different options at different price points. These include things like replacing standard exterior siding with brick or stone, changing a two-story open foyer into a loft or finishing a basement. 

New construction buyers also make a visit to the builder’s design center. This is where they choose between standard options, such as wood flooring colors and shades, lighting packages and fixture finishes (say that 10 times really fast). There are also upgrades available at a higher price. Everything from expensive tile to carpet instead of hardwood floors and upgraded carpet padding.

Be warned: It’s easy peasy to get carried away and spend a lot of money on upgrades. Before you run up the bill, ask yourself these questions about an upgrade: Will spending more for an upgrade help when it comes to resale? Will it be less expensive to make these changes later? Can you afford to pay for the upgrade? How much difference does the more expensive option make to you? In other words, do you think the pink sink is kind of cute, or do you absolutely HAVE to have a pink sink?

Finally, there are upgrades that builders don’t mention, probably because they’re not very profitable and are a hassle in general. But, like most things in life, they are possible for the right price. This is when a good agent is worth his or her weight in gold (or at least their commission). An experienced agent knows what changes, options and upgrades are worth asking for, and paying for. 

For example, your agent may suggest you ask your builder to add an outlet in the middle of your living room floor because it is a lot easier and more convenient to have a lamp on an end table next to a sofa, without having to position them against a wall. Or, you might be surprised that a curvy, as opposed to a sharp L-shape pathway from the driveway to the front porch, looks more natural and helps to differentiate your yard from the rest of the street. It’s also smart for couples with young children, or those who plan to have them in the future, to replace a hip-height catwalk wall with iron spindles which are more attractive, see through and harder-for-little-ones-to-climb-over.

Most master bath upgrades are great for both owner enjoyment and resale value. And it’s a lot easier to build-in a radiant floor heating system than to install one later. The same goes for putting heating cable in walls to provide warmth in the garage (and any room directly above it). 

Realtors not only have the lowdown on changes that are worth paying for, but they also know what changes are not worth making. Buyers, especially first-time buyers, often don’t think of the reasons that an option may not be worth the extra money. For instance, it’s better to wait a year to add or extend a deck, due to the fact that a newly built house often “settles.”

Crown molding is a very attractive addition to a house, but it generally doesn’t recoup much value. It’s probably better to live in a house and decide which rooms crown molding will really enhance and hire a contractor after the home is built. Tip: a good time to add the molding is at the same time you are painting or wallpapering walls.

Imagine how a good agent could’ve changed the lives of at least two of the three little pigs. By the time two of the little piggies realized that they should’ve opted for brick as opposed to straw or sticks, it was too late. A good real estate agent makes sure you don’t buy a house of straw and definitely makes sure you don’t pay extra for it.


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