Tips for Selecting Options and Upgrades from Your Builder

Now that you’ve signed a contract to purchase your new home, how do you customize it to make it your own?

One of the advantages of purchasing a new home is the opportunity to select features and finishes that reflect your own personal tastes and lifestyle. But for many homebuyers, particularly first timers, the array of choices can be dizzying. 

Cabinets, countertops, flooring, fixtures, appliances — and even structural changes such as additional bathrooms or garages — are just the beginning of a potentially endless choice of options or upgrades that your builder may allow you to select.

So what’s a buyer to do?

1. Structural Changes

Select structural additions or changes when you sign the contract, or immediately thereafter. “Buyers are a little overwhelmed when they sign the contract because of all the legal documents,” says Sue Goodrich, vice president of sales and marketing for Cachet Homes in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The only thing we talk about then is structural options.”

Buyers who want to add rooms or garages, move doors or add a fireplace or recessed lighting, for example, need to make their structural changes early in the process because those changes may impact the building permit pulled by the builder. These types of changes — as well as any electrical or plumbing changes that would require walls to be opened — would also be costly to make after the home is completed. 

2. Post-Purchase Upgrades

Remember that it might make sense to make certain changes after you purchase your home. Cosmetic features in particular, such as paint, landscaping, lighting and plumbing fixtures, epoxy garage flooring, crown molding, chair rails, window treatments and even certain appliance upgrades can often be made after the closing, particularly by homeowners who have a budget.

Grenadier Homes in Dallas, for example, doesn’t include refrigerators in the base price of their homes, says Kathy Costa, a Grenadier Homes design consultant. That way buyers might be able to get a good deal on their own. Still, by purchasing these upgrades through the builder, you might be able to roll the cost into your mortgage, as opposed to paying out of pocket.

In addition, upgrades completed after the closing will not be covered by the builder’s home warranty — and may void it, Costa warns.

And, of course, there is the hassle factor as well: are you willing to spend time after the closing to work on your home — or would you rather move in knowing that your home is exactly the way you want it to be? 

3. Builder Timeline

Follow your builder’s timeline to select other options or upgrades. About two to three weeks after the contract is signed and approved, your builder will arrange a meeting at its design center. Depending on the builder, you may or may not be able to make changes after this meeting, so be prepared with a list of the items you want. Consider bringing photos of kitchens and baths you like to help guide the designer.