7 Builder Upgrades to Skip in a New Home

April 1, 2017
By Nicole Jacobs, Houzz

When selecting builder upgrades for your new home, you need to be strategic. You want to choose the upgrades that will save you hassle and money by doing them upfront. But many potential upgrades will have to fall off the priority list as your budget reaches its limit. Here are seven that you can feel comfortable skipping. They may or may not be cheaper to do later, and they may take some time to manage down the road. But the advantage of waiting is that you will gain options in the types of materials and features available.

1. Kitchen and vanity counters. Though the glitz of sparkling quartz or luscious marble countertops may be pretty compelling to go for now, if you can wait and get them later, you’ll gain choice and may end up saving money. Builders typically use only one supplier for natural stone or quartz counters and may offer limited options. And with the builder’s premium, the cost can be quite a bit higher than if you sourced the material and labor yourself. Skip this upgrade and price it out to be installed later.

If laminate countertops are the standard option, choose one that is as simple and neutral as possible and that you can live with indefinitely. You may be able to select an edge profile as well, so ask about your options. If it becomes possible to upgrade them on your own later, you can sell or donate the old materials so they don’t go to waste.

2. Range hood. A statement chimney range fan is a nice focal point in a kitchen, and therefore a tempting upgrade. It’s another one to skip, though, in favor of a larger selection and probably better pricing later. Since one needs to be installed to pass final inspection, you’d be smart to take your builder’s standard range fan and change it out later on your own budget and time schedule. Again, selling it secondhand — there’s always a market for this — or donating it to a reuse center is always an option.

It’s a good idea to shop for this item in the early stages of your build, as the required duct diameter for some products may be larger than for your builder’s standard model. Do your research by reading the specs for each product. If necessary, you can have your builder upgrade the duct size in preparation for venting a new fan.

3. Lighting. One of the easiest things to change out on your own after you move in is your lighting. A standard builder’s lighting package is pretty basic and uninteresting, but their upgrade packages often aren’t much better. Take your time seeking lighting later and find interesting fixtures to dress your home.

You’ll need to have an idea of how many fixtures you want and where you’d like to place them, and you’ll also want to be sure the wiring for this lighting is on your building plan. Additional ceiling light boxes are worthy and affordable upgrades, but they need to be done early. The boxes can be inconspicuously capped with a white metal plate until you’re ready to install something in them. If you know you want large ceiling pendants, be sure to measure the distance between the boxes to accommodate them.

4. Cabinet hardware. The standard cabinetry knobs and pulls may be boring, but your builder’s upgrade options are usually not very inspiring either. Stick with the basic ones and upgrade later with something from the vast selection on the market. This is one of the easiest DIY projects ever.

Remember that you are limited to the size of hardware that fits the holes drilled in the cabinetry. So if you don’t yet know what you’re after, ask whether the cabinets can be produced without any predrilled holes — which means they’ll have no hardware at all. Some builders may fulfill this request.

5. Paint. Another upgrade that’s cheap and easy to add on your own later is custom paint. Many builders will give you two color selections from their list of limited options but will also paint your rooms the color of your choice for an upgraded price. This may sound worth it to have it done when you move in, but consider that it may be best to wait to see the changing light in your rooms before you nail down a color. It’s also less expensive to do it on your own later.

The other thing is that builders’ painters will just color match your paint selections to the brand they prefer, so if you love a particular brand of paint, wait until later and do it yourself.

6. Backsplash. Builders make most of their money from upgrades, and tile work is typically one of the more heavily upgraded items you’ll encounter. It’s also one of the simpler and less expensive upgrades you can do on your own, or hire somebody to do, after you move in. If you wait, and go without a backsplash in the meantime, you’ll have the opportunity to browse the tile shops in your area and score something on sale or in stock.

Also, builders usually don’t allow you to tile only part of the backsplash area. So if you want to put your money into a higher-end tile, but only want to tile the small area behind the range, for example, this is best done after you take possession, as the builder may not allow this leeway.

7. Appliance package. If your builder offers an appliance package, it’s usually a three-appliance base package of a fridge, stove and dishwasher. If higher-grade appliances are important to you, skip this upgrade.

Even if you are able to get a credit for these appliances to put toward ones of your own choice, it’s usually only valid at the store the builder has the deal with. This may work for you, but look around before you commit. There are a lot of choices out there, and maybe better prices.

Why You Should Stick With Soapstone Countertops
Change Out Your Own Lighting Post-Construction With These Options
Home Builders for Hire

* Please consult with your attorney, financial consultant/planner, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. The information contained herein is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional, tax, financial or legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts or circumstances. The information or opinions contained herein should not be construed by any consumer and/or prospective client as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any particular product or service.