January 2, 2016

The Most Common Upgrades for Your New Home

What Are the Most Common Upgrades When Buying a Newly Constructed Home?

New home builders make considerable money selling upgrades which can increase the cost of your new home considerably in the amount of just a few thousand dollars to well over $100,000 or more. I will attempt to describe what the typical upgrades are for new homes in North San Diego County and what should be considered at the time of purchase and what can be deferred.

Lots. In some cases depending on the size of the community and the availability of home sites you will be able to select the lot that your home will be built on. Lots are usually released in phases so you will most likely be limited to the phases that are planned to be built out in the near future. Premiums are charged above a standard lot for location, size and views. This is an important upgrade since you won’t be able to change it later and will affect the future value of your home.

Structural Changes. Adding an additional garage, an extra bedroom or bathroom is not easily accomplished after the home is built. Many builders in San Diego offer the option to add bedrooms, bathrooms, casitas or garages and in most cases they are presented as options in the floor plans. Most production builders will not stray from the options for structural changes that are displayed on their floor plans.

Electrical Changes. Consider making electrical changes such as adding outlets and lighting prior to construction. By performing the rough-in during construction you can avoid paying more later and avoiding wall repairs after a later installation.

Light Fixtures. Most builders do not offer a wide range of light fixtures. What they may offer is not that thrilling. Recessed lighting should be installed by the builder. If you want to add custom fixtures it may be best to accept the standard builder fixtures and replace them at a later date with your fixtures.

Cabinets. Kitchen and bath cabinets are a common upgrade. Many builders offer smaller height cabinets as the standard cabinet. Be sure to check what height is offered in the bathrooms. Consider the tallest upper cabinets in the kitchen and the finish you want. Be prepared to pay extra for variations in color and finish. Upgrading cabinets in the future is rather cost prohibitive because it requires removal of the countertops, backsplash, appliances, plumbing, and more. Cabinets typically do not include any custom features on the inside except for the normal shelves and drawers. Pay close attention to what is included on the inside of the cabinets. Many builders will offer all the bells and whistles for the insides including stainless steel racks and drawers .This is something that can be done at a later date.

Countertops. Homebuilders offer a variety of countertops as their standard tops. Often they do not even display their standard top on the models. You may be allowed to change between a few basic colors at no cost of what is offered as the standard but any change in materials will be an extra cost. Solid surface tops vary in cost as to the type of material and how it is detailed and how the sinks are installed. It is not required to upgrade at the time of If you are considering an upgrade in your countertops Keep in mind that you will also probably need to change your backsplash to match. If you are going to upgrade the countertops, you are probably going to want an upgraded sink, so that will also be an additional cost. Generally, if you have a natural stone countertop, you will also want a natural stone backsplash.

Appliances. Not all builders display their standard appliances in their models. Be sure to find the details of what is offered. It is not necessary to upgrade at the time of construction. You may find that the value that the builder gives you as a credit for the standard appliances is not very much and the builder may be charging considerable premiums for any upgraded appliances. You may be able to find the appliances you want, not being limited to the brands that the builder can supply in the retail market. You can sell your standard appliance and replace them. Keep in mind that if you are going to change the sizes of refrigerators that do not fit within the layout of the kitchen design you will pay extra for the change in design and configuration. If you desire built-ins you should consider the builder handling this during construction. Changes in ovens and cooktops can be achieved later but again if the desired size varies from what is offered the cabinet and countertops will need to be modified. If you are planning to modify at a later date consider that you have proper electrical service and plumbing to accommodate changes.

Flooring. Your builder will probably offer a variety of colors within the line that is offered as standard. You will pay extra for changes in the quality of the flooring and variations in carpet padding. This is a big profit center for the builder as many will offer a large variety of options of flooring, including custom tile designs and a wide range of materials and wood flooring.

Closet Shelving Systems. Many builders offer custom shelving options for closets. This is something that is nice to have done before you move in however you may be limited to one supplier that the builder offers. You will have more options by looking at various suppliers on your own and arrange for the work to be done after closing on your home before move-in.

Landscaping. When buying a new home in the San Diego area you will find that only the front yard landscaping will be included in the purchase price. That landscaping usually is quite basic, enough to make the home presentable and conform to the local regulations. Many homes include an irrigation system for the front yard only that can be expanded to other areas or zones as needed. You can choose to improve the front yard landscaping and additional areas at the time of purchase or consider hiring your own designer and contractor to landscape the back and side yards at a later date.

  • The price of any upgrade done by a builder usually ends up in your mortgage, meaning that you will pay interest on that item which costs you even more money over time. Many builders require larger deposits for upgrades or purchased in full prior to installation.
  • The increase of your upgrades may alter the amount of your appraised value for real estate tax purposes.
  • The cost from the builder includes a mark-up for their profit which you may be able to save by purchasing and arranging for installation on your own. You will be able to shop for the best price.

-Rob Pontarelli

Back to New Home Buying Guides and Information


Blog, Buyer Tips, Construction, First Time Home Buyers, Helpfull Guides and Links, Options and Upgrades, The Buying Process