While some buyers choose to buy a newly built home just for the joy of living in a home with everything new and untouched by previous residents, many buyers want to experience the thrill of personalizing their home with a floorplan, fixtures and finishes that match their desires. If you have an unlimited budget and are building a custom home you can do anything you want with your home as long as you follow zoning rules, but if you’re buying a home from a builder in a subdivision your choices will vary. Some builders allow you to do almost anything to modify the floorplan you’ve chosen and to decide on even the tiniest fixture; others will give you a choice between several packages of options. There’s a spectrum of opportunities from different builders that ranges from complete customization to limited choice. If personalization is essential to you, be sure you understand how much you’ll be able to do before you decide on a builder.
Match your floorplan and your lot
Even when you have nearly unlimited choice, your options must fit on the lot you choose and work with the floorplan you want. The sales person at each community can help you evaluate which options are available on different homes and lots. For instance, even if a builder offers a sunroom addition to the floorplan you want, not every lot has the space to accommodate one. The more established your priorities are before you start home shopping, the easier it can be to choose the lot and plan that meets your needs.
Before you can get to the fun stuff like picking your cabinets and your flooring and your fixtures, you do need to consider how much to spend on your choices. When you get a preapproval for a mortgage your lender will tell you the maximum you can borrow and you should determine the most you want to pay on your monthly payments. Remember that your loan will cover the base price of the home you choose, any lot premium and your optional choices. So if you’re approved for a $325,000 loan and the base price of the home and the lot you’re buying is $300,000, you have $25,000 to spend on upgrades and options. If you want to spend more than that, you would need to provide cash at the settlement to pay for the options.
Sticking to your budget could mean that while you get everything you want, such as granite counters and hardwood floors, you opt for less costly granite so you can afford to install hardwood flooring throughout your home. The sales consultants and design consultants at your new community can help you compare your choices and decide where your dollars will mean the most.
While you may be dazzled by myriad choices for counters and cabinets, some of the less enticing options and upgrades could provide more long-term value for your home. Work with the sales and design team to determine options that are more difficult to add in the future and that are easier to pay for with a 30-year mortgage than it would be later. For example, if your budget and your lot can accommodate it, it’s wise to add square footage to your home rather than just to upgrade the paint. Structural options such as a sunroom, a room extension, a finished lower level or an attic or even just a rough-in for a bathroom can be hard to add later on but will give you extra space and add value to your home. Energy efficient features such as extra insulation or a more efficient heating and air conditioning system can provide benefits for years such as lower utility bills and greater comfort.
Think, too, about how your needs could change in the future. If you’re planning to expand your family or bring your parents or in-laws to live with you at some point, it’s easier to add flexible space to your home now rather than later. If you’ve got a growing family, think beyond the nursery and recognize that someday you’ll need space for teens to hang out and a place for everyone to do their homework.
When you’re in the thick of buying a new home and choosing the finishes that match your taste you’re probably uninterested in thinking about a future resident of your home. However, you may someday need or want to sell your home, so it’s always wise to keep a tiny bit of decision-making process focused on resale value. For example, even if you always prefer to take showers, remember that most buyers want at least one bathtub in the home in case they have children to bathe.
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Michele Lerner is a freelance writer with more than twenty years of experience writing articles and web content for newspapers and magazines on topics related to real estate, personal finance and business. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, NewHomeSource.com, Realtor.com, Bankrate.com, Insurance.com, HSH.com, The Washington Times, NAREIT's Real Estate Portfolio, and numerous Realtor association publications. Her latest book, "New Home 101: Your Guide to Buying and Building a New Home" and her first book, "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time" are available now at Amazon.com or from MicheleLerner.com.