No Regrets (Fingers Crossed): Builder Upgrade Decisions

One of the most fun things about our home-building experience so far has been deciding on our customizations. When making upgrading decisions, here are two things we needed to keep in mind:

1. Adding something that costs $1,000 (or even $10,000) can seem like a lot, but by building it into the price of the mortgage that will be payed over several years, the amount that gets added to the monthly payment isn’t much at all.

2. That said, making many upgrades that cost $1,000 (or $10,000) adds up quickly. A budget is important.

Here are some other questions to consider:

  • Can I make this upgrade later, and how much more expensive will it be then?
  • Can I make this upgrade myself? For example, instead of adding the built-in bench and hooks upgrade in the mudroom (over $1000!), we’re going to try to create something similar ourselves.
  • Are all upgrades necessary better? For example, tile floors in the bathroom are generally preferred over vinyl floors, but tile is colder on your feet :)

Three choices I’m glad we made:

  • Sunroom. I really, really wanted to add a sunroom, and we debated about the cost and about whether it was a “must have” or just a “nice to have.” Okay, that wasn’t much of a debate, as it’s definitely a “nice to have”…but it will be a really nice “nice to have”! It’s also an addition that adds footprint, and thus value, to the house.
  • We both love white kitchens—that was an easy one.
  • Granite countertops. We were going to go with an upgraded laminate at first, which looks nicer than it sounds. We knew we would eventually want to put in granite countertops, though, and we’ve been spoiled with them at our last two apartments. We decided this was one of those things we’d just rather do now than later, as the overall cost didn’t add much to our monthly payment.
design center choices
These are just a couple combinations we played around with in the design center (I think there were around 30 laminate/hardwood floor choices, to give you an idea). We decided on the warmer floors (left) and white cabinets and white/black counters (right).

Three choices I hope we don’t regret:

  • No basement. This seemed a little crazy at first, as both of us grew up in Minnesota where pretty much every home we’ve been in has a basement. However, adding a basement was expensive, and we didn’t have the option of a walk-out basement, which also meant that the basement would have small windows and probably not a lot of light. We chose instead to add another family living area (the “game room”) on the 2nd floor that will be a good size and have big windows. Yes, there are some flaws with this plan, but I already have ideas for the “game room” whereas I can’t imagine that I would ever spend time in a dark basement. And not having that extra storage space just means we’ll have to be more conscious about what we’re storing and why… right?
  • Not putting a sink in the laundry room. I kind of regret this one already, but we were trying to keep our costs down, and this seemed like an easy way to add to that effort.
  • Not putting the laundry room on the 2nd floor. If we had done that (another cost), we also would have had a huge walk-in pantry right off the kitchen. Eventually a 2nd-floor laundry room would have been even more beneficial, as when we have kids, 90% of the laundry we need to do will be upstairs. I guess that’s true now, too, but our laundry needs will only increase over time. I’ll just get my exercise hauling the laundry and down the stairs… ;) Not making smaller upgrades like this one made room for the sunroom in our budget, though, and I’m okay with that.

Upgrades you SHOULD and SHOULDN’T do:

When I was making my wish list, I found Burlap & Denim’s 37 Builder Upgrades You SHOULD Do and 13 Builder Upgrades You SHOULDN’T Do so helpful. We have a set number of customization options, so a lot of the suggestions were not options for us, but they still gave me ideas and helped me think through some of our other upgrade choices.

All of you home-builders out there: Are there upgrades and design choices you’ve made that you’ve loved or regretted? Maybe there’s time for us yet! Or at least for other readers :)

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7 thoughts on “No Regrets (Fingers Crossed): Builder Upgrade Decisions

  1. It’s so cool to read about your new house! Keep it coming :)
    PS- As a fellow Minnesotan, when you said no basement, my first thought was, but where will you go if there’s a tornado? But great reasoning. :) YAAAAY!!

  2. Loved your picks for cabinets, floor, and counters. We may have some similar picks:). Can’t wait to see the finished product.

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