Thursday, October 11, 2007

Confessions of New Construction, Part 3

Shopping Day!

Well the one fun thing about building a home is deciding on what you want to put into it. This can quickly become a hair pulling out experience if you let it overwhelm you. Oh, and it can get expensive too!

After you sign all the paperwork and have the negotiating complete, most builders will ask you to set up a meeting, a three hour one, to pick your "colors". Of course, "colors" really means you will be choosing everything from the appliances, paint colors, flooring, cabinets, siding, electrical, faucets, lighting, countertops, etc. Some builders have showrooms where you can see every single product they offer. Most are still behind on this trend and will have you look through photos of the items, or travel to a local vender to view products.

Some things you will have to consider:

  1. Cabinets - Oak is usually the baseline for cabinets and automatically "included". Maple comes in second, Cherry third, and exotics next. Upgrading to Maple can be quite expensive, especially in the kitchen. Cherry is really expensive and mostly comes in darker colors. Be careful with how dark you go. If you choose dark, but don't have enough light, the room will appear smaller than it actually is. (HINT: if you want to save some money, put oak cabinets in all the bathrooms and laundry room. These rooms aren't used as much as the kitchen and won't stand out as much)
  2. Floors - another cost that can easily escalate is floors. Most options begin with vinyl, then laminate, wood, or carpeting. If you want wood, find out how much the builder is charging you , then get some estimates from local hardware stores. In some cases, it is cheaper for you to put in the floors latter, after closing, as you won't have to pay the extra mark-up from the builder.
  3. Paint - builders love to put in flat color paint on the walls. I hate flat as it shows marks really well and is hard to clean. You can ask to have other textures put in, but it will cost you. Most builders will give you a choice from 4-6 neutral colors, and will paint the entire home the same. We saved $1000 by just having the builder paint the home all white, instead of paying for a color.
  4. Countertops - there are so many choices available and you will need to ask the builder what type of products they offer. Some offer Corrian, Laminate, Granite, Cambria, Silestone, etc. If you choose a natural stone, it can add thousands of dollars to the home. To save money, only put the expensive countertops in the kitchen and leave the bathrooms with the least expensive stuff. You will also have to coordinate the countertops with the cabinet and floor colors, which is one instance when you could be pulling your hair out.
  5. Electrical - this will be the longest part of the selection process and you might want to walk through the model a couple of times to get an idea of where you want switches, dimmers, recessed lights, cable outlets, fixtures, etc to go. You will have to sit down and go room by room with the builders representative. Recessed lighting can add up, as can dimmer switches. Also think about if you want any ceiling fans in rooms as they will need to be wired for future use. Don't forget cable outlets. You may not need them in every bedroom, but a future buyer might not be to happy with having to install them themselves.
  6. Lighting - builders usually offer five lighting packages, with different finishes. The typical "cheap" lights are brass/gold finish and I advise, if you can, to pay for the next level up. Don't forget to think about floor outlets for lamps in the living room, or under-cabinet lighting for the kitchen or bathrooms.

Ok, so I have tried to cover the most obvious things you will have to choose during the selection process. If you are using a custom home builder, your options could be limitless, but more expensive. Think about what you would really love to have in the home and then review the final price. If the cost is too high, take out the things you don't really need, or things you can do at a later date yourself. Just take care of the most important, and worry about the small stuff later.

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