We were fortunate that our house came with a slab granite, front and back landscaping (including sprinkler), as well as wood floors in the entry, kitchen, and dining area. This saved us a lot of money.
Things to definitely upgrade:
- Ceiling and door height. If your builder gives you the option to have 8 foot doors and 9 foot ceilings, definitely do it. This is not something you can change in the future. We have been into other houses in our neighborhood that did not chose the high doors, and it just makes the homes look so much smaller.
- Carpet. Builder grade carpet and padding is shiny, and looks like a matted stuffed animal after a small amount of wear and tear. Going up one step in the carpet will make a huge difference in the look of your home. Plus, you only usually pay the difference in the cost of the carpet. If you plan on tearing it out in a few years, you will be paying much more for all new carpet than the small difference in cost now.
- Cabinets. Again, you pay the difference in the cabinets. We opted to do the 42" cabinets, with extra detail, and thicker molding for $1000 more. For a kitchen our size, with custom Java cabinetry would be almost $10,000 to add in the future. The $1000 was a small difference now, but pays off later.
- An under mounted sink. If you get granite counters, do not get a sink that mounts on the top of the counter, it just looks tacky and cheap.
- Bathroom counters. You can put laminate in, which most builders provide. But, to replace the counters in the future is just a pain in the butt. Do it now, pay the difference, ours was less than $500 for both upstairs bathrooms to add corian.
- Tile work. Unless you are a tile pro, or really good DIY-er, this takes time and patience. Two things we are not really good at.
- Air conditioning. If you do not get air conditioning automatically, and you live in warm climates like Colorado, get it. Ours was an extra $4,000 for it. GASP.
- Pre-wire for sound system. IF you have a sports fanatic husband, and some day you play to have a sound system, it is much cheaper to wire it when there are no ceilings.
- Appliances. We wanted stainless steel, and we did not want to go through the hassle of selling the including black appliances and getting new ones in a few years. We only paid the difference to go from black to stainless steel, which cost $399. That is much more worth it, because our last home cost us $1600 for new stainless steel appliances.
- Wood floors. If you have kids and pets, putting wood floors on the whole main level makes the most sense. We did manufactured wood which is slightly cheaper than hickory and it holds up better in the drastically differing climates of Colorado weather.
- Fan prewires in the bedroom. This is just hard to do in the future, and incase you want to add your own fan, it is there to do it!
Things not to upgrade:
- Window coverings. We did not think that spending $1200 dollars on fake wooden blinds (for only the bathrooms and bedrooms) was worth it when we ultimately did not like those anyway. If we would have been able to afford the thousands of dollars for plantation shutters, that is what we would have done. Right now I have bought all of the bedroom and bathroom windows for less than $600 on amazon.com.
- Paint. Although it is expensive to paint, I am not one to have every room painted the same color (with only the choice of two different colors). It was $1200 to upgrade to a darker color (whole house) and it was still flat paint. Flat paint is not good, ever. So this was seen as a waste to us.
- Light fixtures. We can easily replace light fixtures on our own, so paying three times as much for a light fixture to be installed was not something we wanted to do. I am not a huge fan of overhead lighting anyway, so in the bathrooms we had 'boob lights,' but will slowly change those out.
- If you do not cook often, do not do a gourmet kitchen. For us, it was a waste of $2500, and took away counter space.
- Backyard slab. If you live somewhere where the ground settles a lot, wait a year or two before installing slab so your house can settle.
- Door hardware. If you are fine with the standard look, in our case it was brushed silver, we stuck with the standard and it still looks great.
Luxuries that we upgraded but is not necessary:
- Fireplace stone. I liked it so much better than the tile.
- Santa Fe doors. The Richmond homes come with standard six panel doors. We liked the look of these better.
- Backsplash. We love ours and did not want to take the time to do it ourselves.
- Window sills. We love the look of an actual sill instead of just sheetrock.