Homebuilding is an exciting process, and at the same time, it can also be incredibly overwhelming. My husband and I were not even considering buying a home when we stumbled across a new neighborhood that was being developed and decided to go for it.
While it may depend on who you build with, most of the more prominent builders give you a specific time frame to select everything for your home. That includes the physical layout, siding, cabinets, flooring, countertops, bathrooms, lighting, paint, etc. You get so excited to pick everything out, that you sometimes don’t think of the long-term use of your home. When we built, we selected things based on our current life, which included a dog but no children. If we had kids at that time, I think our choices probably would have been a bit different.
So here is a breakdown of things we wish we did and did not do. This post won’t apply to everyone as we all have different tastes and different budgets. However, if you are building an average-sized home and are starting a family later, then this is probably for you!
I’d like to mention that I completely understand that being able to build a home is a privilege that not everyone can afford, so please do not take this as complaining. We love our house, but the following things are something that we should have taken the time to better review.
When we built our home, we only needed room for two cars and a few garage staples (lawnmower, landscaping tools, etc.). We figured a two-car garage would be plenty of space. However, we never thought to map out the square footage physically. Once you put two cars in the garage, it’s a tight fit. We didn’t think of all the new things we would need when we have kids. Fast forward seven years, and we now park one car outside at night (except in the Winter) because our kid’s toys, coats, and shoes have taken over.
We wanted hardwood floors in our kitchen and entryway as we thought it looked nice and was easy to maintain. We selected the cheapest wood flooring option because we were already over budget and naïve thinking that “wood is wood.” Gosh, were we wrong! If you could see the scratch marks in our hallway from our dog using it as a runway to the front door when the doorbell rings. The kids have also left a good number of dings and marks from just being kids. If wood flooring is a must for you, then you need to do your research. There is a big range of durability, so be sure to pick the one that best fits your needs now and in the future.
Had we thought about the future, we probably would have picked the high-grade laminate flooring. It has come a long way and probably would have made more sense for our growing family and budget at the time. My neighbor has it, and I am always amazed at how much it looks just like a wood floor! If you have kids or pets or drop things a lot as I do, consider that if you need to save on your budget.
One last thing that we wish we would have known about flooring. Your carpet is only as good as the padding that you put underneath. Keep that in mind if you are looking at a carpet upgrade.
When you see dimensions on paper, sometimes it just sounds big enough. We figured a standard small laundry room was plenty of space and moved on. Had we known that you could only fit a washer, dryer, utility sink, and two dog bowls, we might have spent the money to add on to it. There is little room to hang a coat, set out your shoes, etc. That stuff all ends up in the garage, and we all know how that is working out for us!
By the time we got to cabinet options, we were pretty much overwhelmed and over budget, so we went with the standard cabinets in a dark stain. We figured someday we could get higher quality cabinets. However, replacing cabinets is a bit of a task, especially if you also have to replace an island. While the dark stain is helpful when trying to fix scratches, the overall basic cabinets haven’t held up as well. Had we done further investigation, we probably would have gone with something that looked a bit nicer and was way more durable and long-lasting.
The one thing that we did right! We had the house painted in whatever came with the standard house package. When you build a new home, it will take a bit to settle. This means you will have nails pop out and seams that might become visible. It happens and builders typically come back after so many months to fix them. However, our builder came through and fixed them with a compound that left white patches everywhere. This is not abnormal, but if we had painted the house, we would have had to repaint every single room that had nail pops. If you can handle living in a home that is all one color for a year, then save your money and wait to paint.
Our kitchen and eat-in area is one space, so we thought we would need a lot of lights to cover both spaces and the kitchen island. We ended up with 12 can lights in our kitchen...12! Our kitchen is a standard size with a little island and a small area for a table of four. Those 12 lights are more lighting than our office, living room, and dining room combined! Had we thought to look at my parent’s kitchen (which is a similar size) and noticed that they only have five lights that provide more than enough lighting, we would have probably cut way back. If you are unsure of what you need, find a friend with a similar size kitchen and see what they have and how it works for them.
Your upgrade options will vary based on your builder. However, most let you upgrade almost everything so be smart about what you are choosing. Follow your budget and make sure that what you are upgrading is something that you really want. Some things are easy to do yourself, such as towel handles, faucets, drawer pulls, overhead lighting so don’t splurge on that unless you want the specific product offered. If you are a bit handier, perhaps you consider doing some of the smaller projects, like bathroom floor tiling, yourself.