Many new home buyers are tempted to buy more house than they can afford. Don't! You'll be better off financially if you pick a strategy that gives you more house for less money. That's the approach I took when my production builder wanted to charge two to three times the retail cost of upgrades I wanted in my new house.
Here's my ugly but free kitchen, what was included in the base price of my home. The only free choices were one of two dark cabinet stain colors. So disgusted, I didn't even learn how many choices there were for the cheap laminate countertops.
Contrast the ugly kitchen with the stunning white kitchen shown in the model home (below left). The problem is the model home kitchen cost exceeded $15,000 (details below) and didn't include the extra storage in my dream kitchen.
More House for Less Money: Kitchens
Storage in a kitchen is really important, especially when your kitchen is one of four rooms in a large great room. That's why a corner pantry (6′ 3″ of shelving versus 3 ft) and extra base cabinets were part of my dream home. When the builder quote for upgrading to the shaker style, white wood cabinets in the model home was $8,900 … it was time to go shopping. Read Replacing Cheap Kitchen Cabinets to learn how I created my dream kitchen, getting more house for less money.
Wondering what this kitchen cost? and how my costs compared to the model home kitchen? It's not a perfect comparison as my kitchen has 6 more linear feet of base cabinets. More important, there are 6 oversized drawers (3 ft wide) and open shelving on either side of the microwave. Options like these were not available from the builder.
|Kitchen Upgrades||Model House||My Dream Home|
|Base cabinets||15 lf||19 lf|
|Cabinet upgrades||$7,458 (laminate)||$7,330 (wood)|
|Backsplash||$917 (tile)||$1,345 (quartz)|
|Pendant wiring (3)||$333||$333 (builder)|
|Total kitchen upgrade costs||$14,690||$16,757|
|Kitchen upgrades cost / lf||$979 / lf||$882 / lf|
PS Absolutely love my Samsung refrigerator with flex drawer and no handles (they're hidden actually).
More House for Less Money: Bathrooms
When building a house it's easy to get overwhelmed with too many decisions. That's why it's common to make the bathroom cabinets the same as the kitchen … done here. To save bathroom costs, many homeowners will use a less expensive countertop like the builder's laminate (upper left below). For a small cost, you can upgrade these countertops to a solid surface countertop with integrated sinks.
My biggest bathroom requirement was drawers in the vanity (lower right below) which weren't available from the builder. I used the same quartz countertops as the kitchen, replaced the light fixtures and mirrors. If you're building, don't let them install those big, ugly plate mirrors because they damage the drywall behind them.
More House for Less Money: Flooring, Lighting & More
The other big upgrade expense is flooring. My dream house was wall-to-wall tile floors including the bedrooms. Because the quote for this tile from the builder was outrageous, I had them put in the “free flooring”. To save on demolition costs, I requested vinyl flooring (it was ugly) where tile would normally go (entry, kitchen and bathrooms). We had a tug of war about gluing the vinyl down and finally, they agreed to taping it in place after I provided estimates proving it would be replaced with tile.
Replacing floors is easiest when there's no furniture in the house. Here are the steps taken to transform my builder house from inexpensive flooring the my dream wall-to-wall tile house. By doing this myself, I absolutely got more house for less money, saving about 50% of what the builder quoted.
- Remove flooring which likely will require you to remove the baseboard which sits on top of most flooring (read: Replacing (or remove and reinstall) Baseboard). Try to find someone to reuse flooring that is in good shape although I was disappointed that the Habitat ReStore wouldn't take brand new carpet.
- Prep the floors for new materials. Because tile requires a much smooth and level surface than carpeting or vinyl, they had to apply a floor leveler (lower left).
- Install the new flooring (see lower right photo below). The blue levelers accomplish 2 things. The maintain consistent spacing between tiles. Even more important, they make it easier for the tile installers to make the floor level from tile to tile so you won't stub your toes.
What other updates did I do myself to get more house for less money?
- Interior painting as I paid a little more but got higher quality paint and multiple colors where the builder upgrade cost $1,000 for one color throughout the house.
- Upgraded baseboard from builder 3 inch, to 5 1/4 baseboard which makes a huge difference in the look of the room.
- Upgraded cabinet crown molding from builder 3 inch to amazing 5 1/4 inch with simple design that goes nicely with shaker style cabinets.
- Bathroom fixtures – sinks, faucets and mirrors (shown above).
- Nicer light fixtures that didn't break the bank (look for the clearance section as your local lighting store)!
Hope these ideas are helpful and please share your questions and personal stories/photos too!