When you’re building new construction, you’re tasked with making a lot of decisions. The base price of your home is the cost of the structure plus all the standard finishes. If you’re planning to customize (and if you’re building a new home, you probably are), then you have to also factor in the cost of upgrades. Staying in your budget when there are so many options to choose from can be difficult, but if you prioritize correctly, you can spend your money on the things that add the most value to your home—both for when you live in it and when you’re ready to sell it—and skip the things that are either not worth their price tag or can be done more cheaply on your own later on. You just have to know which new construction upgrades give you the most bang for your buck and which don’t.
Before getting in to the specifics, consider what gives value to upgrades. Aesthetics matter, but only you will know if it’s worth spending an extra $2,000 for the fancier banister or splurging on that apron sink. When choosing which new construction upgrades to add and which to pass on, think more in terms of overall value; namely: functionality and a return on investment. Here’s what adds value, and equally important, what doesn’t.
- The kitchen
Your kitchen is the focal point of your home. It’s one of the rooms you’ll spend the most time in, and when and if you decide to sell, one of the first places potential buyers will look when determining whether your home is worth what you’re asking for it. It’s also one of the rooms where upgrades are both plentiful and pricey. You don’t have to upgrade every single aspect of your kitchen right away (things like upgraded appliances and countertops can be added in later), but you do want your kitchen to have good bones. Consider upgrading for details like taller cabinets, a kitchen island, and LED strip under cabinet lighting. These things are difficult and costly to upgrade later on, and will all go a long way toward making your kitchen look more gourmet.
- Deeper basement
An extra foot or so of height in your basement can make the difference between the space feeling cramped and the space feeling open and usable. It’s especially worth it if your basement is coming unfinished but you plan to finish it later on. As far as new construction upgrades go it’s one of the bigger ones—plan to spend about $6,000 on a deeper pour—but it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever regret spending the money.
- Roughed-in plumbing for a future full or half bath
Speaking of basements, if yours is coming unfinished you’ll definitely want to think about having your builder rough in plumbing for either a full or half bath. That way, if you ever decide to finish the basement you’ll be able to add another bathroom to your home. And if you don’t do it, you’ll at least be able to offer it as a potential asset to the next person who lives there.
- More lighting
A standard new construction home comes with lighting, of course, but when you’re upgrading you will have the option to add more light. Do it—you can never have too much. Make your money count by focusing on rooms where lighting is most necessary, such as the kitchen and bathrooms. Lighting is inherently functional, and adds not just brightness but also warmth to a space. And while an abundance of lighting may not be super notable to a potential future buyer, a lack of it certainly will be.
- Energy savers
Energy saving upgrades are the gifts that keep on giving. If you’re provided with the option, spend extra on things like energy efficient windows, appliances, space heating and cooling devices, and more. The more efficient you can make your home, the more you’ll save in utility costs every month. Your home will also do more work for you, naturally staying cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. As a bonus, you’ll be doing right by the environment, which is always something to strive for.
- Bigger garage
Has anybody ever complained about having too much space in their garage? This isn’t always on the list of offered new construction upgrades—it depends on your lot size and the layout of the community—but if it is, go for it. Garages can be expanded both width-wise to accommodate more vehicles and depth-wise to fit things like gardening supplies, extra storage, and bikes. It’s an upgrade that’s guaranteed to be both functional and a wise investment, so always go with the bigger garage if you can.
- Innovative storage options
Storage is universally desired among home-buyers, and for good reason. Like lighting, it’s one of those things that’s more obvious the less you have of it, and it also makes the every day functionality of your home just that much better. Fortunately, adding in innovative storage solutions like built-in cabinet organizers and pull out trash and recycling bins aren’t terribly expensive. You don’t have to add in every extra storage option available, but do choose a few that make the most sense for your home.
- Carpet padding
Here’s another one of those new construction upgrades that offers a ton of added value without needing to spend a ton of added money. Upgraded carpet padding will make all of your carpet feel cushier and more pleasant to walk on, even if you don’t splurge on the upgraded carpet itself.
- Wood floors
This is an unpopular opinion, I know, but stick with me here. Wood floors are expensive, and they’re also prone to scratches and water damage. You can get the same look for a lot less by going with laminate instead. Laminate flooring looks just like wood, but it’s significantly more affordable and also scratch- and water-resistant. That means your floors will have a longer lifespan for less money, all without having to sacrifice on the overall look of your space.
- Light fixtures
The standard lighting fixtures offered by builders are generally nothing special. Look through the options of upgraded lighting fixtures and you’ll see that those aren’t very exciting either. With so many great options online for buying not just stylish and original lighting but also highly affordable lighting, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to opt for builder upgrades in this area. Have your builder put in the standard fixtures and then swap them out as you find other fixtures that you like.
- Master bedroom bump out
It may seem like it makes sense that having some extra square footage in the master bedroom would be an asset, but the numbers don’t lie—additions to the master bedroom add the least value of all the most common improvements you can make to your space. And because this is an upgrade that definitely doesn’t run cheap (a bump out will usually cost you about $5,000 or more depending on the amount of space that it adds), there’s really no sense in opting for it, even if it seems desirable on its face.
- Marble counter-tops
Marble has been a trendy option for kitchens for some time now, but it’s actually a pretty poor investment. It’s incredibly porous, meaning that it both chips easily and stains easily. And in a space like your kitchen where spills are common, it’s more of a headache than it’s worth. If you really love the look, go with quartz instead. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s nearly indestructible.
- Crown molding
Your builder will definitely try to sell you on crown molding, either for your walls or your cabinets or both—it’s an expensive upgrade and easy to install on their end. And while it will certainly look extremely appealing when you see it in the design center, crown molding is for aesthetics only and won’t increase value in other ways. Resist the crown molding urge and save yourself the money for the new construction upgrades that will really count.
By being smart about how you spend your budget for your new construction home you can stretch the value of your dollars and only incur costs in areas where you’ll also get a return. You don’t have to be overly pragmatic about it—it’s totally fine to spend money on things that don’t matter in terms of functionality or return on investment but are just really important to making your house seem like a home to you—but when in doubt, err on the side of the new construction upgrades that will pay for themselves over time.