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What To Upgrade In Your Builder Basic Home That Will Be Worth Your Investment

I go into hundreds of homes every year. And in my area of Katy Texas, production builders churn out hundreds, if not thousands of homes every year. In fact, most successful production builders have a formula that they abide by to build their homes quickly and efficiently, and they don't veer too far from that.

This usually means the chances of customizing your home are slim to none, or very expensive. The finish selections are usually very basic and quite limiting.

Semi-custom builders often have a bit more options available to choose from, but these options are often quite expensive.

Builder Basic Living Room Turned Maximalist Retreat
Builder Basic Home Turned Personal Maximalist Sanctuary. Designed By Veronica Solomon. Photographed By Colleen Scott

For some homebuyers it makes sense to not roll these additional costs into their mortgage notes but to do them after market.

But the reality is some upgrades are best done with the builder, and some can be done after market. It can be a challenge for homebuyers to know what to upgrade and what to wait on. And even when they do some of their own upgrades, how can they make sure that it will be worth their investment?

Well, not only do I have experience with this as an interior designer serving many clients in this capacity, I also have done this quite a few times for myself. I know firsthand the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to upgrading a builder basic home

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this post, check out this video of my kitchen BEFORE and a bit of the AFTER. There's more on my home upgrades on Youtube and Vimeo.

As you can see, I am not a fan of cookie cutter. I believe that even on a tight budget, you can personalize your builder basic home to reflect your style and for the way you live. You definitely don't want your home to look like the neighbors'.

So what areas should you upgrade? And a great question I am often asked is when to upgrade?

There are a few questions that you need to ask yourself first.

1- Can I afford to upgrade after market or is it best to roll in some upgrades into my mortgage?

2- Do I need to move into my home right away (maybe because your lease ran out on your former home) or do I have some time to handle renovations?

3- What upgrades should I do immediately and which ones should I do over time?

4- Which upgrades will add value to my home?

5- What are my must-haves to make sure my home works for me - whether they add value or not?

6- How long do I plan to stay in my home?

7- Should I hire a pro?

Study upgrade with built-in bookcases
Study That Was Upgraded From Builder Basic To A Beautiful And Functional Space Complete With Built-In Bookcases

If you decide to roll a few upgrades into your mortgage, it makes sense to do some of the bigger ticket items and items that may be disruptive to your life once you close on your home. Anything that is expensive, or will require ripping out finishes and materials or will create a lot of dust, are prime for this. Things like tile flooring and cabinetry are usually a pain to rip out and replace, so those may be items you can consider upgrading to something you really want with your builder.

Of course you could also decide to not move in right away and spend some time renovating after you close.

In my home for example, I waited until after closing to do all the upgrades. That meant that I had to rip out builder basic tiles and carpet to replace with the tile and engineered wood floors that I wanted, plus renovating the entire kitchen, an entire bathroom, adding built-in cabinetry and painting. Some upgrades I did quite a bit after I moved in, and some I am getting ready to do.

It really depends on your unique situation when it comes to what you should upgrade with your builder and what to do after market.

Kitchen Upgraded From Builder Basic To Custom And Unique

Certain upgrades like countertops, backsplash, painting, millwork, closet systems can be done after market because they are a bit less messy. However, they could take time. So if you have an absolute move in date, you may want to think about if you are ok making these changes while you live in your home.

Changing countertops means that the old ones have to come out for a template of the new countertops to be done and then fabrication. That will require a couple trips to your home, so you will be without the use of your kitchen and bathrooms for a while.

Painting and millwork can be messy, as your trades will need to move things around to get their work done.

Adding a new backsplash will take a couple of days, so that can be a bit more doable.

Consider these factors as you plan to upgrade your builder basic home

Foyer Upgraded From Builder Basic. New Patterned Carpet On Stairs With Porcelain Flooring

Things to definitely upgrade after market include light fixtures, cabinet hardware, appliances, door hardware and plumbing fixtures. These items are not super disruptive and can usually be done in a day.

Also, one of the first areas you need to upgrade is the space where you plan to spend a lot of time. Whatever you enjoy doing - movie watching, reading, sleeping, taking long baths, cooking, barbecuing, gardening, writing your memoire. Whatever area of your home supports your hobbies, is definitely worth improving.

Now that you know what to upgrade and when, you also have to consider what will likely to add value to your home.

Kitchen Upgraded From Builder Basic

Kitchen and bathrooms sell homes, so it makes sense to focus your dollars in these areas. But I will say that I am of the firm belief that you should create the home that YOU want for yourself, and not for the next buyer - but you should still be mindful of your goals and try to project for the future.

For example in my home, I have no plans to move for many many years, so I was ok over-improving for the area I live in. I know that in time it will all balance out. It is still a risk, but I plan to really enjoy my home.

Bathroom Renovated From Builder Basic

Try not to go too trendy with the materials and finishes you choose for your kitchen and bathroom. You still want materials that make a statement, but will hold their value.

Wood flooring and upgraded tile flooring will always give you a great return on your investment. Millwork is great to do as well, but may or may not be a great return. I think it would make your home more marketable if you go to sell it, but you may not get back what you put in. For me, adding millwork was a "like to have" feature and I decided to spend the money for my own enjoyment.

Blush Powder Room
Blush Powder Room Upgraded From Builder Basic

Before you spend on these items, ask yourself how long you plan to stay in the home. Most times it is hard to determine that, because you likely would not have bought the home if you knew you were going to move in a couple of years. But some good indicators are: If you are single now, but expect to meet someone and get married in a short timeframe. If you have a job where a promotion could mean moving away. If your spouse travels a lot for work or is in the military. These are some situations that could cause you to move fairly quickly after buying a home, so keep those in mind as you decide what to invest in to improve your home.

Or if you're like me, you splurge on your "like to haves" anyway and enjoy your home to the fullest.

TV Lounge Area
TV Lounge Area

So maybe now you're confused. I hope not. That is not my intent at all. The fact is that knowing what to upgrade, when and why, is very individual and depends on a lot of different factors. This is where the help of a design professional comes into play.

From the moment you decide to build or buy a new home, you should engage a design professional. We are experts and will get to know your individual situation and can provide guidance, and help you make decisions about layouts, materials, finishes, and providing you with a comprehensive plan for your home to look and function the way you want. Not only that, we can do it all turn-key for you as well including furnishing and styling.

We can even help you create a budget so that there are no surprises when you go to make improvements after market.

If you are in the process of building or buying a home, reach out to us. We can help you make the right decisions and keep your budget in check.

We are offering $100 off our consultation fee as a special Welcome Spring gift to you. Book your consultation HERE and use coupon code "SpringConsult at checkout. You may also check out our CVI Concierge service. Our Concierge Service goes beyond turn-key to even setting up your home with the essentials and technology packages. Perfect if you are a busy professional with no time for decorating and all it entails.

Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!


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