Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Getting a Custom Look with a Production Builder

We just broke ground on our first house! 
Since we are using a production builder, it will go up pretty fast (3-4 months),
but that just seems like forever when you're waiting on something this anticipated! 

Although we aren't completely finished with the process, I've definitely learned a
lot, and sidestepped some things I probably would have hated myself for down the road, thanks to friends and family who have gone through this process before. 
So I've made a little list that will hopefully help any of you out here who are or may build with a production builder. 

First, when I say production builder, this means a builder that has pre set plans and options for you to choose from, versus a custom builder, who lets you do just that, choose all custom options. 

Using a production builder is usually a good idea if it's your first time building, you have a hard time making decisions, or if you aren't handy and don't have loads of money to spend on a custom home. 
Production building takes a lot of stress out of building a home. 
At the same time, it also takes away a lot of choices and custom options that make a home unique. 

So here are my tips for getting a custom look with a production builder... 

  • Spend the majority of your budgeted upgrade money on structural options rather than design center options. Structural options (cold storage, 3rd car garage, vaulted ceiling, electrical) are much harder if not impossible to change later.
  • Don't forget the exterior. Yes I know that the inside of the home is where you will be spending most of your time, but the exterior is just as important, especially if you want your home to stand out and not look like every other house in the neighborhood. 
As the daughter of a natural stone mason, I would say don't use cultured stone on the exterior! The majority of cultured stone looks fake and tacky. If it comes standard, get a credit and do the whole house hardie board. Houses that are all hardie board, shakes, or board and batten are actually very up and coming and more classic looking.

Houses with a cultured stone wainscot that only goes along the front of the home will look outdated in just a few short years. 
If possible, also run the same type of material around your entire house. It is more cost effective to only do the front in hardie board or something similar and then do the rest of the house in stucco, but here again, it really doesn't look good and stucco doesn't hold up well over time. 

  • Upgrade your tile. Tile is a pain in the butt and a big mess to change later. Standard options at the design center will probably not be your first choice because they are all tan and ugly, so I would definitely recommend this as a spot to spend your money. I chose this hex and square pattern in a white porcelain tile and it really didn't even end up being that expensive to upgrade to, but it will add a lot more personality and a custom look to the bathrooms. 

  • Don't spend money on upgrading your carpet or pad unless you have a lot of it. In our house, I chose to upgrade to laminate wood throughout the main floor, except for in the bedrooms, so we really don't have a lot of carpet. Every upgrade you choose is much more expensive to do when building than it would be to do later because the builder makes money on all of the upgrades you choose. So my recommendation would be to choose a standard carpet, and then replace it down the road when it's worn out with a nicer pad and carpet. 
  • Also remember, the upgrade options they have in the design center aren't the only options. I didn't think about this the first time I went in, so I went with standard options just because I didn't like any of their upgrade options. I figured I wouldn't spend the money to upgrade to something I didn't love. But then I used my brain a little and at the next meeting I brought in pictures of what I really liked and they were able to source them for me and I upgraded to things I actually really wanted. 
  • Buy your own mirrors. This may sound like a minor detail, but having custom looking mirrors in your bathroom does a lot. I just asked if I could get a credit for the big slab mirrors and then I bought my own framed ones that will look a lot nicer. Places like Homegoods, Downeast, and lots of online stores have great deals on mirrors, so it makes it totally worth it! 

  • Add extra lighting. There is never ever enough standard lighting. You'll definitely want to add recessed lighting, usually in the bathrooms, hallways, kitchen, and living area. One standard flush mount light in each room is not adequate. In a bedroom it can be ok because I personally don't like a lot of bright lighting in bedrooms, but everywhere else you will want to add some. Also, switching up the lighting in the bathroom to sconces instead of the overhead bar lights will give a more custom look for not a lot of money. 

So with all of that being said, here is a list of upgrades that we chose to do in our home:

-3rd car garage
- Box vaulted ceiling in living area
- Extra outlets in closets and on living area floor
- Exterior eve outlets for Christmas lights
- Window in hall bathroom
- Hardie board on all sides with natural stone wainscot and accents
(natural stone will be done by my dad so we got a great deal on this :) 
otherwise we couldn't afford to do natural stone and it would be all hardie board) 
- Pocket door to laundry room 
(you walk into the laundry room from the garage 
and then there is another door into the hall which I figured 
I would keep open most of the time unless 
we have people over that I don't want to see into the laundry room, 
so I chose to switch the door to a pocket door to keep it out of the way) 
- Laminate wood runs into living area
- Custom pattern railing around stairs
- Custom tile in bathrooms
- Extra recessed lighting 
-Prewires for pendants over master tub and dining area
- Granite counters in bathrooms (standard only in kitchen and master bath) 
My dream was to have quartz counters 
but a $5000 - $7000 upgrade wasn't in my budget :) 
- White cabinets
- Custom front door (I think this will give our house some unique curb appeal, 
since almost every other house has the same front door)

Hopefully you will find these tips useful if you're ever in the the position of building a home!
It's a fun experience, but it is also a learning experience, so do your research!

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