It only took a year, (which is long time for someone as impatient as me), but we’re finally moved in to our new build!! Despite the waiting though, it was actually a pretty fun process. When we first started thinking about new construction, I didn’t find too much online about what to expect, so I wanted to share a little bit about what our process looked like, and provide some tips for anyone who is considering buying new.
Why new construction?
Brian and I have been together for quite a long time, so I’ve years to picture what type of home we’d be in when we were (finally) ready to buy. For some reason I just assumed that we’d have to buy an old house that needed lots of work, and given our love for home projects, I totally would have been okay with that! But what I didn’t know, was how crazy the housing market is in Canada for resale homes, and that it actually made more sense for our timeline and price-range to look into a new build that wasn’t going to be ready for a little while. That way, we could get into the market earlier, and save more money while we waited. And when I say new construction, I definitely don’t mean custom! We bought a stacked townhouse-condo, so we didn’t have much choice in terms of how things were constructed, especially on the outside.
Overall I would say new builds have their pros and cons! If you don’t mind waiting, having a brand new home is definitely great, but it also takes a long time (even after you move in) for the builder to finish all the outdoor amenities. While it will be “move-in ready” on the inside, re-sale might be better if you’re looking for a beautiful outdoor space. Currently our neighbourhood is a muddy construction zone!
What to upgrade VS. DIY?
Like I said, our home is not custom by any means, but were able to choose some of the interior finishes. Since we are pretty savvy with home renovations, we just really weren’t sure what we should have the builder do, and what we wanted to do ourselves. And I think everybody knows this, but the initial purchase price is definitely going to be different from the final price, based on the finishes and upgrades you choose. Upgrades are PRICEY, and our budget was small! So it really came down to thinking about what we ideally wanted our house to look like, and then breaking it down into what we could do/wanted to do ourselves, what made sense to have the builder do, and what the price difference (savings) would be if we waited to do some things ourselves.
For some of the larger ticket items, like quartz countertops, it actually made sense for us to have the builder do it, rather than to do it ourselves, because the upgrades do go into your final purchase price, (and therefore into your mortgage), so it saves you having to spend a bunch of money upfront if it’s something you want in your home sooner rather than later.
What we ended up upgrading:
- Taller cabinets
- Countertop upgrade from laminate
- Added pots & pans drawers into the island
- Soaker tub (although we probably could have done this later, but it was the only thing on my must-have list!) And having a bath once we moved in was an absolute dream!
- Closet/door conversion to make the den into a 3rd room
- Some electrical rough-ins for pot lights/pendants to go
- An under-mount single-basin granite sink (Brian’s must-have item, that I’m now SO HAPPY I agreed to!)
- Upgrading carpet stairs to Oak (we almost didn’t do this, but went for it at the last minute, because we have SO many stairs, and our entryway leads straight up the stairs, so the carpet would have been ruined in no time).
- Flooring, a cheap-ish upgrade from carpet to laminate
What we had the option to upgrade, but chose not to:
- Crown molding
- Powder room vanity – we decided to get a pedestal instead of doing the ugraded cabinet/countertop
- Extra pot lights
- Door hardware – The selling agent was surprised that we wanted to keep the gold instead of upgrading to chrome or black, but I love it!
- Garage door opener
- Staining the oak stairs – we kept the natural finish, because it was extremely pricey to have them stain it
- Appliances – we were happy with the options that it came with
- Paint (we’ve already started painting ourselves, and it’s so much cheaper than getting them to do it!)
Questions to ask the builder / What we wish we would have known
While we had a pretty great experience, there are still a few things that I wish we had known going into the process. Here are my suggestions of what questions to ask the builder if you’re buying new:
- Interior Garage Access: Apparently this isn’t a given. Although the floor plans accounted for interior garage access, we didn’t end up getting a door from the entryway into the garage because of the elevation. Apparently it wasn’t up to inspection standards because the garage elevation was a lot lower then the elevation of the house/front door. Ask what the likelihood is before you buy, if this is something you’re passionate about
- General options for upgrades: Our builder was very strict about not giving us upgrade information in advance, just in case any of their suppliers were sold out. So before we signed, we didn’t really have any sense of what finishings/upgrades we could even choose from, because they didn’t want to promise anything if it went out of stock or something. We had to wait about six months before they met with us to pick upgrades. If your builder isn’t super upfront about upgrades, I recommend asking if they have a ballpark range for specific items, or if you have something specific in mind i.e. farmhouse sink or two-toned cabinets, ask them ahead of time, because sometimes they don’t carry certain things, and it might impact your decision or budget.
- Likelihood of delays: they may not give you any information on this, but you can ask them if they have been delayed in the past, or the percentage of homeowners to close on their original close date. We were really lucky with this and didn’t have any delays, but I know some people aren’t as lucky, so it’s good to have an idea what typically happens with your specific builder, so you can prepare accordingly.
Overall we had a great experience, and we’re so happy to be in our new home, and we love the upgrade decisions we made!
If you have any other tips and tricks for new constructions, feel free to comment below!