Building our House - Upgrades!

I'm not sure how many of my readers have built a house, but those who have are well aware that the 'base model' of a home lacks a lot of the finishing details that turns a house from a home.  Jordan and I have been very conscience of our budget and have still managed to reach our cap before all the numbers are in.

The experience in selecting the finishing touches for your home is like none other I've had before. Each appointment is during the work day (thank goodnes for banked OT and understanding bosses).  We have so far had to take off four afternoons from work, and have three more to line up.  They include the following:
  1. Home Builder Design Center (structural items)
  2. Appliances
  3. Cabinets
  4. Home Builder Design Center (finishing touches - tile/paint/flooring)
  5. Lighting
  6. Design Center - Sign Off
  7. Design Center - Sign Off
At each appointment you are presented with the standard pacakge and then possible upgrades.  While there is nothing wrong with the standards, they are not perfect either.  I was taller than the basic fridge, for example.

As we make our choices we are wary of both our budget and the time investment in the home. Jordan and I intend to live this home for 10-15 years, if not longer - so our choices have to have some longevity to them.

At this point, we actually haven't signed off on anything yet - so we can still add/delete items off the house list/uprade items that I'm about to share with you.

I had a chat with my mom tonight and she was curious to see how/why the uprades added up so fast because after each appointment i've chatted with her, and she was surpised when I told her tonight that we already it $350K.

So, here it is:
(please, feel free to ask questions)



  1. Ouch. And yet there is nothing on the list that is outrageous. I suppose you could build the cantilever for the fireplace and put one in later, but wow! I was thinking you would still come in at the "spec house" price, but that was full of upgrades. But I bet it didn't have good insulation. Can you come up with a plan if you go over by $10K? Other than pray for wedding cash.

  2. I think a few things might be worth skipping and doing your self like : ceiling fans, hood fan, some of the appliances and for $840 what are they doing to your parking pad putting in a heated driveway?? Any ways its really not a bad list all in all and as your mom says its not that outrages.

  3. I'm curious, Can you have some of the stuff installed later, for example the dishwasher?

    Your mom and Sarah are right in that it isn't outrageous in the sense but it's still costly.

  4. The number to finance became already $20.000 more than the one you budgeted. Also when you get the house you will need money for drapes/curtains ... The Wedding is in 3 months and you're $10.000 short there. This is already $30.000. I think you're great in saving and thinking thinks through, but I would have waited for another year or two till purchasing a home.I would have waited till I have at least 20% down and $10000 for extras. When we bought ours 8 years ago, we put down 50%, it was very liberating to know that we could do that. We kept about $10000 from which we spent a few more tousand $ in the first few months with necessaties in the house. Next month the house is paid off and we are quite happy. I wish you and Jorday all the best in your futures and that you always save and make the right financial desicions.

  5. I agree that the upgrades are not outrageous, but as a non-involved party, I have to admit that I'd be anxious about paying for all this.

    This is a 20k increase in the financed amount - so based on your earlier post (http://jessiesmoney.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-home-purchase-budget.html), a $76-97/month increase. Though, I question whether you'll get anywhere near those rates when you ultimately close. So, again, doesn't seem outrageous...except that when I look at your budget, it seems very based best-case scenario (you put down $1200ish per month for the mortgage, even though rates are only likely to go up) and your RRSP contribution amounts are really low. I guess nothing can really be done at this point, but you seem to have set it up so that there is not much wiggle room.

    Finally, have you considered renting your water softener/water heater? I rent the latter and its not overly expensive. I plan to buy one once I save up, but didn't want to be paying for it for 30 years on my mortgage.

  6. @ Mom - that is one possibility, waiting to do the fire place.

    I'm hoping the design center lady gets back to me over the weekend with guesstimates of the cost of the upgrades that still havee blanks. That way we can make decisions about what stays and what goes.

  7. @ Sarah

    We certainly good ask them to 'rough in' the ceiling fan and then install them later ourselves. We would save a little bit - I'm not sure how much though.

    It's hard, but we have to weigh the accessibility to our home builders buying power. If we buy a ceiling fan through them, it might actually cost less. It's defenitely worth checking out though!

    There were six appliances that came standard: dishwasher/washer/dryer/hoodfan-microwave.combo/stove-oven combo/ and fridge

    When we went to Trail Appliances he first showed us the basic options and then after we asked questions he showed us some upgrade options. We actually downgraded and eliminated the microwave and kept just the hood fan. This is important, particularly when cooking with gas.

    Great question on the $840 for the parking pad! A 20x20 parking pad comes standard with the home which is technically big enough for a double car garage...if you drive small cars.

    Jordan and I got out our tape measure and measured our single car garage which I can barely squeeze my SUV (ford escae) into. That would a couple of bikes and a couple of tool kits - ther's no room to breathe in there. I couldn't imagine trying to squeeze JOrdan's pickup in as well.

    I had been considering buying a shed for bikes/lawnmorer and what not - and there's one that I've fallen in love with at Costco - for about $850. We decided to get a bigger garage, and not buy the shed.

    Thanks for your great comments!

  8. @ Anon

    You're right, the number is about 20,000 more then we were originally planning for. We weren't expecting to uprade our cabinets or appliances...and some of the others that you see listed above tha wern't before.

    - Window covereings are included, so that won't be an issue. Don't worry, we're not upgrading those :)

    - You are right about the wedding too - what you might not know is that we have a savings plan built into our budget from now until July and will have enough money to cover the wedding.

    - It probably would have been easier to wait another year, but I'm really not someone who usually does something because it was easy. We were both keen on buying now because interest rates are only going up and so is our desire to move. We're getting married and really wanted to be in our own space.

    - A huge congratulations to you to being able to put so much money down on your first home! That would have been a wonderful acheivement!

  9. @ carly

    - You're right, it is more! A lot more, pretty scary hey? That's one of the reasons I wanted to post it up again, my mom was curious too where the extra was coming from. You're also right that after financing it will be just under $100/more more and in the budget I had posted there wasn't that much wiggle room.

    I've revised things since getting a raise and we're feeling like we're in a good spot. I'll post that budget up later on.

    - I love that you noticed the RRSPs - it's not very much and I would love to have more. Jordan actually already belevies that we save 'too much' - it's been a gradual process to get him up to $100/month. You may not know that I also contribute to a pension. I contribute 5% right off my way and my work matches it. I invest this through Sunlife and a fairly high risk portfolio to help balance our low interest RRSPs through ING.

    Eventually I would like to see this increase, but that's something I hope we'll acheive over time.

    - We actually haven't signed off on any of these upgrades yet. They are our wish list so to speak. IF we wanted, we could cut everything off and go back to the basics.

    - Thanks for the suggestion on the water softener, I hadn't thought of this at all! I'm not convinced that we actually need one - but the folks at the design center thought we did if we got a tankless water heater instead of the basic one.

    - The intent behind the majority of the environment-friendly base upgrades is long term financial savings on utilities.

  10. If you're getting carpets installed, upgrade them to a better quality than builder's basic. Go for Nylon carpetting which is durable, not polyester which shows wear within 3 years! Also, pot lights on the main floor. If there aren't any and you think you might want some, get them installed during the build.

  11. @ Rafiki - Sure, there are things that we could upgrade later, but if we didn't upgrade they would install the basic model that comes with the home.

    It seems to us like a waste to not just spend $100 now to get the dishwasher we want. The alternative is to throw out one worth $500 and then buy one worth $700 (because we get access to reduced prices) and then pay an installer.

    I believe it's more cost effective to do some upgrades now.

  12. @ Makky's mom - We're waiting on pricing for better underlay :~) While Nylon lasts longer I understand that polyester is easier to clean - so 50-50 on which one is better. I think we're going to go w/ basic carpet this time around.

    Jordan hates pot lights - such a pain to change the bulb. We're meeting with the lighting person on Wednesday this week - it's an area I'm hoping we don't feel the urge to spend more $$ on.

  13. Unfortunately, I am getting to this party a little late.

    I am a Realtor in Saskatchewan and have learnt, recently, that the difference between installing average windows and the most expensive triple pane windows available will amount to cents worth of savings a month because, in reality, there is not a huge difference in energy efficiency.

    The home inspector we often use with clients is also does all of the readings for the Energuide program and he had mentioned to us that to get your money out of those windows you would have to have the for almost 100 years.

    Not sure if you would consider keeping the builder's standard windows but that is just something else to think about.

  14. buy your own washer and dryer second hand for 100 bucks and save yourselves 1300!


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