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    New Homeowners Dilemma: Buy Window Coverings OR An All Expenses Paid 6 Week Vacation?

    As a buyer of a new-build home, I have spent over 7 months decorating my new space in my mind, traveling to examine the progress on my home and frequenting interior decorating stores. Anyone who has bought a new-build home can certainly relate to the anticipation of moving into a shiny new custom space….and the cost of it.

    My sister has had a much longer go of this ordeal. She has been patiently waiting for close to 3 years for the development of her new condo and has proudly been occupying her space for a total of 4 days. Within 24 hours of her move, she was confronted with an unexpected attribute of her new home; glorious, never-ending, mind numbing LIGHT. At first I thought she was exaggerating…until I went over to her place in the afternoon and had to keep my sunglasses on to keep from squinting. It was nice to chat over a glass of wine later that night but my sister kept insisting that we keep all the lights off. Within five minutes she had proven her point. Sleeping in her positively glowing space is an impossibility with the constant glare of city lights streaming through the gorgeous floor to ceiling windows.

    When confronted with a dilemma, I feel the need to resolve it so like any good sister, we took an emergency trip to a reputable window covering store. It was here that we were horrified to learn that the solution to her problem (black out shades) is going to cost a mind-numbing $6000. I might add here that I spent 6 weeks traveling in Southeast Asia for less than this. My sister and I share many things, including expensive tastes but in all fairness we quickly discovered that anything short of old school vertical blinds (a major resale no-no) would run around the same price.

    I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble but if you are thinking of buying a new-build home, it is important to understand that there are a number of hidden costs associated with them. I know realtors tell you this all the time but sometimes these words of wisdom get buried in the excitement of buying a new space. As a home buyer of a new-build, I am outlining the costs that personally added to my big ticket home price.

    Here are the top costs associated with a new home:

    1. Location (not only neighbourhood but lot premium) – We all know that premium neighbourhoods come with premium price tags but premium lots also come at a hefty premium. A big pet peeve of mine is that most people don’t know how much their home is going to cost them until they are in the sales office, minutes away from signing their purchase agreement. The resale market may be moving quickly these days but at least my clients have an opportunity to know the list price of a home before they agree to sit down at the bargaining table.

    2. Staircases – Builders LOVE to catch you on upgrading staircases because it is extremely difficult to do later on. This combined with staining your staircase to match your hardwood floors can add up to big bucks. It’s extremely difficult to upgrade later so if you are interested in this upgrade, mentally add it to the sale price before walking into the sales office.

    3. Ceilings – As a realtor, I will tell you that buyers love 9 ft ceilings. Find out if this is included in the purchase price of your home.

    4. Flooring – Some builders include flooring upgrades (ie: hardwood) in the original purchase price while others do not. Find out what your builder excludes and add a hefty price to your purchase if you are planning to upgrade. This is not the area to express your unique style. Go for popular choices that look expensive. (No one has ever told me that a home had TOO much hardwood or that the flooring was TOO neutral). Flooring is difficult and expensive to change and it is extremely difficult to match hardwoods later on so get your choice right the first time and it will pay off when you do sell your home.

    5. Kitchens and Baths – I don’t think I really need to elaborate here. Plan to spend a good chunk of money upgrading your kitchen and to a lesser extent, your bathrooms. We all know that kitchens and baths sell houses.

    6. Layout – While layouts may not have a huge impact on the price of new build homes, they can have a huge impact on the price of a resale home. Consider flow, function, light, and desirability of your floor plan in detail. I think this is almost as important as your neighbourhood and lot location. Think about how you will place your furniture in your new home. It may look great on paper but be difficult to work with in reality. A great layout is a must have for most of my buyers.

    7. Appliances – Try to match the quality of your appliances to the overall value of your home (ie: million dollar homes demand nicer appliances from buyers than $300,000 homes do). No home is undeserving of stainless steel. It is worth every extra dollar it costs.

    8. Lighting - Adding the right number of potlights and upgrading the standard builder’s light fixtures add the wow effect that homeowners love. This can be expensive and is almost always an upgrade so factor it into your calculations.

    9. Fences and Landscaping – Even if you buy a postage stamp sized lot, you can easily spend thousands of dollars making the exterior a beautiful space.

    10. Window Coverings – I wish I could say that my sister will get every dollar out of her window covering investment but she likely will not. Buyers appreciate good window coverings but unlike other upgrades, they don’t in my opinion always get a 100% return on investment. As a new-build buyer, I recommend you mentally add the cost of new window coverings to the cost of your home and factor this in when comparing new build costs versus resale home prices.

    Before buying a new build home take the time to factor in all the hidden costs associated with your purchase. Once this is done, figure out what you can get for a comparable price in the resale market and make your decision from there. Buying a new build home can be an overwhelming experience. I highly recommend doing your research first so that you can focus on the fun things…like picking out new window coverings!

    Happy house hunting to all. Stay tuned for my follow-up article: “Why Didn’t You Tell Me THIS at the Sales Office: The Intangible Costs of Owning a New Build Home”.



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