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When you buy a new-construction home, as I did a decade ago, you’re often tempted to spring for upgrades from the get-go. After all, why have your home completed only to rip things out or tear things apart a year or two later? It was that logic that drove me to make a few rash decisions during the construction process -- decisions I later bemoaned.
1. Paying for an oversized soaking tub
My home features a fairly large master bathroom, so when I saw that my builder was planning to include a standard tub, I immediately requested an upgrade. I’d seen other homes in our search with beautiful, luxurious, oversized soaking tubs and decided that I needed to have one as well -- even though it would add a good $1,000 to our out-of-pocket costs.
My husband, nice person that he is, graciously agreed to let me have my large tub. But he also pointed out that I’d maybe taken a bath three times in the three years we lived in our old house. But I insisted, and we paid for that tub. And now, about 10 years later, I can say that I’ve probably used it a dozen times total.
On the one hand, having that tub could add resale value to our home, so perhaps getting it installed wasn’t such a huge mistake. On the other hand, I paid for that upgrade so I could enjoy it. In reality, I should’ve spent my money on something I could’ve gotten more use out of.
2. Upgrading to expensive bathroom and kitchen faucets
When you buy new construction, you generally get what’s known as builder-grade fixtures (read: bottom of the barrel). When our builder showed us the faucets he intended to install in our kitchen and bathrooms, I was appalled and immediately ran out to different hardware stores to find fixtures that were more attractive. I also wanted a kitchen sink faucet with enhanced features, like different spray options, that would make doing the dishes a bit more pleasant.
Long story short, I spent well over $1,500 upgrading my home’s faucets. Years later, I can easily acknowledge that it was a big waste of money. See, I didn’t just go one step up from builder-grade; in some cases, I went top-of-the-line, thinking they’d make my main floor and guest bathrooms more attractive. Not only have I never received compliments on my faucets (because why would people even notice them?), but over time, they started to rust as a result of our somewhat hard water. Oh, and that fancy kitchen faucet? Yeah, it broke after a year or two. Go figure.
3. Putting in a wooden deck
When we signed the contract on our house, we knew that our purchase price didn’t include a deck or patio and that we’d need to bear the cost of putting them in ourselves. Since I was already spending money on other upgrades (some of which were useless, apparently), I decided to be cheap with our deck and opt for wood over a lower-maintenance composite material. In doing so, I saved about $5,000.
Meanwhile, in the 10 years that followed, I’ve easily spent that much on deck maintenance, if not more, and that includes doing most of the maintenance myself. (Okay, fine, it’s mostly my husband who’s forced to do the sanding and staining every year. But I’m there to rinse brushes and offer moral support.)
In this case, I would’ve been much better off paying for the more expensive material upfront and saving myself money and aggravation during the years.
Hindsight is 20/20
It’s easy to look back on these mistakes now and kick myself for making them, but at the time, they totally made sense. And I’m sure I’m not the only homeowner who made improvements and later regretted them. Still, I’m sharing this story to spare other people the annoyance of what I went through. If you’re going to upgrade your home, whether as part of a new-construction project or not, think about how much value those updates are really going to offer you and whether your money could be better spent elsewhere. The funds I sunk into my oversize tub and faucets could’ve instead bought me a hassle-free deck, and that would’ve been a much better investment.
Another thing: Be sure to distinguish between upgrades you’re making for your own enjoyment and those that will add to your home’s resale value. Sometimes you’ll hit on both. But if not, it’s okay to do renovations that achieve one without the other. Just be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish with each improvement before spending your hard-earned money on it.
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