Friday, September 25, 2015

Building Considerations

On TV, it seems like fixer uppers are all the rage.

But where I live in Austin right now, it's all about the new.

In the five minute drive to my son's preschool, we pass by three major construction sites where new subdivisions are popping up faster than you can say "excavator". Thanks to him and the crazy amount of construction here in town, I know the names of every vehicle under the sun that digs up and/or moves dirt. 

Here in the suburbs, the master planned community is where it's at.

Having been through the mass building process myself, and having worked with a lot of folks who are doing the same-I thought I would share some of my experience in this area for any of you who are considering the pros and cons of building new through a large builder. All the following photos are of our home.

our house, during construction

Let's talk about pros:

Let's face it, new is new. 

Even the most basic new construction can feel great if you are used to living in an old house that needs a lot of work.  Not everyone is a weekend warrior, and there is a peace that comes from knowing that there isn't asbestos or some shady exposed wire waiting to catch fire inside your wall. If you are working with a reputable builder, you at least can know that everything is done to code and has city approval. Most builders will cover any issues that do come up for the first year. Everything is new and nothing needs to be fixed.

First Floor Living/Dining


If you get in early enough, you can with a small deposit, select the home, select the lot, and sometimes aspects of the floor plan, within certain limits. In addition to the the core features like fireplaces, porch size, appliances, and exterior finishes you get to determine which tile/carpet/wood/counter/doors/cabinets you want, and that is very appealing to many people.


When you build, you have a lot more control over timelines. You can focus on getting your home ready to sell, and don't need to be out house hunting. You have some more control over the closing. You can know your floorplan ahead of time, and determine what furnishings will work in the new home. If you are local, you can go monitor the progress of the home as it's being built, and get a feel for how it is going to look ahead of time, which you can't do in an owner occupied home.

Master Bedroom-my favorite view


When you do move in, you not only get a new house, but new trees, a basic landscape design, and fully functional porches, driveway, sidewalk, etc. Everything, though basic, is in great shape, and all you need to do is maintain it, and slowly improve and add, as opposed to have to remove or undo what a previous owner did. I can't tell you how many hours and dollars we spent on our previous home just dealing with the out of control yard.

But it's not for everyone.

Let's talk about some cons:

Upgrade Costs

All the homes start with a base price, but that price quickly changes as you start to add on "upgrades". Typically the standard features aren't the most interesting, and after seeing the beautiful model home, it can be tempting to adding on bells and whistles. If you want wood floors or certain types of tiles, you pay more depending on the "level" of the item. and like a car, any upgrade you add before financing costs you even more over the long term. If you can go with more standard features at first and upgrade on your own later, you will no doubt save money.

Limited Finishes

I was excited to be able to customize my home, only to find a pretty limited selection.  The options you have will depend on the builder and the price point.  In our case, some of the "standard" options were downright ugly. And because I do not like waste, I didn't want to have a tile or flooring material installed that I planned to remove, so I ended up compromising on those and spending a bit more than planned.

Many Decisions

The process of building and deciding everything can be overwhelming for some people. Many of the decisions are made in a design center before your the house is even started. Though a designer is often provided, they don't function the same way as someone you hire personally. You typically get one very long meeting and have to choose everything at once.



Rome wasn't built in a day, but these homes go up quick. There is an expression called "builder grade" for a reason. Even at higher price points, you are going to see some things before or after you move in that may drive you nuts if you are a detail person. In our home, our kitchen faucet has already leaked twice and flooded my cabinet. This happened to my neighbors also. We both had to order replacement parts within the first two years. The windows don't come with casings. The garages are unfinished and needs painting. You often need to seal the grout. There's no such thing as maintenance free even in a new home.

Having gone through the process, there are definitely things that I would do a bit differently, but overall it was a great experience. Yes, I do miss my old quirky home with it's unique character, but now I have a blank slate and can put some money into the decor, instead of into replacing electrical sockets and paying for septic tank inspections.

If you want to get some more helpful tips about production building or designing a spec home, go to my website,

If you are thinking of building, or have done it yourself feel free to comment about your experience!

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