9 Min. Read

6 Must-Have Upgrades for a New-Construction Home

housing industry recovering

What home upgrades increase value? As low housing inventory continues to sweep much of the nation, new construction may be the best course of action for many home buyers. You get to choose your lot, select the finishes you like, and avoid the hidden problems that often come with buying an older home. However, building new can be costly if you aren’t careful with the upgrades you choose. You need to know what home upgrades increase value and what new construction upgrades to avoid.

The base price of a home may fit perfectly within your budget, but it’s shocking how quickly it can go up when you realize how many upgrades you want. Don’t forget – each upgrade you select adds to the total price of the home, which means you’re being taxed on it and raising your mortgage. By opting out of as many upgrades as possible, you can strategically keep your costs as low as possible. Tackling projects after closing on your home will give you the best of both worlds if you have the money in your savings. With that being said, there are some upgrades that will be much easier and more cost effective to complete during construction. To help you decide which upgrades to add to your home right away and which ones to wait on, we’ve compiled the following list.

New Construction Upgrades that Add Value

These high-ROI new construction upgrades add value to your home during new construction.

1. Wood floors

Indoors Kitchen Island with Laminate wood Flooring

Generally, carpet comes standard everywhere except for the kitchen, bathrooms, entryway and hallways. Many homeowners desire the seamless look of hardwood or laminate throughout the first floor. Removing carpeting and matching the existing floors after move-in can be challenging because it’s difficult to match the exact color of a floor once it’s already been exposed to the sun for a while.

If you’re trying to match hardwood, you may wish to re-stain the entire floor to make sure it matches perfectly. If you have laminate or engineered hardwood, the batch of color can be slightly different than the batch originally installed in your home. Replacing the flooring can also create quite a mess and make living in your home difficult until the project is complete. In the end, upgrading the carpet so that you have one flooring type throughout will save you the headache. Plus, this is one of the home upgrades that increases value right off the bat!

2. Roughed-in plumbing

If you ever want to add a bathroom to your home, make sure you pay for roughed-in plumbing. This will save you time and money. Imagine having to drill through concrete in a basement to add piping — it doesn’t sound easy or cheap, and it isn’t! Roughed-in plumbing is well worth the cost if you’re even considering adding a bathroom to your home.

3. Electrical

Similar to roughed-in plumbing, installing any additional electrical will be much easier when your house is down to the studs. Whether you want to run cable for in-wall speakers or allow for new appliances like a double oven or towel warmer, planning for it in advance will save labor and, therefore, money.

As far as new construction upgrades that add value, having enough in-wall and in-floor electrical systems is a major game changer. The more outlets you have, the easier it is to rearrange furniture in rooms without unsightly extension cords, and you can install the latest and greatest technology. While it’s true that technological advances move at the speed of light these days, things like having enough outlets in the right spots will never not be a home upgrade that adds value to your home.

4. Master bathroom tilework

If there’s one place upgrades can really add up, it’s tilework. Upgrading your bathroom floors and shower/bath surrounds can add up quickly. To save money, go with the standard options in every bathroom except your master bathroom. If needed, you can ask to have your tile floor staggered for an upgraded look without the high price tag. However, the master bathroom requests some extra pizzazz. We suggest upgrading to large-format tile on the floor and adding a point of interest to your bath and/or shower surround. This can consist of a mosaic glass tile waterfall, a horizontal border or shelf inset.

5. Radiant floor heating

If you’re installing brand-new tile in your bathroom, it’s the perfect time to add a home upgrade that increases value in a home by putting in a radiant floor heating system. Because floor-heating systems require the flooring to be torn up before they can be installed, this is an upgrade you don’t want to save for later. An in-floor heating system is an energy efficient option that will add warmth, comfort and luxury to your bathroom, and become a new construction upgrade that adds value to your home.

You can also consider adding a towel warmer in the master bathroom (this is another reason why you want to have good electrical installed in your walls). Towel warmers are available in a range of sizes and styles. Most recently, they’ve adopted metal trends like oil-rubbed bronze, gold and matte black, so you can take your style to the next level. If you want a hardwired option with no visible wiring, you should have an electrician add an electrical box during construction, as mentioned previously.

TWS2-TAH07GH - Tahoe 07 Towel Warmer, Gold, Hardwired, 7 bars

The pre-construction phase is also the best time to consider a heated garage, which is a great new construction upgrade that adds value. Heating cable can be installed within your concrete slab as it’s being poured to keep your garage warm all winter long. Plus, if you have any living space located above your garage, heating the garage will be particularly helpful in maintaining a comfortable temperature on the floor above.

6. Deeper basement

If you have any plans to finish the basement down the line, you should consider paying for a deeper pour. An extra foot of height in the basement will make it feel like any other floor in the house, making it a space everyone will want to frequent. This upgrade doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re particularly tall or want to get a lot of use out of your basement one day, it’s an important one to consider.

New Construction Upgrades to Avoid

These potentially risky upgrades may not pay off in a newly built home but some you can accomplish yourself to save money and increase ROI. 

1. Appliances

If appliances aren’t included with the house, you may be better off buying them yourself. This gives you the opportunity to pick the specific appliances you want and the style you want. If you’ve had your heart set on a black stainless-steel appliance set, this is your chance! There are often sales and bundles that make appliance packages pretty affordable, so be sure to look into your options before committing to an appliance upgrade.

It’s also often the case that the appliances that come with a new construction home are bought in major bulk purchases by the land developer for use in all the new homes in the neighborhood, and their eye is more closely looking at price than that quality. Being able to pick out your own appliances is a home upgrade that will increase value.

2. Lighting

Another new construction upgrade to avoid is lighting. Typically, the lighting that comes standard from builders is just that — standard. Stick with the standard lights that the builder provides and upgrade them on your own later. This way, you’ll be able to select some unique lighting that suits your particular taste. And, you can control how much you spend. If you need extra electrical boxes added in bedrooms or over the kitchen island in order to install lights or ceiling fans, here’s something to consider. If there is an attic above, have an electrician finish the work for you after closing. However, if there isn’t an easily accessible space above, have the box added during construction. As mentioned before, it will be easier for an electrician to work when the house is down to the studs, but this doesn’t apply if the attic is available. Every electrical box counts, so save where you can.

3. Cabinet hardware

This is hands-down the easiest project to complete on your own after closing. Homeowners can buy a template from their local hardware store and install the cabinet hardware themselves. Builders are typically limited in the hardware they have available. By side-stepping this upgrade, you can choose from a plethora of options and get something unique that’s just your style. This is one of the least expensive upgrades you can make to your home that adds value, and it’s one of the easiest upgrades for you to install by yourself with hardly any tools.

4. Kitchen backsplash

The kitchen backsplash is a major focal point of the room. Again, this is an area where you want more options rather than less. Think about the pattern and colors you want and find the perfect tile or stone backsplash post-construction. If you’re handy, you may be able to complete this project on your own. Doing this home upgrade yourself adds value to your home, and tile manufacturers have made the installation process for backsplashes--even the most beautiful and elegant--a simple procedure that will only take you a day or two of labor.

5. Outdoor space

If your builder offers an outdoor upgrade, like a deck or patio, you should hold off for a couple of reasons. This is a new construction upgrade to avoid. First, the house will settle, which is why builders typically suggest waiting at least a year before putting in a deck or patio. Secondly, you may wish to put in a larger deck or patio than the builder offers. By waiting a year or so, you can select the size, shape and materials that you want.

6. Crown molding

Crown molding is a beautiful upgrade, but unfortunately, it doesn’t recoup much value if you plan on selling. If you really want crown molding, identify which rooms you want it in and hire a contractor after you close. This may be a good project to complete when you decide to paint the walls.


Committing to a new-construction home can be nerve-wracking because there are so many options to choose from! There are many home upgrades that increase value, and many new construction upgrades to avoid. By keeping these things in mind when you commit to a new build, you can ensure that the number of upgrades you choose don’t get out of hand. In turn, your base price will stay as low as possible and the projects you save for later will be as easy and convenient as they can be.

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Thank you very much for your post. I am in the process of completing my design appointment and fortunately did these steps but it felt nice to be vindicated for choosing and leaving things for the right reasons. Going to get the owner's bath upgrade done.

This article is really helpful! Thank you :)

WarmlyYours Responds...

Thank you so much! We're glad to hear that the post was useful!

thank you for all this information

WarmlyYours Responds...

Wonderful! Thanks for reading!

My appointment at the design center is next week. Thank you for these informative suggestions! I'll be taking them with me!

WarmlyYours Responds...

Awesome! Hope all goes well and don't hesitate to give us a call (1-800-875-5285) if you or your designer have any follow up questions!

what about smooth ceilings ?

WarmlyYours Responds...

That's a great question! Converting a textured ceiling to a smooth ceiling can definitely be a high-ROI remodeling project that modernizes the look of your project for relatively little upfront cost. However, that cost can increase significantly if the ceiling is damaged during the scraping process and requires repair or if the ceiling material is hazardous (like asbestos) which would require replacement. It's also worth keeping in mind that a smooth ceiling will show blemishes more readily and that smooth ceilings don't suppress sound transfer as well as textured ones do.

What about the kitchen Cabinets? Is it worth paying for the upgraded cabinets? There is a range from included to about 5 different grades. My feeling is upgrade to level 2 or 3. @ level 4 they Jump in price... Thoughts? Effects on resale value?

WarmlyYours Responds...

Cabinets definitely play a crucial role in the "first impression" for many potential homebuyers as they will visually dominate much of the space in a kitchen or even a bathroom. But I think that we would still rank upgrading cabinets in our "New Construction Upgrades to Avoid" list as the cost for upgraded options can quickly outpace the increase in resale value that they'll provide.

What about upgrading the kitchen/bathroom countertop from laminate to granite/quartz? and upgrading stair from carpet to hardwood?

WarmlyYours Responds...

Those are great questions. I think that upgrading your stairs from carpet to hardwood would be a good, high ROI project to take on, particularly if you're already updating other surfaces with hardwood. Upgrading the countertops to granite/quartz on the other hand might not result in as high of an ROI given the cost increase in switching materials vs. the gains you'll get in resale value. That being said, a countertop made of granite or quartz is almost always a thing of beauty and if it brings you happiness, we'd highly recommend it (along with a countertop heater to take the chill off!).

If you have like a certain house say 400k starting price. How much is the usual money or percentage allowance should i prepare?

WarmlyYours Responds...

That's a good question but unfortunately there's no real "rule of thumb" for how much allowance for repairs or projects you should account for when buying or selling a home. The most important thing is to be clear-eyed about how much each new project will ultimately cost so that you have the most accurate picture possible when you're considering the sale (from either the buyer or the seller's perspective).

Do you have to pay anything at the design center?

WarmlyYours Responds...

Hi there and thanks for the question! Unfortunately we can't really provide an answer for you as fees will depend on the design center you go to. But in our experience, most of our customers report that working with a design center has been worth every penny! Hope that helps.

Does worth upgrade in dinning room ceiling to tray ceiling when you buy a new house?

WarmlyYours Responds...

In our opinion, a tray ceiling can be a worthwhile investment in a new home's dining room if one of your concerns is that the room seems "too small". The tray ceiling will give the appearance of more room which can definitely add more re-sale value. However, if the room doesn't seem "too small", the addition of a tray ceiling will likely have minimal impact on re-sale value and could be an ineffective use of your budget.

As for the person asking about cabinets. We got CUSTOM built white, shaker cabinets from a local craftsman for several thousand cheaper than Lowe's or other box stores AND helped the local businessman.

WarmlyYours Responds...

That's excellent! Not only did you get a great deal (and I assume great cabinets) but you were able to support a local craftsman!

Is Asphalt Paved driveway worth the upgrade as to the standard gravel driveway?

WarmlyYours Responds...

That's a great question and the short answer is yes, that upgrading your driveway from gravel to asphalt will almost always increase the resale value for a home. There are of course variables that could change that (for example, if you have an extremely long driveway, the cost of getting it paved could be prohibitive). But you always need to keep in mind how important first impressions are on potential homebuyers in the future and a nice asphalt driveway (that can last between 20 and 25 years) will definitely make a good impression. Also, you can get a snow melting system from WarmlyYours installed in your new asphalt driveway to keep it free of snow and ice (which is another huge selling point for potential buyers). Learn more about a heated driveway here: https://www.warmlyyours.com/snow-melting/driveway

Appreciate your quick response, another questions, should I get fence from them (roughly 250ft) ?

WarmlyYours Responds...

If you feel like you'd appreciate the benefits of a fence (increased privacy/security and if you own pets you can let them roam around), then it might be worth it. But, generally speaking, fences are not typically considered a high-return investment if you're purely considering resale value. The money you'd spend on a fence could instead be put towards improving the home in other areas that will yield a higher return-on-investment. But there are variables that can impact this (maybe the house is located near a busy road so a fence would help in a number of ways).

Thank you from your northern neighbour.

WarmlyYours Responds...

You're very welcome and I'm glad we could be of some help!

Should I add a light above the shower after the build or now before it is complete.

WarmlyYours Responds...

If you know it's something you want and that will improve the usefulness of the shower, it's best to incorporate the light now so that any framing/electrical issues can be resolved without worrying too much about marring the finished shower surfaces.

How much value vs. cost by adding a full bath during the construction? Thank you!

WarmlyYours Responds...

There's of course a lot of things to consider about the specific situation when answering this question. For example, how many bathrooms does the home already have? So while the cost of the remodel might remain constant no matter how many bathrooms there are, the impact on the resale value will change. If it's a fairly large house with 3 bathrooms already, adding a 4th probably isn't going to increase the resale value too much. On the other hand, if it's a 1 bathroom home, adding a second bathroom will have a much larger impact on the overall value of the home. One thing to keep in mind though is that a bathroom remodel is still a pricey project so it's unlikely that you're going to recoup the cost with your increased resale value, but that's somewhat offset by the fact that you'd be adding it during the construction process when it's easiest to make those sorts of changes. Hope that helps!

Is it worth upgrading 2nd floor to 9' ceiling and/or smooth ceiling (with $6k cost or more)? the bedrooms are pretty big like 13'x16' or more

WarmlyYours Responds...

The answer to this is largely dependent on the overall design of the home in question but you could boil it down to this: does the second story feel cramped as it is? If not, raising ceiling will be unlikely to have a significant impact on the resale value. Generally speaking, that $6K could probably be put to more efficient use in the home in terms of increasing resale value.

Hello, what is your opinion on cabinet upgrades in a new construction home? The standard cabinets offered with our new home aren't quite the look I am wanting but will the extra cost be justified? There are 2 other levels of cabinets I can chose from. Level 2 is an additional $3000 and Level 3 is an additional $6650. The level differences aren't just color and style but also a visible quality upgrade. As a side note, I have been price comparing the appliances they offer to the cost of purchasing them after the sale. They are offering brands that we prefer at a price lower than we can purchase on our own so I'm thinking their pricing is not too far off base.

WarmlyYours Responds...

That's a great question as cabinets are a huge part of any "first impression" that a potential homebuyer will have. However, in this specific scenario, it's unlikely that you'll see much, if any, return on investment for going with the upgraded cabinets. In a remodel, this might be completely different but because this is a new construction home, the differences between new standard cabinets and new upgraded cabinets is going to be pretty negligible regarding their impact on resale value when it comes time to sell. But if you think the standard cabinets will have some issues with longevity (if they're lower quality and made out of less wear-resistant materials than the upgraded options) and you're expecting to hold onto this house for a couple of years, then it might very well make sense to opt for the longer lasting option. Hope that helps!

Thanks for your post. The builder is offering us 3 styles of hood fan and we do not like any of these after looking at reviews. What do you think? Is this something one can opt to install by themselves?

WarmlyYours Responds...

Installing the range hood (and its incorporated fan) is a bit more complicated of a DIY-project but it is absolutely something that a handy homeowner can undertake. There's plenty of useful videos and resources online and installing it yourself will make sure you have time to find the right range hood for your kitchen. Hope that helps!

The builder wants $6,300 for a fireplace is that a worth it upgrade?

WarmlyYours Responds...

This question is a bit more difficult to answer because it depends on so many variables. The cost you mentioned does seem a bit high but a fireplace can serve as a focal point for a living room's design so its inclusion might have a significant impact on a potential homebuyer. Without any additional information about your specific project, I would think that the $6,300 could be invested in other improvements that would have a higher ROI. If warmth in that room is a concern, additional supplemental heat can always be added by a radiant panel heater or even a floor heating system.

Do you have any thoughts concerning electric fireplace inserts? If they are something worth considering, would you suggest adding one during or after a new build.

WarmlyYours Responds...

An electric fireplace insert does have some benefits (some allow you to use them with and without heat so they can be used throughout the year) and they are safer than traditional fireplaces. However, they aren't as effective at heating nor as flexible as radiant panel heaters like the ones we offer so you should look into those too if you're just looking for a stylish element to add supplemental heat to a room. Radiant panel heaters would also be easier to remove if a potential buyer isn't interested in supplemental heat sources (or they want to put in their own). Returning to your question: it would be cheaper to have the electric fireplace insert incorporated into the new build and it does leave more options for the design if it's incorporated then. Hope that helps!

The builder charges $13k for a sunroom. Is this upgrade worth it?

WarmlyYours Responds...

A lot of experts estimate that installing a sunroom (assuming it's an addition and not a conversion of an existing room which would be cheaper but it also wouldn't add any floor space to the home) will add between 3% and 4% to your home's resale value. So from a purely financial perspective, $13K might be a bit steep (unless you have a high value home). However, with all of that said, another huge component is whether or not the sunroom improves your enjoyment of your home which certainly has value, too.

New Construction 430K HOME - Is it worth it in the appraisal to upgrade the stairs and loft to have iron rails? Thanks for sharing information.

WarmlyYours Responds...

We don't know the cost of the upgrade so it makes it difficult to say for sure but, generally speaking, it's likely that this upgrade will cost more than it adds to resale value.

I know someone that is buying a house that is not built yet in FL. She is about 4'7" tall a senior and has low vision, etc. She found the upper kitchen cabinets are going to be installed 18" above the counter. This height makes the upper cabinets useless for her use. Should she lower them after moving in? Is there a law for handicapped people to get the builder install the upper cabinets installed about 12" above the counter for her? The builder doesn't want to bother doing this, only what he is doing on all his houses.

WarmlyYours Responds...

I'm sorry that this person is encountering such difficulties with their builder (and given the crunch on available builders and housing units right now it's difficult to say that she'd be able to find a different builder/available home). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does provide some guidance about how fixtures, like cabinets, need to be installed and there are some lawyers who specialize in that field but I would suspect that if the builder is installing the cabinets similarly in all of his homes they're probably being installed according to code and are probably ADA compliant. If this person can afford it, it might be worthwhile to talk to a custom cabinet builder to see what they can do. That way you could talk to the builder to see if he can just omit the cabinets all together in her unit. Otherwise, some custom cabinet shops can demo those before they put in the new ones but that is of course an added cost. I hope everything works out!

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