Melbourne, Australia

10 Builder Upgrades To AVOID: How to Save Money On Your Build

You may be looking for ways to save on your new home construction, or you might just want to know which upgrades to avoid. Read on if you are! You’ll see below a list of jobs that are usually cheaper or better done by an external tradesman.

This article should probably begin by saying that neither my boyfriend nor I followed this advice exactly. Not all of it. We could have probably saved thousands of dollars on our construction. We were too impatient and unprepared to arrange external quotes. This was our first home build, but it was also the first house. We were willing to pay a bit more if we could stay within our budget.

We’re not saints and neither are you! There is no doubt that convenience can sometimes win out over price.

The joke was on us: apparently, ‘turn-key” doesn’t mean “move-in-ready”. After the handover, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done to our house and we had to arrange trades. This is one of the many things that we wish we had known before we signed on to a new construction!

Here are the top five builder upgrades you should avoid.

1. Floor

10 Builder Upgrades To Avoid, Brown Laminated Flooring
10 Builder Upgrades To Avoid, Brown Laminated Flooring

Flooring is one of the most common upgrades that are outsourced. External flooring companies offer a greater variety and range than volume builders.

Our builder, for example, did not offer any timber or hybrid floor options. Only laminate or tile was available. We would have had more options for colour and materials if we had chosen to have the flooring installed after the handover.

In the end, my boyfriend decided that we would have our flooring installed by our builder out of convenience. We were building our first house, so coordinating external trades seemed a bit beyond us. We probably should have made the jump and had them installed outside. We would have been better off with a hybrid floor than we were with the laminate. A hybrid floor would have been a higher quality product for a comparable price.

2. Decking / Alfresco Tiles

There’s nothing I like more than drinking a morning beer (or an afternoon one) in the shade of a pergola. The cost of decking/tiling the area is well worth it!

It’s worth shopping around to find the best deal on outdoor flooring. I’ve found that small carpenters/handymen are more cost-effective than builders.

Decking is generally more expensive than pavers or tiles. If price is a concern, it’s better to choose pavers or tiles.

3. Air-conditioning

You may save thousands of dollars by having the air conditioning installed after handover, depending on who is building your home. We saved over $1,000 by using local installers/suppliers AND we were also able to upgrade our controller and unit.

Some builders will match quotes from other companies for air conditioning and stormwater… it is worth getting these things compared even if they are going to be done by the builder. But if we were to ask, this is still one of those builder upgrades that you should avoid.

4. Lighting Upgrades

It is almost never cheaper for you to purchase your lighting from your builder.

You’ll get a better deal by purchasing directly from someone like Amazon or Beacon Lighting. Plus, you will have a larger selection to choose from! This is, in my opinion, a win-win situation!

5. Kitchen Splashback

Utensils on the Counter, 10 Builder Upgrades To Avoid
Utensils on the Counter, 10 Builder Upgrades To Avoid

It’s unlikely that your builder would allow you to hand over the house without installing some type of backsplash.

You can choose something from the base range of your builder to please them, and then have something more fun/complicated installed after handover. Why? Volume builders charge ridiculous amounts of money for feature tiles.

You can quote me if you don’t think I am telling the truth!

6. Upgrade your Paint

I’m the first one to tell you that upgrading your paint with a builder is a complete waste of money. Paint used by builders is usually watered-down to make it easier to spray. This gives an airbrushed/even appearance, but it is not long-lasting.

To get the full benefit of a wash-and-wear paint, you need to either roll it on or paint it.

You can upgrade your paint job at a lower cost by doing it yourself, depending on the size and shape of your home. You can also hire a professional painter to apply a third or even fourth coat after the handover. This will cost you more than upgrading with your homebuilder but you’ll love the results!

7. Landscaping

It’s hard to find a contractor who can do landscaping these days (and the ones who can charge you a fortune for it! ).

We recommend that you tackle your landscaping yourself, depending on its scope. You can often have your builder do the leveling for you at a discounted rate. This will save you a lot of time and effort in the future.

8. Driveway/Perimeter Paths

Modern House with Driveway
Modern House with Driveway, 10 Builder Upgrades To AVOID

Concrete/pavers, no matter what you choose to do, are very expensive (much more than I thought). It’s good to know that these big-ticket items are great places to save money, provided you have the patience and time to shop around.

To ensure that you get the best price, we recommend getting at least three quotes from different companies or installers. You should be cautious of low-end prices, but it is important to compare a variety of options to get the best deal.

Do not forget to get other slabs/paved surfaces quoted. You’ll generally need a foundation for your water tank and garden shed.

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