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  • Writer's pictureMariel Megan Ross

Building a new home? Here are my 4 most important tips

Updated: Aug 23, 2018

After helping clients design and build over 50 new homes in Denver (including my own!) here’s what I’ve learned

A beautiful Parkwood semi-custom home

When building a new home, buyers occasionally hit what I call the “new-build roadblock.” It might strike during the buyer's fourth straight hour at the design center when they’re trying to match countertops with door handles with hardwood floors – none of which they’ve ever seen together, live, in a real home. Or it might hit when they’re confronted with a big upgrade decision. For example, should they pay $40,000 to finish the basement now even if they don’t currently need the extra space, or should they wait?

Building a new home is an exciting and rewarding process, but it can also be a bit overwhelming at times. That said, I’ve enjoyed helping clients design and build over 50 Parkwoods, Lennars, KBs, Infinitys, Wonderlands, Thrives, CalAtlantics, David Weekleys, and so on in Denver the past few years. And I’ve helped many of my clients get over their own “new-build roadblocks.” I even built my own Parkwood from the dirt up (while pregnant!), and trust me, I ran into my own share of roadblocks while crafting the home of my dreams!

If you’re thinking about building a home, here are my four most important tips. I hope these tips help you during the exciting and thrilling process of building your home - and get you past any roadblocks you encounter!

Tip #1: Emphasize what makes your home special (and then emphasize it again!)

Master bathroom in a Wonderland home

Every new-build home has one or two unique features that set it apart from the crowd. For example, my Parkwood Newbury is a three story attached townhome. If you build a Newbury, you have a lot of third floor options – one of which is to reduce the inside liveable space (no!) by adding a deck (yes!). What makes our particular townhome unique is how vertical and tall it is, and the incredible unobstructed mountain views we have stretching from Longs Peak in the north all the way south to Devil’s Head (which is close to Sterling Ranch). In short, while it’s not necessarily a great idea to reduce interior square footage if you can help it, our particular home would feel incomplete without a huge viewing deck. So we upgraded the third floor, added a deck, and now we have our unique selling point should we ever resell!

Another example of a unique feature might be a walkout basement. Remember many homes don’t have walkouts, so if your builder, floorplan, and elevation allow you to build one you might consider spending some of your upgrade budget on the walkout and the surrounding features. Emphasize (and then emphasize again!) that walkout when you're focusing on your design and upgrades, because that's part of what makes your home special and unique.

Other examples include large, Southern-style wraparound decks, grand indoor staircases, and incredible yards and gardens (check out this Parkwood's vegetable garden below).

Three car garages, incredible kitchens and master bathrooms, and interesting floorplans (for example, a modern ranch home with 3 or more main floor bedrooms) may also fit the bill. At the end of the day, your builder likely focused on a few big "wow" design features when going through the creative process of designing your model's floorplan and available features. Keep in mind that the builder needed to sell you on the floorplan/model initially, so ask yourself what really caught your eye and sold you on the home, and try to emphasize those features.

Tip #2: Basements! Basements! Basements!

More and more of my clients are using their new home basements to build yoga studios, home theaters, mother-in-law suites, and more. As just a few examples of what you can do with a basement, I've priced out astroturf playrooms, secret rooms with bookcase doors (so cool!), and golf simulators this year - all for basements.

A CalAtlantic home's finished basement

In my experience, a well-designed basement in a new master-planned community like Sterling Ranch could potentially return approximately 90-120% of the cost of the basement when you resell. These numbers assume many items I won’t go into in this Roundup post, but most importantly the 90-120% ROI number assumes you add a bedroom and a bathroom in the basement, and that you’re able to finish the basement for less than $50 per square feet. So if you hit a roadblock and aren't sure whether to finish your basement through your builder for, say, $40,000, you might want to consider it if you can keep the cost below $50 per square foot.

Tip #3: When in doubt, the more bedrooms, the better

A Wonderland homes bedroom

In many master-planned communities, there can be a material home valuation difference between a three bedroom, four bedroom, and five bedroom home, assuming all the bedrooms are above-grade. (As a side note, basement bedrooms are great but sometimes aren’t worth as much as above-grade bedrooms from a home value perspective.) Though there are a lot of variables involved in pricing a home (e.g., home location, builder, model, bedroom sizes, number of bathrooms, etc.), and home valuations are inherently fluid and difficult to approximate, generally in my experience the resale bump between a three bedroom and four bedroom home in a master planned community could potentially be anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000, and the resale bump from four bedrooms to five could potentially be anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000.

Why are bedrooms so important? Well, one reason is families are larger and more diverse than ever before. One of my clients recently asked me to help them design a home where three generations could live - grandparents, parents, and children - all under the same roof. We’ve all read about twenty-somethings living at home longer than ever, and grandparents are now moving back with their children to help with childcare or because they want live-in assistance. Add to this the need for offices and other flex spaces, and you can see why the need for bedrooms has never been greater.

If you don’t need more than three bedrooms when purchasing your new-build, you might still want to consider adding another bedroom or two. Instead of walling off one bedroom you could, for example, add large sliding barn doors. When you’re home with your family, you can open the doors and use the space however you’d like, but when you’re hosting guests, you can shut the doors and voila, you now have a stylish guest suite!

Tip #4: Budget for structural and floors – the rest is cosmetic and can wait

Stunning hardwoods in a Taylor Morrison

At the end of the day, a lot of improvements can wait. So if you have a limited upgrade budget, spend your money on those items that are difficult if not almost impossible to add after your home has been framed and drywalled and you’ve moved in – and also, your floors. For example, some builders will let you add a breakfast nook or an outdoor room to your main floor. Others will let you add a large mudroom as an upgrade. These upgrades require structural changes to your home that could be cost prohibitive to add after your home is complete.

On the topic of floors, in my experience it can be expensive and difficult to replace hardwood floors. If you’ve ever watched one of the house flipping shows on HGTV, you’ve likely seen contractors trying to save and re-finish the original hardwood floors. Now you know why! Get the floors right the first time, and you’ll save yourself dollars and headaches in the future.

So there they are – my top four tips! The new home-building process can be a long, intense, and yet incredibly rewarding experience. Many of us have only a few opportunities in our lives to build a home to our taste and preference, and that satisfies every “I wish I had” you’ve ever come up with sitting on your couch at home.

If you’re interested in designing and building a home in Sterling Ranch, as your local Sterling Ranch new-build realtor expert I’d love to meet with you and chat about what I can do for you, not just from a realtor perspective but also a design and budgeting perspective! Here's a quick preview of the services I offer. E-mail me any time at

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