Top 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your New Home - Kitchen

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Tips on What's Worth Upgrading - From a Custom Home Builder

Smart home building tips for the Kitchen

This questionnaire will help you determine where to spend your money in the kitchen as you  build - and what you can do differently, later.

New Homes - What to Upgrade in the Kitchen - Money Saving Tips1. Where do you spend your time in the kitchen? Factor in ease-of-use and functionality.

2.  Who hangs there with you? Do you need an island, breakfast bar , or conversation corner? Do the countertops need to incorporate extra width or arches, or will something simple do?

3.  How important is the overall look and feel - layout, cabinets, countertops, flooring, lighting, cooking, sink capacity?

4.  How much traffic flow through capability is necessary?

5.  How much usage will the room get? Do you need the strength of granite, or will a laminate be sufficient?

6.  What's a reasonable cabinetry package for your budget?  Do you need a higher-end wood like cherry or exotics, or will a maple or oak package with lots of extra storage options be better for you? 

7.  Cooking for a crowd? Need two ovens, deep freeze, heavy duty dishwasher?

Some things are more costly than others to change later.  Here's what to focus on:


The layout is extremely expensive to do all over again. Expanding the kitchen to gain more space involves major renovations that can cost three times more later than during initial construction.

New Homes - What to Upgrade in the Kitchen - Money Saving TipsAdding an island or moving major appliances

Another costly renovation; unless your kitchen has a lot of extra space, an island added later can actually reduce your ability to maneuver.

Deciding the oven would be better in another area means rewiring and restructuring, plus changes to cabinetry (which may not match the originals). 

Major structural changes to a kitchen can be the most costly change in the house.

Adding windows

The ability to add windows or sky lights later can depend on the construction of your home. It's not always possible to put it where you want it, once the home has been completed, due to structural issues. This is one of the things you'll want to get right, the first time.  Not sure?  Talk to your builder about "preframing" a future window. 

Adding lighting

If you're going to want a lot of lights in the ceiling, under the cabinets, or in special areas, this is something you'll pay a lot less for if you have it wired when the house is under construction. Doing it later can involve a lot more time and complexity. 

However, you don't need to spend a lot of money up front on the latest designer lighting fixtures.  If the prewire is in place, you can add many of the fixtures later.

Start simple, with basic lighting.

Putting in a bigger pantry

If you want a big, walk-in pantry, you're going to pay a whole lot less to start right out with that. Unless you're willing to knock out some walls and lose some space later in the adjoining family room, dining room or hallway, there's just no way to add another room in the middle of the house without a lot more work than you're going to want to adjust to.

New Homes - What to Upgrade in the Kitchen - Money Saving TipsCabinets

If you decide on inexpensive cabinets, don't be under the mistaken impression they can be changed out easily later on.

The process can involve much more than the cupboards - including removal of countertops, flooring, trimwork and appliances. Ask your builder how to choose a quality cabinetry that you'll be happy with, without breaking the bank - and start with these tips:

Type of Wood - Consider oak or maple as an alternative to more expensive hickory or cherry choices.  A well-made cabinet can be just as appealing in a variety of different species, at varying costs.  

Glazes and Special Finishes - a glaze can add 15-35% or more to your total cabinetry package.  Consider accent pieces as an alternative if you're on a tight budget. A pair of glass doors or a contrasting accent door hardware can spark up the decor at a lower cost.    

Storage Solutions - Have your builder tell you whether that built-in recycle center or wine rack involves an extra charge. It may be just what you want - but find out what it's costing, just in case.


The difference in cost can be huge depending on what kind of countertop you use. Recycled glass countertops may sound economical, but can cost three times as much as granite. Your builder can walk you through the choices, benefits and costs of every option out there, so you know just what you're getting - and paying.

Countertop questions to ask your builder:

What kind of countertops are best for each room?

What would it take to change countertops in a few years?

What are my best ways to save money on countertops?

Will a few changes in design save some money on countertops?

Top 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your New Home - Kitchen


Starting with a laminate floor won't break the budget later if you decide to go tile or hardwood. The floor is one of the easier things in the kitchen to change later - and many kinds of flooring can be done with some "do it yourself" skills. 


As long as you don't want two ovens instead of one, or a bigger appliance than what you're starting with, changing out appliances is not going to involve ripping apart the entire kitchen. But before you decide to start with the most economical brands available, determine other cost factors such as energy saving and estimated life cycle. 

Ask your builder if you can supply your own appliances - then shop around for the very best pricing. 

Keeping Upgrades in Line

Talk to your builder about your lifestyle, and let him help guide your choices, from layout through amenities.  Ask your builder if they'll let you take a second look at all your choices before making a final decision - sometimes it's easier to decide when you can sit down with the price tag for each feature.

Read about 2012 new home kitchen trends, styles, and ideas:

Kitchen Cabinets - 2012 Kitchen Cabinet Styles

Kitchen Tile Backsplash - Today's Top 5 Designs

Formal Dining Rooms - Disappearing, or Here to Stay?

Top 5 New Home Kitchen Design Trends


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Re-Blogged 10 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Julie Chapman 02/22/2010 01:07 PM
  2. Julie Chapman 02/22/2010 01:11 PM
  3. Rita Minion 02/22/2010 05:08 PM
  4. Mark Montross 02/22/2010 11:34 PM
  5. David O'Doherty 02/22/2010 11:55 PM
  6. Bill Somerset 02/23/2010 01:25 AM
  7. Joseph J. Chang 02/23/2010 05:59 AM
  8. Shirley Parks 02/23/2010 02:05 PM
  9. KARIN SMITH 02/23/2010 02:42 PM
  10. Gwenn Tanvas 02/24/2010 11:14 PM
  11. Tom Davis 04/14/2010 03:33 PM
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Sajy Mathew
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Lancaster, PA
Making your real estate dreams become a reality!

Very good information here.  Thanks for sharing.

Feb 23, 2010 03:00 AM #31
Jeana Cowie
RE/MAX Real Estate Limited - Paramus, NJ
Broker Associate, ABR, CRS, GRI, SRES

Excellent info. Makes me want to re-do my kitchen all over again.

Feb 23, 2010 03:20 AM #32
Sally Weatherley
Vancouver Home Staging, Home Stager Vancouver, B.C

Really enjoyed your article.  Stainless steel appliances are still the most coveted appliances, and they've really come down in price.  You are so right that looking for an Energy Star appliance will pay off in the long run.  Updating a kitchen with a new backsplash is also an inexpensive fix, and there are some incredibly beautiful choices out there these days.  I think its important to bite the bullet and invest in a good quality countertop, such as granite, as it will hold its value in resale.  Thanks for such a great list.

Feb 23, 2010 03:51 AM #33
Wendy Rich-Soto, Realtor/Broker Associate
Keller Williams Realty, LA Harbor - San Pedro, CA
Getting you to your next with a zero failure rate!

Fantastic blog!  You really have to think it all the way through!  You certainly did in this post!  Thanks!!

Feb 23, 2010 05:20 AM #34
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth
Kitchen upgrades always pay off and make homes sell fast!
Feb 23, 2010 06:29 AM #35
Dave Westall
Oliver Luxury Real Estate - Tahoe City, CA

Thats a great blog post!  Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Best regards, Dave

Feb 23, 2010 07:32 AM #36
Michael Bergin
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - ABR - SRES - Alexandria, VA
Northern Virginia Real Estate

Terrific information.   Interestingly a recent report on rennovations/remodels indicated that moderatge kitchen do overs got a better return than did upscale efforts.  Probably not much of a surprise since kitchens are very personal spaces.


Feb 23, 2010 07:43 AM #37
David Hardison
Bluegreen Communities - Mansfield, TX

My Pic


Great information and very thorough too.  The kitchen is one of the top return on investment spots in the home when a homeowner is considering a remodel.  Your post is a great guide for someone to use when looking at a remodel or even when designing a new home.  The kitchen layout and materials are very important and way too often get overlooked.

Feb 23, 2010 07:58 AM #38
Karen Pannell
Real Living / Home Realty - Owensboro, KY
Owensboro KY Real Estate -270-903-2167 Homes, Cond


Great info - I am going to print out and keep for future reference.


Feb 23, 2010 08:02 AM #39
Chris Olsen
Olsen Ziegler Realty - Cleveland, OH
Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate

Hi Penny -- There are a ton of choices and it's an exhausting process, yet fun if done well.  Measure twice and cut once as the old saying goes.

Feb 23, 2010 11:52 AM #41
An Marshall
Berkshire Hathaway - St. Augustine - Saint Augustine, FL
Your St Augustine Real Estate Consultant

Oh my goodness, so many decisions, I can't imagine building a home - think I would go brain dead.

Feb 23, 2010 12:48 PM #42
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Wow, there's a lot of great information in this post on how to make the right, cost effective decision.

Feb 23, 2010 03:23 PM #43
Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes - New Home Builder - Raleigh, NC
Design/Build Custom Home Builder in North Carolina

Mike - if you're going to add a few extra feet to one room in the home, the kitchen is the place to do it!

Joe - yes, stainless steel doesn't necessarily mean quality.  Look for ENERGY STAR, and make sure to select something with decent ratings.  There are affordable options, but it's also easy to completely blow your budget on appliances.

Thanks everyone for the comments - looks like the comment notifications haven't been making it to my email, so I'll respond as quickly as I can!

Feb 23, 2010 10:11 PM #44

Great information to pass on to new buyers... especially those who are trying to envisions a renovation. Thanks

Feb 24, 2010 06:15 AM #45
Mike Woods

Excellent advice. I firmly agree with having the home pre-wired to whever lighting may go in the future. This saves money and headaches.

Feb 25, 2010 03:43 AM #46
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

Great post with excellent advice. Good things to think about with your planning and usage.

Feb 25, 2010 10:40 AM #47
Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes - New Home Builder - Raleigh, NC
Design/Build Custom Home Builder in North Carolina

Sally - yes, good countertops and a nice backsplash can make a big difference, at a relatively low cost.  A tile backsplash can also be added fairly easily later, if costs need to be lower up front. 

Mar 01, 2010 03:05 AM #48
Tom Davis
Harrington ERA,DE Homes For Sale, $$ Save $$ Buy Today ! - Dover, DE
FREE Delaware Homes Search!, $$ Save $$ - Find Homes! Delaware Realtor

Hi Penny!

I agree with everyone on the well thought out post!  Thanks for the detailed information!!  I had to take my time reading it but it was a good article! 

Nice information that every buyer needs to know!

Thanks, Tom Davis

Apr 14, 2010 03:32 PM #49
Gary Swanson
Century 21 Harris & Taylor - Grants Pass, OR

Great post Penny and some really great photos.  I think the kitchen is probably the most important room in the house, I always think of it as the "heart" of a home.

Apr 14, 2010 05:31 PM #50
Stanton Homes
Stanton Homes - New Home Builder - Raleigh, NC
Design/Build Custom Home Builder in North Carolina

Sally - I was just meeting with some of our appliance suppliers, and was surprised to hear that black appliances are back to being the most popular - stainless steel is now in second place!

Apr 14, 2010 10:45 PM #51
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