Understanding model homes 101

It’s no secret that one of the most enjoyable aspects of shopping for a new home is touring the builder’s decorated models. A well-designed model can help you envision living within its walls, as well as provide excellent inspiration for the decoration of your own space.

On the flip side, builders are well aware that model homes are one of the most powerful selling tools at their disposal. It’s clearly in their best interest to dress these homes up to the nines – both to increase appeal, and to encourage purchasers to splurge on the featured upgrades. They’re banking on an emotional response, and they usually get one. What should you be looking for when touring a model home?

With the recent proliferation of television shows about staging and “flipping” homes for sale, you’re probably aware that there’s a real science to creating alluring spaces. Through judicious use of colour schemes, mirrors and well-proportioned pieces, decorators are able to make homes appear larger and more luxurious.

But it’s the lavish application of upgrades that can be really misleading. Many models feature a laundry list of stunning decorating options: Hardwood and slate flooring, stone fireplaces, intricately tiled steam showers and well-finished basements. As for the home’s exterior, stone may be substituted for brick, with elegant front doors and a lawn that’s lushly landscaped. The accumulated cost of so many high-end features can run up to more than $250,000 in some cases, depending on the type of housing product you are viewing.

It’s crucial to have a grasp on which features are standard and which are upgrades. Ask the sales representative to walk you through the home and have them write down exactly what is upgraded, and at what cost.

Go over the standard specifications with a fine-toothed comb, so that you understand exactly what is included in the asking price; ask for a menu of upgrades with clearly marked pricing.

Next, take this information home and consider it carefully. Will this upgrade add value to your home when you sell it in the future? Will it increase your home equity? How much will this feature enhance your lifestyle? Can this feature be easily added at a later date?

As a general rule, upgrades that recoup their initial expense include hardwood floors, fireplaces, finished recreation rooms and double showers in master ensuites. But, above all, keep to your budget; you won’t be doing yourself any favours by overextending yourself financially.

Related reading

The short-term and long-term benefits of upgrades

Condo upgrades: How a small investment can pay off

These home upgrades are your best return on investment

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