Builders divulge which upgrades are trending up

One of the most exciting aspects of buying a new-construction home is selecting what upgrades and options to include.

Will it be white or gray cabinetry? Will you go for wood flooring or luxury vinyl, a newcomer to the flooring industry that looks like real wood? What about structural changes such as including a rear deck or doing an extended closet in the master suite.

Builders entice buyers with model homes dressed to the nines with thousands of dollars of upgrades so buyers can see what a difference they make in the look and feel of the home.

How your newly built home looks when you put a shiny new key in the lock and step inside depends on your selections from the builder's offerings.

Area builders dish on how buyers choose to make their new home fit their tastes and lifestyles.

Beautiful kitchen

If you have a dream kitchen in mind, now is the time to splurge on the centerpiece of your home where families spend most of their time. Whether it's top-of-the-line appliances or exotic flooring, the kitchen is where buyers spend the majority of their upgrade dollars, builders say.

"We see a lot of kitchen expansions in our world," said Jennifer Mencias, sales director for the Chicago Division of Toll Brothers. "In our terminology, we call them Palladian kitchens - adding cabinetry, huge oversized islands and a larger living space."

The expanded kitchen is wonderful for entertaining and offers more comfort for guests in today's open home designs.

Bathroom luxury

Homebuyers also have many choices for upgrading the master bath into a relaxing retreat. Do you want pedestal sinks or a long vanity with storage? Will you choose radiant-heat flooring? Shower and tub?

"Our buyers also like to splurge in the master bath for a take-me-away, luxury spa feel," Mencias said.

Toll Brothers' popular ultra shower features two shower heads, and the oversized shower has enhanced features that buyers love, she said. Some buyers also like to have a free-standing tub.

Finished basements

Who doesn't love a finished basement for another level of living space? Finished basements have been a big hit for Toll Brothers, and it is offered as an incentive this month at Tanglewood Hills in Batavia and Bowes Creek in Elgin.

The possibilities for that extra space are endless. Add a flat-screen TV, cabinetry, furniture and games for an ultimate bar and recreation room.

Set up a dedicated physical fitness area. Or make it into a billiards basement with a professional pool table.

"How our buyers use the space depends on their lifestyle," Mencias said. Some do a man cave or use it as more family space.

Most of its finished basements have a wet bar, which makes it a great place to gather for a Bears game, Mencias said.

Outdoor space

Once just a space for patio furniture and maybe a grill, outdoor space has taken on a whole new identity - that of extended living space.

For some homebuyers, outside space is as important as the inside. They like to step out into another "room" where there's nothing like cooking outside and relaxing on the deck or back porch to refresh your spirit.

"Many of our buyers are looking at the outdoor space of their homes as a place to relax and entertain," said Christy Whelan, sales director for Airhart Construction. "They're going for large decks, outdoor fireplaces, brick paver patios, and even backyard ponds with waterfalls."

At its various suburban communities, Airhart also offers options for a private retreat level, rooftop terrace and rooftop deck that buyers love. There's not a better spot for panoramic views of the sun and stars.

Buyers at Springfield Pointe in Bloomingdale by North Mark Homes also have outdoor living in mind. "We offer a sunroom or screened-in porch as upgrades, and most of our buyers choose one of those options," said Julie Pelock, owner.

At Lakes of Boulder Ridge in Lake in the Hills, the screened-in porch is a popular upgrade, said Christin Cortese, sales manager. Set on 143 acres and backing up to Boulder Ridge Country Club's West Nine, homeowners have beautiful lake and golf course views.

The screened-in porch is so popular because homeowners like the extra living space and also they love sitting on the porch to relax while enjoying the scenic views, Cortese said.

Other upgrades

Some other popular upgrades homebuyers choose include fireplaces at Lakes of Boulder Ridge. About 50 percent of homebuyers at the community want a fireplace.

At Mill Creek in Geneva, buyers are looking for more hard surfaces throughout the home with carpeting only in the bedrooms, said Jeremy Lund, marketing director. Also at the community, buyers no longer care about a formal living room and dining room, and they seldom sell homes that include these rooms.

At Springfield Pointe, some buyers choose an in-law arrangement, which the builder offers.

For Airhart Construction, kitchens often feature added storage, Whelan said. Cabinet drawers and doors are lighted, and under cabinet LED lighting makes the quartz countertops sparkle and offers extra lighting for cooking.

At Toll Brothers' communities, many buyers want various smart home features and security systems.

Finished basements can have a variety of uses, from game rooms, offices, fitness areas and bars. Courtesy of Toll Brothers
Many homebuyers revise floor plans to allow for larger kitchens and oversized islands. Courtesy of Toll Brothers
Many homebuyers revise floor plans to allow for larger kitchens and oversized islands. Courtesy of Toll Brothers
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