Tips for Buying a Builder-Grade Home {Part One}

Tips for Adding Character to a Builder Basic Home - The Inspired Room


Hello Inspired Room Readers! It’s Cassie here again. I am excited to be sharing the first of a three part blog series today. Although it feels like yesterday, we moved into our house just over three years ago. Lately, I have been reminiscing about our homebuilding process, the projects we have done, and thinking ahead to what we might want to do in the future.

house construction- exterior The exterior of our home midway through construction.

We live in an area that has pretty much only new construction or homes built in the last ten years. As much as I love older homes and their character and charm, I knew we would probably have to buy a newer home.

There are many pros and cons to buying a newer home vs. an older home (for Melissa’s Top Ten Reasons for buying a newer house, check out this post). Buying a new/newer construction home has a lot of positives. There is less worry about the structural integrity of your home, water and electrical issues, and it is generally more turn-key. However, builder-grade homes tend to lack character, history, customization, and can have more limited options than if you were buying an older home and remodeling it.

upstairs- misway construction

There are definitely some tricks to know when purchasing a new construction home. Although I don’t know all of them, I did learn a few things along the way. Here are some of the best and worst decisions I felt we made when we purchased our home:


  1. We chose neutral finishes. We were very lucky because we bought our home right before the finishes were selected for it. This meant we got to choose almost all the materials for the inside of our home. We tried to choose a light, neutral pallet that would work with our style and what we had, and hopefully be something we could be happy with for a long period of time.Finishes
  2. Lighting- or lack there of. We had the builder prewire lighting. We chose not to have the builder install kitchen pendants or a dining room chandelier, but instead prewire so we could pick something we really loved and install them ourselves. This meant spending less money and not having to settle for something we didn’t like very much. 
  3. We kept our upgrades minimal. We kept most upgrades very simple with the idea we could work on some things ourselves later. Builders tend to mark up everything, such as blinds, lighting, built-ins, you name it. We tried to only upgrade things that would be significantly more work for us, like the lighting, speaker wiring, and cabinets.

kitchen under constructionOur kitchen nearing the end of construction, with just prewired lighting.

Kitchen lighing- upgradedOur kitchen as it looks today.


  1. The paint color we put everywhere. (See this post for more on this topic.) We didn’t have them paint the ceiling and the walls different colors, but rather all a light neutral. It was much, much cheaper this way, but I now feel tied to the color of our ceiling, which has made choosing paint for various parts of our home more difficult. In hindsight, I wish we would have just chosen a truer white for the whole house. That way it would have still been more affordable, but also more versatile. 
  2. The builder’s can light choice. We probably couldn’t have done anything about this, but the can lights in our home are these very hard to find high-efficiency bulbs. Every time ones goes out, I cry a little thinking about how difficult it will be to find and replace.
  3. Pre-installed blinds. We had the builder install our blinds before we moved in because we just didn’t want to have to worry about that right away. However, now I know we could have saved so much money selecting them ourselves. We also could have been more selective in what we put in- and the builder only had two options to choose from. 

main level mid-constructionSo much greige! For reference, the color is Sherwin Williams’ Accessible Beige.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful and can learn a little from my mistakes and experience. Next month, I am going to share a little of what we have done so far to create more character and warmth throughout our home.

Until then,

Cassie TIR

More posts by Cassie:

A Mudroom Makeover

A Small Backyard Renovation and Deck Addition

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  1. I enjoyed reading your post, as I do all things about homebuilding! You are so right about choosing neutral finishes! When we built out house many years ago, I made the mistake of being persuaded by the salesperson to go with coloured broadloom and kitchen countertops. BIG MISTAKE!
    Cathy recently posted..Beginner House PlansMy Profile

    • Cassie Kulp says:

      Thank you Cathy! It’s so hard to know what you want and are going to like long-term when you’re in that process! I actually felt “talked-into” our paint color, hence why I regret it the most I think! It takes a while, but I am slowly learning to just trust my own instincts.I am sorry you had that experience!
      Cassie Kulp recently posted..Tips for Buying a Builder-Grade Home {Part One}My Profile

  2. Hi,
    I was wondering where you purchased your bar stools. I’m trying to find the ‘perfect’ set.


  3. Jennifer hales says:

    I have the same bulbs, but found a converter on Amazon and now I can just use normal bulbs. The converters are cheap and you can buy in bulk.

    • Cassie Kulp says:

      Thank you Jennifer! We actually used the converters for the lights in our living room, but have yet to try them everywhere. I just don’t love can lights in general, but maybe we should try the converters in other areas and see if it makes it easier/look a little better!
      Cassie Kulp recently posted..Tips for Buying a Builder-Grade Home {Part One}My Profile

  4. Hi, I was wondering if you could share information on your wood flooring. It’s looks so pretty in your house.


  5. Great advise! We’ve built 6 homes over the last 20 year s and love the process. I’m chuckling because my go to wall color is SW Accessible Beige,for the last 2 homes, it works beautifully for us.

  6. Christie says:

    I learned from a build experience not to paint the ceilings the same taupe color as the walls too! I never repainted the ceilings but it did limit the future wall paint choices. I wished I had just gone with white in the first place.

  7. Lauren H says:

    I too own a builder grade home, and it totally lacked character, but I loved that it has a great solid structure! We’ve lived in it now for just over two years and I’m slowly adding more character and our own design to it. We have so much more to do! I look forward to reading your post about your home!

  8. Delwyn Powell says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. This is my 10 yr old home exactly, except my doors & skirting a are greage too?. I need your help! Can’t wait for next week!?

  9. We made the very same mistakes. I’ve never regretted the fairly light yellow-based tan on the walls (it matches with everything!) but staring at the 10+ foot ceilings, I wonder if I can successfully match a whole house to this because I’m SO not able to paint it myself and hiring out just for the ceiling seems wasteful on a brandy new abode. Can lights are hard to match here, too. And definitely to the blinds- I didn’t need them EVERYWHERE. I could have saved some $$ and just gone with curtains or just a valance on the treeline facing side. Another regret is not having them install another fireplace. Downstairs is remarkably cold~!

  10. Karen on Bainbridge Island says:

    We moved into a 15 year old house and are at the very end of a remodel of kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room. We upgraded every can/pot light with LED pop in replacements from Costco. Two lights for about $16. Worth every penny, and they will last forever. And it’s easy to do this yourself.

  11. Margaret Armour says:

    I could relate to every bit of this! I wish I had done more research before we landed our “cookie cutter” home. I am always trying to think of affordable ways to give our home more character!

  12. These are such great tips! It’s really helpful that you give tips on what NOT to do when you’re reconstructing your home; it definitely could save a lot of people both their time and money! Your kitchen looks phenomenal, and the flooring you chose for the different rooms looks like they will mesh well together. Nicely done! Thanks for sharing this!

  13. This is really helpful! We are moving to California soon and there are a lot of options for new houses being built but we can’t decide if that’s the route we want to go yet! This is definitely going to help us make a choice. Thanks for sharing :)

  14. I really like the hardwood design you went with for your kitchen. It has a nice grey color to it that I feel adds to the overall classy feeling that comes with the style of home you have. I hope to one day install hardwood flooring in my home and have it have the same affect.

  15. This is awesome! It looks absolutely beautiful! I am a huge fan of granite countertops. I think they make the room look so much more fresh and contemporary, Congratulations on all of the progress you’re making! The hard work is really paying off!
    Morgan recently posted..Kamps Propane BottlingMy Profile

  16. Have I missed the second part of your blog series on this topic? Our daughter and her husband have just started the process in building their first home. Your information in this series is soooo helpful:)

  17. You have a good point about structural integrity. With a newer home, you know what the electrical, water, and related conditions are like to a greater degree, just as you shared.

  18. Having the builder pre-wire the lighting was a great idea. It’s much better to have the opportunity to choose your own lighting.

  19. Love the schoolhouse pendant lights over the island. They are just a bit different than any others that I have seen. I have tried to find them online to no avail. Do you know where I might find them? Appreciate any help you could offer.
    Suzanne recently posted..Saturday Sparks Link Party 213My Profile

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