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Designing buyers

by Debra Gelbart on May 31, 2017

Some homebuyers want to simplify the process of choosing the finishes for their new-home; others want to have as many options put in front of them as possible. Fortunately, both types of  homeowners can indulge their preference when they purchase a brand-new home in Greater Phoenix.

 Choice-filled showrooms

After a buyer signs a purchase agreement, most homebuilders offer buyers the opportunity to visit a design center. Typically, a 1,500- to 7,000-square-foot showroom that looks like an upscale retail environment, it’s filled with multiple options for cabinets, counter tops, flooring, appliances, lighting, paint colors, window treatments, plumbing fixtures, hardware and more. 

At least one builder offers several prepared packages of options with flooring, cabinet, countertop and other finishes already chosen by a professional interior designer. Most of this particular builder’s buyers don’t even visit a design center. More on that later. 

The visit to a builder’s design center generally occurs within 14 to 30 days after signing a purchase contract, according to Amy Williams, Arizona regional design center manager for Interior Logic, a company that contracts with approximately 30 local homebuilders to manage their design centers. Most builders include several choices for each design element as part of the purchase price of a home, but many buyers opt to purchase upgraded and/or different finishes than a builder includes as standard. Some buyers decide to roll all or part of the cost of upgrades into their mortgage, while others buy the upgraded materials out of pocket.

 Personalizing your home

The senior vice president of design for Robson Communities, Laya Boschee, said that 100 percent of Robson’s buyers choose to upgrade their finishes to personalize their homes and make it unique to them. She and Williams [of Interior Logic] estimate that most buyers who upgrade spend between 20 and 25 percent of the purchase finishes, choosing among literally hundred of options. Robson develops active-adult communities where the homes range in price from $160,000s to approximately $500,000, depending on the community.

Making all of these selections, not surprisingly, takes a lot of time. It's not uncommon for Robson's buyers to spend four full days choosing their finishes, Boschee said. Toll Brothers, a luxury builder whose homes range from about the mid-$400,000s to the low $1 millions, recommends three visits for their buyers in addition to an invitation-only “preview night” for those who have made a deposit. At the preview night, a design consultant is on hand, and buyers can begin to envision their new home at this visit, said Dan Rhea, the project manager responsible for the Toll Brothers Design Studio.

Once the sales agreement has been finalizes, appointments are scheduled with the buyers’ personal design consultant, Rhea said, adding that at the first appointment, the goal is to gain an understanding of selections, establish a budget and select flooring, appliances, cabinets, countertops, backsplashes, bathtubs and shower-surrounds. Toll recommends allowing six hours for the initial appointment, he said.

 At the second appointment, buyers complete their design and color selections, choosing faucets and fixtures, interior paint, doors and hardware, close systems and fireplace-surrounds. Toll recommends allowing six hours for the second appointment as well. At the third appointment, buyers review selections, go over the required paperwork and then sign completed documents.

 An intriguing alternative

If the thought of spending more than a day devoted to picking out your newhome’s finishes is daunting, Lennar Homes offers an intriguing alternative. Interior Logic puts together four to six packages of finishes—depending on the community — for their buyers, said Alan Jones, Lennar’s Phoenix division president. 

“We find that very few of our buyers aren’t satisfied with the choices offered by the packages,” Jones said. “If they don’t like what has been put together, they can visit Interior Logic’s design studio and choose their own finishes. But only about one percent of our buyers can’t find what they want in one of the prepared packages.” Lennar’s homes range in price from $160,000 to around $600,000.

 Most popular upgrades

Boschee [of Robson Communities] said the focus for most buyers tends to be in the kitchen, and that in that space, a lot of buyers are moving from granite to quartz countertops. “Sometimes they choose a simple color on the perimeter counters and a more dramatic color for the kitchen island,” she said. ”Or they’ll select one color cabinet for the lower cabinets and a complementary color for the upper cabinets.” Wood-look floor tile is also popular right now. Boschee said most buyers upgrade their cabinets because those are not easily changed-out and the cabinets drive countertop, backsplash and flooring choices. In addition, many buyers select upgraded appliances, add a wine reserve or create a wet bar to complement their entertaining spaces. 

Rhea said Toll Brothers’ buyers choose similar upgrades, including “wood-look plank floor tile,” quartz countertops in place of or in conjunction with granite countertops, high-end appliances and modern-looking plumbing fixtures in polished chrome or satin nickel.

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