By Allison E. Beatty
Special to the Tribune
November 2, 2007
Many people dislike asking that question for fear of seeming too thrifty. When it comes to buying a house, however, it is a question that has to be asked.
It is easy to see the sales price of the home -- or at least the general range. The cost for all those extras and upgrades can get tricky, however.
If you want to upgrade from a laminate countertop to a granite countertop, the extra $2,000 to $5,000 might not be a problem. An extra $20,000 to add a sunroom might force you to clench the checkbook.
Building and product costs can span a wide spectrum and go from the simple to the surreal. You might think that an extra $25 for a nicer faucet finish is a simple decision. When it comes to an extra $30,000 for a home theater with movie-style seating, however, the decision becomes more complicated.
Here's a look at what some typical products costs. Use this as a guide as you put together your housing choices and budget.
In the kitchen, the cost to upgrade the appliance package offered through a builder can start around $1,000 and go up to $10,000 or more. You can toss in a warming drawer for about $800 and a nicer faucet for $350 or so.
In the bathroom, fixtures often rule the day. Many home buyers splurge on fancy faucets to make the vanity and countertop area shine. While bathroom faucets can range from $50 to $1,500, many fall in the $200 to $500 range.
Many buyers upgrade the master bathroom with a two handle-faucet.
"It takes a little bit more space, but it's a little more gracious and it's worth it," said Therese Schaefer, vice president of sales and marketing for Landmark Homes, which builds homes priced from $500,000.
People often spend about $800 total for two bathroom vanity faucets, she said.
Many buyers then will coordinate those faucets with a more stylish tub deck faucet in a matching or coordinating finish for about $500. When it comes to the shower fixtures, however, Schaefer recommends saving the money.
Her advice: "Leave it alone - you can't see it."
When buying fixtures, the price often rises and falls with the finish. Faucets with antique bronze, brushed nickel or other trendy finishes will cost more than a simple, chrome faucet.
The basic fixtures are suitable for many people decorating a child's bathroom, however.
"In a kid's bath, they are sticking with a simple, single-handle faucet because it is easier for the kids to flip on and off," Schaefer said.
Besides, toothpaste looks like toothpaste, whether it shows up on a simple chrome faucet or one with an upscale Venetian bronze finish. The same goes for fingerprints.
In the closet area, the sky can almost be the limit when it comes to shelving and organizational products. Many home buyers prefer a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, which naturally means it is larger than a traditional "reach-in" closet.
In fact, some walk-in closets in custom homes are as large as bedrooms, taking up 250 to 500 square feet or more. The cost to organize it may be akin to the cost of adding a sunroom or porch.
"Your typical custom closet starts at $10,000 to $15,000 and goes up to $30,000, depending on the size and wood species," said Dean Snow, general manager with Harris Builders, which builds homes priced from about $3 million.
When you're spending that much money to organize your closet, laminate or wire shelves just don't make the grade.
There also are many structural costs that can make or break a home buyer's budget. Certain projects should be considered carefully, however, as they are difficult to do later.
The cost to add nine-foot ceilings on the first floor of a home before it is built is about $5,000, said Ray Wolford, director of sales for Kimball Hill Homes, which is building homes in the $200,000 to $600,000 range. For an extra $4,000 to $7,000, home buyers can extend that voluminous feeling to the second floor.
Some buyers add a cathedral ceiling in the master bedroom and then another style ceiling - reaching to nine-feet instead of the standard eight feet - in the other bedrooms. The cost and availability of different ceiling styles and heights will vary based on the size of the house and the roof configuration.
Among the other common costs are for lot premiums. Many builders charge a $5,000 to $15,000 fee for a lot that has a view of a pond or nature preserve or the opportunity for a walk-out basement.
As you debate all these options and narrow down your product and design wish list, remember to occasionally ask this important question.
What will it cost?
You'll need to let the lender know that the $20,000 pizza oven will necessitate a slight increase in your loan amount.
Allison E. Beatty is a Chicago-area freelance writer. If you have questions or information to share regarding new home buyers' product and design choices, write to Choices c/o Chicago Tribune, New Homes Section, 435 N. Michigan Ave., 4th Floor, Chicago, IL 60611. Or, e-mail:email@example.com