What I Wish I Knew When I Bought My First New-Construction Home

Living room in K. Hovnanian home The Fairfax
In a new-construction home, you may opt to forego the kitchen-great room combo, and instead separate the rooms. Image: The Hanover at Churchill Club by K. Hovnanian Homes

Building a new home lets you personalize your house for today’s needs and tomorrow’s dreams. Here’s how to plan your new home for future needs.

When I was designing our dream home 26 years ago, I was chasing a toddler around while laying out rooms and selecting finishes. Back then, I selected new-home options perfect for parents of a 16-month-old, never questioning if my choices would work for parents of a six-year-old or a 16-year-old or empty nesters. With more foresight, I could have worked with developers on new-construction home ideas based on plans for our future needs.

3 Things That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

#1 Kitchen/Great Room Combo

I figured one big space would be great for watching tiny Ben while I was cooking; he’d drum on a pot while I fixed him buttered noodles. But as Ben grew up, I dreamed of a separate family room and a little less togetherness.

#2 Two Main-Floor Bedrooms

We downsized our master suite to squeeze in a second bedroom next to us — perfect for soothing a preschooler’s nightmares. Turns out kids outgrow nightmares, but skimpy closet space is forever.

#3 A Pass-Through Instead of Cabinets

I gave up two kitchen cabinets to cut a pass-through from the kitchen to our mud-cum-crafts room so I could keep an eye on Ben’s finger-painting sessions, which have long been a thing of the past. Later, I could really used that storage. 

The Future of Your New-Construction Home Is Now

If I were buying a new home today, I’d do things differently: I’d crystal-ball my thinking and plan for my future needs. That’s the beauty of buying new construction: You can focus on want-to-do's, rather than to-do's — even if you can’t anticipate all your wants.

More: Best new-home upgrades for the money

More: Best new-home upgrades for the money

Luckily, builders know the life of a new home is a journey and have consultants who can help you fast-forward your thinking about features you can install now that will make life easier later.

Developer Tips for New-Construction Homes for the Long Haul

I brainstormed with a couple of executives from Toll Brothers and Ryland Homes about some forward-thinking, new-construction home options.

  • A main-floor den that could be converted into another bedroom as your family grows.

On a related note, see how people are reinventing their living rooms.

Soundproofed master bedroom
  • Roughed-in plumbing and electric for an eventual attic or basement bathroom and kitchenette. If you don’t have the resources now, this is a great way to plan ahead. This extra living space not only could accommodate elderly parents or boomerang kids, but will likely increase the value of your home when it’s time to sell.
  • A double-deep, tandem garage that can fit three cars now, but can be walled-off later to add indoor space for an extra bedroom or bathroom.

More: Attic conversions | Garage conversions

  • Upgraded structured wiring throughout that can handle a souped-up internet connection and other tech developments. Handy if you telecommute.
  • Temporary partition walls that attach to hardwood flooring, rather than subflooring. If you eventually want to combine bedrooms — say, when kids move out — you’ll only have to do a floor repair and refinishing, rather than patch a gaping hole.
  • Plywood sheathing behind drywall and tile in bathrooms. These sheets of plywood let you attach grab bars anywhere without hunting for studs.

Grab bar in shower of new home

Grab bars aren’t just for our later years. They’re also good for kids and aching weekend warriors who need a little help getting in and out of a tub.

  • An addition. If you can site your home to accommodate a bigger footprint later, plan to run conduit through exterior walls for future electrical and plumbing needs.

Surveying a new home site

Unless you’re psychic ...

You’ll never know today exactly what you’ll need in the future: It’s hard for me to imagine life beyond next Tuesday.

But choosing options for tomorrow is one perk of buying new. These forward-thinking selections can mean years of enjoyment as your family changes and can make it easier to sell if moving turns out to be the best alternative.

Learn about more benefits of a newly built home.

Housing And Real Estate Expert Lisa Kaplan-Gordon
Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is an award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer who contributes to real estate and home improvement sites. In her spare time (yeah, right!), she gardens, manages three dogs, and plots to get her 21-year-old out of her basement.