Many builders, including myself, have few reservations about improving the basic structure of the house during the building process. The minimal cost of pre-wiring an unfinished space, a little additional sound deadening insulation between walls or a few extra LVLs under the bonus room in case the homeowner ever decides to buy a pool table certainly make for a better house, but go largely unappreciated by the homeowner. Let’s face it, the sales department has a point. If the customer can’t see or touch it, they usually don’t perceive the value and the temperamental fancy shower door will almost always win in the budget meeting.
I confess there have been times when I wanted to put a prospective buyer in his place for commenting to his wife about the cheap doorbell button when walking into a 7,000 square foot brick house built to survive a hurricane with the best of everything including the commercial 6 burner range they will never use. Of course the minor insult to my pride quickly diminishes. Look at what the perspective buyer has to compare against. At some point all of us have walked into one of those big square box shaped houses that boast hardwoods, granite tops and a lot of square footage. However, you walk in the kitchen and the floor is spongy because they didn’t add any extra floor joists to support the weight of all the entry level tile and granite. One of my old sales managers used to always say they are “just putting lipstick on a pig.”
By now, it appears that most quality custom builders have upgraded their doorbell buttons, but when I walk into a house today, there are still things that set off that little “pig with lipstick” alarm in the back of my head.
- Return Air Grilles Frequently located in the main entry way or within the wainscoting in the dining room, it never ceases to surprise me how many high end homes have the same rattling stamped steel return air grilles that you readily find in any low end production built apartment, or mobile home for that matter. The homeowner is reminded of this every time they dig their fingernails under that stubborn clip to change the filter. To top it off, nearby is the solid wood supply register neatly molded into the floor. Why would a builder not put in something more appropriate to elevate the quality of the home. WoodAirGrille.com offers wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents that not only have the quality look and feel, but open smoothly like a door to remind the homeowner that no detail went overlooked.
- The garage steps With so many garages being finished with various floor coating and storage systems, you have to chuckle when you climb up those 3 steps built out of leftovers from the deck. I am not suggesting oak staircases with wrought iron rails, but perhaps putting a few dollars into composite treads will at least show that there was some thought put into it. The garage steps are the ones that the homeowner is using when bringing armloads of groceries into the house, so if you have the room, perhaps make them wider with nice deep treads. Give them a solid platform to stand on while trying rotate the knob with their elbow instead of fighting to keep their balance on something that doesn’t feel solid. Add risers and close the sides so there is no place for dirt to accumulate. We put wide solid stairs in my parent’s garage with low risers and the difference was dramatic. What caught me off guard was that it was noticed by nearly everyone who went in and out through the garage.
- Wire shelving It is very surprising how many high end homes are still putting in wire shelving. It’s not even the nice wire shelving. It’s the really cheap ones. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are advantages to wire shelving, particularly in certain places, but not in the kitchen pantry, master bedroom and the downstairs coat closet. This goes back to the perception thing. There are too many people out there who have seen these pull away from the wall. It doesn’t matter that it was overloaded or not installed correctly. “Those fall down” is the perception most remember.
The good news is that these are inexpensive upgrades. They are all geared to avoid the question in the homeowner’s mind “If they skimped on this, what else did they cheap out on?” On the other hand, these are all items that your sales agent can use as selling points that the customer can tangibly see and feel.
Rod Gunter is Operations Manager at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the Homebuilding Industry. Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point. Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products. Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina. WoodAirGrille.com is owned by Gunter Building Solutions, LLC.