When it comes to buying a new, custom-built home, the little things may matter the most.
These little things are not the standard options or even the extravagant upgrades. They are the cool features or “wow factors” you didn’t know you needed, but once you’ve seen them, you really want them in your home. You can be struck by inspiration in a variety of ways: visiting a friend’s new home, scrolling through a favorite home design Pinterest board, or touring a model home.
Tim Costello, chairman and CEO of Builder Homesite Inc., calls these little things “delighters,” and says they can help make your home more comfortable, convenient, and special for you and your family after you move in.
Wow Factors for Your Laundry Room
Costello points to one “delighter” he saw in a home: a chute that allows you to pass your laundry basket from your bedroom directly into your laundry room.
“You open the shutters, put the laundry basket there, close the shutters and when you want to do the laundry, the basket is there,” Costello says. “You didn’t have to walk it through the house.”
Want to take it a step further? You can opt for a laundry chute from, say, your second-floor bedroom to the downstairs laundry room.
Home features like this that add a layer of convenience can be a big deal for buyers, says Jay Kallos, senior vice president of architecture at homebuilder Ashton Woods. He agrees that the laundry room can be a focal point for that “wow.”
“To some people, laundry’s a four-letter word,” Kallos says. ”To others, it’s a therapeutic exercise. For that buyer, the laundry room may have a sorting station, table for folding and organizing, and sink for pre-treating.”
If those features aren’t enough to make you love laundry day, John Judd Jr., co-owner of custom homebuilder Judd Builders in Arden, North Carolina, has two more suggestions: a drying rack closet and barn doors.
A drying rack closet in the laundry room has built-in racks to dry clothing flat instead of the usual fixed shelves. Instead of struggling with a cumbersome portable drying rack, you just open your drying closet and pull out your racks whenever you want to use them.
With sliding barn doors, you get that visual wow factor while keeping your laundry machines out of sight when not in use. On the practical side, doors that slide take up less space than doors that swing open.
Wow Factors for the Whole Family
A great wow factor for families is putting cubbies in the mudroom, says Russell Volk, a Realtor and new construction specialist with RE/MAX Elite in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. Cubbies allow for a personal space for each member of the family – one for Mom’s running shoes, visor cap, and gym bag; another for Dad’s golf items; one for a teenaged child’s athletic gear; one for a younger child’s backpack and play shoes.
“Cubbies in a mud room are a great feature for any family with young kids who play sports and participate in various activities,” Volk says.
Other wow-factor ideas for kids include a reading nook, climbing wall, foam pit, or two-story slide from bedroom to playroom.
A bedroom full of bunk beds is yet another example of a family-friendly wow factor that can be added to a new construction home.
“All of the grandparents have bunk bed rooms in their new homes for when family and grandkids come to visit,” says Seth Ollerton, marketing director at Central Bank Utah in Pleasant Grove. The bank is a sponsor of the Utah Valley Parade of Homes, an annual new homes showcase.
For families with teens, theater rooms equipped with a mini-fridge and microwave or game rooms might add that pizzazz; for multi-generational homes, an in-law suite with private bathroom and pool access might be most appealing.
Wow Factors for Your ‘Fur Babies’
Is your dog just as much a part of the family as anyone else? Ask your builder to turn your mudroom into a dedicated dog space. Outfitted with a dog shower, bed area, hidden gate, storage for food and toys, and access to the yard, it will be a super-wow for you and your pet, Kallos says.
If you don’t have room for a dog washing station in your mudroom, take another look at your laundry room.
“Pet owners here get very excited when a dog washing station is included in this space,” says Babak “Bobby” Yazdani, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Global Luxury in Houston, Texas.
If you opt for a two-story home, consider turning the space under the stairs into a pet nook, or into a whole room for your furry pal.
Finally, you can opt to add a pet door during the building stage that will mesh with your home’s aesthetic, rather than adding one to a door later on.
Wow Factors for Your Kitchen
Delightful features can pop up in the kitchens of newly built homes as well.
One example is a built-in instant hot water dispenser.
“People want to save time and money, and they get both from a good hot water system,” says Tony Mariotti, a Realtor at RubyHome in Beverly Hills, California. “Dispensers speed-up food preparation, from hot drinks to baby bottles. They help with cleaning chores like stain removal. They offer a lot of utility, and they get used every day.”
Ollerton’s list of the latest wow factors in newly built homes includes two items for kitchens: an additional refrigerator hidden in a walk-in pantry and an indoor drinking fountain. The fountain helps you reduce dirty dishes and plastic water bottles.
An adult-friendly wow factor for the kitchen is a built-in coffee and espresso machine.
“Not only do they look incredibly chic, but they also provide easy access to caffeine, which, for many, is priceless in the morning,” says Laurie Stolowitz, a real estate agent at Compass in New York City.
Wow Factors for Your Backyard
Wow factors can happen outside your home as well, and you don’t need a lot of outdoor space to make the wow work.
Judd has a long list of ideas to get you started: remote-controlled porch screens, porch swings, a stone pizza oven, a bar window to your outside entertaining area, underwater speakers for your swimming pool and a “firewood elevator” to bring logs for your outdoor fireplace up to the second level of your deck.
Ready to bring all the wow to your home? Start as early as you can – as you research builders, tour model homes and see what types of “delighters” each builder is already including in their designs. Once you choose a builder, discuss what you want in your home and see if your ideas are feasible – or perhaps if your builder can improve on your ideas to make your home one that will delight all who enter!
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Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, writer and editor in Ventura, California. In the last decade, she has penned more than 1,000 published stories about residential and commercial real estate, banking, credit cards, computer security, health insurance and small business, among other subjects. Editors describe her as “detail-driven,” “conscientious,” “smart” and “incredibly versatile.” Her award-winning reporting has been lauded as “rock solid,” “spot-on relevant,” “informative,” “engaging,” “interesting” and “nuanced.” Her stories have been cited in seven published nonfiction books and two U.S. Congressional hearings.
Prior to her freelance career, Geffner was senior editor of California Real Estate magazine. Later, she became managing editor of Inman.com, an independent real estate news website. She also has prior employment experience in technical writing, corporate communications and employee communications. She received a bachelor’s degree in English with high honors from UCLA and master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She enjoys reading, home improvement projects and watching seagulls at the beach.