The incentive amount that a builder has offered me when I walk through the door has never been the final offer. Whether it’s 25k, 30k, or even 40k, you can always get more. Which is evident by the fact that they are throwing around tens of thousands of dollars. 25k sounds like a lot to you as an individual, 25k in design center options is nothing to a builder. You should always ask for more. And you know what? The worst they can do is say no and give you the original offer anyway. But usually they will say yes to another 5 or 10k. I got 45k in upgrades and I still think I could have taken more.

Another thing about incentives is to find out where you can apply them. Can you apply them to structural upgrades? Or just design center upgrades? Can you apply them to the lot premium? Can you apply them to elevation upgrades? This is important. When you are buying/building a house, you probably want to know the all-in price right? Well if you sign the contract and later find out that you can’t apply your credit to anything but the design center, the lot premium and elevation alone can be tens of thousands, not to mention any structural changes that have caught your fancy.

If you are considering a certain house with a certain builder, ask if you can price out your options. They should let you do this, and if they don’t, then you know there is trouble. We priced our options at about 4 builders and it educated us so much on the whole process. The first builder gave separate incentives for structural and design and you could not use those towards lot premium or elevation. So that added another minimum of 7k onto the base price. This builder had an extremely interactive online pricing system where you could price out all of your options per the floorplan. For example, you could see how much it would cost to upgrade the flooring for the family room and master bedroom to wood. You could see how much it would cost to upgrade the granite to a Level 2 or 3. This gave us a really good idea of how the whole options process was going to work.

The second builder sent us a price sheet for all of these same options. However they did not allow you to use any of your incentive money on structural. The third builder had an online tool that had to be operated by an employee so we sat in her office and filled out the whole options list. This is where we discovered that with this particular builder, you had to pay extra to get full gutters (standard was only the front half of the house) and only two fans came included in the house.

The builder we eventually selected is a smaller family owned builder and therefore had no such fancy computer system. However they did provide the pricing sheets of some of their inventory homes so that we could compare those options to the ones we wanted. Also, full gutters were included in the house, along with five fans, a sprinkler system, and blinds for all of the windows. All of these things were expensive options for builder #3. As I said, we ended up with $45K in options and were able to apply this to lot premium, elevation, design center, and structural upgrades however we wanted. Options are a huge part of building a house so you want to make sure that you understand how it all works and that you get as much as you possibly can.