With housing supply at historic lows, homebuyers are increasingly turning to new construction. But this option is not without its pros and cons.

A big pro is that new homes are often more affordable than existing homes. And on the con list, many buyers say they would prefer an older home with character. Complaints about new homes include bland builder-grade materials, limited color choices, and unremarkable finishes.

But fear not if you’re eyeing a new build.

“You have a blank canvas to create a design masterpiece, and you aren’t restricted by aged materials or poor choices from the past,” says Blake Sutton, president of Est Est Interior Design, a firm based in Scottsdale, AZ.

If your new-construction home is more cookie cutter than custom, consider these six ways to add the charm, warmth, and character it needs.

1. Go for wood tones

A newly built home doesn’t have to be a characterless box.

One easy way to add depth and warmth is with wood tones in the cabinetry and flooring. You may also consider adding wood beams or a wood-panel treatment to a ceiling or a wood mantel if you have a fireplace.

Just be sure the wood tones are right for the style of your home.

“The wood tones that are appropriate are drastically different and are dependent on the style of the home,” says Sutton.

For instance, darker wood tones are best for a Spanish-style home, while a modern beach house should have much whiter wood tones.

2. Add bold lighting fixtures

Large developments will tend to use the same light fixtures across all the new homes. That’s because ordering in bulk cuts costs and can help avoid possible supply chain issues early.

But if you purchase a newly built home and want to make it feel special, lighting is an inexpensive upgrade on the scale of after-purchase home improvements. And it can have a big impact.

“A great light fixture can bring a wow to a foyer or dining room,” says New York interior designer Vicente Wolf, whose specialty is luxe, modern interiors. “It can be the focal point that can make or break a room.”

3. Install interesting molding and trim

So what do older homes have that new homes don’t? Wood trim and molding.

If you’re handy, you can always add it yourself, or hire out the millwork if you’re not. Just be sure the trim you add is appropriate for the style of your home.

“It’s unlikely you will have crown molding in a new contemporary build, but you would in a traditional build,” says Sutton.

Molding should have a spare, streamlined profile in a modern home. Think thick, straight-edge baseboards devoid of frills painted in a nontraditional color.

“In a more modern space, color can go from silver leaf to a different tone,” explains Wolf. “Paint or stain adds richness to the space.”

If trim isn’t right for the look and feel of your home, but you want to add some dimension to a room, consider creating a paneled statement wall behind a bed, in a home office, or in a dining area. Pick a color that either sharply contrasts or completely blends into the room.

4. Go for eye-catching doors

Custom wooden entryway door
A custom wood entryway door adds charm.


Installing a custom door is a great way to add curb appeal to an otherwise plain Jane house. This home (above) is newly built, but the wood entry door and posts create a charming experience before you even step inside.

Changing interior doors can also have a big impact.

Raising all door heights, for example, will make rooms appear larger and ceilings taller because they draw the gaze upward. You can also play tricks with doors that seem almost hidden in their surroundings.

“I love flush doors that disappear, with no molding around them,” says Wolf. “It gives an architectural feel to the space.”

5. Upgrade with detailed hardware

antique brass door knob
Old houses have quality hardware, but you can upgrade yours.


One thing older homes have that resonates with homebuyers is antique hardware.

Luckily for new-home buyers, upgrading builder-grade door knobs can have a big visual and tactile impact.

“A beautiful doorknob connects with your hand, and you feel the weight and solid quality,” says Wolf. “Beautiful hardware adds a luxurious, custom quality to a room.”

And luxury doesn’t necessarily mean ornate. A growing trend is quiet luxury, which emphasizes quality touches.

6. Pick up antique pieces

If you are considering a home in a new development and imagining ways to make it look and feel unique, avoid purchasing matching furniture sets.

A few well-placed antiques add gravitas to modern decor, and it’s especially needed in a home in a new development.

“Bringing a sense of the past gives character, depth, and a less thematic look to a modern space,” says Wolf.

So, ensure your home reflects your taste by taking your time to fill it with the things you love.


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One of the first things home shoppers learn is that the price they see on real estate listings is nearly always negotiable. And that same flexibility exists when buying a newly built home, too, in the form of builder incentives.

Builder incentives are promotions offered by developers that, much like a coupon, cut the cost of purchasing property in that community. Incentives are increasingly common today to entice cash-strapped buyers to make an offer, yet these discounts aren’t always as simple as a straight price cut.

Here’s a guide to help homebuyers understand the various types of incentives, when and why they’re offered, and how to make the most of these deals today.

What are builder incentives, and when are they offered?

Many builder incentives are widely advertised on splashy billboards and online to capture the attention of buyers and reel them in. Examples might range from “For a limited time, get $5,000 in designer upgrades!” to “Purchase before X date, and we’ll pay all of your closing costs.”

“You will find these incentives explained on websites, social media, signs, and other places a builder might advertise to the public,” explains Kimberly Mackey, founder of New Homes Solutions and a sales and marketing management consultant specializing in residential homebuilding.

Homebuilders may offer incentives at any stage of the project’s development. Many happen at the initial launch to help generate buzz for a new community and get the first few residents on board. Incentives are also commonly offered near the end of a project when there are only a few homes left to sell, since builders might be eager to close the books.

Overall economic conditions that might slow home sales (such as high interest rates or a recession) might also spur builders to work harder to get buyers through their door. The type of incentive will vary based on what builders think will strike a chord with the target homebuyer at that time.

“For example, if the economy is struggling, lower interest rates and cash at close may help buyers qualify that would otherwise be unable to afford a particular community,” says Bob Seeman, vice president of sales, new homes at Realtor.com®. “If it’s a high-end community, then property upgrades are more likely to be a successful incentive.”

While many incentives are widely advertised, others are not and are discretionary. The only way buyers will know if this incentive exists is if they or their real estate agent asks for it.

“Occasionally, builders may have some wiggle room to provide to a buyer something like a refrigerator—new construction doesn’t always include one—or blinds, or something along those lines, to incentivize a buyer further to make a move during a specific time frame, like by the end of the month or quarter,” says Mackey. “If the builder has it, the builder’s sales representatives will know how to handle the question and they are generally happy to help the buyer as much as possible.”

How financial incentives with builders work

While builder incentives may be found as price cuts on the actual house, homebuyers may more commonly see offers to help reduce costs on the financing front, with builders offering to buy down the interest rate on the home loan or pay some or all closing costs.

One caveat to keep in mind, though, is that these deals are typically tied to financing through a builder’s preferred lender. Builders often work closely with certain lenders because they want to know that the loan will close without delay once the home is completed.

“It is expensive to carry a finished home, so the builder wants to get it off their books as soon as possible,” says Mackey.

While buyers can always bring in a lender of their own choosing, these borrowers will typically be forfeiting any builder financing incentives and may end up out more money at closing as a result.

“If the builder doesn’t pay this incentive, then the buyer could have to pay all the closing costs, which typically adds around 3% of the purchase price,” says Mackey. However, she also says it’s always smart to shop around and compare offers from several lenders or brokers, just to make sure the builder’s terms are truly the best deal you can get.

Homebuyers who do find better financing terms with an outside lender should be aware that if that loan isn’t ready to close at the specified time the builder is prepared to turn the home over, buyers could face closing delay penalties, which could be hundreds of dollars per day.

“With the builder’s lender, if they can’t close, the buyer would not be on the hook for those delay fees,” says Mackey.

Whether you end up using the builder’s lender or not, Mackey always recommends buyers read the fine print of any incentive they agree to, since it may contain small conditions that may be easy to overlook in the rush and excitement to close the deal.

“There may be a caveat to these incentives, such as a ‘must close by date’ that may not be in the buyer’s control if the home isn’t finished,” warns Mackey. “Buyers should get, in writing, what happens if that home completion falls out of that date range.”

There’s also the possibility that a home loan may be delayed or fall through due to mortgage approval problems, which might occur if the buyer suddenly changes jobs at the last minute or makes a big purchase like a car. Generally, it’s best to come to the closing table having made no significant recent changes that would affect your finances.

Why builder incentives are on the rise today

During the red-hot market that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, when record levels of Americans were moving, builders didn’t have to offer many (or any) incentives for the homes they were building. Now that things are leveling a bit, however, homebuyers are starting to see a few more perks being thrown their way.

“In general, builders face similar conditions to other home sellers when it comes to pricing, and although home shoppers are interested, current mortgage rates, which are more than double year-ago levels, have drastically reduced affordability,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com.

“Higher costs and uncertainty about the economic outlook have made home shoppers who can navigate today’s housing market more selective, bringing demand much more in line with supply than we’ve seen in recent years,” she adds.

“In most cases, builders today are offering incentives at every phase of a project’s development or sales cycle,” says Kelly Zuccarelli, national builder and condominium program manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

How Mortgage Rate Buy-Downs and Builder Incentives Can Make New Construction More Affordable

How to take advantage of builder incentives today

With interest rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage more than double what they were a year ago and currently in the 7% range, Zuccarelli says they’re currently seeing builder incentives focused almost exclusively on providing buyers with a more affordable monthly payment.

One possible incentive that may be offered is a permanent interest rate buy-down, funded by the builder, that creates a lower monthly payment for homebuyers and reduces financing costs over the life of the loan. Another incentive being offered is extended interest rate locks, paid for by builders, which allow homebuyers to lock in today’s interest rates and insulate themselves against any future rate increases.

One other really interesting financing incentive homebuyers should know about is that some builders actually purchased “rate locks” when rates were lower than they are today and can offer loans below current market rates to their buyers.

Zuccarelli suggests that buyers worried about current interest rates may wish to seek out builders who purchased rate locks before mortgage rates started heading up.

That said, Seeman points out that current incentives are likely to be short-lived.

“You’ll notice most of the incentive programs are time-boxed in order to give builders as much flexibility as possible to adapt and adjust incentives depending on market conditions,” says Seeman. “As a result, if a buyer is ready to move, we recommend grabbing a good incentive when they see it.”


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Unique and Chic: 5 Vintage Bathroom Looks That Add Big Bang (for Very Few Bucks)

When it comes to home décor projects, our eyes are often bigger than our wallets. There’s always plenty that needs to be done and a limited amount of time (and funds) to make it happen.

That’s why we’re turning to one of our favorite ways to remake spaces this week—one that doesn’t involve blowing your budget shopping online.

Summer is the season of thrifting—from the antiques stores you’ll encounter on vacation to the flea markets and pop-ups right in your ZIP code. We scoured Instagram for some of the trendiest and thriftiest looks in bathrooms right now.

Here are our five favorites to inform your next vintage haul.

1. Bright wallpaper

One of our top thrifty moves for a drab bathroom? Styling a few walls in bright, vintage wallpaper like this one from @theproperpeacock.

“The vintage trend is everywhere, and wallpaper is one of the easiest ways to incorporate the look,” says decor influencer Judith Lato, of @jotitup. “Vintage wallpapers can be so fun and completely transform the vibe. And for smaller spaces, like bathrooms, wallpaper’s very budget-friendly.”

Get the look: If you can’t find any vintage wallpaper you like, check out these retro styles from Wayfair.

2. Mix-and-match Delft tile

If you’re not interested in wallpaper, you might want to remake your bathroom with some tile, like this mix-and-match look with Delft tile from @blythcollinsoninteriors. (Delft is a style of blue-and-white ceramics.)

“Delft tile can be the perfect vintage addition to a bathroom,” says Lato. “With their traditional blue-and-white colors, they can add an antique spa feel to the space. Mix and matching make the tile visually interesting and even allows for depicting a specific story with the illustrations.”

Get the look: Scour your local thrift shops for Delft tile. Or save some money and make your own imitation Delft tile with this DIY guide.

3. A DIY vanity

Another DIY project we love is bathroom vanities that break from the boring, like this custom one from @kaitlinsmithinteriors.

“DIY vanity updates are perfect for any homeowner because, in a long weekend and for little money, you can completely transform the look of your bathroom,” says DIY expert Tracey Amadio, of @porchdaydreamer. “For $100 or less, you can paint a vanity and create a high-end look like you spent thousands on a remodel without the headache.”

Get the look: Source an antique dresser from your local thrift shop or follow Amadio’s online guides to repainting a vanity for a whole new look.

4. Funky plant stands

Among our favorite thrift items in home decor are plant stands. The possibilities are endless, and they always add extra character to the space, as in this design from @mels_home_and_garden.

“Unique plant stands are such a fun way to add some greenery to a bathroom,” says Lato. “Keep an open mind while thrifting, and you’ll find plenty of options to fit the bill: a stool, small side table, a coat rack for hanging plants, or even a funky statue.”

Get the look: Start scouring your local flea market and estate sales. Or skip the search, and opt for this affordable teak stool with vintage flair.

5. Old rugs

Probably the most rewarding finds in vintage collections are area rugs. There’s something deeply satisfying about paying a fraction of the original price for something that maintains its craftsmanship for generations.

And even the most worn-out rug can still work for certain jobs, like this bath mat inspiration from @eyeforpretty.

“Old rugs may have been one of the first decor items to inspire the vintage comeback,” says Lato. “They provide character and warmth even in a modern bathroom. Vintage rugs typically have muted colors and designs that soften a space and pair perfectly with wood tones.”

Get the look: Find your perfect vintage rug by shopping the collection on Kilim. Or opt for an even cheaper lookalike on Society6.


For this and related articles, please visit Realtor.com