Design Time

design time

This is the third in a series chronicling our move into a 55+ community. If you missed the second installation, here’s a link Don’t Go It Alone When Building a New Home

Why the Rush?

Before we signed our purchase contract, we looked over a template. One thing that stood out was the requirement to complete the design phase in only two weeks which seemed very aggressive[1]. So we asked our real estate agent to get us more time. He met with the builder’s sales manager and requested two more weeks. He got us one. It was a relief to slow the process down.

Decisions, Decisions

Design decisions were made over the course of two all-day meetings. All decisions are final (no pressure). Before the two-day design meetings even began, we had to make two other very important decisions. The first was to finalize the structural configuration – elevation (exterior style) and room configuration (number and types of rooms). The second was to meet with a third party to figure out internet, phone and TV requirements which are folded into the final design.

Then over the course of two days, buyers have to finalize materials for the entire house which includes flooring, tile, electrical, plumbing fixtures, appliances and cabinets (landscaping design is an additional cost and decided at a later date). It’s exhausting and overwhelming. And even though the builder’s design person was knowledgeable, helpful and patient it’s a lot to do in a short amount of time. Our goal was to make the right decisions, at the right price.

Our Approach

We made good use of our extra time. We started with an inventory our current house. We measured our furniture, noted our electrical outlets and ceiling fans, and room configurations. My wife created a scale model layout of where our furniture fits in the new house. In parallel, our agent obtained permission from several homeowners to let us to walk through their homes to help us get more design ideas. We also were able to make two more passes through the model homes. But the biggest win was having two sessions in the design center ahead of our final design meetings. Over time we refined our choices (changed our minds), and were much more confident in our final selections.

More Options

It’s no surprise that the builder wants you to buy everything from them. But you don’t have to. For example, we’re outsourcing the ceiling fans, garage sink, garage floor epoxy, closet organizer, custom door and water conditioner. In some cases it’s cheaper or better or the option is not available through the builder. Landscaping is another major expense that can be outsourced to another supplier. This combination approach leads to a better result at a better price.


There’s a lot of pressure inherent in design – big decisions with big ramifications (and costs). The builder’s insistence on completing design in only two weeks is for their benefit, not ours.

Fighting for an extra week was worth it. Our design meetings went smoothly and wrapped up early. And there’s no doubt that we made decisions that we can live with!

Up Next

Construction is under way and is expected to last until December. My plan is to write two articles on construction. The first will cover all the structural work and the second will cover all the interior materials and finishes. Stay tuned!

[1] The builder wants to fill their schedule & supply chain, get the next deposit ASAP & lock in buyers.

4 thoughts on “Design Time

  1. Wow…making all those decisions in just a couple weeks is a lot. Good for you on negotiating the extra time and all the work you did to inform your decisions.

  2. Your progressive and detailed information is so great. A big heads-up for any of us considering this move. Thanks so much and congratulations on your completion. Phew!

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