The best new home upgrades are the ones dealing with permanent parts of the house. Structure and insulation are of course primary concerns. Carpet is probably of the least concern because carpet is generally replaced every five or ten years anyway. It can be replaced at any time without impacting the structure. It is very difficult to add insulation after construction. Further, insulation pays for itself in less than 8 years,
Probably the smartest upgrade is the energy star upgrade. Having a home that meets or exceeds the Energy Star standards is very valuable because it will enable you to minimize your electrical bills. Energy Star requires superior insulation, superior doors and windows, better ductwork, and an advanced HVAC system. Energy efficient construction also means more durable construction, so you are actually getting a stronger and better home with an Energy Star Upgrade. Inversely you could look for a builder who only builds energy star homes, and compare the price.
In most climates building a home on a slab is a poor idea, due to moisture concerns, possible flooding, and a significant increase in the risk of termite damage. It is important to get a home off the ground, for many reasons. Basements add extra square footage at a very reasonable price, but in a high water table area, they can be prone to flooding. Colder requirements require a basement in order to get the footings below the frost line. Consider your climate when deciding between a basement, crawl space or slab.
While the building codes only require the use of two-by-four lumber, two-by-six lumber provides more room for insulation, and increased durability. Similarly, if given a choice of floor joists ask for the heavier joists.
Hardwood floors are a good investment if they are really traditional hardwood floors. Real hardwood floors are approximately one inch thick tongue and groove lumber, capable of supporting weight without a subfloor, though subfloor underlayment is preferable. Some builders use small one eighth inch thick veneer panels, over subfloor. This is not worth any significant extra cost. If you like the look of that, you can always install it as a home improvement project ten years later. It is very simple to install.
Any luxury that means a lot to you or your family should be considered, once the structure has been assured by the proper upgrades. Exotic plumbing fixtures, fireplaces, custom wood cabinets and granite countertops, are all a matter of taste and personal priorities.
Selecting upgrades can apparently be frustrating for many people. Some home builders do not focus so much on upgrades, while others make too much of it. Some upgrades are well worth the money, but if you feel that the standard floor coverings, cabinetry, and other upgradable features are deliberately unacceptable, in an effort to push upgrades in every category, then perhaps you should find another builder. For more information on the best new home upgrades, download our 98 page free book, and see other articles about new home upgrades.