A sample of Latitude Margaritaville's home upgrades and styles.

An important part of the process when buying a new construction home in an active adult community is the model home tour. Sure enough, the model home is in pristine condition. Everything looks fresh and clean, spotless from the newness of it all and yet comfortable enough that you can imagine yourself already living there. The more you look around, the more hooked you get. And just before you convince yourself this is the place for you, you remember that this version of the home isn’t the one you’re buying.

This model home is full of upgrades and add-ons. Those custom cabinets? Those are extra. The patio setup out back? That’s extra, too. The marble countertops in the bathroom? Those aren’t standard.

It doesn’t mean you can’t have those upgrades, it just means you have to be a little strategic about what you want your new home to include. Some of this will come down to your budget and how you plan to pay for the home.

If you’re buying with cash, chances are you’ll have the ability to come back later and customize the house as you want so you might not need to pay extra now. If you’re buying with a mortgage, you might want to lean into specific upgrades now and include that in your loan amount as it’ll be harder to come up with the cash later on.

But the real question is, which of those active adult home upgrades should you consider to begin with? According to 55places.com’s real estate experts, a lot of that depends on where you’re buying.

Upgrades

Screened-In Rear Patio

“Here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, one upgrade that is definitely worth having the builder do is a screened-in rear patio,” says Brendan D’Anna, who specializes in communities such as Cresswind Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach Club. “So many of our buyers are moving here for the warmer climate and love to enjoy their new backyard from a screened-in patio.”

Brendan says it makes more sense to have the builder add the patio before closing rather than adding it later because it’s easier to include that cost in the mortgage. Also, if you add it later on, it’s considered a home addition, which means you’ll have to jump through plenty of HOA and county approval hoops to complete it.

Solid Surface Floors

Around Ocala, Florida, solid surface floors are extremely popular, according to Russ Walker, who works with buyers in communities such as On Top of the World and Trilogy at Ocala Preserve. “They’re easier to clean, don’t require any maintenance, and reduce any trip hazards.”

If you’re on a budget, Shannon Barker, who specializes in Southern California’s Terramor and Buena Vida at La Floresta, recommends that buyers focus on structural options (bedrooms, fireplaces, doors) over ornate options (crown molding, window coverings, landscaping) in order to keep the final price down. That keeps property taxes down as well.

Choices

For Kathy Seger, who helps buyers in North Metro Atlanta communities such as Soleil Laurel Canyon and Brookhaven at Johns Creek, it’s less about seeing them as upgrades and more about seeing your homebuying experience as full of choices.

“Some people want rubbed oil bronze in their kitchen and the next person wants brushed nickel. The builder provides the list so our clients know their options. It's what makes working with clients building a home so much fun and why no two homes in a community look just the same.”

Seger says that her buyers often consider oversized tile showers with dual shower heads and special trim work.

Ultimately when it comes to upgrades and choices in your active adult community home, you want to take a look at your budget, figure out whether it makes sense to include them now or later and work with your real estate agent to make the best possible decision for yourself.