New Home Buyers' Guide - Designing Your Home

Jun 18, 2017

You’ve chosen your community, your lot and your builder. Now you’re onto the most exciting part of your new home project—developing a floor plan and designing your home. All builders have a sales agent or design consultant who will be your guide through this process. It can seem overwhelming as there are many decisions to make, but it doesn’t have to be if you’ve done your research and have ideas of what you like.

Whether you are building a premium or custom home, your design consultant will be dedicating a lot of time to this step in the process, working with you to ensure all the details are right for your budget, lifestyle and vision for your new home.

You will most likely have determined this already, but as noted in the previous Choosing your builder article, lot selection can affect the cost of your home as well as the style of home that’s available to you. Certain lots only allow for certain home designs and you will likely pay more for signature lots in a community. You will need to consider your lot plan and its impact on the design of your home. Sun exposure, privacy, outdoor leisure space, curb appeal, and snow clearing are all things to consider. If you haven’t selected your lot, you will need to work closely with your sales agent to choose from the lots that have been allocated to your selected builder keeping in mind your preferences but also your budget. Some lots may require specific enhancements to meet the standards Qualico has set for the community; for example, ¬≠if the house backs onto wetlands there may be specifications required for the deck, window trim, and exterior finishing.

Are you building a premium or custom home?

This will be driven by your choice of builder, budget and lot. Premium builders will recommend home plans from their design selection to best meet your lifestyle and budget. With custom designed homes, while you may start by reviewing pre-designed plans, your home will be tailor-made for you.

Walking through show homes gives you a sense of the floor plans your builder has previously built, as well as the quality and style of finishing in their homes.

Consider yours and your families’ daily routines.

Think about your morning routines (do you need counter space for a toaster oven and coffee maker?), how you prepare and serve dinner (does your family cook together, or is there a lone home cook), are there personal spaces needed you or your children (for doing homework, or playing video games).

Know your measurements.

When choosing from an existing plan, look at the room size alongside the measurements of the furniture you plan to put into the new home, how it might be placed, traffic patterns, position of lighting, windows and of course how you plan to use each room in the house. Your homebuilder may have 3D planning software to help you in this and other areas of designing your home. Another consideration for many homeowners is space for running home-based businesses and client meetings. 

Philip Musick, a sales agent with Broadview/Sterling homes said that the builder’s floor plans generally reflect the diverse demographics of home buyers.  “It’s much like having different models of cars. Different “models” or plans meet different needs of the marketplace.”

Because you’re building a new home, you will have a say in all of the details but there are some decisions that will need to be made sooner than others to finalize your plans and purchase agreement. Your sales agent will walk you through these early decisions, which may include choices such as construction materials, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems that need to be determined at the start of the project. During the build, you will continue to work with the builder and their in-house designers in selecting the design appointments and finishes that will go into your home. Exterior finishing also occurs during the build and in some cases may have to wait during the winter, although the homeowner can often live in the home.

The builder’s sales agents are knowledgeable in all aspects of the plans available but also the architectural (and other) guidelines for each Qualico community, the process for getting your plan through to final approval and finally, assisting you every step of the way through your building project and final possession of your new home.

Qualico requires final approval of your plans.

This usually requires some back and forth and changes may be requested, which you will have a chance to review before the plans go back to Qualico for final signoff. Once the plans are approved you’re off to the races and will continue to work directly with your sales agent and builder.

There may also be some landscaping requirements, which you’ll want to consider in the design as well as the purchase price of your home. Know what you are required to do as part of your agreement with the builder, if you’ll be required to give a landscaping deposit, and the conditions under which your deposit will be returned. The landscaping requirements are put in place to enhance and protect property values and the aesthetic of the neighbourhood but also to support environmental standards that have been set for the community.

Have fun with your features and finishes

Your trusted sales agent will lead you through this process—from choosing what kind of finish you want on the exterior of your home to the choice of interior finishing including flooring, countertops, fixtures, lighting, paint colour and the list goes on and on.

Michelle Gosselin of the Qualico Design Centre shares that different builders approach design support in different ways. That may include attending open houses where the multitude of finishes are available to buyers or working one-on-one with in-house designers. Tips she offers are bringing in cushions, fabric swatches and measurements of key pieces of furniture that will be going into the new home. She also stresses the importance of considering future resale of your home. “While that might seem a long way off for the home buyer it’s important not to personalize the home in such a way that it won’t have good resale down the road.”

Gosselin urges new home buyers to think about their own routines and how the home can be designed to best fit a variety of needs. “You want to make the home work for you on a daily basis, not just that ‘wow’ when you first walk in the door.”

This includes thinking about things such as the “mundane” parts of life and the functionality that comes with that. “This can include everything from what is your normal breakfast routine to how you plan to entertain, to the needs of bigger or growing families for convenient laundry, pantry, snack and homework spaces and family nights,” Gosselin said.

What are some of the major design decisions that the buyer will want to make first? Gosselin suggests starting in the kitchen. This, she said is because it’s best to start with the appliances and design around choices that may include gas or electrical fittings. “You can always refine the kitchen layout but fittings for electrical or gas appliances have to be roughed in early and you don’t want to be changing this later on.”

Fireplaces have also become another design decision offering a myriad of choices – which again, should be made very early. Same with many plumbing choices, that while structural, can affect design.

Is it included or extra?

Just as there are many choices in designing your home, standard home design features can vary widely from builder to builder.

Liam Milne of Hearth Homes says that asking for “base price” is especially tricky because the home buyer has no idea what that includes and what upgrades will cost. He agrees that the best approach is for customers to talk to their sales agent to again identify their lifestyle needs and go from there. “There are certain items when building a home you want to do initially or you never will.” [LF1] Others can be done later on. “The new homes are super-efficient so people can manage without air conditioning initially,” he said. “An insulated basement is also standard but finishing it isn’t and if the home owner doesn’t plan to ever use it, they’ve just saved a whole lot of money.”

Milne stresses asking the questions and working through your sales agent to arrive at these decisions so that you can put your money into the features of your home that are the most important to you.

What’s Next?

Now that you know more about the steps for designing your new home, watch for our next during the build. If you’re looking for more information about a particular builder, home plans or lots, visit the Qualico Community websites or call 204.254.9225.

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Standard or Extra?

The Manitoba Home Builders Steps to Owning a Home guide provides a checklist of the common features of a new home. Talk to your sales agent or builder to help determine what’s included and what’s considered an upgrade for your home plan:


Windows (including bay windows, accent and transom windows)—quality, glazing, low-E coating, material and locks

Exterior doors—quality, material, sidelights

Trim (windows, doors and baseboards)—plain or colonial, natural or painted

Paint (interior or exterior)—type, quality and colours

Patio door—width, quality, glazing, low-E coating, material

Carpet and underpad—quality, material, weight, colours, backing, manufacturer's warranty

Linoleum and vinyl flooring—quality, colours, patterns

Ceramic tiles (floor and walls) in bathrooms, kitchen and entryway—colours, patterns and finish (for instance non-skid)

Kitchen cupboards—materials, counter tops, dividers, pot drawers, "Lazy Susans", wine rack, microwave oven shelf, sinks and faucets

Bathroom fixtures—colours and quality

Separate shower stall, Roman-tub and/or whirlpool baths

Vanities, pedestal sinks, mirrors over vanities

Towel bars, soap dish, etc.—quality, material and colour

Electrical fixtures—where and what kind

Fireplace—type, doors, trim, hearth

Staircase (spindles, handrails and risers)—material



Cladding—brick front, two-tone brick, cornerstones

Porch and patio—size, material, finish

Decorative touches (shutters, trim)

Driveway and walkways-gravel, paving, interlocking brick

Landscaping—trees, sod in front and back

Exterior lights

House numbers


Doorknocker and kickplate for door


 [LF1]Didn’t get from him but could go back if we use this.