How To Negotiate Directly With A Builder
Remember that builders have a profit margin built into everything that they do. While a complete backyard fence might be "worth" $5,000 to you and the appraiser, it might actually cost the builder only $3,500 to build. That makes agreeing to additional options and upgrades a good deal for you AND the builder.
The easiest upgrades and features to get are those that can be added on without having to go back into the house in an invasive manner. Backyard landscaping, building a deck, adding bookshelves, and the like are all easy tack-on features and options the builder can install. Other options, like upgrading the carpeting, changing cabinets, and other options that require the builder to not only "build," but also tear down are less likely to be agreed upon. For example, upgrading the carpet padding might be a low priced option while the home is being built, but becomes much more expensive when the existing carpet and padding have to be torn out before new padding can be installed. Upgrades like these could completely wipe out a builder's profit margin.
Also explore other concessions the builder can offer without affecting the sale price. For example, many builders offer special financing to make buying a home more attractive. A buyer offering a 2% buy down for two years on the mortgage might be willing to so for three, or even four years. While the price of the house stays near asking, the buyer can save thousands of dollars anyway. Make full payments during those buy down years to shave years off of your mortgage by paying down principal before the full interest rate starts being charged.
Image Credit: From Microsoft Office Clip-Art.