Tips for building new from industry insider Melissa MacTavish


Kensington Homes

10 Kowalsky (1)


Two years ago, designer Melissa MacTavish and her schnoodle, Charlie, moved into their new Kensington home


Melissa MacTavish has been designing beautiful showhomes and helping new Kensington homeowners create their own personalized spaces for over five years.

So when it came time for her to embark on her own build, picking out the perfect home for her and her schnoodle pup, Charlie, she had some significant industry know-how to make the experience easier.

With her beautiful home complete (just check out the awe-inducing photos), she has these tips to offer anyone starting the build process:

Choose a reputable builder

“Word-of-mouth and reputation go a long way in this industry,” says Melissa. “(Kensington) takes pride in building a good home and they want their clients to be happy, which is not really true of all builders out there.

“I’ve always found their reputation is very good, especially if you talk out in the industry.”

Experience a number of homes

Once you’ve chosen a builder you trust, check out their repertoire.

“I’d suggest starting by going through the showhomes – having a good idea of what they’ve built and how they’re built.

“I was working on a (Kensington) showhome and I thought, ‘If I ever do my own build, I’d love this floorplan.’”

Though not everyone has the regular exposure Melissa does – showhomes are open to the public in nearly every top-selling floorplan variety, showcasing a wide range of finishes, to help you determine your needs and a best fit for you.

Start with the kitchen

Designing a home from top-to-bottom can be daunting – but luckily, Kensington has high-end finishes included as a standard with its homes, so many of the usual upgrades are already accounted for.

But because there are still a lot of colour selections to make and finishes to choose from, it’s better to start with one room, and work forward from there.

“I knew I wanted a white kitchen so that’s a major starting point,” says Melissa.

“If you’re not working in the industry, you don’t see this stuff every day. I always find it’s helpful to go around to the showhomes and find out what you like.

“If you can get (your kitchen style) locked down, the rest should flow pretty good.”

Try to enjoy the process

“The main thing is buying the right house, the right plan, and then try to just enjoy it. This is most likely going to be the biggest investment that you’ll make – try to just enjoy it and not stress too much about it.”

From her perspective, Melissa lived through renovations and found that far more stressful. “You don’t have to project manage; you don’t have to be onsite all the time; you can just say what you want and then you don’t have to be there.”

Build a rapport with your agent

Most likely your sales agent is going to communicate with the builder on your behalf, so make sure you’re comfortable asking them questions and you’re happy with the speed of responses.

“That’s really the most important part is having that relationship,” says Melissa.

If you find the whole thing just a little too much, there is the option of buying a move-in-ready or spec home, so there are less decisions to make, but you’re still getting a brand-new, quality-built home. To see what’s available at various stages of construction, visit our quick possession page here.