WE’RE BUILDING A HOUSE!
I’ve been waiting a little bit to start sharing the process and all the details with you because to be completely honest, it’s just been A LOT of construction – which is exciting but somewhat boring. Now things are starting to really take shape and we’re getting closer and closer to moving in.
Our first house was a starter home that we totally loved. It was a ranch with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms that was literally walking distance from a park that we used EVERY single day. It was also close to shopping and entertainment and was a quick drive to school for me when I was in college. Even though it was a complete fixer upper, we put so much work into it and made it our little home. Over the last few years we were there, it became more and more obvious that we were running out of space so we started searching for another house.
We searched and searched. And searched. Our poor realtor probably felt like she couldn’t please us, but truthfully we couldn’t find anything that we loved. We had our list of must-haves and it was hard to find something that we thought would work. The whole search was super frustrating and looking for houses became something we kind of dreaded. After a lot of browsing and searching, we started to seriously think about the idea of building. It was definitely something that we had talked about before, but I guess until you’re actually in the middle of it, it just seems like this dream idea that’s never going to happen. Luckily, my best friend is a financial planner and she sat us down to go over some real numbers. She helped us figure out what mortgage we’d be comfortable at and guided us on how to navigate the whole banking situation. We signed the paperwork for our construction loan in September 2018 and now here we are!
Obviously we aren’t done yet, but I wanted to re-cap everything so far since we’re pretty much done with the construction phase and are onto all the finishing work – you know, the fun stuff.
FINDING A LOT: This whole thing has been a long time coming. We purchased a piece of land close to our families in December of 2016. It was a corner lot and a little over 3 acres. We ended up selling it a while later because we quickly realized that we didn’t want to live on a corner and there was another piece of land for sale about a quarter of a mile down the road that was bigger and a lot more private. Thankfully it all worked out and we ended up selling the first one and buying the bigger one. Our house sits on an 8-acre lot that’s apart of what used to be a golf course. All of the houses around us are new builds and we’re in an area that requires a well, so we had to go through the health department to make sure it was suitable to build on. That’s a long, annoying and expensive process but unfortunately necessary.
PICKING A BUILDER: We knew from the start that we didn’t want to use a “big box” company. We met with a few builders that we knew through word of mouth and ultimately chose one who was custom and local. We knew of several homes that he had built and had heard nothing but good things about him and his company. During our first meeting, we instantly felt comfortable. His knowledge and skill mixed with my creativity felt like a perfect fit. Building is a huge commitment and a lot of money. It’s important to feel 100% confident in who you chose, so do your research and go with your gut. Most of the time you see “custom homes” from some of these bigger companies but they aren’t really as custom as you think. Have an idea of what you want and ASK QUESTIONS!
CHOOSING A PLAN: I love home design. It’s a complete obsession. I knew the kind of vibe I wanted in a house but Ronnie needed to physically see some models to get on board. We walked through a bunch and settled on 3 different plans that we totally loved, including both one and two story options. We wanted an open concept but no wasted space. After stalking the models and studying every square inch of them, we finally came up with the amount of square footage we felt we would be comfortable with and a good idea of a layout. We searched so many online plans on numerous sites, but actually going and walking through real houses made such a difference in our decision-making. It gives you a chance to really critique things, measure spaces like hallways and doorways, and ultimately get a feel for how much you really want. It’s easy to look at numbers and dimensions on paper but nothing compares to standing in the real thing.
BEING REALISTIC: If you’ve ever talked to someone whose built a house, they’ll probably tell you that it’s going to take longer than you think and it’s going to cost more money then you expect. #TRUTH. We started building in the late fall and a lot of the construction happened over winter. When we sold our house in May, we honestly thought we’d be moving in by the time things really even got started. There’s a lot of permits and planning that goes on behind the scenes before a shovel even hits the ground. Since we went with a custom builder, we hired an architect that he recommended to draw up our plan. I’m SUPER detail oriented so I worked really closely with the architect to make sure everything was exactly how we wanted it. It took a while, but it’s obviously important. I gave him a basic drawing of a floor plan so he had something to work off of. Winters in the Midwest can be unforgiving and it wasn’t so much the snow that slowed things down, but the ice and freezing temperatures. We got struck with a pretty bad winter storm when the crew was in the middle of putting on the roof, which that was a major set back.
Regardless – the biggest piece of advice I could give is to make sure there’s room in your budget for the unexpected. Don’t agree to a construction loan at the top of your price point because you WILL go over it. You don’t want to be financially strapped before you even move in. At the end of the day, it’s just a house. And before anyone jumps down my throat, we know it’s more than a house. It’s a home. One you might raise you kids in. But there’s a lot of life to be lived outside your house, guys – not to mention groceries and dog food to buy (just sayin’).
THE BIGGEST HICCUP: I can honestly say that other than things moving kinda slow, we’ve really had no issues – until the drywall started. We’re currently +50 days into dry walling and it’s still not done. Here’s the thing. Builders have sub contractors and when communication doesn’t happen, shit can hit the fan. We pretty much stop at the house every day to check in on things (which I would also totally recommend if you can). When there’s something we aren’t sure about, we ask questions. You have to remember that YOU hired these people and they’re technically working for YOU. When you’re investing any amount of money into something you want it to be done exactly how it should be. Bottom line. A few weeks into drywall, we knew things were moving way too slow. Long story short, the first drywall crew got fired. We’re finally almost done with it but to say it’s moved way too slow would be an understatement.
LAST PIECE OF ADVICE (FOR NOW): Listen to me when I say that you HAVE to stay on top of people. Be your biggest advocate. You have to say something when things go wrong – no matter how afraid you are to do so. The builder isn’t there 24/7 babysitting the crews. If you don’t like something, speak up and change it, because you’ll forever regret it if you don’t. DOUBLE and TRIPLE check that whatever is coming up next is going to be done exactly how you want it. Don’t assume the builder or the subcontractors will just remember what you talked about. Ronnie jokingly calls me the head contractor because of my type A personality, but there’s absolutely no time to be a pushover when you’re building a house. So get your Joanna Gaines pants on and run it.
A ROUGH TIMELINE (SO FAR)
September 27 – we signed the paperwork for the construction loan
October 11– the lot was cleared
November 12 – the foundation was excavated
December 13 – the foundation block was completed
December 19 – the framing started around the foundation block
December 21 – walls started going up
December 25 – all the interior walls were studded in
January 7 – trusses started to go on the roof
January 31 – the dormers on the roof were built
February 2 – windows started to get installed
February 8 – the front door and the rest of the windows were installed
February 17 – the roof was shingled
March 20 – concrete was poured in the garage and on the front and back porches
April 1st – the drywall started
April 29 – cabinetry was installed throughout the house
May 23 – the man door from the garage into the house was installed (I had to include this stupid detail because it was really exciting)
Don’t worry, I’ll be do many more fun posts room by room. We’re currently finalizing flooring, tile and paint! Stay tuned!