Welcome to the first official blog post in the “Building our Nest” series!
I don’t feel like many people actually share the good, bad, and ugly of building a home, so I’m hoping that today’s post helps shed some light on the process for anyone that is considering building a home. I’m also going to throw in some helpful tips, so that learn from our mistakes and you don’t have to deal with the same headaches that we did. You’re welcome!
We began looking for a home to purchase in December of 2015. We searched for months to no avail; we just couldn’t find anything that didn’t need a tremendous amount of work and that was in a decent location and distance from our jobs. We were frustrated; I even broke down in tears in a home we were looking at one afternoon. I know it’s a little dramatic, but you try planning a wedding while working 2 jobs and trying to find a house; it is exhausting!
After having no luck finding an existing home for sale, our realtor, Angie Holt (look her up if you’re in the Lynchburg area; she is the BOMB!), convinced us to look into a new development in our area. The house was slightly over our original budget, but we were out of options at this point, so we went with and looked at the house. There were two homes being built that were for sale at the time we went and looked. We looked at both and really liked the layout of one of them; however, we did not like the lot it was on. We found a lot that we loved next door and were told that we could build the same house and be able to choose all of our finishes; this was music to my ears! After looking for so long and then being told that I could pretty much design the house I wanted for a price we could actually afford, I was sold instantly. We did not hesitate and we put in an offer right away; this was our first mistake.
TIP 1: Research your builder before you make it official!
We knew absolutely nothing about our builder before we made an offer. We didn’t read any reviews, did not look into the company, and asked no questions; this came back to bite us in the butt really quick! Little did we know that the builders we chose did not have good a reputation. We learned this the hard way after already signing the contracts. I can not say this loud enough; know who you are getting into business with before you sign anything!
We began the building process in March 2016. We signed the contracts, finalized our floor plan, and chose our exterior finishes. We were told that the house would be finished in August, 2 months after Matt and I were getting married; so we made arrangements for a short-term rental property to live in until the house was finished.
March came and went and not much progress had been towards the house. The entire month of March was spend waiting for permits to come through. We adjusted our house plans and moved the house further towards the front of the lot, so our permits took a little longer to get in.
After the permits came in the building began. Things moved slowly, but they were getting things done. Matt and I would go over to the lot almost every night to check on the house and see the progress. We first started doing this because we were just so excited to see the progress, but we quickly realized that this was necessary to make sure that things were actually being built correctly.
TIP 2: Check on the building site frequently
Unfortunately, shortly after the framing started going up on the first floor, we discovered the builders had already made a big mistake on our house. When Matt and I went to check on the house one night, we discovered that the builders had not pushed our kitchen wall back two feet into the dining room like our adjusted plans called for. We discovered that the superintendent of the construction site was never given our adjusted plans. We were lucky that we found it as soon as we did, because they were going to put up the second floor shortly after we discovered the incorrect layout of the downstairs. Once the second floor would have been built, we would have had a huge push back in our timeline to fix it. Moral of the story, check on the house frequently and don’t hesitate to keep the contractors accountable if something is wrong or not as planned.
The wall mishap was the first of many mistakes and concerns while building house. I won’t bore you with my negative nancy spiel, but just follow tip 2 and you’ll be fine.
Our builders gave us certain allowances for all areas of the house when we were shopping for finishes. I was so excited to be picking out all of the finishes, but we quickly realized that our given allowances would only allow for the cheapest and sometimes ugliest finishes.
TIP 3: Expect to go over your allowance in all areas of the house
We were not given our allowances before signing the contracts, so we didn’t find out how cheap of an allowance we were receiving when we got started with the building process. After everything was all said and done, we doubled our lighting allowance and we just went to Lowes and got fairly basic and inexpensive light fixtures, with the exception of our dining room light and eat in kitchen light (which still weren’t that expensive at $150 each). We also doubled our appliance budget. We did upgrade a lot of our appliances, but we knew that this was an investment that was well worth the expense. I love to cook, so I wanted to make sure that I had appliances that suited my cooking needs. Be prepared to shell out a lot of extra cash for finishes that builders consider upgrades rather than standards. There are SO many options to choose from that it is very easy to go overboard and really allow your budget to get out of hand. Having champagne taste on a beer budget only breaks your heart when designing your home.
TIP 4: Hire a good realtor
We would have been truly lost without our agent, Angela Holt; she helped us with everything from start to finish! Angie found us a short-term lease rental property to live in while they were building the house. She also helped make sure that everything was correctly written in our contract and made sure that we got everything we wanted in our home. We really cannot thank her enough! Without her knowledge and diligence in writing everything in our contract, we would have lost out on a lot of things that were promised to us if they had not been in the contract.
TIP 5: Get everything in writing
Write everything done and make sure that everything that you and the builder agreed upon is stated clearly and thoroughly in the contract! We had several things in our contract that our builders later failed to actually follow through on in our home, but because it was all in writing we had no problem getting it fixed. For example, we signed off on and included a turn around space in our driveway, but when it came time to pour the driveway, the builders never put it in. We called and they told us that this was not standard and did not come with the house plans that we purchased. Fortunately for us, we had it written in our contract and they were then obligated to fix it and add the turnaround to our driveway. There is so much more on this that I could get into, but just take my word for it. Initially it’s so easy to trust that people will actually do what they promise, but unfortunately that doesn’t always work in your favor. Make sure everything is in your contract before you sign!
TIP 6: Find a way to relieve your stress
I think building a house has to be one of the most stressful things to do, especially as a newly married couple. We spent many sleepless nights stressing over the house and wondering if we would ever be moving in or if this process would ever be over. The best advice I can give is to find a way to relieve some of that stress. Grab a glass of wine, read a book, get on Pinterest (one of my favorite things), take a bubble bath, do yoga, or go workout. Whatever it is, do something to help relieve your stress, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Your significant other, co-workers, parents, and child will thank you; you will lose your sanity if you don’t find a way to handle all of the stress that comes with the building process.
TIP 7: Remember that there is an end in sight and it is a happy end
When things get stressful and you wonder why you were every crazy enough to start this whole process, remember that there is an end in sight. Even if there are million things going wrong remember that if will all be worth it when you get to come home to a beautiful home that was designed by you and that is perfect for you family.
We are so blessed to have the home we do and at such a young age! It still baffles me that Matt and I were able to have our first home be a home that we built together and one that we can stay in for a very long time. I never would have thought that at 23 Matt and I would own our perfect home.