Well, after five months of construction, we’ve finally moved into our house. We don’t close until next week, and there are still some small things left on the punch list, but we’re here! This process has been long, at times stressful and was something brand new for us to experience together. I’ve put together a little list of lessons that we’ve learned while going through this process.
1) Like your contractor. A lot. More than that, be confident in them and trust them. And you better feel comfortable asking hard questions if things go wrong or mistakes are made. Luckily, our contractor was amazing and a friend from church. We trusted him implicitly, and if we had problems, he fixed them. He probably hates us after the past few months, but hey, things happen. That’s a joke, by the way- hopefully he still likes us a little!
2) Do your research BEFOREHAND! Utilize Pinterest and pin the heck out of everything house-related, so that when the time comes, you’re not scrambling to choose fixtures, flooring, paint colors, etc. I made a Pinterest board for everything and got lots of ideas. Then, I narrowed down my list to the things that were realistic for us (lifestyle and budget-wise), so by the time I had to make choices, I was 95 to 100% sure of what I wanted to do. Except for those darn island lights- those suckers took me forever to pick!
3) Be realistic on your move-in date. Go ahead and add a month to whatever you think or are told by your builder. Just do yourself that favor to begin with, and it will be a happier process. If your original date was right, then surprise, life is grand. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment!
4) Take a hard look at your budget. For us, we overestimated “to be safe” and ended up using all of the overage (oops), so we went over by about 15% of our originally intended budget. If you have a tight budget, set that number to begin with and don’t allow going over. If it’s not there to use, you can’t use it. You don’t want to be house poor or stressed over your mortgage payment (any more than we all normally are, anyway).
5) Decide what YOU (and your spouse) like. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Don’t feel like you need a big fat island in the kitchen? Don’t build one. Don’t feel that need to make an entire room out of pallet wood? Don’t do it. Do you have crazy, messy little boys? Don’t put super light carpet in your bedrooms. Decide what works for your family’s lifestyle and do that well. You’ll be much happier in the long run.
6) Speak up. When you visit the house and something is wrong, tell your contractor. Especially if subcontractors are being used, communication mishaps happen. Speak now or forever hold your peace! It’s hard sometimes, but I have brought all of these things up to our contractor in favor of being happy in our house for years to come and not being continuously annoyed at that mistake that slipped through.
7) Research and buy online. We saved SO much money by building a truly custom home. Our contractor allowed us to choose all of our fixtures (we didn’t choose from a finish level or preset options like some “custom” builders make you do), and because of this, I was able to bargain hunt. For example, I bought the boys’ double bathroom vanity on sale and saved 50% ($500!!) off the price AND got free shipping. You can catch free shipping sales through a lot of online retailers and save tons of money. Also, big box stores like Lowes and Home Depot do free shipping to the store, and they carry WAY more online than they do in the store. Because of shopping around for deals, our house looks WAY more expensive than it actually was.
8) Have a game plan in mind. How long do you plan on being in this home? For us, this is our long-term “forever” house, so we didn’t want to skimp in key areas. Keep in mind that certain things are easier to change than others- for example, it’s easy to change a light fixture later on that it is to change your exterior finishings. For that reason, we went ahead and used a high-quality hardplank siding and brick detail on the exterior. We also didn’t rush into a lot of landscaping knowing that we’ll be here for a while and can build our yard over time.
9) Know your priorities. If you love to bake and invent new recipes, then you’ll probably be wanting a great kitchen. If you hate to cook and order take-out every night, maybe take some of those resources from the kitchen and put them into a great master bathroom instead. It’s all about making your house work for you. Our kitchen had to be top-notch because I live in that room, but I didn’t care as much about having a super fancy master bedroom. It helped to tell our contractor what mattered most to us because then he knew where to concentrate our budget, as well.
10) Try not to get overwhelmed. There are a million decisions to be made. There are budgetary concerns. There are delays. All of these things and more can really wear on your relationship with your spouse and your family if you allow the stress to get to you. If you find yourself getting really anxious, take a break from the house for a few days. Relax and think about something else! We’ve had to take a few mental breaks during this process and just concentrate on other things so we didn’t go crazy. It can really take over your life if you let it, so don’t!
11) If you’re living with your in-laws while you’re building, move out and get an apartment. Haha, just kidding (kind of).
Those are a few things we learned while building our house. I hope that helps any of you that are in the midst of the chaos of building or thinking through making that move. All in all, it was well worth the nine months of living with my in-laws (notice I only said this AFTER we moved out of their house!! Haha, seriously though, thanks Bruce & Iris for putting up with us and our wild boys!) and the five full months of construction. We’re finally home!