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10 Lessons Learned From Building a House

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.

10 lessons art

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 easier to change a light fixture later on than 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!

Bonus lesson:

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!

p.s. Lots of you ask about our vinyl plank flooring- it’s Expo by Shaw in “Barcelona.”

 

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21 Comments

  • Reply Jane

    This is a little late for this post and your house building process, but we recently came across the book Building Our House by Jonathan Bean, and it is wonderful. I thought about your family as we were reading it and thought you might enjoy it!

    June 4, 2014 at 9:12 pm
    • Reply Deneen Gammons

      Thanks, helpful for me.

      October 17, 2018 at 5:51 pm
  • Reply Sherilan

    Hi, I just found your blog and am enjoying reading your posts on your home building experience. Love this posts about lessons learned. We hope to start building our home soon so this was a big help. Can’t wait to read all the posts and look around all over your blog!!

    Thanks,
    Sherilan

    April 27, 2015 at 9:27 am
    • Reply Jessica

      Thanks for stopping by, Sherilan! Glad you’re enjoying it!

      April 27, 2015 at 9:35 am
  • Reply Leigh

    hello! I just love your house. We are thinking about building our dream home. I was wondering how big ur house is?

    June 12, 2015 at 5:26 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Leigh, it’s 2,450 square feet

      June 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm
  • Reply Shannon Francis

    Hi. I love the house plan from your pictures and was curious of where you found your plan or was it completely custom? Thanks!

    June 19, 2015 at 4:15 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Shannon, we based it off of a model home we saw, but we knew we wanted to change a lot. So, I grabbed the floor plan off their website, sketched on it, then gave that to our architect, and he drew it up. Here’s a link to the original, which is Schumacher Home’s Beverly II E:

      http://www.schumacherhomes.com/house-plans/car/beverly-ii-e/

      June 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm
  • Reply Hollie

    Jessica, we are in the early part of building, have a wonderful contractor, and completely overwhelmed with the choices LOL! If I may ask, what were some of the things you opted to buy online & the sites. I’m running crazy trying to price lighting, appliances, etc…is there a better way?!
    Thanks for sharing your humor & lessons learned 🙂

    June 30, 2015 at 12:24 am
    • Reply Jessica

      Hollie, I bought so much online!! All of our light fixtures for sure- I never felt like big box stores had a good selection in-store. Lighting was the hardest for me, for whatever reason, to choose. I used the heck out of Pinterest to organize my thoughts and get ideas. I shopped for our bathroom vanities and all plumbing fixtures online, as well. I bought our apron sink online, as well. I felt like I saved SO much money by shopping around. So many stores change more for the convenience factor of “it’s all right here!” Well yes, but it’s also way more expensive! We did buy all of our appliances in-store at Lowe’s- we waited for a sale, then bought the whole matching set of Whirlpool appliances at once (washer/dryer too). Check with your contractor because most of them get a 10% discount at Lowe’s, so we used that to our advantage, as well. Good luck with your building process!

      June 30, 2015 at 10:03 am
  • Reply D

    How much did it end up costing? What bank did you use?! We’re having a hard time finding a bank that will do a construction loan 🙁

    August 10, 2015 at 7:31 am
    • Reply Jessica

      We used a local SC bank called First Reliance for our loan- they were great to work with. We spent about $230k total.

      August 11, 2015 at 9:30 am
  • Reply Jennie Simmons

    Love your house. We are planning a move to the Anderson/ Pendleton area. Would/could you recommend your architect and contractor? We don’t know anyone in the area. Thanks. Your house is lovely and just the right size. We are downsizing tremendously and yours is a perfect size and layout. I especially love the walk-in pantry. I will be retiring in June and look forward to getting closer to “God’s Country”.

    October 12, 2015 at 10:15 am
    • Reply Jessica

      Sure! I’ll send you an email!

      October 12, 2015 at 1:46 pm
  • Reply Anna @ iHOMESCOLORADO.com

    Great tips!

    October 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm
  • Reply Stefanie

    Hi Jessica! Great post! I found your blog on Pinterest and was reading through the comments and saw you found your plan from Schumacher. We have also been looking around and we have priced out some Schumacher options. I was wondering if you priced out the Beverly II through them or not. We are having a hard time deciding whether to go with a local contractor or the big builders like Schumacher or Wayne homes. Was it less expensive to find a local contractor it go through Schumacher? We just have no idea where to start when looking at a local builder and want an estimate of cost before starting. Thanks!!

    January 7, 2016 at 8:54 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Stefanie, we based our floorpan off of the one we saw from Schumacher. We made some key changes to make it work for us. We did price out the house through them, and the price difference wasn’t huge. We ended up spending about the same thing, but our finishes are nicer. However, we opted out of the garage in order to make that happen. So it was a give and take! Schumacher is one of the “custom” builders that isn’t truly custom and doesn’t let you just choose whatever you want- you have to choose from their list of products. It was important to me to be able to have a custom kitchen and wooden countertops, brick detail, etc. Some of those noteworthy upgrades from Schumacher, like the bricked kitchen inset areas, were very expensive! However, I think there are perks to using a big builder, as well. I think timelines are more accurate there, for example. It’s really up to you and what you’re more comfortable with doing!

      January 9, 2016 at 2:30 pm
      • Reply Stefanie

        Thanks so much for sharing! It really helps to hear others’ experiences…it’s such a big decision we are almost afraid to go from talking about it actually building haha! You’re home is lovely, btw. Thanks again for sharing 🙂

        February 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm
  • Reply Sonja

    Hi Jessica,

    As a mother of four boys, I am VERY interested in the vinyl flooring that you used in your new house. Would you mind providing me with some specifics on it? Brand, color, where purchased, approx. cost?

    Thanks very much.

    March 3, 2016 at 3:44 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Sonja, I don’t have a lot of specifics, as our contractor ordered the product after showing us samples. It’s called luxury vinyl tile or LVT and it’s a walnut color. It was much less than real hardwood and comparable with laminate flooring pricing, maybe slightly less.

      March 3, 2016 at 4:05 pm
    • Reply Jessica

      Sonja, I now know that it’s Expo by Shaw in “Barcelona.” Hope that helps!

      September 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

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