At the very beginning of any journey there is a decision. Stay or go. Pay or save. Talk or stay silent.
Build or buy.
I have to say, we AGONIZED over this for months. Ok. I agonized. Husband just listened to me agonize. I knew I wanted something different than our current home, which we were fast outgrowing and not really loving anymore, but knowing what our next step was rendered me frozen.
I had dreams of a big, old, rambling country home with a 100-year history and secret passage ways. My thoughts on home ownership are rather romanticized. I will be the first to admit that. But, we live in Wisconsin, where big, old, rambling country homes are as common as Starbucks in big cities. They CAN be found. In spades.
However, my husband is not so much the "big, old, rambling country home" type. "Old homes, old problems" he would say.
So, we entered into a few months of push and shove until I realized I was never going to get my husband to agree to move into some 100 year old farmhouse. No matter how much I whined.
So, I stopped whining about it and we decided to build.
That was, however, not the end of the anxiety.
Once the decision is made to build your home, the real work begins. Here are, from our experience, the first 5 things you need to do.
1. Have A Big Ole Come to Jesus Talk
Once you decide that building is the way you want to proceed, sit down with a pen and paper and your partner and write out wishes, must-haves, and absolutely not's. See where you're on the same page and where you are miles apart. Do this before you spend a DIME, because once the money starts rolling out it becomes a lot harder to say Yes or No.
Type up your initial plan and start a "Building Binder" where you'll keep all of the paperwork and notes that are to come. Trust me....they're coming.
2. BUDGET BUDGET MY GOD BUDGET
Going into a home build is no time to "wing it" with regards to budget. However, that's what a lot of people suggest. You wouldn't believe the people that told us "Oh, you'll go WAY over budget. It just HAPPENS."
How? Because you're not watching the budget.
We went into the build knowing exactly what we could afford and even though we added on a few items that we weren't expecting to add (such as a sunroom and a kitchen backsplash), we still stayed within our budget.
3. Be Realistic
If you're going to stick to a budget you have to be realistic about your budget. This means knowing your numbers.
I assume you're all doing your zero based budgets (riiiiight?) and continuing that (along with cash only spending) will help keep a realistic control over spending on the house.
Don't go into this project with champagne dreams and a beer budget, because there are a lot of vendors out there all too willing to give into your champagne dreams whether you can afford them or not.
YOU have to be the one who says NO.
4. Find a Builder You Trust
Here's the part I wish we would have done better. We ended UP with a trustworthy builder, but our first builder was a tornado-chasing shyster. They promised us the moon and we ended up with nada (and out $1000).
So, heavily vet your chosen builder. Read reviews, speak to clients of theirs, and meet with them to go over your plans and get their opinions. If they are promising you the world with no numbers attached to them, run.
5. Embrace Patience
Damn, this is my Achilles' heel. I am THEE most impatient person. I want answers now, work done NOW, and I want speed and efficiency. The house building process is ALL about hurry up and wait. At ALL ends. It's all about a million pieces, people, and thoughts coming together to create a project. This has been one of the hardest realities of the process for me.
This is the beginning of a Blog Series I'm going to be writing over the next week or so about all things building. From the first plans to getting the keys.
We are by NO means experts, but we just spent the last year weathering this build so hopefully everything we've learned will be of some use to folks out there.
More and more people are deciding to build because the real estate market is insane and inventory is low.
If you have ANY questions about the building process, comment below or feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org