It started out as a Saturday afternoon spent looking at model homes. But it soon became a commitment to build a house. My husband and I became a couple of “looky-loos” over the course of one year. It’s now a humorous anecdote that we share with our friends and family. But, it was a different story. The best thing about hindsight is that it’s always 20/20.
We were young and had all the energy, but that didn’t stop us from falling for some of the pitfalls when we built our new home. Would I change my experience? No. What if I had to change the number linen closets in my house? Absolutely. Yes. After more than a decade living in our custom-built home there are certain things that I wish I knew back then.
Lessons learned about a custom built home
1. Your schedule should be a guideline.
The build took over a year. Our optimistic contractor initially gave us a shorter timeline and we expected to complete the project in nine months. Although I believed it was a strict schedule, it was actually a guideline. The timeline was not within our control due to bad weather, scheduling issues, and building problems. I wish I had understood that the schedule was subject to all contingencies. Understanding that your ideal home building schedule might not work out is a key aspect of what you need to know.
2. Plan for your future.
My husband and I were just 21 and 25 years old, and we weren’t very experienced. We could not even imagine how life would be with children when we designed our home. However, it was true that we had three children in the span of 10 years. Things that worked well for us as a couple without children are not ideal right now. While we designed our home with the “right now” mindset, it would have been more beneficial to think about the future in five or ten years.
3. Before you move in, finish.
Although this may seem obvious, it is important to remember that you are ready to move in when the work is done. If you’re unable to move in due to the delay caused by plans for finishing your bonus room or landscaping your backyard, it might not be as important. It would have been so much easier to finish everything before we moved in, since the last few items took literally years to complete. It’s easier to complete projects now if you have contractors than to pay them later. Get all the little jobs done before you go to bed each night.
4. Make sure to plan for storage.
Nobody gets so excited about planning their storage space. The master bathroom finishes and choosing the cabinetry details get the most attention. However, I would bet that homeowners would prefer more storage space to a deeper tub. I wish I knew that storage is prime real property in a home. Although planning for storage may not be the most exciting aspect of the building process, it can have a significant impact on your organization and lifestyle. When designing or building a home, keep this in mind.
5. Contractor research.
Before he could even set foot on our property, we hired a roofing contractor. Rookie mistake. He ran off with the money and we never heard from him again. We didn’t do enough research on all our contractors and we regret it. Although we were lucky in some cases, it was clear that we should have sought out reviews and referrals before entering into business with contractors. It would have saved us both time and money.
6. Sweat equity is the king.
My husband enjoys telling houseguests stories about how I grouted our tile when I was nine months pregnant with our first child. Although I felt it was cruel and unimaginable punishment at the time, now I appreciate the hard work we put into our home. This was not only a cost-saving strategy, but it also helped speed up the process. We were able, instead of waiting for contractors and having to work with them on the schedule, to do some of the work ourselves. While you should leave some things to the custom built home professionals (no self-plumbing please), don’t be afraid of helping out where you can.
7. Fixtures are worth the investment.
When building a new house, it was difficult to decide where to spend money. There were many trendy items that I would have preferred to spend money on. For example, decorative pillows. But in the end it was worth investing in fixtures. These fixtures are the ones that will stay put no matter what you do to your house. We have been able to change the finishes and colors without needing to do major repairs or make major renovations by investing in better-quality fixtures.
8. Go neutral.
My husband and I would probably agree that the dark green is our greatest design regret. We used two-toned paint throughout our house. The bottom was dark, mossy, and the top was neutral. Although the beige has lasted beautifully, we have already painted over it. While it worked for a while, redecorating was difficult. It would have been better to choose neutral colors and change accents than use a single color throughout the house. I don’t know how much primer we spent, let alone paint to fix our mistakes.
9. You will spend your money.
We were able to get a construction loan which covered the major items. We didn’t consider the costs we would have to pay out of our own pockets. We could make bank draws to pay the foundation and drywall. But trips to the hardware store to buy screws and sandpaper on the dime really added up. A contingency fund to cover construction costs would have saved us a lot of stress, as we look back.
10. It can be stressful, but it is rewarding.
All you have heard about building relationships is true. It’s a common joke that building a home together will not cause marital problems. Building is more than choosing a home. It’s a constant tug-of-war of needs, wants, and compromises. When you are debating about floor layouts or fixture finishes, it is easy to let stress get to your head. It’s much easier to see the real value of your home – one that you love, can grow in and enjoy. You can compromise on other options if you pick your three biggest building issues. My husband and I often discuss building again. We’ve learned so many things that it won’t be as stressful the next time. There’s something special about living in a home you have built from scratch paper. It’s full of memories and life. The rewards of building your own home are not for the faint-hearted, but those who are willing to do it can reap the immense rewards.
The bottom line
It might seem daunting to build a house. It can be a rewarding experience for your family if you plan for the long-term, and put in some effort. With some flexibility, planning is key. Don’t forget to allow for plenty of storage. Trust me.
Dawol Homes is you local custom built home specialist. We have been around for years and will help you through the entire process from land selection to design to finished home. Call us today to discuss your dream home.
9404 Hwy 17 Bypass
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576