If you asked me this time last year if I would spend the majority of 2014 planning and designing our new home being built I would have laughed in your face. While Dan and I had dreamed of finding something bigger that we could raise our family in and settle down for several years, I was still under the impression that it was out of reach. When we began talking about it seriously last February and it all started to fall in to place, it was like it was meant to be. And while this last year has definitely not gone how we planned and has made me realize why people say building a new home is one of the most stressful things you can do, I am so thankful for the opportunity to see one of our dreams become a reality.
Starting the process to build was something I was clueless about. With our first home, we purchased it while it was in some of the final stages of building so we were able to choose from a small selection of flooring and tile colors, and were able to choose all the exterior paint. So I guess in my head, I felt like I had a good understanding of what it would be like to start the building process from the beginning. Well let's just say I was wrong (and I hate to be wrong), but I've learned a lot along the way. Here are some things we did to help us through the building and design process.
Look at as many plans or as many homes as you can before coming to a final decision. Before signing on the dotted line, we walked through other homes being built (even ones in areas we didn't like) just to get a better idea of the exact square footage we were looking for, design elements we liked and aspects of the home that were on our must have list. At our meeting with out future builders, we gave them some of the sizes and parameters we were hoping for and asked them to bring some of their plans to show us before deciding one "the one".
If you can, walk through other homes that your builder has built. This way you can get an idea of some of the other options they have used in the past. This might be helpful when you're picking out flooring, lights, fixtures or cabinets.
Write a list of your "must haves" and "would be nice to have". This way, you can see what options you both absolutely want in your home and figure out from that list, where you might need to spend a little extra on upgrades. One of the things that both Dan and I knew we wanted was painted cabinets, so when it came time to make all of our selections and upgrades, we made sure to talk to the cabinet people first so that we know how much to budget for that upgrade and how much we would have left.
Don't settle right away. While there will always be things on your list that you just aren't able to afford, make sure you check out your options before you dismiss the idea completely. After our meeting with the company our builders work with for lighting and other fixtures, we were really discouraged. We had a certain look and feel in mind especially when it came to the lighting in the kitchen and dining area. Instead of just settling and going with the basic light package that everyone else had, we asked our builders if we could use the allotment they were going to spend on lights somewhere else and if we could personally pick and purchase all of our own lights. They agreed, and we were able to pick exactly what we wanted, within reason of course. Now one of the things I love more than anything in our living space are the lights!
Walk through lots of current construction homes. I can't tell you how many new homes Dan and I have walked through in the last few months. And while we aren't able to change the structure of our home after walking through other houses, it gave us great ideas for finishes and designs later on.
Attend local home shows. Whether you attend a Street of Dreams, Parade of Homes, Homeramma, or some other home show, just attend one and get ideas. Even though all of the houses were out of our price range, many of the furnishings or overall look can be found or replicated in a cost saving way. By attending a local Parade of Homes event, we actually came up with the inspiration for our Kitchen.
Meet with a mortgage person before looking at houses. We went and talked to someone to figure out exactly what we qualified for before even considering the idea of moving. We walked out of the meeting knowing exactly what we qualified for, what price of home we should be looking at for our target monthly payment, and how much money we would need to put down depending on sales price. Doing this not only provided us was a lot of guidance and helpful information, but it also put my mind at ease and helped some of my worrying.
Take pictures of everything! If you're a fellow blogger like myself, you're used to taking pictures of anything and everything, but even if you aren't . . . do it! You may think you don't need too many before and after or progress photos, but those photos have not only helped remind us of where we started, but they have also been really useful along the way. At every appointment and selection meeting I not only took a picture of the paperwork, but I took a photo of every item we selected along with the item number and name. That way, if anything was lost or incorrectly ordered I was able to look back and know exactly which product we had decided on. Trust me, after scouring through dozens of similar looking options for carpet, you don't want to have to do it all over again hoping you choose to same one again.
Drive by all the time. You may feel a little crazy like I did at first driving by every day, and it may be disappointing on days when you drive by and nothing happens, but still do it. Not only is it fun to see the progress, but it's also good to check to make sure everything is going smoothly. We found wires that weren't exposed that were supposed to be, exterior paint that was missing, and items that were in the wrong place. When builders are working on several projects at once, it's easy for them to mix up details.
Have you ever built your own house or helped design parts of your home throughout the building process? What are some of the things you learned or did that would make the process easier?