Building a Custom Home
“I didn’t build this home, it built me.” —Unknown
When Josh discussed building and moving I secretly hoped it was just one of those ideas that would pass. It sounded like a lot of work and I really loved where we lived at the time. The location was perfect, we had plenty of room and I had not even finished decorating the basement in that home! However, after looking for land (we had in mind 1-3 acres) for over a year, we realized that land with internet do not go hand in hand so we circled back to a lot in a neighborhood that we originally looked at over a year prior. Josh was pretty set, and I leaped in trusting my husband’s lead.
Through the process, we often heard other couples say, “Our marriage would never survive building a home” which always made me laugh a little bit. Not because I thought we had this thing on lock down and our marriage was rock solid, but because I know that it is only by the grace of God that we were lead to build a home, something I never really dreamed of doing. My husband is the dreamer in our relationship. He works so hard and is always dreaming up the next big adventure in life. I on the other hand have always been a little hesitant with change and tend to chalk it up to being “content” with where God has me. My husband sweetly reminds me that being content should not be mistaken for complacency. I knew that God obviously had a lot to teach us, because building a home was not something I had on my bucket list. So when I heard the quote, “I didn’t build this home, this home built me” it really hit home with me about 3/4 of the way through the project. I truly felt that God was building and working through us every step of the way to refine our own expectations and ideas as well as through our marriage. It was a great project to come together hand in hand and pray through every trial and decision that ultimately lead to exactly what God had in mind for our family.
We bought the lot in August of 2016 and all the emotions came with it. We were nervous and excited with all the questions and possibilities. We knew all the time and decisions that go into building could feel like a lot of extra stress and work, but ultimately, the thought of building a home that purposefully matches our lifestyle was thrilling and such a unique opportunity we did not want to take for granted.
Once my head was a bit more wrapped about the thought of building a home, I started feeling a bit giddy about designing our own space. I don’t claim to be an expert with design, but there was a bit of passion and excitement that came alive in me when I knew we had this opportunity. The last time I really designed something was my Senior prom dress and I totally rocked a blonde headed Jasmine look (someone remind me and I might show you a picture on my IG stories, ha) I for sure look at that dress now and say, “What was I thinking?!”.
Needless to say, I wanted to make sure we designed a home that was practical for a family of five and stood the test of time…and kids. When Josh and I went through several styles of homes, it was easy to agree on our collective style. Josh (being a graphic designer) has a very modern style. I on the other hand, am very traditional. So naturally a modern farmhouse style home was just the fit.
Designing, building and moving with 3 small children isn’t all peaches and cream. It is an adventure for sure.
I was often asked, “How do you go about starting the process for building a custom home?”
It is possible to buy blueprints online, it is possible to choose a home that you want to just “tweak” that a builder may be familiar with, but we had a specific vision for our family that slowly came together. We wanted something unique, something that would feel timeless, something practical and something specifically designed with our lifestyle in mind.
Here is the process we walked through to build our home.
Research- Take your time to really compile what style and look you like both for the exterior and interior of your home. I would suggest pinning anything and everything that draws your attention and the attention of your spouse. I used Pinterest and Houzz to compile boards. I separated my boards according to rooms, and then in the end once I narrowed it down I had a “final interior” and “final exterior” board I used to reference when I needed to show my builder or contractor our vision.
Bank- Get a meeting scheduled with a loan advisor so you are prepared on how much you can or want to spend on building a home. This takes a good chunk of time (I would estimate at least 2 weeks) to get paper work started and numbers rolling. This is helpful information to have before meeting with your builder or architect.
Hire an architect- We hired our friend who we grew up with (one of Josh’s best friends from High School) out of Arkansas to help us design our custom home. This entire process took us 6 months. There were a lot of revisions and many thought processes we walked through going room to room to make sure the design was practical for our family, but one we knew we would love. We were able to compile house plans that had aspects we liked, but I also did a lot of hand drawings for our architect. Haha. Thankfully, he was a good sport about it. It was also helpful to have our builder in on the meetings so he could give us advice as to what might or might not work structurally and in keeping budget in mind.
Builder- Hire a builder you know and trust. Get several recommendations of a builder if you do not know one personally and schedule a consultation. Decide what aspects are important to you when building your home. Do you want someone who is trustworthy? Personable? Communicates well? Has a great relationship with their subs? Stays in budget? Will be flexible with your ideas and visions? All are important. We went with our dear friend Austin Miller with Wisebuilt homes for several reasons. Most importantly, we knew he was a man of integrity. Because we are small business owners, we wanted to come along side our friends as they stepped out into building custom homes and support them in every way.
You will take on an adventure of a lifetime! Before we started, the overwhelming responses we would hear were things like, “It will take longer than you think and it will cost more than you think.” Both were absolutely true in our case. God truly grew in us through every mountain high and any small unmet expectation we may have experienced in the process. In fact, exactly one year ago today (October 5th) we felt so much adversity that we felt strongly about placing scripture on all the studs in every room of our house. I love sitting at my kitchen tale today knowing that I am surrounded, that every day as my family walks and talks in our home that we are surrounded and that every person who walks in our home is surrounded by the word of God. We know that every decision was guided through excessive prayer and wisdom. As in most things in life, the joys of building far out weighed the disappointments.
But oh the patience.
I thought I was a patient person, but if you build a house, that will prove you wrong. ;) We are impatient by nature and our expectations can be deceiving. It finally came to a point where we had to trust that God knew the perfect timing for us. Truly, I could not have imagined trying to make moving work any other time this past year. I firmly believe if you trust God and place it all in His hands, it will be better than you can hope or imagine.
I do not think it is a perfect process, nor should perfectionism be expected of anyone involved. However, I would recommend that you stand for the things you feel strongly about and learn to let go of the little things, which will inevitably make the process take a bit longer. Our process from start to finish was every bit of a year and a half. Patience is essential.
Flexibility is key.
I would highly recommend checking in on the progress frequently. We checked in every day or every other day depending on where we were on the project. This was very beneficial (and probably a bit annoying to our builder, haha) because we were able to catch things along the way that may not have been how we envisioned, and we were also able to change a few things as we went. For example, the upstairs playroom had a large walk-in closet built in, but once I saw the walls up I had a moment where I panicked thinking about having guests stay over. Let me explain. The guest room, half bath and playroom are all on the same side of the house. If we were to have guests, they would have to use the kids bathroom or our bathroom to shower. Not a terrible thing, but I just felt that it would be more hospitable and convenient for the guest to be able to shower in the guest bath. So we changed the playroom closet into a shower and added a smaller closet onto the playroom.
Something I did not expect, was how different the house would look once it “came to life”. You may go over the blueprints a million times and everything might feel perfect, but once the walls start going up, and everything starts to take shape it may look and feel differently than you expected.
Small bits of advice:
*Be aware of room size. Pay attention to the size of your rooms on the blueprint and really map them out to get an idea of how small or big that room may actually be. We did that with some rooms, but not all rooms and I think it would have really helped. For example, I now call my kids Jack and Jill bathroom the kids “master-bath” because it is a lot bigger than I expected. Everything looks small on blueprint, but pay attention to those numbers and make sure they are exactly what you expect before moving into the building process.
*Take all the pictures. Every time you go to a new supplier, take a picture of your choices. We did this some, but I wish I would have done it more. It could be 2-3 months until those items are placed in your home and it is easy to forget what you chose. This will also help when you need to coordinate colors and textures in room and bathrooms. Picking our faucets, cabinet pulls and lighting is helpful when you can remember what floor color and pattern you chose.
*Take notes. You will want to write down and remember what you discussed with the supplier and your builder. Any ways that you can cut down on miscommunication would be key for the process. Don’t assume that the supplier or builder will remember everything, sometimes big and small things are missed and miscommunicated and there will be a lot of questions when it is time to install. Referring back to your notes will be very beneficial.
I am super type A and these are some tips I wish I would have come across before building. We learned a lot along the way and I am so glad I can pass along the tips to someone else who might be able to use them. ;)
Here are some questions I was asked through my followers on Instagram:
How did you design it and would you share the floor plan?
-As stated above, we did a lot of compiling ideas and drawing up several different ideas. As for sharing the floor plan, that is still a discussion my husband and I go back and forth on. ;)
What would you say is an average price per square foot?
-This is a great question. There are SO many variables as well. It will depend on the size of your home, whether or not you have a basement or a third floor, what part of the country you build in. $150/sq foot may be a safe average, however, that is going off something that will give you very base model supplies. If you wanted to get supper picky and if you are on a strict and tight budget, it may be beneficial for you to price out materials that you like before building. It will make the process longer, but it could help with budget. We took everything bit by bit. When it came to flooring, we went over budget because that was something that was important to us. When it came to how our house was wrapped after framing, that was not so crucial. Our price per square foot fell a little under the $150 average.
What do you wish you had known when you started that you know now?
-I wish that I would have paid closer attention to spacing on the floor plans, and put on more patience when it came to the whole process.
If you bought plans online, was your builder able to modify things for you?
-We did not purchase plans online, but we did plenty of modifying in the process. Our builder was very gracious and flexible when we needed things changed. However, keep in mind that those changes down the road will add to the over all cost of your project. :)
What are some ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality or looks?
-We had very specific visions for how we wanted each space to look, so aesthetics were a big deal to us. Especially knowing that this could be our forever home. We decided what things were important to spend the budget on, and what things we could find through other avenues. We purchased a lot of our lighting, fans, cabinet pull, mirrors, door handles and the like from online vendors. My favorites were, Amazon, build.com and houzz. I will share more of where we purchased products in my next post.
How do you not go over budget?
-Million dollar question. Custom homes are a bit trickier. Unless you price out everything you want before the project begins, you will get a guesstimate. Your builder can plug in an average for each product, and get all the quotes before starting the project but that may still change when you go to the vendor to pick out your specifics. If you choose a builder who has built a home that you like, that may get you pretty close to staying in budget. We even gave our builder an idea of each product before, but that would change throughout our project on some materials. The other tricky aspect, is when a sub comes back and asks for more than what he originally quoted after the job is complete. Our builder was great at fighting for us each time, but there were times that we had to split the difference and that can be frustrating.
Is your foundation crawlspace or basement and how did you decide?
-Both. We have a partial basement, so the other half is a crawlspace. We honestly did not want a large basement. We just wanted something small for safety (hello tornado alley!) and a movie room where we could have family movie nights and snuggle together.
Are those aluminum windows?
-Our windows are Windsor, double hung wood clad windows. We love them!
I hope that answers your questions. I am sure there are several things I forgot, as there is so much that goes into building a home, so feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Instagram.
What a wild ride, but so happy we did it! There may be some stressful memories, but overall, there were so many fun and exciting memories we captured in instagram that we will get to look back on for years to come.
Next post I will share design specifics. I will answer questions in regards to the materials we chose and the places we used for our materials. I will even post pictures of our final (ish) product and I hope to get a video tour up for all those who have been patiently waiting. If it doesn’t go on the blog, it will definitely be up on my Instagram, so be sure to follow over on @happylittlemessblog.
Have a wonderful week friends!