When we started telling people that we decided to build we got a lot of advice, I mean a LOT of advice. People you didn’t even know were handy suddenly have pro tips on the technical aspects of the build; “make sure you do this” and “don’t let your contractor use that”, all well-intentioned but some points more helpful than others. I also heard from people who have built before about how much stress it puts on your marriage, I took that to heart, it sounded reasonable that all the anxieties of such a HUGE investment could do that. Plus, we lived in our last house while flipping it and we felt that stress for sure, in fact, it was a major reason we decided to build and to hire a GC (um…why is there saw dust on all my clothes in the closet- never again).
We only have a couple months left in the build and the REALLY stressful parts like waiting to hear back from an offer on land, the building permit, waiting on the bank, disputing a bogus appraisal, increased costs, design decisions, etc. have come and gone now. I recently realized that building really didn’t add stress to our marriage if anything, we learned how to laugh in the face of ridiculous a little better. I’m reflecting on why I think it’s been going so well to hopefully help some others on their adventures.
Looking back now I realize that we inadvertently prioritized what was important to us while we were looking at plans. I wanted big open space, we both like first floor masters and Jake was all about the kitchen layout (I’m a lucky duck, he is the head chef at our house). We looked at a ton of plans and were able to agree when we found “the one”. We did our research too and understood that we would pay a premium just to build our own house and that we would be upside down in it for maybe 20 years before we had real equity. Some people want boats, new cars every year or really amazing vacations, we just wanted our forever home. It wasn’t a decision we didn’t make lightly knowing that there are no take backs, bailouts or changing our minds once we started!
Then we talked about our “need to haves”, we both agreed that the kitchen would be the area where we splurged on appliances, custom cabinets and finishes. We liked hardwood floors in the first floor and were good with carpet everywhere else. We also agreed on how much we wanted to save to put down on the loan and what we were comfortable with as far a maximum monthly mortgage payment. Thankfully when we met with the bank with our builders quote, what we planned to spend on land and what we expected to sell our old house for, we were able to get to a spot that we felt comfortable for monthly payments.
The bank was one area that neither of us really wanted to deal with, having secured mortgages and refinancing before, we both knew it would be like that but on steroids for a construction loan given the complexity. I drew the short straw on this one. Not fun, lots of questions, calls and emails and following up get through it (by the way the banking industry is PRIME for algorithmic underwriting and appraisals but I’m not going to nerd out on that right now).
During the build
I have joked with people that we have our own departments, I think we really lucked out in the sense that Jake cares about things I don’t even want to think about and the things that I am passionate about he just happily goes with. I think minimally, being aware of what your partner in crime is and isn’t going to do is a huge help. Jakes areas are all the appliances, the basement (aka man town, lord help us), the TV/electronics/security placement. He’s gone to different appliance stores many times each and has spent a lot of time reading reviews and talking to repairmen. I trust his research and am so happy I am not on point for any of that. Do I wish we were spending less on them, yes, but this was the priority and we want an inspired chef, lol.
As things popped up that someone tall dark and handsome was really fanatical about and I wasn’t so much, I just learned to let it go and he did the same for me. Security was one of those things I could have done without but to ended up becoming a huge deal for the mister, I can’t blame him because he sees some real situations in his line of work and he’s had a creep or two take it too far (recently a sex offender who Jake never even dealt with decided to take and post pictures of hubs while we was working to his cop hating web site – people are nuts). We went from pricing out a security camera to now having multiple cameras wired in and I’m pretty sure we got the Cadillac of systems. If that’s what makes him rest easy and not worry about his family when he’s working at night, I’m just going with it. Just make sure you call ahead to the Strange Farmhouse before swinging by!
Thankfully for me the things that make my heart feel really full like picking out paint colors, lighting, furniture, tile, counters, cabinets he is letting me rock with. I’m pretty sure based on a couple facial reactions that he isn’t always 100% behind everything all the time but I think he’s reciprocating the “let it go” attitude. Friday we are going to look at countertops for the third time, because I haven’t fallen in love with anything yet (or what I have fallen in love with is out of my $$ league). All these design-y things take a lot of research and creativity. If that’s something that neither of you are interested in, I really think investing in a designer might actually save you a lot of pain. I feel like you can suffer through being the point person for the bank but you really need someone who has the appetite for design to do that part.
In short be open about expectations and priorities with the build both feature wise & price wise. Be upfront about what you want and do not want to do. Acknowledge you are going to have to take on some things you don’t want to, just own it. Finally, be nice when plans and priorities change. I hope that’s helpful!