A recent JS2 Partners client offered to give us some candid insights into her first home building experience with us.
We loved her feedback so much that we’ve decided to make it into an informational handout for new clients. Here’s some honest perspective about what they learned.
1) Know what you're getting into.
I don’t want to scare you if you’ve decided to build. In fact, for the most part I really enjoyed our first home building process. That being said, there are a lot of things to consider before you take on building a house.
The first one being the massive time commitment building is. If you are building a custom home like we did it is easily at least a part time job. We knew it would be time consuming, but had no idea just how time consuming. The early stages of designing the home weren’t quite as busy, but once the house was framed and construction was moving, it got crazy quickly.
2) Building can be stressful.
Building can also be hard on a marriage. Money flies when you are building so there is financial stress. If you are like most people you’ve worked incredibly hard and saved money for years to be able to build a home.
Stressing about finances always causes strain on a marriage and costs always end up being higher than you think they will be when you build.
It can also be stressful when you don’t agree on design decisions. That wasn’t an issue for us because my husband didn’t care what the house looked like so I had free reign on all things design, but if you both care and have strong opinions that will be a challenge.
For us the most difficult part was that we were both just so overwhelmed and exhausted from how much work it was that we sometimes took it out on each other.
Months after we moved in and things had settled down I remember my husband and I joking about how we had decided we liked each other again. Like I said before, I’m not telling you these things to scare you. I just think knowing what you are getting into and possibly talking to your significant other about how you will deal with these issues when they come up is a good thing!
3) Hire the right people.
I really can’t stress this enough. Especially if you’re like us, you have no previous experience building. This is the single most important decision you will make because you will be working so closely with your builder/ architect throughout the process and your overall building experience is largely determined by your relationship with them. Do your homework before you make your decision.
Also ask for referrals, and look for clues that tell you what they will be like to work with. One builder we interviewed took a long time to get back to me every time I reached out to him with questions. He didn’t get the job. One of the main reasons we hired JS2 Partners was because Jen and Rusty would respond so quickly. I could tell they were organized and on top of things.
4) Consider the design aspects.
Whether you are remodeling your existing home or building a custom home, don’t rule out the need for a designer. Luckily JS2 Partners handled the drawing, build and design aspects for our new home.
Even though I knew what look, feel and style I wanted for the house, I had no idea how many decisions I would have to make on a daily basis that I knew nothing about. Your builder can help with a lot of decisions, but he isn’t always looking at things from a design perspective. He’s thinking about logistics, not always how a decision will affect the style of your home. Designers speak the language of building. (There is a building language that will be so foreign to you!)
Having the designer (Jen) and builder (Rusty) work as a team under one roof, from concept to completion, was truly invaluable. In fact many decisions when building a home are going to be the “winging-it” kind, but having a qualified team to work with makes things a whole lot easier.
5) Think about cabinet and furniture placement early on in the design phase.
When creating your plans, it’s important to think about how the furniture layout will work. Where will your couch and chairs go? Beds? Is there really enough room to fit the furniture you want? Are you okay with parting with that heirloom piece from your grandma and purchasing something new that may fit the space better?
Think about how you will live in the space. We measured our kitchen nook several times and ended up making it a bit bigger because we were taking into account how much room we would need to be able to slide out chairs and still walk around them comfortably.
6) Plan, plan and plan some more.
I can’t stress to you enough how much easier things will go if you have a good idea of what you want in your home before you start building. Once things start moving it is a whirlwind of decisions being thrown at you daily.
Time is money when you are building a house and it is extremely stressful to have to slow things down because you just can’t decide what tile you want in the kids’ bathroom. Working with Jen on materials selections, colors and designs early on in the project was a plus. Pick out as much as you can before you start! While we were working on our plans we were also researching appliances, flooring, counter tops, backsplashes, light fixtures etc.
I had a good idea of how I wanted each space to come together early on so when they would e-mail me and say “in a two weeks we need the tile selection finalized for your master bathroom” I could confidentially say ok. (Of course I had also spent months saving magazine clippings and on-line pictures of things I loved as well.)
I learned how to be decisive quickly because you just don’t have time not to be when you are building a house. Try to have as many details in place as possible before you start building.
7) Things look worse before they look better.
It’s important to remember that things always look worse before they get better. This is an obvious statement, but a lot of times I would be so worried about how something looked and if I would have just waited a few weeks I would have saved a lot of stress because everything looks better when it’s completed.
I remember once the drywall went up in this hallway I panicked that it was going to be too dark. It was so much darker with drywall than it was framed. I just knew I had messed it up and ruined everything!
By the time the house was closer to being finished I could tell that all of the windows around it gave the hallway plenty of light. I shouldn’t have lost sleep over that one!
When the square was cut and our oval window was put in our family room I was sure it was too small. I stressed about that for weeks! It felt way too little in that great big room. My builder kept telling me to wait and that it would be fine.
I was too inexperienced with building to take into account the space our built-ins would take up and how once all the finished details were in place (paint, lighting, fixtures, etc) the window would look in proportion. You are seeing a lot of “befores” during a build. Try to not panic and assume the worst during the process and wait until you see the “after.” A lot of things have a way of working out just fine.
8) You’ll make mistakes.
While some things do work out, just know that there are going to be a lot of mistakes made. There just are! There is no way to build a perfect house with everything going smoothly during the building process. Building a house involves a lot of people and a lot of changing and moving parts. Know that you aren’t going to get everything exactly how you want it. Some things will be a miss and you’ll have to just move on. That being said, other things will unexpectedly turn out a lot better than planned! Some of my favorite details in my house are things that weren’t even planned in the beginning.
My girls bathroom ceiling is just one example. It was supposed to just be a flat ceiling and when my project manager saw the slant on it from our roof line he immediately assured me he’d fix it. I decided to leave the slant and add some planks and it gave the room so much personality! A happy mistake. There are lots of them when you build! And all of those mistakes that didn’t turn out happy that I was SO stressed and sad about while we were building?
Building is so all consuming that while you are involved in the process you feel like that sink sprayer that is off centered is the most important, awful thing ever and it will haunt you every day for the rest of your life!
Remember to keep it all in perspective. Once you are removed from the building process, living in the house and moving on with life, it’s all just a drop in the bucket.
9) Communicate everything and don’t assume anything.
While there is no way to avoid mistakes, you can minimize them by being specific and making it very clear what your expectations are.
So many mistakes happen simply because of miscommunication. I learned quickly that the more specific I could be describing how I wanted something to look (show or even draw a picture if needed) the smoother things would go. Many mistakes were made because I “assumed” someone understood what I wanted. Don’t assume. Good communication is key when building or remodeling!
If there is a concern or change, always talk to your builder about it instead of trying to tell the subcontractors on site. That is what your builder and project manager are there for.
There will be so many things during your building process that you don’t know and understand and that’s when it’s time to listen to the people you trust.
If you don't know, ask. Your builder, project manager and designer will help to guide you through the many decisions involving materials, colors and finishes.
10) My last bit of advice is to remember to enjoy the process as much as possible!
While there will be mistakes made and stressful days, there will also be days of complete joy and excitement while you are building your house. It is an amazing thing to see your vision come to life right in front of your eyes.
Remember how fortunate you are to have the opportunity to create this future home for you and your family and enjoy the little things during the process that make you happy. There will be lots of them.
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