The last few weeks I have been sharing the details of rooms but goodness you guys have so many questions and I wanted to put this post together before we shared much more about the house in order to give the best tips to you guys. I love the questions and looking for tips, but since I don’t have time to answer all of them individually I thought creating a post containing all of my tips and then having a space for you to answer further questions below would be most helpful so you can see other people’s questions and answers.
Through this over 2 year process of dreaming up the house, buying land, designing the home, and then building it, I have learned a ton about what it means to build a home. It is a full-time gig. A fun one but also a sometimes stressful one. Thankfully I went in with some tools under my belt and expectations set properly since my dad use to be a contractor and I grew up on job sites. I love the process and the dust and dirt of it all. I love picking things out and envisioning it all. It is way better than the furnishing part I will tell you that. HA, but that is me. Even with all the right expectations set, I still learned a lot and there were some stressful moments for us from the finances to the wrong wood showing up and figuring out how to fix it on the fly. All these things can feel like earth-shattering moments in the process and make you question the process and what you are doing.
Now, most of these tips are intended for custom built homes, but I am sure many can be applied to any home build or renovation as well. I have no been through building a track home or any extensive renovation in a home so I have fewer tips on that. Happy to answer questions though 🙂
My goal with sharing these tips is that you will also have a positive and amazing experience while you see your dream come to life like we did. Even in the stress and frantic decision making, it was such an awesome experience and though I am happy we are settling into our home, I did love the whole process and working with our team of craftsmen.
First of all before I jump in though, I have to say the #1 reason we had a positive experience came down to our builder. We met with 4 different builders. I talked about some if here, but you don’t want to waste too much time with them but usually within 2 meetings you can get a feel for their responses and interest in your project. All the builders we met with were great, but Shugart Builders was the only one that just was honest and straight-forward with us. It was refreshing! Not to mention Nick was responsive and did things when he said he would. It was reassuring when we were thinking about spending the most money we had ever spent in our lives. As we went through the process of getting our loan and choosing fixtures everyone raved about Nick and his team so we knew we were in good hands even if our style was a little different than what Nick normally built. We chose them for quality and attentiveness to the project. Sure enough throughout the process we had a dedicated team of people who showed up every day to work on the house. They worked hard and always wanted to check in and pull me into the project so I could catch things which saved them ripping things out many times. I think we only had anything in framing or finish moved or changed 4 times, which is pretty awesome. It saves time for them and many times money for you. Needless to say, we loved our crew and they felt like family when we completed and because of them things were done on time, they got to know us, and we got to know them. It was an amazing experience to say the least. So, know that our experience being great, began with a great team and your’s will too!
To find the right person I suggest getting proper recommendations, checking out their work, and doing research, but ALSO respect their time. Some of the best ways to get good recommendations is asking your mortgage broker and friends who have recently built. We actually found Shugart through Houzz actually. Since most quality builders are busy it is important to make a decision and move with someone because they don’t have a ton of time to onboard new clients as they manage other projects at the same time they are taking you on. Though your project is important, be respectful of their time still. It is just courtesy and you never want to be THAT client. A good builder will be attentive when appropriately so you feel the house is what you want and everything is lined up for the project to be smooth.
Beyond having a great team with you there are some other things that are my top tips in this process I tell everyone I know who is doing a custom built home that I believe really made a difference in the process:
- Know what you want and stick with it: We weren’t great at this but once our design was firm we stuck with it other than a few small changes as we started framing. This is normal and another reason it is important to be available during the whole process. Our foreman would lay boards on the floor the day before they framed so we could see where the walls would be and we could adjust before anything was built. It was great and helped us figure out a shift in a closet and so on in the upstairs. Sometimes it is hard to see a space until you are in it. This was the happy medium and saved everyone time. But once we made the decision we stuck with it even after the wall went up. This keeps your project on track. Now is something is just breaking your heart, say something, but do it sooner rather than later.
- Have a System for on the fly decision making: There were so many times I had to make quick decisions about something and knowing we had a set color palette, color of wood, and fixture colors made it so easy to make those decisions. It helped me not over think it at all. You can see my system I used here.
- Ask questions:
Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. A good crew will want to make sure you understand what is happening so you can be happy with what they are doing. Give them the opportunity to know what you are wondering and concerned about. Asking questions when they come is better than sitting and wondering as well.
- Bring food and treat your crew like family:
I still think about the guys framing the walls of our house on 90 degree days in the sun or hauling in heavy cabinets and more. They put so much heart into what they were doing even on cold, hot, and tough days. They showed up and made it right each time. Many times they went above and beyond. I wish I could have brought them more to keep them fueled, but I did what we could. Most of the time they are happy with some warm cookies or donuts from a local store. But sometimes I would bring them beers on Friday evenings or bags from a local grocery store full of goodies for them to munch on while they worked that week. I brought water on weeks I knew it was going to be hot and more. It wasn’t a lot, but these guys are the ones that made our dream come true and I wanted them to know that wasn’t missed ever. We felt so thankful for their heart being in the work every day. I wanted to make sure they knew it. Growing up with a dad that was contractor I knew the difference these little things do for a crew in the way they perceive the job they are working on. Building homes is hard work and so showing them respect and thanks for what they were doing was the least we felt we could do.
- Get their opinions but be honest about what you want: Many times this isn’t your contractor or crews first rodeo so they have seen a lot of home project before and know how things come out when you make certain decisions. When something came up I wasn’t sure about I would always ask their opinions. I trusted them to give me honest answers. I would consider it and go from there with either what they suggested or another option if I felt it better suited us. I always appreciated knowing all the options and opinions.
- Be open to solutions:
These guys have been doing this for a long time. They know the ins and outs of projects. Listen to them and try to be creative working with them. Many times there is a good mix of quality and design you can always find.
- Be Available
This is HUGE and what I believe made the difference for us in our timeline and design. If you don’t care it is fine to step away but know when they break ground most custom homes with homeowners who have opinions, it is just the beginning of the work ahead of you as a homeowner. If you want your dream home I suggest being willing to show up and answer questions on site. Though for us it was sometimes a 40-60 minute drive for us each way to get to the house, we made it a priority. I wanted to be involved and I think it made a huge difference because we could problem solve, make decisions, and then they got back to work quickly. This way if they did something we didn’t have to tear it out and redo it more than one or two times. This saves a TON of time for your team. Being flexible and close by will make a huge difference if you want to be hands-on with the design and build process. Mike and I always said both of our first priority is always Hayes and then Mike had his work and before my work I always placed our house right after Hayes in the list of priorities. If there was a question, I showed up and we solved it. It was all worth it.
- Stay ahead of them:
I always asked what things they would be needing for the house and would literally go home, make a decision and order it and make sure it was on my doorstep in plenty of time before they needed it. This meant they were never or rarely waiting on things from me. I ordered everything as early as I could. Also Amazon Prime is a life saver since our local options are so limited. You don’t want your crew waiting on if you don’t have to.
- Try your best to get over the small things:
We had some things that a few times felt like big things in the moment. Looking back they weren’t. They were small and now that we are in we don’t notice the compromises we made, but it is so hard to feel that way when you are making all these decisions. Just try to gauge what matters and what doesn’t.
- It doesn’t always happen all at once:
Our neighbors taught us this. They built their home in stages and ultimately this is why we waited on a garage. We knew to build our home the way we wanted it we couldn’t do both. We could save up for a garage, but we wanted the house sooner rather than later. We also waited on choosing some light fixtures such as our dining room light and our bedroom light. Honestly, I am glad we did because it was hard to know what we wanted till we were in. It is so nice to let some things just fall on the back burner and realize you can bite it off in chunks. Even a paint color…seriously. You don’t have to make all the decisions before moving in. For instance, we are adding a deck this spring that we couldn’t fit in our original loan but now have cash to do it with. Just waiting and saving a few months while the house was being built meant we could do it and we aren’t missing it right now since it is winter.
I probably have a few more tips from this process but I kind of would love others to weigh in because everyone has different experiences. I know a few of you are in the process or have completed new homes or are about to begin so please share what you are learning and let’s talk about what it means to really tackle this type of project. It can be a huge undertaking but a very rewarding on to say the least.