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I remember like it was yesterday. We were selecting the finishes for our new home and I was continually being questioned and prodded by a man in the building company. I don’t know what his position was but I do know he was not a decorator. I wish that I had known the 5 Mistakes to Avoid when building your home. I may have saved us a little money over the years.
It was my Dream Home! Really more than a dream home because I never imagined owning a home like this in my life.
We were looking at a home that was way out of our budget but our realtor said “trust me.” It was a bad time in the real estate market, at least for new builds. We were living in a really nice, newly built for us 4 bedroom home with a fireplace in the master bedroom and a full basement, dining room, living room and family room with 2 1/2 baths. I don’t recall the square feet but I guess it was pretty small. I loved it, but we had just had our third baby and it was a girl this time and the fourth bedroom was actually smaller than most new build’s closets now a days. I knew without a doubt that a girl would need a lot more room so we started looking.
This home was magnificent! It had a T-staircase…meaning you could go up on one side of the house to a landing or from another side and then take the steps to the upper floor. It also was 4 bedrooms but there was a Jack n Jill bath between two bedrooms which was perfect for our boys to share and the fourth bedroom had it’s own bath which was for our little girl.
The Realtor told us what to offer and they accepted it! They also threw in over $70K in upgrades~ moved the sink area out about 2 feet, security system, sprinkler system, bay window, trims, wood trim package, walk-out, 42 inch tall cabinets, etc. They even scratched premiums from the lots.
We stood on the landing of the stairs and my husband asked me
“Do you want this house?”
I mean this was probably more impacting to me than when he asked me to marry him because at least I had anticipated that. This was beyond my expectations…ever!
We bought the house and my husband had one stipulation. He said “This is our Forever House.” That was a lot to swallow for me. He and I don’t have the same idea when it comes to home style. I would move into a coastal clapboard with a wrap around front porch painted in aqua with pops of coral in a heartbeat and he loves the stone, brick, columns and dark wood libraries. But I thought about it and decided I would just stop looking at Display Homes and that would cure me of the potential discontent.
Fast Forward 25 years later.
So yes the house was built in the early 90s. The color trends at the time were PINK and BLUE. You laugh but someday people will look back on all of our GRAYS and say eewwuu. Trust me they will!
I made decisions purely based on my likes because this was my Forever House and I didn’t have to worry about selling it to someone who didn’t like PINK!
My sweet husband went along with everything but I think it is because our home we had been living in looked really cute and he trusted me. Our formica counters were a soft pink…almost neutral but definitely pink. Our laminate tiles were white with soft pink trim. Our carpet…that I can’t remember correctly because we have changed it often over the years. I believe it was BLUE. It then went PINK…oh yes! Our tiles in our master bath remain soft pink to this day. You can see them in Rose Gold Renovation.
This was not our countertop because it didn’t have the squiggles in it. but take those out and there you have it.
We wallpapered every single room in our home. IT WAS THE THING TO DO! I hired someone to create sofas, chairs, drapes and valances that matched and flowed from room to room.
We loved it for years. We really did. Probably far beyond the years that those colors were popular. But eventually we felt the dreaded outdate when you realize there is nothing in the market that matches anything in your home any longer you know…it is time to update or renovate.
Here are the 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a New Home
Mistake #1 : Don’t Fall for the Most Current Trends
These days I am slow to join the most popular trend because I don’t trust them to last. Stainless appliances were in style for 10 years before I decided they were truly here to stay. Now the market is trying to get rid of them again, but there are a lot of us still left from the days of Harvest Gold and Avocado Green who like the forever fit of stainless. I think they will be here a long time.
Today’s Farmhouse will be tomorrow’s Early American or Country style dating your home so while you can decorate Farmhouse style, be careful with the expensive to replace finishes like cabinetry, counter tops, etc. Keep those as main stream non-committal as you can.
In the photo above is a Jonathan Alder Designer Sink from Kohler. Selected as one of the Top Trends in Kitchen Design this year. While I am all about it because probably my favorite colors are Coral, Lime and Turquoise at the moment, this is where you have to really consider the life of the product. If you are living there forever and you love it…go for it. If you are living in a coastal community, it works! Even in a modern Manhattan loft this would gain rave reviews..especially when they know who designed it, but again if you live in the mid-west this sink is going to most likely be a turn off if you have to sell. And it being designer is going to come at a high price to begin with. So be smart and set out Jonathan Alder lime chairs instead!
The great thing about decor today is that even if you love Farmhouse Style, you can add Contemporary with it and no one bats an eye that you have lost your mind. Instead…”Brilliant!” is what they will say, how you are able to pull things with different styles into the same room and make it look cohesive.
Mistake #2 : Don’t Skimp on the Big Picture
Once the home is built adding square feet is not a simple thing to do. So if you have it in your budget and you think you would prefer to have a bump out in your kitchen or an extra bath, the sunroom or the walkout. This is not the time to hold back. The amount of dollars per month that you add to your loan is insignificant to the benefit you will enjoy building the home you really want verses holding back because you set a budget.
Notice the square feet this sunroom adds to this home as well as the great light~
Now I am not telling you to go crazy. But if you are building a ranch with a basement and you want to use that basement as living area…pay for the deeper pour so you have high ceilings. Add windows and doors so you have light.
Also if you are having carpet put in, upgrade! It is really pricey to install carpet so add a few dollars now to upgrade your pad and your carpet and you will have the carpet last longer than you even like it.
Mistake #3 : Don’t Fall for the Sales Pitch
It is the Realtor’s job, if they represent the builder, to get as much for the home they are building as they can. Have you ever gone into a subdivision with a sign saying “HOMES FROM the MID $400s!”? Well if you have, you probably discovered that to build the home you are standing in…the Display…is $750K! Oh yes. I don’t know what $450K buys you but not much more than a shell with electric and water is my guess.
What can you do? Always ask if you are able to purchase your own appliances, light fixtures and plumbing fixtures. If you look at what they are going to charge you from their limited selection and you compare it to prices you would pay retail for you will be surprised to see that they may be as much as 4 times higher! Not all builders will allow this, but it is always worth the asking.
If they say no, then wherever you can opt out of the purchase. I had a client recently who had simple light bulbs placed in the ceiling over their counter in the kitchen and just junction boxes where fans would go. Once they moved in after some time they found a great deal on light fixtures they loved and installed them themselves at a HUGE SAVINGS.
It is just so easy to look at things and think I really want that. Just always consider if it is something you can add later…like a finished basement and especially technology and security systems.
Mistake #4 : Don’t Get Super Personal
Just like falling for the Newest Trends we can also make the mistake of just going for our own taste to the point of making some really costly decisions.
I had a neighbor who just bucked the trends at the time we were all building our homes. She really wanted the Pickled Cabinets. She was very contemporary in her taste to the point of having a White Polished Baby Grand Piano. At that time, Oak was King. Anything else looked like it was cheap even if it wasn’t.
While contemporary may be in style in New York or LA, it just doesn’t cut it in the Midwest in the 90s. She ended up selling her home after about 10 or 15 years and truly did not get what it was worth based on the choices she had made.
Since then, the new owners have updated the entire home inside and out to pull it into a more transitional style which will always sell quickly.
The key to remember is if you really don’t like what the safe choices are make selections that don’t have a huge impact with style and color and you can overcome them with your decor that moves with you. Pillows, Sofas, even wall colors.
Mistake #5 : Don’t Pick the Wrong Lot!
Again ( let me disclose that I am currently a Realtor) a Realtor’s job is to sell. They know if they have a lot that is going to be tough to sell. They may discount it or offer to throw in some free upgrades if you choose that one. Just remember you will also have the same tough job selling your home if you build on that lot.
Location is everything…even within the location. So what if you are in the best zip code in your area, if your home has no privacy or has no yard then you are going to pay the price in the end when you go to sell.
Think long and hard about your dreams. What kind of life do you picture living in this home? Do you entertain a lot? Do you enjoy the outdoors? Will you be putting on a deck? Will you want a pool?
We knew that in our dreams we wanted a built in pool. Since my husband said this was going to be our forever home we needed to select a lot that would allow for that dream or we would be ending it that moment.
I also had been living in a subdivision where there were homes directly behind us and I could see right into their windows at night as I was doing dishes or walking by the windows. I hated it! Yes, you can plant trees and stuff but if there is a lot available that does not require you spending money to make it private…all the better.
Consider the traffic. Do car lights shine in your front room overtime someone comes down the street? Are you on a main street and you have little ones or expecting to have a family in the future? Can you hear anything in the back? Overhead? Railroad tracks?
We got the heavy hand after we selected our lot. Our neighbor’s whose home had not started yet suddenly wanted it. We were being pressured to select another lot because evidently the lot had had a contract on it when they selected theirs and the contract fell through just at the time we came in and chose it. We looked around…but now I want to kick myself over doing that because we picked that lot and we should have said no. In the end we did give it a shot but found there was no better lot in the subdivision for us than that one and so we built on it. No regrets!
So there you have it! I hope if you are lucky enough to get to build a new home that you enjoy the process and make decisions that you will be please with for the length of your life in the home.
Do you have any stories to share about building a home and your finish selection?
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