As I alluded to in my last post, the Cohens have some big changes coming in 2020. Specifically, we’re moving out of our current home and building a new one in the same area. We just hand-delivered our deposit to the builders earlier this week, so I suppose you could say it’s official now! In light of this development, I thought now would be a good time to start documenting how the home-building process has been progressing thus far.
How did we get here?
I should start by providing some background on how we came to the decision to build a new home. About a year ago, Seth started making comments that he wasn’t planning on staying in our current house forever. It’s a beautiful home, but it has a few minor characteristics that would prevent us from making it our “forever home.” At the time, I was still in baby-land and would not even entertain the idea of moving for a long time. Several months later, when fall came around I started browsing real estate listings, just to see what kinds of homes were available in our current school district and with all the amenities we wanted. I quickly found that the current inventory was quite expensive and still did not include a home that was perfect for our needs.
Then on November 9th, I noticed a listing on Zillow for new construction in our area. It was in a different school district, but the school system is still one of those that ranks consistently high in Alabama. I somehow convinced Seth that we should go drive by the location of the lots being sold, and we set up a time to view the model home in another part of town the next day. As it turns out, we both absolutely loved the model home, and toured the available lots with the builder’s real estate broker. There were only two lots left that could accommodate the specific house plan we wanted, so we had to make a decision pretty quickly to avoid losing our opportunity.
By the evening of November 12th, Seth and I had put down a 1% deposit to reserve the lot we wanted. This deposit was totally refundable until we finalized our design selections. We found a realtor to represent us in the purchase of our new home, and we signed a contract with the builder outlining the design + build process and payment schedule.
The next phase we entered is the design process. We had our first meeting with the builder’s designer on December 17th. In preparation for these design appointments, we received a huge pdf file detailing most of the design decisions we would be able to make. Ever the homework enthusiast, I created a Google doc to record all my choices ahead of time, and created (secret) Pinterest boards with my inspiration photos for each room.
During the first meeting, we decided on selections for the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and flooring. Pretty early in the design process, I realized that I had a very defined vision for the kitchen (my favorite part of every home) but really lacked inspiration for bathrooms. I mention this only because I made all of our bathroom decisions during that first visit…then promptly decided I didn’t like many of those choices about 24 hours later. The designer is obviously very accustomed to such things, so it was not a problem to return to those decisions at a later appointment, but it was a little hiccup in the process. I also totally changed my mind on the hardwoods we chose. So, maybe our designer hated me a little bit by the end.
The next meeting on December 31st was much shorter for us; it consisted of choosing only the interior paint colors, trim details, and lighting options. This was a fun appointment because we got to choose things like the kind of fireplace we wanted, and where we wanted built-in bookshelves, etc.–a little more scintillating than choosing among a millions shades of tile and grout!
After our second design meeting, we received a detailed list of all the selections we had made, along with the cost of each upgrade (as applicable). We came in (barely) under our pre-determined budget for upgrades, which kept things simple for us; we didn’t have to go back over our choices and prioritize what to keep and what to let go. I was delighted that our dream home had remained affordable for us.
One thing I would recommend to anyone building a home: review these design selection documents very carefully. I found about 5 important errors in ours (e.g., wrong tile documented for the master bathroom, no lighting option recorded for the family room, etc.), which did add some time due to edits being sent back and forth. However, I am very glad I took the time to double-(OK quadruple…) check everything before signing off. The designer has a lot to keep track of (20 customers x hundreds of decisions!), so buyers need to take on some responsibility for ensuring accuracy.
Now we wait in anticipation.
As I mentioned above, we have handed over the deposit for our home’s upgrades, and we wait our turn. Thus far, 22 of the 48 lots have sold in the development where we’re building, and we’re in either the second or third group of five homes to be built. That translates to breaking ground either in February or March. We’ll get a chance to meet with our builder in the upcoming weeks to make sure we’re all on the same page for the plan moving forward.
We’re working hard to sell our current home as soon as possible, so that we don’t have deadline pressure later this spring. It’s quite possible that we’ll have to move into an apartment or townhome for a short time to make the timeline work, but we’re ready to tackle that adventure as it comes.
I plan on documenting the process over the next several months (with better quality photos…), so to all my fellow HGTV/DIY nerds: stay tuned for updates!