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Submitted by: C. J Mackey
For many, the thought of building their dream home is too attractive an option to pass up. But if you haven’t been through the process of building a home, there are a lot of things you can miss that can cost you unexpected money and time. Here a few items, that years later, still make me crazy because we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
1) Have your builder specify an allowance for options – Your builder should always provide you with a specification sheet that outlines what is included in the price of building the house, for example, Andersen Windows, or stainless steel sinks. What we unfortunately learned was that what sounds great on paper doesn’t always translate to quality items you would want in your home. Anderson Windows may be brand recognizable but Anderson makes a wide range of products from contractor grade to premium. When trying to look at the stainless steel sinks offered by our builder at the plumbing supply store, we were told that they were too cheap a grade of steel for them to display. It’s far better to get an allotted allowance from the builder upfront, so that you know how much you have to spend for your options. You can also negotiate that amount if it seems too low.
2) Don’t make selections too early in the building process – However exciting it is to go select tiles, or carpeting, or hard wood floors, don’t do so too far in advance of when they are needed by the builder. Two times, tiles that we had spent many painful hours debating over, with frequent trips back and forth to the tile store, had become discontinued by the time the builder was ready to purchase them.
3) Nothing is ever as big as it seems on paper or unfurnished – Before you select a building plan make sure you understand the proportions of the floor plan you choose. We had no frame of reference to compare against, so 11 X 11 foot bedrooms sounded spacious. Ask the builder if he has a model home you can see or try instead to find furnished rooms of similar size before deciding what will work for you.
4) Don’t assume your builder has your best interests at heart – While we’ve had great experiences too, some builders look for the path of least resistance. If something is going to require a change of plans, or additional work they may try to convince you that what you want isn’t feasible. We fought to have a larger bathtub put in our master bath that would require shifting a wall about half a foot. We were told by the builder that we would never use the bathtub and shouldn’t make the change, and that it would make moving through the bathroom difficult. Hundreds of bathes later we are thrilled we pushed the issue.
5) Maximize Space In Your Basement – Our builder never discussed the use of Steel I-Beams in the basement to remove the standard Lally columns that are used to support the structure above. When we wanted to finish the basement, the columns cut through every possible configuration we could make. We ultimately ended up going to a structural engineers to put steel plates on the wood support beams to remove the columns and free up the space. Also, when we added an addition to the side of our home, we were told that we would have a crawl space. The crawl space turned out to be a poured cement foundation that is only 2 feet short of our original basement depth. Had we known, we would have asked the builder to excavate to the depth of our original basement so that we could leverage that now unusable space.
Finally for a bit a fun, I highly recommend that anyone considering building their home watch the timeless black and white classic starring Cary Grant, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. It’s a hysterical take on someone without experience going through the building process, and for us, hit very close to home, pun intended.
About the Author: C. J. Mackey is a working mother of three, balancing a full time career while taking an active role in her children’s lives. She has an advanced degree in engineering and over twenty years making technology decisions for fortune 500 companies. For more information visit