We took possession of our house exactly one year ago. We have spent the last year slowly settling in, furnishing and decorating the house, and finishing small projects. It has been a space that has held a lot in its first year. Overall, it has served us well and we’re really happy with the finished product.
At this one year point, I have quite a few thoughts and reflections. I wanted to share some advice that I’d give to anyone building a house. Because as fun as it is, it also brings with it some hurdles and challenges.
Here’s The Advice I’d Give To Anyone Building A House:
Number One: Advocate for yourself with your homebuilder.
When we first moved into our house, there were a LOT of problems. And I’m not just talking material delays, which are inevitable and most often not the fault of the builder. There was incredibly poor craftsmanship (our cabinets were built with broken and re-used materials), some of the finishing work looked like the house was multiple years old, and we had a list of 20+ deficiencies. To be honest, I cried after our possession walk-through because there was so much that was wrong that it was overwhelming. And a hand-full of those things still aren’t fixed one year later.
But here’s the thing that we learned, no one is going to advocate for those issues to be resolved except for you. When you’re building a new house and going through a homebuilder to do so, it’s their responsibility to fix any and all issues. And while you might feel like a squeaky wheel at times, if you don’t speak up, it just won’t get done.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are certain time parameters that you’re working within. Before you’ve taken possession of the house, you’re actually able to have the lawyers withhold some of the payment for the house until certain work is completed if you feel this is needed. We did this for a few issues with our house at the start.
When you’re doing your deficiency walk-through, take your time and examine every single inch of your house and be thorough in what you note. This is your opportunity to point out anything wrong with the home and the builder is required to document and fix this.
After possession, there is a certain timeframe in which everything is covered by warranty. And again, document any issues that arise and let your homebuilder know. I would recommend always communicating via email, as in our experience, there is a lot of back and forth and it takes quite a bit of pushing to get things resolved. If it’s not in writing, they will likely not follow up and get it completed.
Number Two: Go in expecting things to take longer than you think they will.
Delays will likely happen. And it’s way more heartbreaking when you go in assuming things will be on track and on time the whole way through. My biggest piece of advice on this is to go in with the assumption that everything will take longer than you think. Especially these days. There are supply chain delays, material delays, work delays and they will likely all happen to you. Hold onto the dates given to you loosely and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if those dates are hit. This one is often out of the control of your homebuilder, it’s actually in their best interest to turn the house over to you as quick as they can.
Number Three: Create mood boards when selecting finishes
One of the things that helped me the most in putting together each room and choosing our finishes was creating mood-boards. I started by making a Pinterest board for each room of the house and pinning anything and everything that I loved. From there, I went back through each board and noted what stood out to me: colours, materials, styles, and finishes. Then I started saving images of those materials and playing with them in Canva. I created moodboards for each room and it was a really helpful process to visualize the different spaces.
It gets to be quite overwhelming when you’re holding all of the ideas and vision for the spaces in your head. By getting them out in front of me, I was able to really zero in on what I loved and did not love. Here was the moodboard I made for our kitchen, if you want to read more about how I approached this.
Number Four: Remember that homes take time.
When we sold our last house and moved into the building process, we sold most of our furniture. When we moved into our new house, we had A LOT of empty spaces that needed to be furnished. We had no dining table or dining chairs, no couch for the bonus room, no spare bedroom furniture, and minimal decor. We lived without a lot of these things for quite a while. It just isn’t realistic for us to drop a bunch of money immediately after buying a house. Although it was difficult at times, I had to keep reminding myself that I actually really love the process. And not to forget that in the name of things being “perfect” or “done”.
Number Five: Live in the space to get a good feel for it before making major decor changes.
Building on the last point, I found it was actually quite helpful to live in our house for a while before making any major furniture or decor purchases. You learn how you live in the spaces. How the light looks at different times. And how you want the space to function. From there, you can make decisions that actually suit your needs, preferences, and the space!
Number Six: Put a lot of thought into the functional choices when you’re making selections.
It’s really difficult to get a feel for how a space will function prior to living there. But do your best to envision yourself actually using the space as you make decisions. We have a whole list of things we would have done differently, but didn’t think of these upfront.
Some things that I wish we’d done differently:
- Different light-switch placements
- Additional plugs in a few areas of the house
- Big pull-out drawers on all the lower cabinets of the kitchen
- Made the master bedroom a bit smaller and given more space to the en-suite
- Built in cabinetry in the pantry (we still plan to add this eventually)
A few selections we did that we LOVE:
- A pull-out garbage can in the kitchen
- Hard-wood flooring all through the upstairs
- Air conditioning
- Adding in a built in coffee bar
- Black hardware for the bathrooms, kitchen and doors.
Number Seven: Consider upgrades that might be better added to your mortgage vs. paying out of pocket shortly after building.
There are certain expenses that come with a new build that are important to consider. Fences, hardscaping, landscaping, and finishing the basement to name a few. If you’re planning to complete those things right away, it might be worth adding them into the cost of the home rather than paying out of pocket. An extra 20-40K on your mortgage (if you have wiggle room) may be better in the long run than paying that much after possession. We chose to complete all of the backyard work ourselves so chose not to add it to our mortgage. If you’re planning to hire someone to complete the work, it may be worth getting those quotes pre-purchasing. Then decide which makes more sense for you.