I had been getting a bunch of questions about our house build so thought it would be fun to answer a bunch here on the blog. So without further ado..
Which builder did you use?
We’re using Ashcroft Homes in Lethbridge. We had looked at most of the local builders, had compared floor plans from their already-existing models and then met with a couple to discuss cost/timelines/etc. We fell in love with one of the Ashcroft houses and after meeting with them, felt confident right away that they were the best fit for us. So far, our experience has been great with them.
Why did you decide to build vs buy? Does it cost less?
We originally were not planning to build. We had been looking at houses virtually with a realtor and to be honest, we just weren’t finding anything we liked. I’m not a big fan of the style of many of the homes in the area – they’re very rustic which isn’t my style. There was one house we looked at that I absolutely loved but it was priced really high and then everything else didn’t feel right. We saw a lot of new builds and didn’t like the finishes but were having a hard time justifying the cost it would be to replace perfectly functional/new finishes that weren’t our taste. And then we tossed around the idea of doing a big reno on an older house but the more we thought about and looked into that idea, the more we realized we didn’t really want to step into the chaos of a major reno when our world was already upside down with new jobs, starting a business, moving provinces, etc. And cost-wise, a reno would be around the same as a build (and honestly, would probably turn out to be more knowing how those things go). So then we started considering a build – the cost was comparable and we would get to choose everything so we knew we would love it right from the start. Once we seriously started to look at that option, it felt like the right choice for us.
How do you have the restraint not to blow the budget?
My darling husband is definitely the brakes lol. I’m a dreamer and have no concept of construction costs and he is very much a realist and checks the budget on a daily basis. He also works in construction so knows how these things work better than I do. We both listed some non-negotiables and those were things we allocated more budget to. There are also things we are waiting on until later (i.e. the basement, the landscaping, swapping out fixtures, etc.) to give ourselves time to save specifically for those areas.
Has it been a lot more expensive to build due to the pandemic?
We were really lucky with this. One week after we signed our contract, the prices jumped considerably due to the pandemic. So we slid in just in time.
Finding a good contractor for your build. How do you decide what to contract vs do yourself or hire out yourself?
We didn’t hire our own contractor; we just chose the builder we liked most. We looked at floor plans, spoke with a few different builders and went to some show homes when we were visiting to see who’s work we liked best. There were some things that we knew we could likely do for cheaper down the road such as swap out certain fixtures that are builders grade, finish the landscaping, some of the painting (we’ve chosen a white for the whole house which Ashcroft will do for us but we have plans to add a bit of colour in ourselves down the road). We asked for quotes on certain “extra” things we wanted and then did a bit of comparing within the market. Honestly, we ended up using the builder for most of these things though because the prices seemed fair.
What thoughts went into picking the location? Not specific to the city but more general.
This one goes hand in hand with the question about how to not blow the budget. For us, when we looked at our priorities the actual house was more important to us than the lot. We figured out early on that we could only afford a small lot in a newer subdivision if we were going to build the house we wanted. Once you start getting into the older, more mature subdivisions or large lots with more privacy, the costs jump considerably. A couple of features of our lot that we really like – it’s our favourite of the “newer” subdivisions in the area, there are no houses behind us and no plans at this time for there to be any builds and the neighbourhood is really beautifully landscaped (i.e. trees have already been planted, there are great walking trails). I think for this one, you just need to decide what your priorities are.
How do you choose all your finishes at once without actually being in there? I think I would be overwhelmed by that process.
Pinterest was the most helpful tool in this process – you can see all my boards here. Before we met with the interior designer to choose finishes, I made a Pinterest board and a mood board for every single room and then wrote out my preferences for each room. I had a list of 1-3 combo options for everything (i.e. backsplashes, flooring, cabinetry colours, etc.). You can check out my bathroom mood board here and my kitchen mood board here. When you work with a builder like we are, they have a range of standard options you can choose from and then there are upcharges for options outside their basic ones. We chose a mix of the standard options and then certain more custom options for other areas. We really tried to balance this out to keep costs down – for example, we went with a higher-level option of backsplash/countertops in the kitchen, but used more standard options in the bathrooms.
Are you doing a basement or slab/foundation and why?
We’re doing a basement but we aren’t planning to finish it for a few years. Basements are pretty standard where we live. The rest of the house has plenty of space for us so we don’t really feel the need to finish it right away.
Areas you decided to save $ and where to spend $$ for your build?
How it works with our builder is that there are standard options you can choose for finishes and if you want something outside of those options there’s an upcharge. We did upgrade some things (i.e. tiles, backsplash in the kitchen, putting LVP upstairs instead of carpet) so spent more on those. I want to do all custom light fixtures throughout the house but we decided to put in builder-grade to start and will the replace over time. We chose options that we could live with for a while and will save and upgrade later. We also saved a lot by not finishing the basement right now.
Do you think you will regret having a small yard?
I don’t think we will regret it, we’re fully aware of what we’re getting. Of course I would love to have a big, dreamy backyard but ultimately, at this point in our lives, we decided the actual house was more important to us than the lot. It is quite a small yard but we’re really excited to make it a little oasis next summer. I have some big plans for that little yard – every inch of space will be maximized.
How long does it take to build?
They say it’s approximately 120 days from when they break ground till you move in. We obviously aren’t in there yet so can’t confirm but they seem to moving at a really good pace and it seems like we’re on track for that. We started talking with Ashcroft in January or February, so all in all – it’s looking like it will be around 6 months start to finish.
What are you most excited about?
Am I allowed to say everything? I’m so excited for a fresh blanket canvas to decorate and style. But if I had to choose, I would say all the natural light we’re going to have and the kitchen are the two things I’m MOST excited about.
What are you doing for your exterior?
We went very neutral (surprise, surprise). It’s white, wood and black. They’re just about finished with the exterior so I’ll share this soon!
What kitchen appliances are you going with?
Ashcroft includes all the kitchen appliances with their builds and we really love the appliances they use so we’re going with those! It’s a large two-door fridge/freezer combo, a Bertazzoni 5-burner gas cooktop (with a plaster range – my dream!), and then a built-in wall oven and microwave.
Is this your forever home?
I wouldn’t ever say a home is forever because who knows where life will take us. I hold things pretty loosely. But we’re really excited about this house and can see ourselves being there a long time.