We finished our house right as quarantine was going into effect, so we feel so grateful we were able to be in our new home during this time. We have been spending our days safe at home unpacking, nesting, and settling in. It's been a light among all the unknown happening in the world right now.
While we're still finalizing the interiors, and I can't reveal rooms to you just yet (I know...I promise it WILL happen!), I do want to share some things I've learned from the process now that we are a few weeks into actually living in this house that took us six years to finally be in.
Now listen...I will admit, I feel slightly weird talking about a new house when the world is in unknown place and the economy is a mess. I am so grateful we finished before things got really bad or we may not have been able to finish. But I decided that I would keep sharing stuff with you guys because a lot of you have asked for the inspiration while you're home and getting more time to nest as well...and because you've been rooting for us along this journey to our first and forever home which truly means so much to me.
I know that now isn't really a time that people are starting massive projects like this. My hope is that something I've shared is helpful for any type of home project you're in the middle of or thinking about. Here are some questions you guys have asked. And, now that we're in, I can truly answer them!
1. How long did the house build take? We bought the land in summer of 2014 and started construction in fall of 2017. It took 1 year to design it, 2 years to get permits in Los Angeles, and about 2.5 years to build. That's on the longer side for most of the country, but Los Angeles is not an easy place to get permits quickly. Plus, our land was tricky to build on (which we didn't expect since we didn't really know what we were in for). While it took much longer than we expected, the plus side is that it allowed us to save more money before the build actually started. You can read why we decided to build in the first place right here.
2. How did you pay for the house? We paid for the land in actual money (it was our savings that we had for a down payment on a house) and then got a construction loan to pay for the actual build (which is the majority of the cost). You can read more about our construction loan process here.
3. Did you stick to your budget or your projected schedule? Nope! Every single person who starts a home project thinks they are going to be the one person to stay on budget and stay on schedule. It's nearly impossible because so many things are out of your control, especially the bigger the project is. Our change in budget wasn't because we wanted fancier things than we had originally planned. A lot of it was an increase in costs for materials and labor that happened to increase during the time our project spanned. Also, because our land is on a hill, there were unexpected issues that came up that caused additional unexpected costs.
4. What's the most stressful part of building a house? The finances of it. If anyone wanted to do it, I would recommend saving up and having extra money on hand in addition to your loan because there are often costs that arise that your loan my not cover (fees for your architect, engineers, permits, etc). I was very good at keeping track of every dollar spent though, so that I could see what we stayed on budget with and what we didn't.
5. If you were doing more of a home renovation and had the budget to update one area of a house, which one would be the ONE? The kitchen is one area that is totally worth prioritizing. Whether you need more storage, more space, better cabinets, better flow, more durability, etc. My cooking life and happiness with cooking has changed completely since having this new kitchen. Especially now that we are home and cooking three meals a day, it's been a life-changer.
6. Is there anything you wish you hadn't put in, installed, chosen?
Pocket doors...we don't love those. We have them mostly in rooms where there is a room inside another room (like our master closet or bathroom within our bedroom or our kids' bathroom connected to their bedroom), and we have had all kinds of problems with them in just the few weeks we have lived here. The kids slam the doors by accident, the locks are tricky since they are not standard, and they've just been annoying. While they save space, we wish we would have used regular doors in most of these areas instead.
Also, some things that people told me were nice details to add when you can...a pot filler faucet (didn't end up getting that), water filter at sink (got it), and a towel warmer (got it).They were things that I really didn't think we needed but took those suggestions when we had the chance to install them, and we really didn't need them at all. I regret spending money on those things that we never knew we needed, and we really didn't need. You know you and your family best, and go with your gut on details like that.
7. Do you hate your contractors like most people do after a home project? Ha! If you can believe it...this is the number one question I get asked from those who have done some sort of renovation or build. And my answer is no....I LOVE our contractors! Our team at Boswell Construction has truly been amazing...so thorough and on top of things even whenever we had hiccups along the way. We also loved our architecture and interiors team at Project M+ and their ability to be flexible throughout the process. Getting referrals when you choose an architect or contractor is definitely huge since a portfolio alone can't tell you what it's like to work with someone.
8. Would you decide to build vs. buy again if you could do it all over again? My answer to this has changed over the course of this project. If you asked me 6-12 months ago, the stress of the last year was so bad that I would have said that I wish we would have just bought a house instead. When we starting looking at houses back in 2014, we couldn't find anything in our budget that felt like a long-term home. But we could have waited 3-4 years more and had a better budget to get what we really wanted and would have still been in a house sooner than our now house would have been done.
BUT, now that we are here and in it, I am glad we did it. It was one of the top two most stressful experiences I have ever been through, but I'm so happy with how it turned out. I truly cannot wait to build a life of memories with my family here and (eventually) have our friends and family over for lots of dinners and get-togethers.
You can catch up on the past two years of progress on our home build right here, see more peeks over on Instagram under #OhJoyBuildsAHouse and in my stories under (House 1, House 2, House 3, House 4). If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments!
(Photo by Lily Glass)