lindsey_b85

New Build - Questions for Builder Before We Sign a Contract

Lindsey B
February 26, 2018

There’s more background to the story at the end, but I thought I lead with as little fluff as possible.


We put a deposit down on a lot + picked a plan we like. In a typical sub division.


I’m walking through an already constructed and sold home with my realtor on Wednesday (closes in a few days, so this is my one time to look at it- I have been in it once.. but that just sold me on the layout now I need to look at all the options—some upgraded some standard but we liked that house as is (minus a few color choices-- and if we could have go it for the list price we would have snagged it!).


The home is in Texas, between Dallas and Fort Worth on the south side of the cities. HOT summers.


The front of the house faces East (and slightly north) but I have not see the lot with the house on it. I think based on the house and neighborhood, it’s a pretty good lot. It’s a very short cul-de-sac with 6 houses. I sit on a corner lot, and my driveway will be on the street side (the street goes through but it’s not the “high path” of travel for people to cut through.


This is the floor plan we have chosen. (Photos: First, Second, Optional Media room, we want but not sure the 19K price is worth it)







And these are the sell sheets showing what is standard.














1. Is there anything on there that is worrisome? I know this isn’t the most custom, hand crafted, best of the best materials, but are they are slightly above average builder grade? Or is it smoke and mirrors? I want materials that will stand up to normal living with people who care about their homes, but don’t need it to last forever based on a remodel for style (but someone else if we sell). Wondering, they didn't include the garage door openers? Is that just assumed?


2. What is some advice you could give me BEFORE signing a contract?


3. Is there anything MAJOR you can see on the plans that should be addressed now? I’ve overall extremely happy with it – but if something jumps out I am open to consideration- I THINK we are doing 2 shower heads in the master, which means a $250 redraw fee in addition to parts an labor, as well as a few doors may be changed to pocket, or widened from the 28” to the 32” or a 36”. Those are the types of changes I am okay with.


4. What’s the best way to get them to deduct things / give me credits for them—such as: not installing the full size wall mirrors in the bathrooms, or not installing the particle painted shelves in the pantry / closests? (Things I have seen all over Houzz) But if we can’t install something at a reasonable cost we are okay with the standard. More importantly, there is no gas (SUPER disappointed about that) and they only offer electric range, and I want induction. I know it has to be done a certain to code—but I would at least like to know all my options so I can make the best choice out of my options.


5. I have a realtor but how do you negotiate a base price? I’m not really needing (but wouldn’t mind) to lower the base, but I want more upgrades based on a comp I saw. That is listed under the base price (they sighted that the market changed and prices just went up, but realy prices went up 10% ???). Should we try for more upgrades at a lower cost? Or a lower base. Market is strong but I wouldn’t say HOT. We would be using the largest plan they offer. Someone else will build if don’t know doubt.. but what are the changes they will pick the most expensive base plan? Does that help me?


6. Is it safe to assume they won’t let me go to the design center and get prices to upgrade things so I can get a true cost for the home before we sign on the dotted line? I know I can’t expect to be down to the cent on what we will pay for it.. but I want something closer that a 40k swing from upgrades. It’s beautiful but at some point it will be unaffordable. I do 100% want to know where every standard light switch is going to be installed, every outlet, every can light. I want to know exactly what is standard, so I know the upgrades are one me. Right now it’s kind of feeling like they want me to sign a contract which is fine—but I feel like my budget will explode if they can’t even give me some rough guides. I know I won’t be doing level 3 options. Heck maybe not even level 2. But I want to know going in if wood floors in the whole house are gonna cost me 5K or 20K.


I’ve lived nice modest homes my whole life, and even if we went 100% builder standard, it would be the nicest home either of us has ever lived in, but we still want to spend money on things that make sense. We don’t want to go crazy as the floor plan is the largest this community still offers, so we are mindful of pricing ourselves out of the neighborhood.


I’m an amateur home designer with the internet (read I know just enough to get me into trouble… and not enough to avoid the all the pitfalls.) In my day job, I daily look at electrical, plumbing, landscaping, and furniture layout plans for offices, hotels, universities, and hospitals so I can find my way around a plan pretty well. Sister is in construction (out of state, and she does commercial buildings). So I do have some knowledge and don’t mind doing research on costs.


Thanks for the help!!!!



-----------------------------******-----------------------------------------


Here is more of the background. I had it at the front but figured it may be TL;DR and thought I would put it at the end so I wouldn’t scare off anyone


Well bought a home! My life long dream! Screw the giant fancy schmancy wedding. I looked at home plan layouts when I was little instead of flowers and wedding dresses anyway. Don’t worry girls—I got “my dream” wedding.. it was just perfectly intimate 9 person wedding weekend in the beautiful City Hall of San Francisco, will full ballgown, fathers in tuxes, me with full make-up and a pinterest worthy bouquet made foregoing of a shin-dig with all of our friends ( That could make it-- and many wouldn't be able to!) who we would only get to spend minutes with individually, really the right decision for us, considering our goals. I mean, ya I did really miss the giant party.. but not more than the feeling of realizing my (our) home dreams coming true so soon! Those of my friends with amazing backyard, cathedral or art museums are amazing weddings, too! But man we all have our priorities and big wedding would = a much longer path to home ownership. So here we go.


When I say we bought a home. What I mean is we put 1% on a lot with our anticipated floor plan.

I’ve lurked on Houzz long enough, and I feel like I have a ton of information to lean on… but I know being in the process you guess will have much advice and hopefully save me money/ encourage me to spend it where it counts.


The builder says we can do anything we want as long as we don’t move exterior walls. I of course know that is at a price. We started with one plan, but realized by the time we fixed and moved some inside walls and added nearly every structural option and then some – and it wouldn’t have been “perfect” – they showed us a large plan that we felt was a better bang for our buck (it was more 10K expensive, but the layout is much better and I don’t want to move anything major ( I will be increasing a first floor guest bathroom door to be at least standard, if not 36” for accessibility of aging parents). And it will better fit our family needs for longer.


There was an already built house in the neighborhood that closes in a few days. We were allowed to walk through it, and that sealed the deal. It’s amazing and I cried on our way home because I never thought in a million years 1. THAT would be our first home 2. It was in our budget (the high end of course) and I wouldn’t have to sell my kidney + first born.


The salesperson said their “weren’t many upgrades” in the home—and I know better. It’s listed $4K under the “base” price of the plan we selected, but it does have a 19K media room addition, $4K kitchen upgrade, 1 or 2 doors increased to 8ft, 2 shower heads in the master bathroom ($600) , the loft area instead of being a pony wall is upgraded to the rod iron to match the stairs (Guy said it was like $3 per foot to change to rod iron – seams cheap.) It may or may not be an upgraded rod iron spindle. They also had one of the front rooms “converted” study instead of a small formal dining room. At first look I can’t tell if the upgraded all the lighting, but I do know they at least added 3 pendants to the kitchen. Not sure on cost.


I’m going back with my realtor on Wednesday to show her the home, take photos, video and note anything that may be upgraded. Including counting pot lights, and electrical outlets and taking measurements of some of the bathroom doors. Why are they putting in 28” doors when there is plenty of room, it’s a very large (by my standards) house and the sales person said it’s like “$10 to go to standard.”


If you are still around.. thanks for reading, I am obviously over the moon and in love (but not so much that I can’t walk away. I’ll cry if I do that and be sad… but I would walk if the seller is raking us over.



-Lindsey

RoadToRedMaple



Comments (133)

  • cpartist

    Ok the pics are small but here are a few things I see that are not quality

    Notice the sliver of tile under the upper cabinets?

    Notice the sloppy corner?

    Notice the unfinished edge where the tile was cut a little wide, leaving a hole, on both the light switch plate and the plug switch plate?

    And lastly what the heck is with the arrow pointing to the wall on the left? It makes no sense.

    In this photo, notice there seems to be no support under the granite overhang?

    Look at how sloppy the carpet was laid down and what is with there being 2 seams?

    That entry behind the fireplace looks very narrow.

    I'm not sure what's happening with the fireplace mantle but it looks like it's not level.

    Additionally it looks like the walls may not be perfectly straight.


  • cpartist

    One last comment. I had missed the elevation drawing earlier. I'm sorry but it almost looks like a McMansion wannabe. I have one more book for you to read. It's called What Not to Build and honestly it too was one of the books that really helped me with my exterior design.

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    Hi @LindseyB, thank you so much for your comment. I actually started browsing your thread after you posted the link and there’s a ton of great information on there. I am definitely going to take a look through this weekend and discuss with my SO. I saw a lot of people saying that your first home should not be a new build so now I am nervous. Both my SO and I are in our early 20’s and thought about buying at first but couldn’t find anything we loved. We are located in Upstate NY and both love modern homes and find most houses here are old and dated. We did consider buying something and fixing it up as well but also are very much interested in choosing everything from the ground up. Now I’m not sure what to do! I agree with you on the pantry! I actually had our realtor redesign the foyer layout on the Talbot floor plan just to see what it would be like with a walk-in pantry. The only issue is that we lose the powder room which at first we were fine with. That is until we started discussing with other friends and family who told us we need the powder room for resale. So I’m not sure how we would reconfigure but can try to revisit to ensure we aren't losing out on such a feature. We certainly need closets in the foyer too so its hard! I do love the fleming pantry and can see a beautiful frosted glass door on it in the kitchen and I would love that. I have not considered reconfiguring the garage area, just get nervous with the costs involved! But will see if I we can consider. Thanks for the idea. Thank you! We are very excited but also very stressed. We aren’t sure what the best choice for us is so we are trying to look at every possible option before making a decision. I think we may go back and scout out some houses on the market to see if there’s any out there with good bones before we jump into the whole building thing, similar to what you decided to do. I don’t want to spend crazy money and then not be able to get it back on resale. We of course want this house to be perfect for us and want to love it but we really only see ourselves in this home for maybe 5-10 years and then are hoping to sell for a profit. The market we are looking at is growing quickly so we’re hoping it will be a good investment. I am sure that the house your are remodeling is going to be just amazing and I hope that you get the opportunity to build your forever home in the future! :-) Thank you for the insight on the direction of the sun! I actually asked our realtor about this last weekend. The lot we are scoping out currently has a great room facing south, and she reiterated that this was best case scenario and makes me relieved that you've also mentioned it. However, it is the last lot like this so we would need to move quickly on this but of course we are indecisive and struggling. So, to get to where we are now is pretty interesting. We were originally looking for a townhome/condo as there’s quite a few being built near us but after looking into it further, the prices let alone property taxes were insane like almost the same or more than the house we are considering... which I still can't understand given where we live?! So we scratched that idea. My SO’s parents built their house 10 years ago and happened to notice a new community being built a few streets over and it happened to be the same builder they used when they built their home. So, we looked into it and we went to the model home open house and fell in love. So far the only person we have talked with is the realtor who is helping us choose the floor plan and the lot and etc. Right now we are in beginning stages and just started the process a few weeks ago but are already super stressed and unsure. We were told to figure out the floor plan first to see the base price and then from there add all the upgrades we want to consider to see how much everything would be “roughly". From there we would subtract or change anything that doesn’t make sense. Then we would need to put a deposit down on a lot and start really diving into the design details. And as you can see we haven’t quite settled on a floor plan. Thanks for the tip on due diligence and references. Since my SO’s family used the builder we feel comfortable but now that you mention it we should really do our homework and look into it more as it has been many years since their house was built. I am going to take a look this weekend and see what I can find. Kids are certainly in the future but we’re not sure when. My SO attended schools in the district that our house would be in and there are pretty good schools! I will check the rankings though as for resale it is important to consider. I really appreciate your help! 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  • friedajune

    Also, in the first photo of the kitchen, the cabinets themselves look like what I can find at the cabinet outlet store when I want to put cabinets in my basement to hold tools and miscellaneous. You could do better with Ikea or any number of low-cost brands. In the second photo, the layout itself is so odd. How do you put seating near the angled fireplace, which is what people usually do with the fireplace. The angles of the room give me the heebie-jeebies. Why can't a living room be rectangular? That's just bad architecture.

  • lbw123

    Hi Lindsey, you are a trooper! Glad the revisit went well! A couple more points, if you want to alter the plans, make all your changes BEFORE you sign the contract and agree on a price. Everyone initials all the changes. That way you know up front what everything costs to get the house you want. Changes are really not changes until after you agree on a contract and sign - then the cost goes way up. This sounds obvious, but the contract is what you agree when you sign. THEN when you changes the plan after the contract is signed, document each plan change (these are the $$ changes). Save a copy of the final plan and use it as a working copy and for every alteration or change order, mark it in on the plan and have the builder initial it with a cost notation. Seriously - even when you are standing in the half finished house and you ask them to add an extra plug, go grab your "master plan" and mark it - and NEVER let than plan out of your hands. This becomes your only protection against the "he said/she said" that WILL happen. Also, if you feel there are too many doors, use pocket doors. They are not that much more if you plan for them BEFORE you sign. They also make the house "feel" more expensive. Another $ choice, for your kitchen cabinets, go with full overlay doors if they are included in your choices. If you have not done a kitchen before, get help from someone who has. They can help you choose what you actually need in those cabinets - You can spend a ton of $$ tricking out cabinets with items (spice drawers, wine racks, drawer dividers) and using your $ wisely is key here. Use drawers bases instead of cabinets where you can - provided the cost difference is minimal. It is easier to pull out a drawer than dig in a lower cabinet. For example, all my plates are in drawers. Also, for your tub, check out "soaking tubs" I have a 21 inch deep one that is spa like, but just pay attention to the depth bc if it is deep, you have to climb over to get in and out . . . which can be tricky when it is slippery - something I didn't think about when I chose mine :) Also, just to make you feel better, all the work you have done is not wasted if you choose another location or builder - you will just have a much clearer idea of what is ultimately important to you and your family. I have to say, I love seeing all the terrific help you have gotten and your great responses. I think this is the best of this site in action!

  • Lindsey B

    @PirateFoxy – yes the RV is small. My previous homes (as an
    adult were apartments or duplex randing from 700 sq ft to 1100. We lived in a
    2/1 700 sq foot for 6 weeks before we moved into the RV. A great thing, my
    husband and I both like baths for “alone” time, so it’s nice we can pull expenses
    for a common goal. As weird as it might sound, having a functional kitchen with
    an amazing pantry is what I know I want as my “personal needs.” The pull out
    drawers – I can literally have no bottom shelves (only drawers) and THAT would
    make me happy. As well a functional (and
    large) pantry. I typically do 1x a month Costco trip and every week grocery
    trip and would even like to minimize those trips – but don’t have the storage
    ability currently. DH, I’m not sure what exactly his splurge would be. My guess
    is some sort of man cave. I will ask and we will talk. I agree with the Wow
    factor—maybe it’s Wow when you pull up or walk into the foyer, but I know small
    details overall can do it to it too. The wow also feels slightly superficial
    when I put it down on paper. Having a wow factor exterior or foyer isn’t going
    to help me prepare a better meal, or make my guest feel any more welcome.
    Adding it to the list! I agree with the stress of it all. It’s a lot of money –
    and I think that plays into to. While we are being mindful… part of me says if
    we reduce the budget but 25%... it’s not as much of a risk. I hope you get to
    realize your potential in your home sooner that later if you are still going
    that route.

    @cpartist – I’m very grateful you pointed out the additional
    information about subs and employees. I can’t make the final call without full
    discussion with my husband – but I am leaning towards this is not the right
    opportunity.

    I have started with the pro/con list and so far I am at 50
    cons (with one I want to count as like 10 cons because it’s really important to
    me)… and haven’t even started the pros! I think we did the process a little
    backwards. We tried to find the house instead of doing the research on neighborhoods.
    I have looked at school ratings around
    the area and I think we have about 6 districts in the top 50 school districts
    in Texas, we can definitely do better. Some home I found were almost half of
    what we are looking to spend… with schools at 8/9. Checked out the best
    district in the state 10/10 schools.. and homes STARTED about 1.5 our current
    budget. Always fun to look at those homes (especially when you see the same
    issues as a home in our budget).

    Thanks for taking the time to point out the poor workmanship
    of the subs. Visuals help, and it will help me explain things to my husband.
    That TINY strip of tile in the butlers pantry is just ridiculous! I know what
    McMansions are and I was hoping this was the least offensive of that category. I
    have seen HORRIBLE ones in the DFW area and I am just like whyyyyyy?!?! At
    least I don’t have the “pringle” can entry, and random half or full circle
    windows. But I know my plan has it’s own set of issues.

    @Friedajune – I went to the manufacture of the cabinets.
    Their website looks like something I made in 7th grade. I know not
    everyone is savvy when it comes to the net, but now days you can get a stock website
    for $100 + maybe 10 hours of work and it would be 100 times. I know they probably
    don’t have to look for work because they are in with a builder – but if you don’t
    have pride in your internet presence how much pride do you take in your job? I
    am fighting with that (wood) burning fireplace. I don’t like the angle, but I also
    don’t want to put a TV on the side of it (and I know there is a giant debate
    about TV above fire places). Again, you
    are adding another point to the “you can do better” with materials. Realtor
    said the cabinets were nice for builder grade… but even though she’s my buyers
    agent, I know she still wants to get me in a house.

    @lbw123 – I’m glad you told me to make any changes to the
    floor plan BEFORE signing the contract. I guess part of me feels like I’m wasting
    their time if we aren’t under contract (my sister who is in construction is
    telling me I am a fool and its their (her) job to answer 8 million questions,
    and provide quotes. I know you both are right, but I think it’s just me – never
    wanting to waste someone else’s time when at the end of the day they may not
    make money. I need to get over that because I know I am not just using them – I
    am trying to make the best decision I can!

    I agree completely on the drawers. I also want shallow
    drawers for cook utensils, sheet pans, cooling racks, silpats. I HATE having to
    unstack anything, so nesting pieces are great but you always need the medium
    size or large and have to take down and put back up multiple times. Whatever
    house we build, or reno, I know the kitchen will take 3x the planning of everything
    else. My mom is a great organizer, but the problem is, she can make 30 items
    looks beautiful in cabinet and all fit, but to use them is a pain. When we
    moved I got rid of so much intentionally because I want to fill the home with
    useful and smart pieces.

    I’ll remember to test out tubs. My mother in law has the
    best soaking tub. I need to get the model before she sells her this month!!! It’s
    deep but the edge isn’t so much I have to long jump to get in. I’m also pretty
    tall for a woman (5’8”) so that helps me out… yet also makes my knees stick out
    of the water on most tubs.


    -------------------------------------------------

    You all have been awesome – I wish I could send some ultra
    nutty pecan bars or warm chocolate chip cookies through the internet! DH comes
    home tonight and I will report back with our final decision as soon as we have
    it – may take a day or two. I don’t think it will be a quick yes /no. And I
    know it will take time to “accept” either outcome. Cheers!

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    FYI -- whether you decide to take the builder's cheapest package (and then upgrade on your own) or renovate, this is what's possible with Formica countertops and Ikea pendants (with a lime wax treatment to make the original black finish look like zinc), from the previous loft apartment of American interior designer and artist William Rankin McClure,

    Lindsey B thanked beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally
  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    Lindsey, when the time comes, take your kitchen plan over to the Kitchen forum to get the best possible (form and function together in happy harmony) kitchen. There are some very, very talented people over there.

    And if you want some more homework : ) , read through this very helpful thread by buehl, one of those very talented and dedicated people,

    New to Kitchens? Read Me First!




    Lindsey B thanked beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally
  • Lindsey B

    @Beckysharp While not my overall stlye or feeling ---- I love that -- waterfall?? effect, if the kitchen was "warmer" maybe some wood accents I would go for it! it's super impressive what formica can do!!!! I've seen it on backsplashes behind the stove! Easy clean!

    My parents remodeled a POS house, (rental in a college town that my sister lived in first) and they did HD cabinets. Not the cheapest... maybe 1 step up. They are still holding up well (12 years of college kids). I was highly impressed with IKEA cabinets the last time I looked -- in drawer lighting (silly but nice), the weight of them... (bought a 8ft laminate white counter ($35) to stick on a free work bench I found on the side of the street, because my duplex kitchen had 6 TOTAL linear feet of counter split by a sink. Sold the whole set up for $40 when I moved. I LOVED having 8 ft of uninterrupted counter space.


    I looked at the New to Kitchens Link. I'm SUPER excited to use that for reference when the time comes (either building or remodeling in the future) -- especially because I feel like those are my people! Kitchen obsessed! I saw this at the end of the welcome post and thought it was very true for any area of the discussions.


    When asking questions (e.g., asking for layout help), please keep in mind that everyone here is trying to help, not criticize maliciously. Some of us can be blunt, but no one is out to deliberately insult or hurt anyone. When your kitchen is done, we want you to have a kitchen that functions wonderfully well and looks nice overall - but the process will take time and will entail comments that many times you probably won't want to hear (e.g., when a layout is dysfunctional.) We strongly recommend you "keep listening" to what others have to say but, in the end, you don't have to take any advice given here. It is your kitchen and you are the one who will make the final decisions!


    -L



  • gthigpen

    Lindsey - I live in the DFW area and this house is your typical suburban McMansion that are everywhere around here. You can do better. This house will be a poor investment even before you choose any upgrades. I'd love to connect you with the architect we used. Over the past 10 years or so, he's designed most of the homes in a subdivision in Midlothian called MidTowne. You can see some photos on his FB page or the subdivision's page. These homes may or may not be your style, but they illustrate that subdivisions exist in DFW that don't have the same brick faced McMansion style. These homes are inspired by craftsman, Victorian, colonial, etc. I'm not an architect or know if they are "pure" architecturally or not, but to my eye, they look pretty good. Simple, but detailed. They have a 'wow' factor that doesn't scream "I'm trying to live in the most glamorous house I can on a minimal budget."

    He designed our house for a tear down lot, so he does stuff outside this subdivision. And he's affordable.

    https://www.facebook.com/vintagebuildingstudio/

    https://www.facebook.com/MidTowneLiving/

    Lindsey B thanked gthigpen
  • KD
    Oh, oh yes, some of us are Kitchen People. We may end up moving soon so I have put plotting a kitchen Reno on hold (what we have is probably Good Enough to sell or rent the house) but I’ve been contemplating kitchen improvements for ages. My SO and I both really enjoy cooking and a good space makes such a difference.

    That said, make sure you have a nice quiet place too. With kids in the house there will definitely be times where you just want some peace. A nice chair in the bedroom might be enough - but think about that. (You can use a home office for that, but it depends how stressful you find work stuff - sometimes a home office will just remind you of work things so it’s not a great relaxation space.) Pretty much everyone needs peace now and then, and modern open floor plans can make that hard to find.
    Lindsey B thanked KD
  • Lindsey B

    @gthigpen Ha.. nail on the head for the city!! Let me see how things play out over the next few days I may take you up on the architect referral. Though lots of Houzzers are saying don't build as your first home... so there is that concern to. 10 years sounds like there should be some great owner feedback! I like the simple but detailed look of his homes. Exterior isn't necessarily my style - but it's not offensive and initial photos look likes he is competent and overall chipper -- so a change shouldn't be an issue to better fit our style. I think why we avoided a builder, is you do the typical google search for average price per square foot build for DFW and $150 is what comes up. Now, I would assuming an architect could widdle away the overall size of the house, to say 2500 sq feet, then we look (online, realtor app) at lots that are 75-100K - it seems out of reach. Reaching out to Houzz has really made me realize I don't need to do this alone.

    Another builder building fewer homes / not tract may be a middle of the road compromise. Really worth looking into ... especially if it falls with in the realm of our budget. Thanks for giving me hope!! I'm sure I will be picking your brain.



    Another underlying theme I picked up on is.. I need to stop looking at what I want. I did the same thing with my wedding and started to get overwhelmed - and then I said how do I want to FEEL when I am getting ready, during the ceremony, at the reception. Everything was EASY after giving up on what I wanted things to "look" like. I was after an experience and I focused on that-- the only way it could have been better is if I had a dress rehearsal of the entire weekend-- even then it was pretty dang flawless unrehearsed!!

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    While not my overall stlye or feeling ---- I love that -- waterfall?? effect, if the kitchen was "warmer" maybe some wood accents I would go for it! it's super impressive what formica can do!!!!

    It's not entirely my style either, but I love his ability to get the look he wants through creativity and elbow grease. And I wanted to show that even top designers use Formica and Ikea : ) .

    Take a look in the Kitchen forum and the Finished Kitchens blog to see all the different kitchens people have done with Ikea components. It's amazing.

  • Lindsey B

    @PirateFoxy - if you sell or rent I hope it goes quickly! If you remodel I am looking forward to watching the process! I was thinking we didn't need the typical DFW " bump out sitting room" off the master -- I thought they were pointless, but I can agree that a quiet space would be nice. My work isn't really stressful, but I am not sure I would want to relax in the same room to decompress. But by the time we have kids and I'm not working -- that office may work. I really don't care for open floor plans. I like partial separation -- which I know the current plan doesn't have.

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    Another underlying theme I picked up on is.. I need to stop looking at what I want. I did the same thing with my wedding and started to get overwhelmed - and then I said how do I want to FEEL when I am getting ready, during the ceremony, at the reception.

    You might want to do a variation of what the Kitchen forum calls the Sweeby test for your house to help you with this. It can be a very helpful exercise.

    This is how it starts, "The situation is this — You’re trying to decide between several different options (backsplash, flooring, island size or configuration, countertop material — whatever), and all of the options being considered look good. Functional and financial considerations are certainly important, but among the thousands of highly functional good choices — There are so many options to choose from! Which to choose and how to decide?

    "My suggestion was to try to figure out what you needed the element in question to contribute to your kitchen. To start by focusing on your kitchen as a whole, from a far-off hazy distance — to wander off into your favorite kitchen fantasy and think about what it feels like, not what it looks like."



  • gthigpen

    Yes, I totally realize not everyone wants an a replica of 1920's craftsman so I totally get it if that's not your style. Our architect was really great on the design process and I'm confident he could do most anything you want. He has designed some really cool modern homes also that just make me drool. Not my style but something I can appreciate! And having just built, I'd say $150/ft is a decent estimate using mid-grade finishes in this area assuming you don't have a lot of 'extra' outdoor square footage like a giant garage or large porches.

  • Janelle

    A builder is out to make as much money from a project as he can, particularly one with his own subdivision and portfolio of plans. The main way of achieving this is by cutting quality. It looks all lovely and sparkly upon completion but quickly deteriorates as poor quality fittings fail. They rely on prospective clients only looking at the surface bling and being carried away into signing on the dotted line. You seem to be one of the ones who can't be railroaded and that is a very positive thing. These all inclusive building contracts which allow for no alternatives are a bit of a con, not to mention the waste of resources and money as owners replace kitchen, flooring, lighting, tap fixtures, etc in a short period of time. My advice would be to keep looking - whether you build or buy an existing property. The placement of a house on a block with regard to its western aspect is very important in a hot climate. To most people this is the last thing they consider until they find half of their house is unlivable in the summer months. Also consider your neighboring houses with regard to privacy. It may not seem a big deal, but may become one once you live there. Good luck with your house hunting - you will find something you love and is much more suitable and value for money. There seems to be too many ifs and buts with this one.

  • PRO
    Kingsway Plans Ltd

    One thing in all the reading, as I have gone through about the first 1/3 and last 1/3 of your conversation to this point. As a designer I ask my clients 3 big but simple questions.

    1) How long do you intend to live here? 1 year 5 years 10 years?

    1 year in Vancouver BC is a flipper = build & get out = your choices are not relavant

    5 years is concerned for resale potential = design for the next owner (this is the grey area where people don't think enough about their own needs. "If you did not like living there - why would the next person? Flow and use are more important than color and finishes.

    10+ yrs means this is a home = build what you want - not what somebody else wants. When talking about paint choices what the next person does is not relevant as they will not likely appreciate your colors anyway - they will want their own.

    2) Budgeting? Did you need a mortgage or is this a full purchase situation? Some people do not put in a contingency fund for new construction over-rides. Some do not get more than one quote from a builder they have already chosen when they do not have a plan even to discuss. People come in all shapes and sizes in this category. I have more to this in a moment.

    a) Location? This is a bit different as in all cases so far I am always working with someone who already has a plot of land. I rarely meet anybody in pre-purchase stages. There is a good book for American approaches that addresses a lot of these siting issues which is "The House Doctor" find on Amazon. I see from your design the Garage is facing East (cul-de-sac), with the Nook /Living Room /Master with North windows. The "close" neighbor West, has no window overlooks. Unfortunately this also means the street is your covered veranda view. I am unaware through the discussion the size of the lot but I can assume it is not overly large in yard to house ratio. My concerns here would be (future) Kids, Personal spaces, Entertaining friends.

    3) Any Kids? Location, location, location...

    This is where in some of your earlier advice groups noted both your age and family situation. I would advise in maximizing your yard and entertainment areas based on expectations of future family and how do you like to entertain both yourselves and others. The outdoor BBQ approach with kids running around is important to you then don't fill the whole lot with a rancher spread. Are you intending to have your parents move in or stay for extended living? Then flow within and handicap issues are a concern as they age (or you do) door sizes and big solid staircase steps are important. Curved stairs and no sub-landings may be important for safety reasons to consider a more square approach.

    Building size is important to your design for your needs as you say you want to be there for a decade or more. If you want your kids to grow up in one spot. That means you and your husband will be 50 and your parents will be 70+ wandering your estate. Your kids will be 1 to 17 with all the pitfalls and growth spurts that need to be considered.

    Does your 5 year old need a 9x10 bedroom? When she turns 16 will this be her closet or her room?

    Same question for your aging parents? First floor? Ensuite? Master bedroom or regular sleeper? If staying overnight 10x10 - if moving in 12x12 with ensuite or Mom and Dad will be having their bath in the hot-tub out back.

    Is there a restriction to basements? You mention the hot sunny summers perhaps there is a need to have a below ground temperature relief area. We in the mountain areas get the basement simply because we can't avoid building on slopes. In hot climates like the Prairies and down South in arid climates you build large overhanging porches when it would be just as easy to go underground and get that 5 degree temperature change that is gained. Yes the cut and foundation is more expensive but a slab on grade still needs footings, unless it is a floating slab, so you still have to dig a hole and rebury it with gravel or fill it with concrete so what is a few more feet deeper?

    Your media room option although nice is an extra bedroom over the master. Do you want to be awoken by late night TV over your head? You already have a huge room/loft over the garage to staying relatively quiet. Unnecessary addition you have to pay for upfront. Better to have a third upper bedroom then and call it one. Also makes the house a large box instead of the stepped unbalanced McMansion that shows in the elevations as now the master end is now two level too.

    Does the sub-division allow any type of build or do they have strict design guidelines? Do they have a builders choice or strictly with them only contracting? Can you hire anybody or just them? Do you get cost plus, lump-sum, or outright costing to your program? What other clauses are important in any construction contracts? Many above have mentioned so I will not reiterate. I will caveat though a contractor should be doing his own construction and not subbing out basic construction services if he is just a construction manager then the outsourcing pros and cons NEED to be in your contract for repair/rework/and warranties. You should also have in your contract who the sub-trades are so if the contractor goes belly-up or disappears you have places to go legally and constructively to remedy the problems that arise because and in spite of the contractor.

    Here in my city, we have several building supply companies that prepare costing bill of material estimates for 100+$ or included in purchase agreements. It is effective to get your 3+ cost comparison quotes for your design program directly so as to compare if your builder is hosing you or is getting hosed. Add his mark-up estimate based on management fee for a cost-plus estimate or base it on an industry standard average in your area for his portion. Most of the supply estimators should be able to give you an industry standard of the day for what builders are or should be charging for management. It is important to get the local pricing too as it can very widely from market to market.

    Last item I would mention is the BBB rating. Numbers only mean something in perspective. A rating of 2.8 out of 5 is poor. But how many rating were in the sample? If one guy says he sucks out of three ratings it could be two 4's and a 1, but if it is 200 ratings then he really does suck because more than 30 people really think so.

    Also, even if the employees hate the guy, there is an ounce of truth in every lie. So more importantly is as one said, "high turn-over", shows lack of management and you are hiring a manager. So don't hire a bad manager.

    Hope this helps.

  • PRO
    Kingsway Plans Ltd

    84 Carriage Creek Dr, Desoto, TX 75115 $49,000 0.7AC Lot with some nice trees and upscale neighbors. Found on realtor.com

    Lindsey B thanked Kingsway Plans Ltd
  • KD

    One thing to keep in mind with budget is that if you aren’t on a builder fixed-price contract, I think it is easier to leave stuff to be done later, without paying for poor quality whatever in the meantime because the builder insists on putting something there and won’t give a credit. Obviously you want main spaces to be done, and you want to think seriously about how much you will do once you’re moved in, but things like not totally finishing the laundry room with cabinets, or finishing ‘bonus’ spaces, can save you money during the build and not be too disruptive to live with or to have finished off later. Like secondary spaces, you can delay getting what you WANT until you save up for it, as long as they meet your basic NEED.

    (Again I wouldn’t do this in a major space like a kitchen because that’s a very important space to you and getting it just right is a functional need. But the laundry room doesn’t need to be magazine ready to do laundry, the kid’s playroom doesn’t need to be fully finished until some time after you have a kid, garage cabinets can be a project for later as long as the garage is sized for them during building, etc.)

    My brother and his wife left about half of their basement basically unfinished when they built, and had it finished off about 1-2 years later once the dust had settled and they’d been able to save up a bit more to get it done. At least one of those rooms is a craft room, which means cabinets, which means $$$$, so delaying also let them put in a nicer arrangement when they did it, because they didn’t feel as much financial pressure from the rest of the build.

  • Lori Wagerman_Walker

    There is some amazing advice in this thread! So many things to think about! Good luck Lindsey, can't wait to hear the rest of your story! :)

  • Lindsey B

    @Janelle _ don’t have any issue with people making money, but
    I don’t want to be screwed out of money and get a crap product. So it’s a good reminder about builders
    and their profits, and a reminder that anything brand new looks pretty dang
    good! Thanks for the good luck wishes. I know eventually we will find something
    and love it. Even IF (big if) we went with this…. We would make it a great
    home.

    @Kingsway Plans Ltd Thanks for checking in to realtor.com I would
    love to have some big ole oak trees, in my yard! Unfortunately, that home is in
    poor school district. (3-3- and not rated) after other reviewers, we may be
    looking to bump up from my low of 6 being acceptable to accepting if one of the
    levels is a 7 but the rest would need to be above that. I did search and found
    a few more that may work.. so it’s good to look into land to get an idea. Before I was looking
    at a much bigger lot (minimum 2 acres), and I don’t think we need that anymore.

    @PirateFoxy I didn’t think about that. As long as we could
    get the occupancy cert that may work. Plus pay cash for the additions when needed.
    Great tips!

    @Lori Wagermen_Walker Thank you!!!

  • Lindsey B

    Also picked this beauty up today!


    edit** I just realized this is CREATING.... not the original I was recommended... but Ill still read it :D

  • cpartist

    Definitely check out gthigpen's builder. I looked at his work when gt first posted about him and I think his homes are much nicer, live better and are overall better than what you were considering.

    My SO and I both really enjoy cooking and a good space makes such a difference.

    I don't love cooking but occasionally enjoy baking, but even as someone who's not a fan of cooking, a well laid out kitchen space makes a heck of a difference in how pleasant it is to actually have to cook.

    Lindsey B thanked cpartist
  • cpartist

    Another underlying theme I picked up on is.. I need to stop looking at what I want. I did the same thing with my wedding and started to get overwhelmed - and then I said how do I want to FEEL when I am getting ready, during the ceremony, at the reception. Everything was EASY after giving up on what I wanted things to "look" like. I was after an experience and I focused on that-- the only way it could have been better is if I had a dress rehearsal of the entire weekend-- even then it was pretty dang flawless unrehearsed!!

    BINGO!!!!

    You just got it. Something most people here tend to miss. A house is not just a series of rooms, but a place for us to live. How do you want your house to make you feel when you drive up. How do you want to feel when you sit in your living room, or cook in your kitchen? How do you want to feel when you get into bed at night or how do you want to feel when you sit outside in your yard?

    When you think of home, what are the words that come to you first? What about home excites you?

  • cpartist

    Lindsay, I'm a fan of all of Sarah Susanka's books so it really doesn't matter which one you read. However the first one is the basis of all her other books.

    One other thought. You may not be a fan of craftsman or whatever style, but really think in terms of simplified exteriors as they will stand the test of time better than houses with fat roofs, or too tall entrances or arched windows for no reason, or...

  • lshack17
    Hi Lindsey

    Can I just lighten the mood for a minute and say I need Lindsey's recipe for "ultra nutty pecan bars?" Maybe the thread can turn into a recipe exchange/life coaching forum. Many wise people here.

    So much amazing advice and lessons learned, you must be mentally drained at this point. Glad that you started the pros and cons list, good advice given by my dear Dad when I built a home last year. Old fashioned, but gives clarity. Do you think maybe take the weekend off from the thread and think long and hard with your husband? You might need a break from all the info and opinions, sometimes it makes decision making more difficult and confusing.

    Sending you best wishes and peace with whatever you decide!
  • KD

    Lshack17 has a good suggestion - maybe take a couple of days and set aside the whole thing and take a break, then come back to it with your husband starting with how you each want a home to feel. Then test your options based on that information?

    Lindsey B thanked KD
  • RaiKai

    @PirateFoxy

    Great tips to leave what you can for later, at least for rooms that you can. For our new utility/laundry we are having the builder install a small cabinet and sink immediately, but we will do the rest later as we decide what works best for us - whether that be building cabinets or getting modular cabinets. The room will be fairly large so I was even thinking of adding a (moveable?) island for a folding table down the road, but I am in no rush to do so and can save some money doing it myself later.

    I also agree with your brother and sister-in-laws decision to wait on the basement! In our new build we are keeping the basement unfinished for now so we can configure as works for us in a few years rather than have to knock down what someone else has done. Give ourselves some time living in rest of space to decide what functionally and lifestyle wise works best. The “standard” for basement layouts here is 1-2 bedrooms, bath, family room with maybe a wet bar - whether the house is older or new. If builders do it at time of build you are looking at at adding $25-30k+ CAD. Personally, for me basements are a great place to go a bit wild and maybe even bring to it a very different tone than the rest of the house and I would like to take our time getting it done as we have more money :)

    Lindsey B thanked RaiKai
  • KD

    @Rai Kai - yup. They had 1 room completely finished (walls, floor, trim, paint) because they knew they were going to use it for exercise space and put existing equipment in it so they knew exactly what they needed for storage and layout, and then another room just paint and flooring for storage shelving. The rest was finished off in the sense that it didn’t look like the trades had just walked off the job (like no wires poking out loose or anything) but it needed paint/trim/flooring/some drywall/fixtures and fittings added to be useable space.

  • Lindsey B

    Update #1


    DH and I are still talking and discussing. He is still leaning towards it. I am leaning towards NOT going forward. Any advice on telling him that it's not all about sq feet?! Or price per square foot? Gotta have our first disagreement at some point :D and typically we joke and say "This is NOT what our first fight is going to be about!" When it's something silly like where to eat dinner, what movie to watch, or who does dishes. Keeps it light for us. This is a much bigger matter of course, but it's nice we figuring out how to get what we each want with still getting what we think is best.



    HOWEVER!!!! Our realtor received a call informing us that:

    The home will not fit on the lot.


    They are looking at other lots but I don't see how it would fit on any lot they have left - and I don't see a non corner lot for this garage won't make me insane. They say the city won't let them build that house on it. Who knows if that is true. Maybe because of Houzz I asked too many questions and they think I will be a PITA and they wanna get rid of me?

    Yes, It could be a blessing in disguise. But I lost so much sleep on it (excitement and despair), I know DH did, and when it comes down to not even fitting on the lot which is something they knew about for 5 days-- yet were never like- hey just to let you know it may not fit? They did say they may have to adjust the driveway but all their homes fit on all their lots...that's it, it's the last thing I thought would fall through!?! But I'm not even heart broken and I say that's a WIN!


    I know I learned a lot in this process... but I think there are easier ways where I won't go gray. Still re=reading some comments to keep it in the front of my mind!


    @Ishack17 - HECK YA I will share my recipe-- thats the one thing I can give back to you all! It's AMAZING! If you love pecan pie but hate all the extra sweet stuff these are awesome! Once I post the update of if we went with them or not, I will post a new thread with a link here.

    DH is travelling 6 of the next 7 weeks. We are going to look at a few more options with other builders/ older homes this weekend. I think getting us both in more homes isn't a bad thing at this point. Seeing quality, layouts, sizes of rooms,etc. Even on those older homes. If we still feel we want to build new, I will reach out to builder from @gthigpen --I'm pretty confident I am going to be even more hard on the fit and finishes of any new home we look at -- so now that I know better, I want to do better.


    @Cpartist I love craftsmen, but it does seem like some of Susan's designs have lots of extra texture that doesn't appeal to me- maybe I don't know what a true craftsman is. All about flow. And I know the "style" isn't what I should focus on now. Homes seem a little dated in the book (I know it's older + I get 90% of design info from HGTV) but I am already loving her concepts of using light to draw you into places and using one space for multiple uses. Also the psychology of space! Thanks for the great recommendation. She has some youtube videos that are very nice too.

  • Denita

    Corner lots have that whole easement running along the front and one of the sides that face the road so it reduces the size of the footprint it fits unless the lot is larger to compensate for the easement. This is pretty typical for those lots on the corner leading into a cul-de-sac IME (at least in my area). That's why I asked you to check the footprint much earlier in the thread. Most builders know which homes will fit on their own lots, but after reading the reviews posted, they seem to have quite a bit of confusion in their offices so this business of not knowing for a week fits in with the reviews posted. Good idea that you are checking other homes this weekend.

  • Lindsey B

    @Denita I think the only thing could have done different was to sit tight until the confirmed with a lot + house plan-- which would have put me in the no turning back this is the best house ever if they said it would fit! Huge learning curve as I didn't realize (or wasn't made aware) that there was a chance it wouldn't be an option. Glad to know corners lots leading into cul-de-sacs have those easement issues. I guess that is why they "look" so big. My dad also pointed out that every person was going to walk their dog there and let them do their business (Thanks Dad!) If we weren't looking at such small lots the side entry garage wouldn't be an issue on a non corner lot. I will press more for this info it ever comes to pass. Learning that there is no real "First" step. It's like I need 59 legs all taking a step in different directions at the same time.

    The next lot (cause I won't be getting the current lot unless we downsize the home plan-- and I know my husband will just wash hands of the place and move on if that's the case) I will look at the exposure and potential of easements with greater detail. The good news is... the lot has nothing to do with DH or me... so technically if he "loses" this house... it's not my fault :D


    Your input really helped me--- as has everyone's here and I really appreciate it. The information, guidance, and encouragement is going to get me to have something amazing eventually!


  • bubblyjock

    What a fabulous thread - thanks for starting it Lindsey B! It should become a Houzz sticky, if such a thing exists.

    I just wanted to comment on what you said about requiring a minimum 2000-2500 square feet for your family. I suspect this is because the houses you've been looking at, such as the one you've shared, are very poorly designed, and use space extremely badly. It's always easier to add another couple dozen square feet than make the spaces work - just looking at the inefficient kitchen and the choice of garages in the plan you've been given is enough to make me grimace. Could you imagine trying to furnish, heat, cool, and clean that sprawling home??

    Instead, might I suggest you go look at the work of Sarah Susanka? She, and others like her - journeymen architects with brains and integrity - create houses that people love to live in, on a smaller footprint than they expected. Every cubic foot of space is carefully considered, and works extremely well. These sorts of houses will cost more per square foot to build, however you'll be building a smaller house that will be less expensive to run, as they're usually very efficient (there's that intelligent architect again), of higher quality, with better finish, that you'll love as a unique space, not just another horse stable in a row of horse stables.

    Here's one, just to get you started. :)

    [https://www.houzz.com/photos/libertyville-not-so-big-showhouse-traditional-kitchen-chicago-phvw-vp~370976[(https://www.houzz.com/photos/libertyville-not-so-big-showhouse-traditional-kitchen-chicago-phvw-vp~370976)

    She's on Houzz, and she's also written a number of super books that are well worth reading. Even if you don't buy one of her plans, her thinking may help you hone your own, a lot.

  • cpartist

    @Cpartist I love craftsmen, but it does seem like some of Susan's designs have lots of extra texture that doesn't appeal to me- maybe I don't know what a true craftsman is.

    I don't consider her designs craftsman. I was referring to some of the designs from gt's architect as craftsman inspired. Hers I consider more of a modern interpretation of Prairie style which actually was the same time period.

    All about flow. And I know the "style" isn't what I should focus on now.

    No, focus on the advice given. Because good advice regarding flow and how rooms are used, never go out of style. And if you think about it, she was an early proponent of more open spaces.

    Homes seem a little dated in the book (I know it's older + I get 90% of design info from HGTV) but I am already loving her concepts of using light to draw you into places and using one space for multiple uses.

    Yep they are somewhat dated but look at the bones of the houses. Those I don't think are dated. Kitchens and baths, yes but the overall feel, no.

    I like to think I incorporated many of her thoughts into my house, even though it's larger than her standard (mine is 2870 for two people and a 10 lb dog) and my ceiling heights are higher (10' on the first floor except the hallways which are 9' and 9' throughout the second floor) than what she always recommends.

    Also the psychology of space! Thanks for the great recommendation. She has some youtube videos that are very nice too.

    I think that's what attracts me to her books the most, the psychology of the spaces.

  • cpartist

    Your input really helped me--- as has everyone's here and I really appreciate it. The information, guidance, and encouragement is going to get me to have something amazing eventually!

    Yes it will. I will say that all the help I had from the folks here helped me create what is now an awesome house, if I ever get it finished. But that's another story. LOL.

    One thing I will say that soon you will find the right lot or the right house for you. You'll post here and you'll still get negative comments because every one of us has our own personal biases. The idea is to take the comments as you've been doing and really think them through as to whether they are right or wrong.

    Just a quick example. When I was redesigning my house for the 100th time (well it seemed that many), I put the laundry closet in the front foyer. Why? Because I wanted it close to the bedrooms and had it like that in our condo. In the condo it really was the best place for it, but in a new built custom house, it really was a dumb idea of mine.

    Thankfully the wonderful folks here let me know that it was a dumb idea. (They didn't come out and say it was dumb, but I got the picture.) However there were other comments later on like how I needed a larger laundry area, that I knew from how we do laundry didn't ring true for us. So take and really analyze all comments like you've been doing.

  • Lindsey B

    The final update:

    Cliffnotes: About 3
    hours ago-- I had our realtor go pick up our earnest money and we pulled out.

    This will be long, in hopes someone else can learn some
    things.

    Friday: We were informed by Builder 1 that the home would
    not fit on the lot, and the city would not allow the changes that would be
    required for the home to fit. (Builder had told me that every home they offer
    fits on ever lot).

    My husband has been doing some serious travel and will
    continue to do so for the next few months. Because we had a feeling we would
    pull out of Builder 1, he wanted to go look at other new builders because the
    build times of 7-9 months line up with our idea move dates and he didn’t want
    to lose time while he was traveling. We looked at master planned community with
    6 builders, plus 2 additional neighborhoods and we didn’t even get out to look
    at the insides of those builders.

    Sunday, we went to a neighborhood with our Realtor. We found
    another home that we liked – and it had gas – which I decided was VERY
    important to me. Better garage, schools were 9-8-7 in one of TX best districts.
    Better BBB rating, horrible consumeraffair rating, and solid good reviews for
    employees Lower taxes, no MUD tax, no lot premium, larger lot, better kitchen
    for me with a very good sized pantry. Some instulation and HVAC specs were
    better than builder 1. No weird garage, but we dropped to 2 car, with a large
    storage area. Dropped about 800 square feet off and didn’t miss it. We saw that
    we could do better than Builder 1. Our realtor called Builder 1 and withdrew
    our deposit.

    Incentives were great.. amazing actually for design, (maybe
    too good to be true), a discount on the sale price, as well as money towards
    closing. Again we left earnest money and picked out a lot. For the record, I
    wasn’t thrilled with the lot option, but at least our backyard was East facing.
    I wasn’t thrilled with the layout, but it was better than before – though the
    elevation left a lot to the imagination. It was less mcmansiony… but still checked
    off those boxes. Lastly, we were not going with the most expensive plan.
    Probably 4th out of 10 plans when considering costs and sq footage.
    4 other builders in this community, and some of those houses were 2x what ours
    cost base. The cost was marginally more expensive by maybe $2,000. Which now
    puts us about 14k higher than were we wanted to be, but still within our
    budget.

    Overall, it seemed like a much better opportunity for us.

    Our realtor advised that we did not need a real estate
    lawyer – because the contract was a national one, and we couldn’t edit it
    anyway. But if we still felt we wanted one we could arrange it.

    I decided to read all 68 pages of it… and go over with a
    fine toothed comb. We had timeline concerns- mostly with the build getting done
    too quickly. We could afford it if took the 7 months the contract said. The
    salesperson (before we mentioned we were looking for a longer build) said that
    we should expect 8-9 months. But with our best interest in mind, we wanted it
    to close around 11 months to be in a position where we would have 0 stress from
    anything that life through at us. The contract very clearly states that if we
    delay the build (mostly by not making design center choices in 14 days) they
    could: 1. Make the choices for us 2. Cancel the contract and keep our sizable earnest
    money 3. Charge us $250 a day until we make the choices. The sales person was
    adamant that he has never had to do any of those things. I refused to take the
    word of someone when there was a contract protecting them. I asked if they
    would negotiate a January 1 close, and the refused. Probably typical—but don’t
    ask don’t get. At least I tried.

    I did some snooping
    on the internet for our salesperson – linked in, resume right in the open.
    Found out he been with builder 2 since October – I’m sure he hasn’t had too
    many opportunities to actually enforce the contract. I also researched a
    statement saying that “Builder 2 has never offered this design incentive”… and
    I found out it was offered in December. No problem with people holding their
    cards close to their chest, but do not lie. I’m an amateur sleuth with google
    (name that Netflix series!).

    Additionally, after more research I decided to call to get
    pricing on inspectors / phase inspectors. The one I cold called said he didn’t
    do phase inspection. He took a lot of time talking to me and explaining things.
    I then took a shot in the dark and flat out asked him about my builder. In the
    most professional way I think I have ever seen something handled, he just told
    me that all builds, remodels, etc have issues. He’s seen the worst of the worst
    representations of builders build a nearly perfect home, and he has seen some
    of the best builders build messes. He told me Builder 2 makes it VERY hard to
    hire an outside inspector. If we buy used… THAT is the man I will be hiring to
    inspect my home. About 70 reviews from yelp, google, and one other place and
    every single one was 5 stars. He referred me to another inspector who does
    phase inspections.

    Phase inspector said the same thing, but added he doesn’t
    even inspect builder #2.. or some other place called Cal Atlantic (who I guess
    just bought Lennar?!) He listed out that builder 2 has very strict policies
    about the time they can visit, what they can actually do (they won’t let him on
    the roof- etc), they require 10x the legal required insurance (phase inspector
    carries 5x ), as well as adding them onto his insurance, they want all the
    reports and documents sent to him, he can only see the blueprints in the
    construction trailer, that type of stuff. He says he understands that some
    inspector probably went crazy, builder 2 lots a lot of money or got sued and
    decided to put a complete end to it. He told me his client was “me” not the
    builder. He went over his phase process so if we decided to build, we would
    know what to look for. He also confirmed about any build can be bad, and said
    it’s more important to look at the construction manager. The fewer homes he
    juggles, and the closer together, the more he will be on site checking on the
    subs so people don’t get lazy (human nature). And I feel that really makes a
    lot of sense. Good knowledge going forward.

    Both of these men were so helpful, professional, and
    accessible. Phase inspector had stellar ratings too. They weren’t old enough
    (at least I don’t think) to be my dad—but they definitely treated me like I was
    maybe a niece who they wanted to make the best informed decisions she could.

    This is the most my husband I have ever not seen eye to eye,
    and it was incredibly challenging.

    Builder 2 has an open house design center on Thursdays,
    where they are willing to price every option you want… however, they also have
    incentives that change every WEEK on Wednesdays (!@#$%) so we walked in on a
    Sunday and they wanted us to sign the contract by tonight. I’m fine with sales,
    or snooze you lose, but people really make decisions on something that costs
    hundred of thousands of dollars within 3 days?! I can understand letting you
    lock in your incentives for 7 days, or visit the design center first, which
    ever is shorter…. But you can easily add 40k (not that we would) and that would
    make a huge difference on the purchase price (the model had $120k in
    upgrades—bet your butt I laughed out loud at that comment) and if the news is
    right, people are not out shopping at the lowest end of their budget- who can
    afford this stuff?!? We have very lucky to have what I think of is a lot of buying power and I’m amazed – all I
    hear are how the housing market is on fire and I’m like who is buying these
    homes that are 4x the state average?!

    Additionally, builder 2 made us go through their lender just to
    get prequalified even though we had a prequal letter from a major bank. Every
    lender we spoke to says it will hit your credit, but it’s usually a couple of
    points.. thank god we have amazing credit and all it hurts is our pride, but
    their lender made my husbands drop 20 points?!? We are very mindful of what can
    impact our scores and we have worked hard. When the major bank approved us in late January, is score
    went down 3-5 points.

    About an hour ago-- I
    had our realtor go pick up our earnest money and we pulled out.

    After a good talk with my husband—left us both feeling
    defeated (all my husband has ever wanted to do was give me anything I could
    have ever dreamed of that he can actually do and has the resources. I’m mostly
    a memory person… so I’ve been on those $3 Costco hot dog dinner dates and have
    fantastic memories because my parents do
    the same thing (both my husband and dad complain those aren’t cheap dates
    because inevitable, who can consistently go into Costco and spend less than
    $100?). I’ve been to fancy restaurants where I can request a different color
    napkin because the napkins are black and I am wearing white- -hey I was in a
    wedding dress! I’m so content with either – it’s never been about the price of
    something… but I don’t advise getting between me an a Kitchen Aid Mixer or Le
    Crueset pot… that’s gold right there!

    But we both learned a great deal. I’m way more of a
    pessimist than I thought I was. I need a cooling off and processing of a
    purchase this big before I commit, and I can’t bother with being rushed by the
    chance of missing out a good deal. I knew that once he makes up his mind he
    committed. I think we just really needed to work out how to make a decision
    together when we both saw it different was– and continue to protect each other,
    our hearts, our finances and our goals above all else. I wouldn’t call this a
    fight—but I would say that we have finally had to share heartbreak on something
    that was important to us in very different ways. We both ended the call feeling
    exhausted, disappointed, and sad. We both had full lines of communication open
    and it really showed me that when tough things in life come up—we can handle it
    and come out together. Even if hindsight will tell us we missed out on
    something.

    My husband still feels like builder 2 and the house is what we will end up, we will
    just do it on our time table—in May, when the soonest they could get it done is
    our ideal move in day. The prices will most likely rise. The interest rates
    will continue to rise. And maybe in May I’ll have wished that we started back
    in March. Who knows, maybe the interest rates do rise, and either the market
    does a slight correction or it becomes a buyers market and we make out better.

    I’m taking a break from the realestate market. Removing any
    app from my phone (at least for a few weeks). Hopefully come summer we can
    visit a few homes that truly meet everything and are already built – or needs
    approachable and easy reno. That we can either do ourselves (We are hoping to
    start a family soon – so I can only do so much—and husband doesn’t want a war
    zone) or that will be relatively reasonable on the budget.

    I can’t thank you all enough. Your advice was real.
    Sometimes real hard to accept, but it was real. None of you know me from Adam—I
    assume that nearly all of you were trying to inform me on making a sound
    decision. I may not have taken everyones advice to the T (Couldn’t I have saved
    a lot of heartached if I just listened to @Sophie
    Wheeler
    as the first person to comment? Yes, but I wouldn’t have learned as
    much as I did.

    @Denita telling me to factor in all upgrades and be aware
    what is and is not available. @Beckysharp for telling me not to rush into
    things (We did… but thankfully, the short road came to an end and besides being
    a little beat up we will survive). @BeverlyFLADeziner
    for giving furniture and ART!!! (you made me excited becauseI totally didn’t
    think about that I can finally buy art!!) layouts. @lyfia with the really
    calling out the small work space and walking area with the island. All of you who
    pointed out the stupid garage and how inefficient it was (for the record—I think
    we could have made it work… but I think I would have hated it everytime I had
    to pull in). Advice on the direction of exposure on the house. The weird angles.
    How I shouldn’t have to upgrade to a standard size door. Or the flow of the
    layout. Those of you including @Cpartist who took the time to mark up the floorplan,
    provide guidance, but continue to encourage me and wouldn’t let the thread die,
    calling out cheap builder grade where you saw it or reminding me that even
    though it’s called out – it’s really nothing special.

    @Bellburgmaggie hit so many fantastic upgrade features nd
    important questions of who holds certain responsibilities – I’m saving those if
    I ever build. I have a lot of research to do because even if they tell me the
    types of roofing they will use—I don’t know what that will mean.

    Those of you like @jannicone who pointed out Level 1 won’t
    hold up. Telling where may be worth it or not worth it to upgrade.

    @Virgil Carter Fine Art who kept it funny with the the
    comment about the GPS for guests to find the bathroom, and telling me we could
    do better (a common theme through the thread)

    @live_wire_oak for telling me its expensive because of the
    layout, foundation and roof that will all up. Mentioning it was an entry level
    home on steroids. We are able to skip the 2/1 complete gut job, but we were
    losing site of what we really wanted in a home.

    @Mark Bischak, Architect adding in a zinger (I know I
    shouldn’t have got into the builder 2 option… but I did walk away!)

    @Pirate Foxy for encouraging me to take a break… It was
    helpful.

    I read Sarah Susnaka book on “Creating the not so big home”
    I agree with a lot of things. Will I build or buy a not so big home? Probably
    not… but I will downsize from the “McMansion” – and not limit my search to “Above
    3,000k” only. Settling on “Big” instead of cavernous. And using her amazing
    concept of light to pull you into places <3

    Thank you to those that were encouraging – especially since
    I did pick out the plan I liked a lot about it. Offering guidance and food
    for thought.

    Every comment was read and considered. I tried to respond
    back to each and if I missed any, please know that everything on this thread
    was incredibly helpful. If I bought the first house that started this thread,
    would my life have been over? Would I have never been happy? Would I have
    failed? No. Life goes on. Would builder 2 screw up somewhere and I would be
    left homeless and hopefully pregnant by the time that build is complete?? Ehh..
    who knows . Overall, I feel like I will do better –
    but I can also say it will be different.

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    As promised for @Ishack17 the link for the Ultra Nutty Pecan
    Bars :


    [https://www.houzz.com/discussions/ultranutty-pecan-bars-thank-you-houzzers-dsvw-vd~5175843[(https://www.houzz.com/discussions/ultranutty-pecan-bars-thank-you-houzzers-dsvw-vd~5175843)


  • RaiKai

    What a great update! It sounds like you have learned a tremendous amount (and fortunately at little cost). It is great you are also seeing more square footage does not automatically mean more functional and liveable space, even if you still ultimately choose “big” you can do it in a way that actually works for you and your lifestyle.

    Sounds like you have a much better foundation now to start again in the future.

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    Thanks for the update, Lindsey, and the recipe. Definitely one for the short-term pain, long-term gain lesson book : ) . And a reminder that few good things in this life come without some sort of challenge.


    PS

    Our realtor advised that we did not need a real estate lawyer

    You A L W A Y S need a real estate lawyer when you are buying real estate. Even if you are buying it from Great Aunt Hilda and your are her favorite niece and she gave you the super secret family recipe for Ultra Nutty Pecan Bars. A real estate lawyer you hire is ethically required to have your best interest at heart.

    You need to protect YOUR interests, and make sure all the t's are crossed and i's are dotted. You do this by getting a real estate lawyer, calling inspectors, using Houzz/GardenWeb, Googling your heart out, reading books, and making use of all the research and professionals you can. I would put your ninja Googling and phoning skills to work on lining up a lawyer so s/he is ready to go the next time you are.

  • KD
    Agree about the lawyer. If it’s a simple contract then you won’t have to pay the lawyer a lot of money to evaluate it. But you still have someone exclusively on your side checking things out for you and explaining things to you.
  • gtcircus
    The devil is in the detail. Rush thru it at the beginning and you’ll pay for it in the end. Take your time because you learn from the process and you will come closer to getting your dream house in the end. All great things are worth the wait.
  • just_janni

    Don't delete the app. Immerse yourself in the discussion here - soak it in - you'll be SO FAR AHEAD of the game when you are ready to buy / build. You'll be honing our skills and helping others. You've given yourself an incredible learning opportunity - use it!

    And we kinda like you. ;-) and your Ultra Nutty Pecan Bars.

    Cheers to you and your hubby for talking it out, staying focused on what's important and understanding how you each process things differently. That right there will serve you well.

  • gtcircus

    Where did I miss that - she is deleting the Houzz app? I don’t think anyone told her not to buy a house, I think we were all concerned that the one she was thinking about wasn’t the right house for her & hubby in the long run. I say kudos for taking it all in and learning from the experience. Not many people marry the first person they date. And it reminded me when I bought my first house. I looked for 2 years driving my Realtor crazy. I then drove by a house I fell in love with and immediately contacted the Realtor. She drove me over and we were waiting outside because there was a couple in looking at the house. When they came out they had NO expression on their faces - like they had walked out of a major crime scene. I went inside with my fiancé. I walked through it about four times, sat on the steps and said it was perfect. The walls were covered with nicotine stained grass cloth, the carpet had dog pee, the back part of the house had acoustical tile. The finishes were awful, but the layout and location were fabulous. The kitchen was huge and had so many possibilities and I could walk to work. It was the up and coming area near downtown. When my father found out I found THE house he flew in and walked through it after closing. His words “you actually paid money for this dump?” Fast forward 15 years, that little house was all fixed up, the neighborhood was hot. My little 1750 square foot house sold in 24 hours and my father’s 5000 square foot house took a year to sell. And the best part, my house sold for 3.5 times what I paid for it and for more than my father’s home in another state that was 5000 square feet. The moral of the story? I did my homework at the library, looked at population trends and followed my head and heart when I bought the property. The most important aspects of the house were location, layout, structural integrity not wallpaper and finishes.

  • Denita

    Lindsey, get an excellent real estate attorney. I'm a Realtor and I totally believe in great attorney's. Even when the seller/agent or whoever says "the contract can't be changed" I call BS on that. It is more difficult with builders contracts, but not impossible. Don't fall for it. Protect yourself. We Realtors are not attorney's (except for the small minority that are actual attorney's). Do keep going with your research. I am so glad you updated this thread. I am equally glad that you pulled out of that purchase.

  • Lindsey B

    @Rai Kai … I did
    learn so much!! Thanks for your contributions!

    @Beckysharp haha.
    I will be doing more research with the lawyer. I think overall my realtor was
    good—but I am not sure if overall we were the right fit. We will see if we
    stick with her. I know she put a lot of work and time into it --- so I do feel
    bad about us not going through with it.
    I will be doing more research and googling, and reading and using all my
    resources! Promise!

    @PitrateFoxy – I’ll
    probably be doing some research on a lawyer to have “on call” when we are at
    that point. You all were so right about all the other things – and I’m sure a
    few extra hundred bux (what like 500? ) will put me more at ease as I don’t
    like surprises unless they flowers, chocolate, or kisses :D

    @bellburgmaggie
    isn’t that the truth. Alos.. Houzz app isn’t going anywhere! I love your story
    about finidng the right place! Man.. 3.5x your investment!! AWESOME!!! Were you
    ever concerned about over improving? That’s my biggest fear, especially if we
    buy very low… You know I always imagined buying the house with the crappy wall
    paper, shag carpet and pink or green tile in the bathrooms a horrible kitchen
    and then putting in my DREAM kitchen (or as im learning from houzzers, my 99%
    dream kitchen!). I think that’s something I was struggling with buying new.
    Even though I got to make a few selections… it wasn’t tailored to me really. So
    asking my husband in 3 years to redo the layout of the kitchen wasn’t going to
    fly :D Location location location is so hard for us. We are transplants – with family
    in the area, but are having a hard time finding the “right” home town. Everywhere
    we look is “safe” but I really want that neighborhood feel. I moved to Texas
    because I love saying yes sir, no ma’am, and I want to raise my kids like that.
    Sweet tea on the porch and waving to your neighbors. I want to make meals for new moms, or help out
    my grandparents when they need it. I may
    not have the Texas accent, and as the saying goes “I wasn’t born in Texas, but
    I got here as soon as I could!”

    @jannicone – I’m
    not deleting Houzz!! Just Realtor, Trulia and Zillow :D It may only last a
    week, but I need some distance! But I will use it as a resorce to keep an eye
    on the market and see what really happens during “selling” season. Happy to be
    sorta liked!

    @Denita , I should
    know better. I’m a firm believer that EVERYTHING is negotiable and if you aren’t
    willing to make any changes (they may not have lost me if they let me go to the
    design center and let me have 2 extra days – would have cost them nothing) I’m
    not inclined to play ball. Especially in an industry where negotiation is nearly
    expected. Looks like I have some more homework and research to do! I may need
    to find a new realtor. Not that she wasn’t good. I felt like she was doing a
    good job – but I’ll never know if she asked the builder for things. She did
    make us feel like her only clients, and she was very attentive and listened to
    my concerns. But I did get a slight feeling that she was “building” up the home
    a little more than she should have. We signed a contract for 6 months with her.
    She led with “if at any time you are done with me, I’ll just rip it up.” Who knows
    if that will come back to bite me in the butt. But, also thought we were going
    to end up with the first house and it would all be over. Again, lack of experience
    on my part. I've done some research on how you should select a buyers agent... and I did kind of do it all wrong.

  • Lindsey B

    Well now there is just more drama…. Not really that impacts
    me. We pulled out and didn’t sign on Tuesday. Just for grins we asked our
    realtor to follow up yesterday on the “new weekly incentives that the
    salesperson said were too good to pass up.” Well the sales person reached out
    today and told us that nothing changed (SHOCKER! Sacarsm) AND that he was going
    to ask corporate if they would change the “non changeable” nation wide building
    contract to include a December Close (a part we would negotiate, instead of the
    January close I wanted. December would make sense to get it off their books,
    and may provide tax incentives for the homestead exemption in Texas).

    I’m laughing at out loud… Builder 2 caused soooooo much
    added stress to the process and now after we tell them no…they want to come to
    the table? Hahahhahahaha. I’ll still bring my husband up to speed – but to me
    this just gets better and better (and by that I mean worse and worse). I’m sure
    there are a million stories of builders being bonkers – but I am SO HAPPY I stood
    my ground with them. Hopefully my husband sees my side… and if the new house is
    still the “perfect” house in his eyes, that we should NOT use builder 2. Asked
    my realtor if I was being unreasonable in not wanting to entertain the
    relationship any more. She said, if they end up meeting our “demands,” does it matter
    how we really got there? I'm inclined to say yes.

    I reached out to the builder @Gthigpen suggested, but no
    word back from him. I figure my best interest is to consider all my options.

  • gthigpen

    Lindsey B - sounds like you are dodging bullets left and right! Definitely keep doing your due diligence. Just to clarify, the person we worked with is an ARCHITECT, not a builder. He would design your home and could provide builder recommendations but he himself is not one. I believe he has a good relationship with the builder that did the homes in his Midlothian development. I don't know who it was since we were our own GC/builder on our project.

    Lindsey B thanked gthigpen
  • Lindsey B

    @Gthigpen ! Thanks for the clarification! I'll be doing even more research when he gets back to me -- especially if he thinks our budget and desires line up. I'd hope I can communicate our needs, and while I would never expect and exact estimate - I would hope he can give me some kind of idea if I am being realistic.



  • Lindsey B

    I've started a new thread with "You can do better" where I am looking for advice on how to find the right home to renovate. For those of you are willing to dole out more advice, you can find the thread here:

    [https://www.houzz.com/discussions/you-can-do-better-finding-the-right-home-to-renovate-dsvw-vd~5191981[(https://www.houzz.com/discussions/you-can-do-better-finding-the-right-home-to-renovate-dsvw-vd~5191981)


  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    This is where the link took me.

    Lindsey B thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • Lindsey B

    @Mark Bischak -- oops, I updated the link. Should work now. Thanks!

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