Are you building a custom home and wondering what the heck to expect? The short answer: EVERYTHING. I’m not kidding… well only kind of!
There is so much to think about, but I made it to the other side but I am happy to share what I learned!
Building Our Custom Home
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I joke that this is the house that Pinterest built. I definitely had my own vision, but I was knee deep in Pinterest at all times. I actually think this is why my end result was so close to what I wanted.
A little background on how we went about building our custom home:
Our actual builder (aside from Pinterest) was Kevin Poythress. He runs a family-owned local custom builder in the Raleigh, NC area. We came across him in a roundabout way.
We actually had the neighborhood picked out that we wanted to live in first- before we found our builder, before we even found our lot! We were also considering resale homes in this well-established neighborhood, because it had a mix of recently built homes and lots.
Poythress owned one of the lots we liked and had recently listed it up for sale. He had built so many of the custom homes on our street, and we felt comfortable with him right off the bat.
Everyone warned me how stressful building was going to be! My husband and I sat down and had the talk… each of us agreed we would not let the other one go over board.
We did not need “all the things”. We would stick together, be a team, blah blah blah!
Well yeah, best of intentions! So some of these goals we made good on (we were definitely a team!) and most we could have done better (ahem… budget).
When all was said and done, both of us said we would do it again! Should we ever move again- we will build or renovate, for certain!
5 Things To Consider When Building Your Custom Home
If you are starting out with a builder, or simply considering the process, here are the 5 tips for building a custom home – things I would want to know before diving in! Or before you dab on your foundation.
1. Get A Vision And Be As Specific As Possible Early On
A VISION is everything.
Do It Right: Get a fairly clear idea of what each room will look like- not just the fun stuff, like the exterior and the kitchen- plan how you will style each room, the bedroom… picture the floor, the walls. Have a good idea for the look and feel of all of the rooms.
If you don’t have a clue what kind of style you like and feel overwhelmed, hire a designer if it is in the budget at all; this can be the way to go if you are not someone who enjoys making lot of decisions quickly.
It was something we spoke about for a bit and decided against. But it would have helped to have someone creative guiding me!
As much as I know my own style, if we were to build again I would hire design help from someone I vetted and trusted.
One thing you probably have considered before building is how you will handle making decisions. You will be bombarded with thousands of choices everywhere you turn. I am here to tell you – don’t go to any meetings unarmed without ideas.
You will walk out more confused than when you first started. Take photos, print them out, create Pinterest boards for each room.
Without a clear vision of your own, someone else will decide what you want and leave you even more confused! One decision affects the next, and so on.
For instance, when imagining our room, I knew I wanted windows above each nightstand. I measured our bed to have it fit neatly in between the two windows.
Get The Look:
Where To Find Your Vision:
Get on Pinterest and make a board for every room in your new house. Stalk designer boards who have your same style.
You will want to watch the big ones- that designers that gut homes and do total renovations. I pinned away at all of their homes- looking for inspiration and following the blogs that share house tours of new construction home.
Update: See our house tour featured on the Serena & Lily website here!
Download the Houzz app and create a profile so you can also save pictures there. Houzz was what convinced us we needed to bring our kitchen cabinets all the way up to the ceiling instead of stopping just under.
Lastly, follow some custom home builders on Instagram for inspiration. Not on IG yet? You will want to be. A lot of big builders post kitchens and bathrooms and fun tiles and all the ideas!
Where Not To Find A Vision:
Don’t go online starting threads looking for advice, or polling people’s opinions on sites like Houzz or Facebook.
You know what they say about opinions… and you are asking the general public, essentially. People who may have tastes and life experiences likely wildly different than yours.
If you are going to ask for opinions, ask a trusted designer whose style you are already familiar with.
Or ask trusted family members who know you well and can offer personal advice (“You hate baths! Are you sure you want to pay for the stand alone tub…” etc).
My Own Challenges:
By the time we got to planning our bathroom on our 3rd floor, I was out of ideas! It’s our 5th bathroom in the house and the one I knew would get the least amount of use.
So I didn’t prioritize it. I picked out this fun pattern tile floor, but I just couldn’t nail down the rest of the space.
After we moved in, this bathroom was all over the place and I still didn’t know how I wanted it to look. I ended up switching out the aged brass handles for acrylic, and our round mirror was backordered by the time I finally ordered it.
At Christmastime, our guests had no mirror in their bath. Extra annoyances I could have lived without! This is something to consider when building your house: every room needs a vision beforehand.
2. Working together When Building A Custom Home
If your partner has a strong opinion on design, how will you work together? What if your styles are vastly different? Two different styles of course CAN blend (I love a farmhouse table with modern chairs!) but you are going to have a lot of negotiating to do.
Learn how to compromise… a lot. Let him get the sleek vanity in the bathroom if you can get the chandelier you want over the table.
That being said: if you have different styles than your partner, regardless of what they may be, don’t go too far in one direction- stick with understated choices since you are marrying two different styles!
3. Plan For Extra Storage Space Before You Build
3. I am so glad our architect pushed us to go with extra storage! It seemed so extra at the time. Seven months into our home now, and we still have some empty drawers in the kitchen!
We have a house full of growing kids, and I am so grateful to have empty closets/drawers/storage benches waiting for us to use as needed.
If you don’t have enough room for extra storage- what can you move around while you are designing the floor plan?
We sized down our downstairs guest bath in place of a giant walk-in pantry. SUCH a good decision! It works hard for us and we don’t miss those extra few feet in the bathroom.
4. Plan to Spend Throughout The Build
People told me to be careful, but nobody warned me there would be upgrades throughout the entire process that I would want.
When you are building a custom home, obviously the opportunities are endless. I thought the kitchen and a few other areas would be our focus and then we would be satisfied. Wrong.
If you are splurging on every idea that comes your way (and that takes discipline not to!), long before you get to the landscaping there will be nothing left.
Be discerning. Remind yourself that if you get all those bells and whistles in the beginning, there will be other shiny things later you will be forced to turn down.
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Something I’m Glad We Spent Money On / Getting Creative With Budget
One thing I am glad I splurged on was the one item I almost didn’t do, because I didn’t see the value in it. My husband and mom were both urging me to get a central vac. I am so glad they talked me into it!
I am obsessed with our central vac. and it makes mom life so much easier. Pretty sure this qualifies me as a total boring adult, but it is actually fun to use!
Find ways to splurge in smaller ways to help stay in budget. For instance, I wanted our electrical outlets put into the baseboards instead of the drywall for a more seamless look.
We cut costs by only doing this on the first floor. I have no regrets there.
5. When something goes wrong: ask how much time? how much money?
5. Another thing to consider when building your home is how you are going to face challenges.
With so many little details, when building a custom home – even with the best builder and the most organized client – a little hiccup or two might happen. I knew that going in.
But out of all the useful tips when building a home you should know, a major one is how to reconcile “mistakes” when something goes off track. The two big questions when you don’t like how something is turning out are:
How much time, and how much money to fix this? Then you will have your answer if its worth it to fix, or if you need to get creative.
After the plans were all laid out on paper for our home, I decided the roof over our front porch should be metal. But I never told our builder (or anyone, for that matter). Not sure what I was thinking.
Months later, I came to check on the house and saw men put up a shingle roof over our front porch. My mouth dropped open. My metal roof wasn’t happening!
I sent an immediate email to my builder… “I know the shingle roof is already going up over the porch,” I said, “but I need to make a change!”
Turns out, the shingles had been back-ordered and were a custom color so they couldn’t be returned, and because of that, the roof installation was already past the original projected date.
Of course, the metal roof wasn’t ordered yet, much less even picked out! Had I stopped there it would have been over.
I hate rocking the boat in situations like this, and pushing for something nobody else wants is outside my comfort zone. But I wanted that roof!
“How much time exactly, and how much money are we talking to start taking the shingles off and replace them?”
Actually, as it turns out, not enough time that would set the overall deadline of our home back, and not so much money that it was unreasonable to consider. And I love my metal roof.
I hope my 5 tips when building your custom home is helpful. I am incredibly grateful I was able to go through this process and I want to encourage others to be able to enjoy it the way we did!
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.
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