Monday, January 27, 2014

It Sounded Like Fun!

The notion of building a custom home from the ground up (or nearly the ground up) is a romantic one to say the least. Everything seems so easy and beautiful, and then you leave the builders office only to realize you have no idea what you just agreed to do. In reality it is closer to a nightmare than a dream.

Houses don't build themselves. We all know that. But have you ever given much thought to all the tiny little things that go into making a house? When you build a custom home you get a fast education on nuts and bolts. Yes, nuts and bolts.

Houses take time to build. You don't decide to build and then 90 days later move in. It is laborious process. It is amazing to watch how things are orchestrated and what happens when one of the cogs gets out of sync. We have had more cogs out of sync than in sync.

Not only does it take time to build, it takes time to decide what to put in it. Just when you think you have made a final decision something happens to change your mind. It might be a contractors suggestion. It could be that you got home and actually thought it through. It could be the weird look the sales person gave you. What seems to be so easy and effortless is actually mind blowing.

On top of the time it takes to build and decide what to put it in, it takes time driving to the endless meetings and driving out to the project to say "yes" or "no", "here" or "no there". And when you have small children and live 40 minutes away from the project and they need you there now you understand why your hair is changing color and falling out in chunks. This project has been my full-time job. It has consumed my every waking minute. There is always something more to be done.

Every time you move anything, cha-ching. Want the sink in a different location? Want to move a light fixture? Want to change a can to a fixture? CHA-CHING.  Seemingly small things are never small. And everything is more expensive than you think it is. Much more expensive than you expect.

We have had to pick out and make decisions about things I have never given thought to:

  • style of toilet paper roll holder
  • color and style of light switches
  • grout colors
  • toilet seats
  • door knobs
  • door casings
  • door swing directions
  • height of bathroom lights 
  • pattern of bricks
  • pattern of tiles on roof
  • cabinet handles and hinges

The sheer volume of choices in each category is difficult to understand.

One decision all by itself isn't so hard. When 300 decisions have to be made and approved, it is overwhelming. Oh, and each of those decisions comes with a price tag. So instead of just buying a house, you buy individual pieces of a house one by one until the puzzle is complete. And when you get to the end and discover that you have spent 10% more than you anticipated, well, that is just the icing on the cake. That and it is too late to do anything about it - that would be the cherry on top.

While we are building this house for our family, our family has certainly suffered for it. Mom is distracted, can't sleep, always working on something, worrying that things aren't going to get done right, afraid that our bank accounts will be hacked and our money will disappear before closing, or terrified that once it is finished I might not love it as much as I imagined.

I have said it before and I will say it again. If there are two choices to be made I will certainly pick the most difficult one. It would have been so much easier to buy a house already finished, and some days I kick myself for not doing it. First, you know exactly what you are getting. Second you know how much it is going to cost. Lastly, it is over fairly quickly.

I have no idea what the finished product is going to look like despite the fact that I was involved in every decision. I have a rough idea of what the final cost will be (and I'm not smiling) and won't be known until it is really over. It has taken a solid 6 months and we probably won't be ready to move for another few months.

I am going to be so glad when this is all over. I have been in a very bad place for months now (expensive + time consuming = grouchy). Yes, I will have everything exactly the way I want and I probably won't remember how awful the process was in a few years. But I have sworn to my family and friends that I will NEVER do this again!


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