Everyone tells you that planning a wedding is super stressful and that you’ll be relieved when it’s over. Well, I actually loved wedding planning (as you might have guessed from my excessive number of wedding-related blog posts). I found it oddly therapeutic, I was sad when it was over and I would do it again. Something tells me I am going to feel the same way about building a home. I recently announced that Ethan and I sold our house and signed a contract to build a new home from the ground up! We are THRILLED! Keep reading to find out why we decided to go this route and what the process of building a house has been like so far.
HOW THE whole PROCESS STARTED
Ethan and I got married in September 2017 and he bought our first home right before we got engaged. He owned it for a total of 3 years or so. I didn’t move in until we were married. We both decided that we wanted to be in a new house by spring of 2020, ideally. We want to have a family eventually, and would like to be settled in a bigger home before that time comes.
Ethan was constantly on Zillow browsing through houses — mostly dreaming — when he came across some new builds in the area. One day we went to look at a new development area — again, mostly dreaming — and of course, fell in love. Everyone kept telling us that it was a “seller’s market”, and that we could probably sell our house quickly now and make a decent amount of money on it. That was obviously very appealing to us.
When we looked in this neighborhood, we realized that building a house wasn’t that unrealistic for us budget-wise. We started crunching some numbers to see what that might look like in terms of a mortgage, down-payment, etc. Thanks to Ethan’s Zillow addiction, we knew there were not many existing homes that we liked within our price range and/or desired location. The thought of building a home exactly the way we wanted was starting to look pretty attractive.
putting our house on the market
Within a couple of weeks, our house was on the market. It was truly a whirlwind. We wanted to get it listed before the market was too saturated, and get a move on the building process. Our realtor is Debbie Carrier, and she happens to be my sister-in-law’s mom. She is amazing at what she does and I cannot recommend her enough if you are in KC! Feel free to message me for her contact information.
Our house was listed on a Friday at noon. That day we had zero showings. Naturally, I panicked. Was the price too high? Did people hate our house? Were my decorations ugly? The next morning we left for Colorado. A realtor was going to be hosting open houses for several hours on Saturday and Sunday while we were gone.
Thankfully, a ton of people came through both days, and we immediately started feeling better. By Sunday night, we had not one, but three offers on the house. One of them was full price, and they wrote us a sweet note, so we took it! Phew. Selling our house: CHECK.
Q. WHO IS YOUR BUILDER?
We ultimately determined that the houses in the first neighborhood were beautiful, but pushing our budget. It is very important to us to not be “house-poor” and to be able to live comfortably. Our goal is to put down a substantial down-payment so we can keep our mortgage fairly close to what it was in our previous home.
We looked at a few other developing areas with various builders before we stumbled upon Inspired Homes. Inspired Homes is a local builder and has new communities currently going up in Olathe, Lenexa and Lee’s Summit.
Once again, we really liked these homes. I will admit, I had my guard up. I didn’t want to fall in love again only to find that it was way out of our price range, or the builder had a horrible reputation, etc. We sat down with our realtor and the manager of the Inspired Homes neighborhood to have a conversation about the process, and more importantly, cost. We were excited to find that we could afford these and even had extra room in our budget for upgrades.
Ethan and I signed a contract to build a home with Inspired Homes prior to me having any type of partnership with them. Due to the overwhelming amount of interest from all of you, and the positive experience Ethan & I have had thus far, we decided it would be beneficial to work together. I will earn a small amount of commission if you end up using Inspired Homes as your builder. I genuinely appreciate you trusting me and supporting my small business. All opinions expressed are my own, and I plan to be completely transparent throughout this entire process, as always.
Q. Why did you choose your builder?
We decided to go with Inspired Homes for several different reasons.
- Cost. Their houses were within our budget. This was one of the most important factors for us. Obviously, we have to be able to afford to build this home.
- Location. Ethan & I both grew up in Olathe. We went to Olathe schools, and our families live close by. Being close to family and within the Olathe School District was ideal. We are also still close (enough) to both of our jobs, the grocery store, highway, Health House, etc.
- No Site Costs. Inspired Homes does NOT charge you if they happen to hit rock during the construction process. This is HUGE, as these unexpected costs can add up to thousands of extra dollars. Many builders do not cover it.
- Great standard options. When you build a home, you get to choose everything from flooring, to counter tops, paint colors, carpet and more. After looking through many model homes, we realized that we really liked a lot of Inspired Homes’ “standard” options. These are options included at no extra cost. Some of their standard options include a gas range, shelving in the master closet, cabinets in the laundry room, and more. This would help us cut down on costs when it came time to pick all of the design stuff. The design process is typically through your builder as well, but they all have a different process.
- Reputation. We had never heard of Inspired Homes before, so we did our research. Always do your research on your builder. There are some out there with horrible reputations that continue to build, and people don’t know until it’s too late. We heard nothing but great things about Inspired Homes, which made us feel comfortable moving forward with them.
Q. How did you decide to build a house vs. buy?
Ethan and I decided to build because it meant we got to design our future house exactly how we want it. We couldn’t find any existing homes that we loved within our price range and did NOT want a “fixer-upper”.
For the record, we plan on being in this home for a very long time, so it felt like the right decision for us. Keep in mind that everyone is different! You have to focus on your own budget and timeline and what makes sense for your family.
Ethan is a finance guy, so he keeps track of our monthly budget and we have a savings plan in place that we feel good about. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m saying building is cheaper than buying; it completely depends on your price range and what you are looking for. You have to consider the pros and cons of both options. We are also living with my parents throughout the building process, so we will be able to save a ton of money to put toward a down-payment. THANK YOU PARENTS. We are so grateful.
Q. Is it cheaper to build or buy a home?
There are several costs you have to consider when it comes to building a home.
- The cost of the lot (land you are building on). This is another reason we went with Inspired Homes. Their lots were much more affordable than others we had seen. A lot may cost anywhere from $30K to $60K and up — some builders lump that into the total cost of the house, and for others, it is in addition.
- Site costs. Like I mentioned previously, Inspired Homes does not charge you if you hit rock during the building process, but A LOT of builders do. This is definitely something to think about and mentally prepare yourself for, because it happens fairly often. There is no way to know when you choose your lot. It’s a bit of a gamble! But thankfully, not with Inspired Homes.
- Extras. Think about whether you will need a deck and/or a fence (we will have to have both added on), or other extras. These are not included, and you can either do them through your builder, or contract out. Prices will vary.
- Upgrades. When you have your design consultation, you can choose from their pre-determined “standard” options, or you can go up to Level 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. The prices of these upgrades can definitely start to add up, and it is pretty much inevitable that you will choose upgrades SOMEWHERE. We went in with a budget in mind, as well as our non-negotiables, and this helped us stay within a reasonable price. Yes, we had to make some sacrifices, but that is part of it! We are not millionaires, and either way, we know we will be so happy with our choices.
- Change orders. If you want to make any changes to the design after the final contract has been submitted, you have to request a change order, for which you get charged a fee.
additional Costs To Consider When Building OR Buying a house
- New furniture/decor. This is obviously optional, but it is pretty much assumed that you will want and need some new furniture when you build OR buy a new home. This is something you will also want to budget for, and it can be done gradually over time! I’m sure it’ll be many months to a year before our house is “complete”.
- Refrigerator. Typically a refrigerator is not included when you build OR buy a new home, so this is another cost that will come out of pocket. We are planning to keep an eye on big sales like Black Friday to snag a good deal on a fridge. Our new house WILL have a built-in stainless steel microwave, dishwasher, oven and gas range. All of these items are included.
- Homeowners Association (HOA). Some neighborhoods have an HOA, and others do not. An HOA is typically an annual fee that covers costs such as the neighborhood pool and other expenses that go into keeping your community looking nice.
- Taxes. Taxes vary depending on the city/county you live in, so this is something you’ll want to look into prior to signing a contract on a house.
I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting, but hopefully that gives you an idea on the cost comparison!
Q. How long does it take to build a house from start to finish?
This depends on many different factors. Every builder may have a different timeline, and there are other things that can affect the build process, such as inclement weather, unexpected things coming up (such as hitting rock while digging), etc. When you are building a house, you should absolutely anticipate something going wrong along the way. It is inevitable! What is important is how your builder handles it. Thankfully, we have been told by our future next-door neighbor that Inspired Homes did a great job of addressing any issues they had along the way quickly and gracefully. Inspired Homes has told us that our home may take 10-12 months, but it will likely be shorter than that.
Q. What kind of down-payment do you need to make to start building a house?
When you are building with Inspired Homes, you do not have to make a down-payment until the time you close (when the build is complete and it’s time to move in). There are some costs you have to pay up front to lock in your lot and other miscellaneous fees. This will all vary depending on your builder, and is something you should ask any builder prior to making any big decisions.
You also have to get pre-approved for a mortgage, which is based on your income, credit score, etc. FYI: just because you get approved for a $500,000 loan, doesn’t mean you should spend that amount. ; )
You have to put down at least 20% in order to avoid paying PMI, so that is recommended. PMI is private mortgage insurance; AKA, extra money you have to put toward your mortgage each month. We wanted to put down enough that we could keep our mortgage close to what it was in our previous home. We want to continue to live comfortably; to be able to go on dinner dates, travel together, etc., and not live way above our means.
You know your financial situation best, so I would recommend taking some time to crunch numbers and look over your budget and what would be realistic for you. I would also recommend speaking to a lender or a financial advisor if you need additional guidance. It is a huge decision, and it is not worth doing until you feel ready financially.
Here are some tips on budgeting. I know the “Mint” app is very popular for keeping track of finances, too.
Check out this guide on mortgage protection insurance (MPI). It discusses the pros and cons of mortgage protection insurance for those looking to protect themselves from defaulting on their mortgage. They explain what mortgage protection insurance is, how it differs from PMI, and how to begin choosing a policy.
Our non-negotiables for our new home
A lot of people asked what we were looking for in our future home. There were several things that we both knew we absolutely wanted and wouldn’t compromise on. Here are some of those things:
- Open floor plan — the more open, the better
- LOTS of windows — we are big “natural light” people (not the beer)
- Big kitchen with an island (for obvious reasons) and big walk-in pantry
- Four bedrooms — hopefully for two kids one day, plus an office, and master
- Three full bathrooms
- Three car garage — we may be here until we have kids that can drive and I want them to have a spot! Plus a man cave for Ethan. ; )
- Designated laundry room
Some of the extras that we chose included upgrades on counter tops for the kitchen, carpet, slow-close drawers and a pull-out trash can in the kitchen, a mud room/boot bench, elevating the ceilings to 10 feet and a walk-out basement.
Q. how did we choose our floor plan?
After looking at tons of different model homes, we finally decided on a reverse 1.5 story floor plan. This means that the master bedroom (plus an additional bedroom in some plans) is on the main floor, and there are extra bedrooms downstairs. There is no “upstairs”. The reason we decided on this floor plan was because we would have two livable spaces right off the bat. When you build a two-story home, the basement comes unfinished, and we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford to finish it for a very long time.
We are excited to have a living room right off the kitchen, our master bedroom on the main floor and a nice, large “rec room” in the basement, too. We are also going to build a wet bar down there, so it’ll be a super fun place to entertain guests. Since we are going to have a walk-out, we will have a patio off the basement, and a deck off of the kitchen with stairs down to the patio/backyard.
Our floor plan has the master and one other bedroom on the main floor, and two bedrooms downstairs with one full bath. We can’t wait to put the bottom floor together with a sectional, big TV and some fun things for entertaining, like a pool table, bar, etc. Ethan keeps trying to call it a “man cave” and decorate it with beer signs, but y’all know I’m not going to let that happen. ; ) It can be fun AND cute at the same time!
Q. Did you get to design the layout of your house / floor plan?
No, we did not design our floor plan. Inspired Homes has set floor plans for you to choose from, which I personally liked. I think it would be super overwhelming to design your own! Ethan and I chose the “Fairfield” floor plan, which is brand new for them. We actually never even saw one in person before we decided to build it. The Fairfield is basically a combination of a few of their other plans that we had seen and liked; however, it had all of the things that we felt were missing from the other homes. After obsessively studying the floor plan online, we took the leap! I think we are going to be very happy with it.
the design process
With Inspired Homes, we chose all of the design options in ONE place in about 2.5-3 hours total. For some builders, you have to go to a different location for paint, carpet, counter tops, etc. We loved the fact that we could knock it all out at once. It was quick and efficient, and less overwhelming this way. The Inspired Homes employee was knowledgeable about the options and could help us with our decisions.
As I mentioned, there were standard options and lots of options for upgrades, at many different prices. Below are some photos of the things we chose, to give you an idea of our color scheme, as well as the options they had available.
Q. When do mortgage payments start?
We will not have to start paying mortgage until we close on the house and move in.
Q. What were the most/least important decisions you’ve had to make so far?
- Most important: the builder, cost and location.
- Least important: carpet (just kidding, we actually argued about carpet LOL)
Questions about loans when building a house
To be honest, I had nothing to do with this part of the process, other than signing a lot of papers. I am not super comfortable with finance stuff (like many of you), so I had Ethan answer some of your questions on loans. He tried to put it as simply as possible, but of course, it is going to be best to talk to a financial advisor and/or lender who knows your exact financial situation and can help answer specific questions.
First, you’ll want to apply online or work with a mortgage company to figure out how much you can qualify for/afford before looking at homes so you know your price range. That way, when you meet with a real estate agent to start looking at new builds/homes, you’re not looking at $750K homes when you can comfortably afford a $400K home. Some financial experts recommend that your monthly payment should be no more than one fourth of your take-home pay.
If you are building a new home, you will pay your builder with the loan. Work with a real estate agent to help guide you through the loan process. (Again, ours is Debbie Carrier in KC and she is awesome if you are in the market.) Furniture is NOT included in the loan.
Questions About Lots & Costs Associated With Them
Each builder and each subdivision has different lot premiums associated with different subdivisions. Shop around and do your research. As previously mentioned, our builder has NO SITE COSTS, so if they hit rock, it’s fully covered. Some builders have site costs, so if they hit rock, it comes out of your pocket. This can cost anywhere from $10K-$30K+ depending on how much rock is under the dirt. There’s no way of knowing ahead of time.
The cost of the lot is usually included in the price of the home. This is a question to ask your builder and/or realtor.
I hope this helps answer most of your questions about the process of building a house! I have been pumped to share this and give you a little sneak peek into our future home. We are super excited for this journey, and I can’t wait to bring you along. Like I mentioned, I plan to be completely transparent throughout this process, so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. I will probably do another post in a few months when the building has begun and I have more to report on!
Talk to you soon!