Happy Spring 🌸 Thanks for coming back to catch up on how the custom home building project is going. Today marks month 10 but technically we’re only a few weeks into construction. Yep, you read that correctly:) We have broken ground folks!
The past few months have been frustrating and exciting. After purchasing the land we had to choose how to fund the construction of our new home. There are many options for doing this and given the instability of the world today we decided to finance part of the project rather than fully self funding it. I’m no financial expert but it seems to me that holding onto cash right now might be wise. We worked with a lovely loan officer at a bank we’ve done business with for years. The process for securing the loan went quickly at first but as we began interacting with more people from the bank, we found ourselves navigating “banking while black”. If you’re unfamiliar with this phrase, first please notice your privilege. Second, a few seconds on my favorite search engine 🙂 will return many examples, both recent and historic. We were asked to submit proof of funds for the land we purchased over and over again. I had to produce employment verification documents multiple times, we spent months explaining who we are, where our money comes from and the list goes on. We have purchased several homes, we are more than qualified to purchase this one and our credit is impeccable. As the months went on and we continued to resubmit proof of everything, construction delays were looming and we could not risk pushing the timeline back any further. Scrapping the loan and just moving forward would have been a shortsighted financial decision and we were unwilling to be fiscally irresponsible because of the ignorance of others. Our loan officer was perplexed by the level of scrutiny we were being put through. She couldn’t understand why we had to keep submitting the same information. In her words, she’d never seen this before and the way we were being treated was “petty”. Sadly, we were quite familiar with this type of discrimination. The bank issues did not stop at just financing, we also ran into problems at another one of our long time banking institutions when I went to withdraw some of our money. I had to submit multiple forms of identification, reviews and signatures from four bank representatives (including the branch manager) were required. 30 minutes later, I was asked what my plans were for the money I was withdrawing. They wanted to know what I was going to do with my money, from my bank account. After all we’ve dealt with leading up to this point, we should be experiencing one of the most fulfilling moments for our family but instead, we’re dealing with racism. A constant reminder that no matter what, we’re still Black people in America… Once that foolishness was over, we turned our attention back to the actual project.
The volatility of the market makes this process feel like flying a plane without lessons, while blindfolded. You have no idea what you’re doing and you can’t see ahead of you in order to predict how to navigate things. Every time I think I’ve planned for what I know to be true, I learn that there’s something I wasn’t informed of or circumstances have changed and what I knew, no longer applies. I’ve been obsessed with our budget and my finishing selections to keep us on track. Unfortunately all of the delays we encountered with the floorplans and the bank resulted in missing the short window where costs were dropping. We also waited over a month for permits to be approved by our township. Just as our team started ordering major building materials prices skyrocketed again. We were already over the originally planned budget due to market fluctuations, now our budget was increasing by another 25%. When the order was placed for lumber, the price reflected a 65% increase. We chose beautiful black casement windows from Pella. Those nearly doubled in price as well. Hardwood floors increased by 35%. We had no way of knowing when this would stop. After a long and sobering meeting with the builder late one evening, we had to make some tough decisions. Our options were:
- Stop the project and hope that things improve in 12 months
- Reduce the scope of the house or slow the timeline down, which meant removing features or extending the construction timeline
- Leverage value engineering
- Move forward as planned and accept that the cost of the home would be well over 50% of the budget before we even broke ground
We decided to go with a combination of these choices.
I reduced costs by using creative interior design options that will look beautiful without negatively impacting the value of our home, and we will add several features over the next year as costs for high-end materials and labor hopefully decrease. We decided to go with a non-traditional solution to build the foundation called Superior Walls. I was able to design our mudroom, primary closet and laundry room using a custom closet manufacturer. The CAD plans may not look like much now but I am confident they will turn out beautifully ❤️
Even with these changes we’re at 150% of our budget in order to retain high quality finishes. Very disappointing when you consider we’re still not getting what was included in the original plans. My heart was heavy and the excitement I was so desperately holding onto was quickly dissipating. I have a daily practice of gratitude and prayer every morning and I’ve held onto that. Seemingly overnight, the clouds began to fade and better news started rolling in. In partnership with our architect and builder, we eliminated some windows from a few inconspicuous areas saving a modest amount. But hey, every dollar counts. I’m using stone remnants for wet bar areas, of which we have three. Remnants are simply leftovers from natural stone or fabricated slabs cut for other projects. The quality is the same as the slab it was cut from, there was just no use for these remaining pieces. During my visit to the stone yard (a glorious place by the way), they showed me rows of magnificent remnants that were large enough for full kitchen and bathroom countertops. I have very specific stone slabs selected for those spaces so I didn’t want to risk a lack of availability. That’s the downside of using remnants, you’re stuck with whatever is available at the time you need to make your final selections. For beautiful marble and porcelain stones, I’ll take that risk with smaller surfaces.
According to the builder we would definitely save more if we went with traditional stick framing versus trusses. That was good news! Shortly thereafter the building team confirmed there were no savings by going with one versus the other. Apparently “definitely” means possible but not probable in contractor language (my eyes were rolling hard). We paid in advance with a slightly phased approach for the more expensive items like windows and doors, lumber, appliances etc. This will lock in pricing such that any increases won’t impact the budget but as prices decrease, the savings will be passed along to us. And, the Superior Walls offered a savings by reducing the cost of materials (i.e. wood and concrete), less labor was required and we shaved about two weeks off of our timeline. The foundation was set in three days. See below as the team began installing the Superior Walls.
As I chat with you now, a decline in lumber prices is on the horizon but this won’t necessarily result in retail prices dropping during our timeline. This article provides a perspective on why [Too soon to celebrate]. If this positive trend continues we may realize some savings towards the end of the project. For now I’m thrilled that just one week after the foundation was built we’re seeing great progress on the framing. For the first time I actually feel like this dream may soon be a reality.
This process can truly be an emotional roller coaster especially during these uncertain times, if you let it. We are steadfast in the blessing that this new home is for our family and grateful for the joy we will experience living here while our youngest daughter is of primary school age. It will be well worth it!! We’re told that over the next couple of months things will move quickly so I’m really looking forward to sharing an update with you then. To see detailed videos, more photos and hear additional lessons learned remember to follow me on Instagram at: loving_lux_designs and, subscribe to my YouTube channel: Keeping It Christian
I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone taking time to read my blog, like my Instagram posts and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’m so grateful for your comments, suggestions and support!