What I’ve learned from building a (first) house


What I’ve learned from building a (first) house

By ALEXANDRA MATZKO
My husband and I just finished our first house-buying journey, and we went with new construction.

Well, from breaking ground to closing day, we’ve watched the progress of our new home without having a real estate agent, and we have learned some several things from being on the front line. I have shed naiveté. And, I think I’ve gotten my first
grey hair.

Buying new is so tempting, but it comes with its own laundry list of problems. From everyone I’ve talked to, it’s impossible to avoid having at least one issue while building a house. However, you can help the process run a little bit more smoothly, even
without a background in construction or Holmes on Homes on hand.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far and what I think everyone should know:
1. Visit often. I cannot stress this enough. Your managing builder is dealing with scheduling and organizing all sorts of crews: siding, flooring, painting, countertops, plumbing, electric, etc. Inevitably, something will slip through the cracks. Do you know
when it’s best to catch something that has slipped? In the moment and not on the final inspection the week before you close. That’s why you need to visit as often as possible.

We caught that they were building the wrong kitchen, which is a pretty colossal mistake. If we hadn’t visited, we would’ve missed this until it was too late, and it could have had more major issues than it had originally.
2. Take video of your electric and plumbing locations. Knowing the location of wires and pipes before they’re hidden behind walls is really helpful. Think of when you’re hanging pictures or installing any major thing on the walls — you’ll want to know where that stuff is.
3. Know your blueprints and upgrades. We had our original managing builder disappear midway through construction, and the new guy was just thrown into the mix of several half-baked houses and no pressing concern about the all of the unique and expensive upgrades we’d chosen.

But believe me, I was going to be upset if the wrong kitchen cabinets were installed. Having a copy of our blueprints and upgrades allowed us to know when outlets, light switches, or other pieces were being placed incorrectly
and to speak up about it immediately.
4. Befriend your builder. You can catch more flies than with vinegar, and the same is true for builders.

There were several times when I wanted to give the builder or sales rep a piece of my mind, but I can still say that I haven’t regretted holding my tongue. You won’t just have to deal with your builder during construction, but for at least 30 days
post-closing as well. Trust me. I’ve had him on the speed dial for the past two months, and there are still two more things that need to be done.

But, I’m convinced that my nice manners have earned us better service every time. I’m politely insistent without being
rude.

Maybe bring the man some cookies and be sure to get his cell number ASAP! The best way to communicate with my builder is by text.
5. Clean up. So, building crews aren’t known to be the neatest folks around. Every day, there were empty bottles, wrappers, nails (SO. MANY. NAILS.), even beer cans scattered all over the place. My husband and I brought a big trash bag and picked up.
Doing this, I definitely noticed that less garbage was left behind each subsequent visit. Cleaning up shows crews that people are watching, visiting, and invested in this house. Plus, I harbored a fear of Coke bottles being stuffed into the insulation and was
determined to prevent it from happening.

6. Talk to the neighbors. You can learn the most helpful hints from your new neighbors.

If they’re already moved in, ask about their advice for dealing with construction and builders. It was thanks to neighbors with our same model home that we were able to catch several mistakes or back up that something in our home was not correct.

For example, we needed more shelving in our pantry. When the builder pushed back against it, I showed him a picture of our neighbor’s home that’s the same model and in the same neighborhood. Guess who got those shelves?
7. Get your own inspector. I cannot stress this enough.

It was painful thinking of an additional cost in the face of almost a year’s worth of intense saving for the down payment, closing costs, and moving costs. But, peace of mind is priceless.

We booked through Nashville Home Inspection and even splurged on the radon test (another non-negotiable in my mind). Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer. You don’t want that floating around your home. I was at the home as our inspector painstakingly went through every detail, took photos, and sent us an incredible PDF report at the end of the day. It was great.

New construction can be daunting, but there’s a way to make it less painful. Follow the tips above and you should feel confident come closing day, not taken aback by some nightmarish building error that you didn’t catch along the way.

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