This week we have part 2 of the interview with homeowner Matt S. He went back to the neighborhood he grew up in and built a home perfect for entertaining. He talks more about his cool house (it's black!) and his homebuilding journey. He was so generous in sharing his advice and resources. So let's continue our chat with Matt.
SYNOPSIS OF THE CONVERSATION WITH MATT:
Michelle: Were there any books or online resources you used to help you through the design and construction process?
Matt: We didn't use any old school books, but we lived on Pinterest for 2 years. We also participated in 2 forums on Facebook-- New Homebuilding Q & A group (if you search that group you will most likely find an answer to whatever question you have) and Building, Design and Decor Q & A for 5000+ SqFt Homes.
Michelle: Did you have any surprise costs that you didn't anticipate and what cost savings tips can you share?
Matt: We did better than we expected as far as surprise costs go. One of challenges we had was our loan being locked in from the very beginning (before pandemic related price increases).
To save yourself some money out of pocket, structure your contract with certain things in mind. Our contract was structured based on our floor plan with all of the basics (framing, etc) in one category. All the things we needed to make choices about were in another category and we had allowances for those choices-- things like flooring, tile, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, and countertops. If your contract is structured in a similar way, I would encourage people to make choices early.
We spent more money on our cabinets than was allocated in our contract because we fell in love with some custom made Amish cabinets. We loved the features and customization of them. Our cabinet allowance was $40,000 (which is a perfectly normal allowance in most circumstances), but we spent $75,000 because we got those cabinet makers to make just about every piece of cabinetry-- all the vanities, built-ins, and the second kitchen in the lounge area.
Overages also included extra pea gravel which was $3500 more than we expected because our lot looked flat, but it wasn't as flat as we thought.
We also had to include a cold weather additive to our concrete during our foundation pour because it was poured in the winter.
As far as cost savings tips go, sourcing some of your own stuff is a good way to save. Taking advantage of Amazon Prime Day. We also looked for coupons and rebates. For major cost savings, design your house with a simple footprint as I talked about earlier (in Part 1 of the interview).
Michelle: Is there anything you would do differently if you built again?
Matt: I think we covered those things earlier. Everything I was nervous about during the build worked out wonderfully well. I was worried that some areas would be too small. When you first build and the foundation goes in, the house will feel so tiny. One thing that helped me was to remember that a tennis court is 2800 sq ft. When you look at a tennis court, you don't think 2800 sq ft, but it is. And when the house gets framed, it feels extremely small. People say the house will feel better (bigger) once it is drywalled, but I didn't agree. Even after drywall went up, in some rooms I thought, this does not feel big enough. But once you get your furniture in place, then rooms start to feel a little bit better.
One thing I may have done differently is expand the size of my man cave/lounge. Maybe I should have made that entertaining area larger. It's 24' x 32'. Maybe it should have been 24' x 40'.
While we're here, there are some choices I'd like to talk about that we made that I like that are a little bit different/unusual and outside the trends. We did nothing in our floor plan because everybody else did it that way. For example, instead of a walk-in butlers' pantry with counter that many people want in their new homes, we split our pantry into 3 separate, individual closets. That allows us to separate what we store in each pantry (separate pantry closets for food, Tupperware, small appliances). It goes against the grain, but I thought it was important to provide that separation for greater organization.
The other thing we did differently was our kitchen island. We love islands, but one thing we noticed is the kitchen island becomes a magnet for people. And when you go over to someone's house everyone stands around the island. You may have a few bar stools where a few people sit, but there are usually several people who end up standing for a couple of hours. So, to avoid this issue, we built a dining bench into the island and we have the table next to it. Instead of a stand-around island, we have an eat-in island with table which allows more seats for people.
The indoor outdoor feeling was important to us so adding the OpVue window and clear garage door was important to give an open feeling. We also aligned our front and back doors so you have a feeling of openness when you walk in the door.
There is a 4' x 6' trash room in the garage with one exterior door to the driveway and one interior door to the garage. I put that room there to hide our rolling trash cans and empty Amazon boxes that accumulate before trash day. Additionally, it lets me avoid having to always take the trash bags outside into the elements to the rolling trash cans.
Off our entertaining room there is a urinal in the garage that cuts down on number of people who had to go inside for the restroom. We also have a half bath with a door to the exterior which will serve as a pool bath.
Another important thing was getting the laundry room central to the house and connected to my wife's side of the master closet. Since we have jobs where we don't get dirty, we didn't need to combine the laundry room and mudroom. So I thought, the mudroom is the muddiest room in the house, so let's not put our clean clothes there. Instead, I wanted to get the laundry close to the closet.
Another cool thing is the Woodbridge bidet toilet seats with heated seats and heated water.
We started an Instagram account for the builder to take over (QuinnWhitneyBuild2022) that shows some pictures, but it wasn't updated as much as I had hoped. But as a gift to the contractors, we hired a real estate photographer to take professional pictures on the day of our walk through, just before we moved in, when everything was clean. They can use those photos on their websites.
Michelle: Are there any more challenges that you would warn us about?
Matt: If you have an appraisal issue (like we did, where your house appraises for less than you thought it would), just be prepared (to come up with the funds to make up the difference in price).
Michelle: What do you know now that you wish you had known before you built?
Matt: Assume nothing. Although you don't want to go overboard on fine details that probably won't bother you when you get in the house, but make sure things like dishwashers and other appliances have the electrical wiring required in the right place.
Also, specify dimensions, especially when they are not standard. We had a problem in our pantries. They built shelves with standard depths, but they didn't fill the depth of the pantry and were big enough for all we had to store. The contractor didn't ask what I wanted, he just built the shelves with the standard dimensions. Contractors will just assume you want things done like everyone else. So if you want something done a particular way, communicate that and make sure it's captured in their notes.
Michelle: What is the best part of building a custom home?
Matthew: Being able get things built the way you want them. For example, we added a 2'x2' floating shelf near the entrance where we can drop our mail. We are extremely fortunate to be able to build a custom home. This is important to keep in mind during times of frustration.
Michelle: You've been wonderful Matt. Remind us again of your social media accounts.
Also, tell us about your exterior paint colors. Your house dark and so sharp!
Matt: QuinnWhitneyBuild2022 (Instagram) and look for my post on the Building, Design and Decor Q & A for 5000+ SqFt Homes Facebook group. (You can also click here to look at Matt's house plan).
As far as the exterior paint, we went with an all black theme. The brick and board and batten are Sherwin Williams Iron Ore (a little more gray in sunlight) and all the trim and posts is painted with Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black.
Well that concludes our interview. Thanks for joining me. I hope Matt's story is encouraging to you. Special thanks for him for being so open with us and sharing his amazing, out-of-the-box ideas.
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Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.