I think most people picture building a house much like other adult life ideas. We think it will be customizeable, fantastic, and affordable. Let me tell you, however, that building a house isn’t quite like all that imagining.
If you’re going to be crushed by this dose of reality, head over to one of my happier posts and keep assuming life is a bed of roses and all that.
For the rest of you brave souls, we’ll take it in steps like a house plan. Or, more like a how-to on naïve decisions.
I used to think anyone who built a house drew up the plans himself and ended up with a castle. In our dating years, my husband and I would tell each other what amazing features our house would have if we ever got to build one.
There was a fireman’s pole, down to a ball pit. I’m sure I pictured a turret or two. Also, since we were teenagers, we planned a secret, underground path out to our secluded makeout gazebo in the backyard. Priorities, you know.
In actuality, the builders are the masters of it all. Whatever company you go with already has blueprints for buildings that are proven to not collapse on anyone, nor cause extra man hours of tunneling, and (most importantly) that their contracting companies have experience building a hundred times.
If the building company in charge of your future abode allows for changes or upgrades, it will have most of them arranged in packages. Again, they don’t want to deviate too much from what they know works.
Let’s say, for the sake of imagination, they were on board with a secret passage. First, they would have you agree to fork over a few extra thousand. Then, their design team would create new blueprints that have to be approved all over the place (by the city, namely). Finally, you’d decide you need to scrap the idea because putting toilets in the house is probably a better use of your funds.
So much for a ball pit.
Okay, so I knew building a house was probably expensive. I hadn’t ever planned on being able to do it in my life. Some stars aligned, and the husband got a bit extra from a contracting job, we sold our current place, and I was pregnant at the time so anything could have happened and I wouldn’t remember it.
I already mentioned the cost of package upgrades, though that was just the surface of an enormous iceberg populated by narwhals. EVERYTHING costs extra to touch. We’re talking countertops, cupboard exteriors (and the detail and stain you want on them), fixtures, carpet (or other floors), under porch cold storage, extra shower head in the enormous shower space, better landscaping than topsoil and a few flowers, windows and surrounds, ceilings, finished basement, kitchen appliances, etc. etc. etc.
Let’s say you don’t listen to any sales pitches or wife beggings, and you go for the very basic price they advertised to draw suckers like us in. Still, there is most often a HUGE down payment required when you all sign the agreement. For our place, it was 20% of the house cost.
If your math is a bit rusty, that means you need to pay them $60,000 for a $300,000 house. Do you have $60,000 laying around? Better look into selling your hair. Maybe your teeth.
And, let’s just say you got past all that and made it into the house with all your stuff. You may notice that the basement is not finished, nor is the backyard, that your neighbors are walking all over the property line because you didn’t build a fence; AND they can all see you perfectly well because you need to buy window coverings, too.
I understand The Dream, because I went through the whole wishing and house-building thing myself. (That’s how I got all this insider information.) My husband and I walked through existing houses, and just couldn’t help feeling the fresh draw of a completely new, clean floorplan. Why settle for an older domicile, when we *could* have this better thing?
Existing houses have their problems, but at least the blinds are already on.
And, even though our house is fewer than five years old, we’ve already had to replace the water heater, built-in microwave, and main sprinkler valve. The clothes washer dying was a bonus, not to mention the garage door mechanism.
Maybe someday we’ll recover enough to afford curtains over the blinds.