I mentioned in my Love Story post, that my husband, Keith and I decided to commit to buying a house together only about 8 months into our relationship. However when we first set out to buy a home, we never had any intention on building.
At the time we began our house shopping, our selection of homes didn’t expand further than the neighborhood of where we were currently living. At that time we were living with Keith’s grandparents in a gated country club community. Inside the gates there were large homes, and a set of townhome style homes referred to as villas. Our search started here because we loved the idea of staying close to family and we could drive our golf cart everywhere. We started negotiating on a villa in no time, however the more we started negotiating, the more unsettled I became. I was having buyers remorse before the purchase, mainly because I was concerned we would become house broke. Also at that time we had teamed up with a terrible mortgage broker who kept making us excuses and taking to long to get us information. So we parted ways with him and decided to use someone our realtor worked closely with and recommended. We decided to walk away from the villa and opened our minds to seeing what the areas around us had to offer.
Once we opened up our minds to explore outside the gates, we saw a half dozen homes at least. The first home we saw was full of character, some updates but needed a little more TLC and was further away towards the rural area, near the lakes, which I loved the idea of being more secluded and close to the water. Although I was sold on it, Keith was not, so we moved on. House two sat practically on top of the neighbors, so it was an instant no for me, but its only redeeming quality was a his and hers closet. But that house was a no for me, so we continued our search and moved onto see a home that was packed full of positives, it had a pool, large plot of land, cul-de-sac, and great bones with lots of upgrade potential, but had no master closet. I mean really how was I suppose to live without a closet? That was a huge no. Our fifth home was a full fixer upper, barely move in ready but it checked every box and I was totally up for the fixing up. But the price was high and we would need a lot to start with, I still wonder what it would have been like to take that risk in buying that home. And as we wrap this up, our sixth home we saw was actually in our current neighborhood, it was only a couple years old but it was a strange layout and just didn’t drawn me in, and it took a lot because I believe I was so torn up about not jumping on the fifth house. Our realtor knew she needed to shock me with something exciting, so she asked us to take a look at the model home in the neighborhood. We walked through and I was excited, it wasn’t going to be a fixer upper but a new build from the ground up, and I was the one making the decisions. I was amped up with excitement. Keith and I made our decision within 24 hours and started the buying and building process.
When building a house, there are a lot of decisions that one will have to make and there are going to be a lot of mistakes made as well (mainly my mistakes). Now Keith and I opted to purchase a home from Highland Homes, they have a variety of floor plans with different layouts and styles and they allow us the opportunity to customize many features and finishes. We also chose Highland Homes, simply because we went against sound advice and didn’t look at other builders in the area, big mistake and my first of many mistakes! Now I realize the importance of seeing other options because I wouldn’t always wonder if some other builder would have done better. But let me back up as I am getting ahead of myself now. We spent about a month working through all the financing department, and getting that worked out. One of the big draws for us was the incentive that HH was offering at that particular time, (their incentives change regularly) if we purchased we received $10,000 to use for whatever we wanted. Keith and I chose to use it towards closing cost and upgrades aka chosen modifications. The first round of choices came right at the beginnging, such as the floor plan, which is based solely on what you can afford and all upgrades will be adding on top of that base price. Then you choose the lot you want the house to be built on, this was my second mistake because we chose the “free”, no additional cost lot, which seemed to be acceptable except something kept nagging inside my mind that we should have splurged on a corner lot. Either way I had pushed the thoughts aside but I learned later on choosing our specific lot meant we would be surrounded by all the annoying neighbors. The next easy choice included the elevation of the home, for example how do we want the outside of our home to look like.
In the beginning those were the only choices we made, fast forward a couple months and we were called to set up an appointment at the design studio for the builder. This place is where the magic happens so to speak, we were able to choose all of our modifications and upgrades. I was excited about this place and the potential, however I was very concerned because the company limits your meeting to an hour and a half. This is by far not enough time because one you don’t know all the modifications available to you and two you have to make quick decisions. Now you’re probably thinking that should be easy to make quick decisions but logically, Keith and I are 9 months into a fresh relationship and these are decisions we have to make together and will require a lot of compromise. Its like putting the spender and the saver in the relationship to the ultimate test. In our relationship, I can spend like its endless and he is great at pinching the penny. Plus I grew up in a construction family, so I had seen the inside of many design studios with endless options, so this was a playground for me but each item I touched would have a $ sign attached to it. Anyway we were not equipped in that design studio, because as Keith has never seen options like this before, he couldn’t imagine the need for upgrades, so he had to trust my vision in a lot of ways, and I had to trust his calculations and hence compromising. Personally, in my opinion, HH sets you up for failure because you get limited time and do not know all the upgrade options. If they want to improve they should provide a list of upgrade options, but thats my opinion. Even with the limit on time, our design studio specialist only had us on the calendar for the day so she was willing to extend our time and we needed it because every decision was an extensive discussion. But we walked out of that studio with some great options.
After we finished at the design studio, there was nothing else to do but wait until they started the building process. The building process took 9 months total, which normally they say its about 6-8 months but they were behind on building because they had issues with contractors, and between holidays and weather our building took some additional time. We had our first walk through of our home 6-7 months in and met with our construction liasion. One thing the company is bad at is information, they are not transparent and they are not very informative. Then about 8 months in we had another walk through this walk through was to check off all the items that needed to be fixed before we could close on the house. Keith and I walked around and noted every wall, door and base board that needed to be repainted. I pointed out every spot the cleaners needed to clean and then finally I realized the master bathroom tile was done extremely poorly. I asked for that to be fixed and they made up excuses, they said it passed their inspection and would not be redone, then the window in the kitchen was crooked but again it passed all the inspections so to them was exceptable. Although I was extremely upset, not much option because it was me versus this big machine. Keith and I moved in a month later, rooms were not painted, cleaners didn’t clean a thing because as we were doing our closing inside the model home we could see the cleaners arrive at our home and within 10 minutes walk back out. What can you clean in 10 minutes?
Either way we finalized the paperwork and took our final photos and were ready to move into our 4 bedroom, 2 bath open floorplan home. We were excited to start our lives together, so as we popped champagne in our driveway, Keith snuck in a sweet surprise and proposed to me. Therefore, all the annoyances of the builders and building had washed away, because a new exciting journey or planning a wedding and getting married was set before me. We are grateful for our first home but already a year in we are exploring other options, and open to the potential to so many other living opportunites and options.
In final words, if you are planning to building a home, do not let my experience deter you, there are great builders, Highland Homes has done great work, for example, my neighbors and friends a couple blocks down love their home. So my experience will not be the same as yours, but be sure to check out multiple companies so you have a variety to chose the right onw. If you are planning to purchase a resale home, be sure to team up with an excellent realtor, we were fortunate enough to have a great realtor on our side who did a lot of the heavy lifting for us with the company, which is what we needed.
If you are in need of a realtor, here are a few I recommend.
In the Orlando area, reach out to our realtor, Kimberly Towe.
In the North Atlanta area, check out my best friend and sister, Kayla Price.
In the South Florida area, my amazing brother, Stewart Green.