Posts Tagged ‘moving’

When my daughter told me she wanted to try out to be a cheerleader I had to check myself. On one hand I was excited that she was interested in a new sport and I didn’t care about the outcome. On another hand I knew if I was going to be making that kind of investment I wanted her to take it seriously. But I didn’t want my serious approach to take the fun out of it.

She was driven from the start. Wanting to master different levels of tumbling. She practiced at home a lot, and I was willing to help. But I didn’t necessarily know the right way to teach her. Most of all I loved the spark that lit up inside her every time she got ready for practice and each time she took the stage at a competition.

There wasn’t a question that she’d continue to cheer after last season. She’d improved so much and I wanted to continue to help fuel her passion for the sport.

But one thing I didn’t share in all of the transition from last year was the sacrifice she had to make.

Starting back at public school was quite the adjustment for all of us. Gone were the days of sleeping in until 8am and getting started on the day. We now had a bus stop call of 6:35am. Bedtimes needed to be earlier and cheer practice was cutting into that.

Easy healthy lunch snacks for kids

Add to the fact that we were all adjusting to having a new baby in the home and packing to move a significant difference from the gym, I was feeling like a break would be a good idea.

Not a complete break–I definitely planned to help her as best as I could with getting her to lessons and classes to continue to improve her skills. But a break from the team. Which is her favorite part of it all.

It took several conversations, some convincing and bribes to get her to agree with the idea–Or see it as her own. Even still, walking through the doors to another gym wasn’t easy for her. And she misses her cheer sisters.

We’ve found a couple of cheer gyms for her to train at until the next season begins (tryouts should be sometime late spring). One is about an hour away in traffic (but really really good), and the other is just around the corner with super small classes that almost feel like private lessons.

On Friday we premiered a little update video of our vlog. Lil’ J helped me edit this. I’m hoping we can continue this little tradition and keep watching her improve. In fact, watching some of our old videos she said “EEEW!” in regards to her tumbling. It’s pretty amazing when your child can witness their own growth.

We took a little break from our mommy/daughter vlog, and eventually, a lot of the practicing at home slowed to a halt. But as if on cue, when I had hoped to climb out of my new baby/moving/new home adjusting just after my birthday… We are kicking back into gear and back at it.

This girl has big goals and I hope to help her reach them.

It’s such a gift to watch our children grow into the people they’re meant to be. I can’t stop her from growing up, but I can be here for it. And I’m so here for this.

Not so fast 2019. I can appreciate the fact that you’re here, but I must say I wasn’t ready. I was having a jolly old time in 2018 and then you snuck up on me.

Last week is a bit of a blur. Usually New Years is one of my favorite holidays. I love making new goals and starting anew. But these last two years I’ve been a little off. Last year because I was in a first trimester haze. And this year because we just made a big move, with two kids and a baby. A move we were extremely blessed to make. And I’m SO thankful for.

The good news is I know from experience that it’s ok if you aren’t ready to jump in with a new gym membership and resolutions to check in every day. Or if you don’t hit the ground running on 1/1/19. Last year it took me a few months to feel up to making goals but once I finally did I was ready to roll.

I don’t think it’ll take months for me to feel ready to get going. I actually am hoping I’ll be ready by my birthday next week, or the end of the month at the latest.

I stopped making resolutions years ago, but I always make new year goals. Right now my goal is to set my goals next month.

Until then I’m trying to unpack the last dozen or so boxes and get set up in this new home of ours. I’m still basking in gratitude and relishing in some lingering holiday cheer. Still glowing in the wonderful aura of 2018.

Once again I’m wondering how this next year can possibly top the last. But who knows, I’ve said that before too.


We Did It!

Two of my sisters came over to watch Lil’ J and Big T as my husband and I set out for the events of Closing Day. I’m capitalizing it like a holiday because it really was a day-long process.

It seemed fitting that Lee Lee was the one to stick by us all day since she’s the one that really brought this whole thing on. Third child. Bigger home. But since we were going for the bigger house it felt right to go for the whole shebang. To stop suppressing a dream I’d shoved aside for years. A dream to have land to learn, live and play on. To run around and get dirty in. And space for our kids to grow and have all their friends over.

It wasn’t until I decided that for sure, this was going to happen that things started to fall into place. Then it just grew and grew from there.

We wanted a home with about an acre of land, we got two.

We wanted to save and put 50% down and we put 51% (this doesn’t seem like much but trust me, it is).

We have everything we love about our current home but an office for me to work in. A real playroom space for the kids. And a media room where I’m certain a majority of our time will be spent crammed in there together.

Walking through the home one final time and seeing the finishing touches going up gave me chills.

I could barely contain my excitement as I walked through the finished kitchen. And when I looked outside in the backyard and saw the huge boulders that I was tripping over earlier this year, moved and lined around the beautiful oak trees I almost cried.

My dream house. We did it.

On the way to closing my husband delicately handed me the cashiers check that is literally our life savings and we joked about our reactions if it were to fly out the car window.  

At the title office we signed loads and loads of paperwork and accepted many congratulatory handshakes. But it wasn’t until I was handed the keys and a bottle of champaign (ha!) that it began to sink in.

We did it.

My husband and I drove to our new house and dropped off a couple of TVs and security cameras to be installed tomorrow. And after seeing a few spiders scurrying by I scheduled pest control. The rest of our things get moved tomorrow.

Before then we will bring the kids by with a couple of items of their choosing to begin our lives here. But we have one more night at this beloved home of ours before we start our new adventure.

Every single day I wake up and say a prayer of gratitude for another day of life. Waking up in our new home will be a daily reminder of the incredible power of setting goals, visualizing and working hard and making things happen.

You’d better believe I’ll be reminding my kids of our story. How their parents got married as young college students, donated blood plasma for savings and saved and saved for 14 years then built the house of our dreams.

As we drove away, keys in hand it hit us. Wow. I looked over at my husband wondering what wise words of wisdom he may add to the moment. He looked at me and said “We started at the bottom, now we’re here.” Only he would quote Drake in a moment like this.

We are. We did it.

This isn’t the end of our story. Though the house has the bones of our dreams with just the right amount of rooms and yard, we didn’t spend much on builder upgrades. We got basic flooring, lighting and paint. We don’t own a kitchen table anymore (ours broke and I haven’t found the right one to replace it) so we are using a $39 folding table for now.

Our well worn loved family room furniture is going to have a new place in our media room, which means no living room furniture for now.

We’ve never really done much changing or improvements after moving into a place but I hope this time will be different. Maybe I’ll learn some handy skills, or get brave and dabble in some DIY. We own the place so we can do what we want!

I have visions of built in cabinets, hard floors downstairs, a new refrigerator and beautiful painted walls. Some fruit trees and a garden in the backyard. And a playscape that’s not falling to pieces. One our baby can swing on and the big kids will still enjoy. My husband wants a basketball hoop to teach the kids to shoot on, and eventually a sports court in our backyard.

Maybe this will be the home I finally learn to cook in… Or maybe let’s not get carried away.

We got the keys to our dream house, and it’s going to be a long road to making it a home. But what’s the rush? We are going to take it slow and enjoy the journey and for now, celebrate the fact that we did it!

Waiting for this house to be completed strangely feel a lot like waiting for a baby. And I would know, I’ve done both this year. Our “due date” is December 27th but the builder said this is a fluid date. Meaning it could be the 28th or possibly the 31st. We’re in the third trimester though, and all of the pieces are mostly put together. We’re just putting on some extra fat now and… Ok, this analogy is getting weird.

Basically we’re in the final countdown. I can sorta officially say we close next week. Unless they tell me otherwise. Our walkthrough is this Wednesday and last I checked we still didn’t have landscaping, our irrigation system or my master bathtub! I’m planning to go through that place with a fine tooth comb when we’re checking everything out, so there may be more things added to that list.

When we were building our current home I’m not even sure I opened every cabinet door. I know for sure I didn’t check all the outlets. This time around I’m gonna be charging all kinds of things. Messing with light switches as my kids would, and maybe even warm up some cookies in the oven.

Though we have already scheduled movers and cable it’s not hard to push them out a few days if need be. We’d love to ring in the new year in our new home, but not at the expense of missing things, or letting potential mistakes go.

Our realtor will also be with us so that’ll help. If you’ve ever built a house and had things you didn’t notice were mistakes until after the fact please let me know so I can remember to check.

Most of our house is in boxes. Like seriously. I just started adding Christmas packages to the stack of boxes and the kids can’t tell the difference. Is that kitchen appliances or a giant toy? Who knows?! All the gifts are hidden in plain site. (They are sitting on some here). Hopefully I’ll remember exactly where I stacked them on Christmas eve or we may be unpacking some forgotten Christmas gifts after we move in.

Surprisingly, I feel like I’m handling all of this pretty well. I’m meditating every morning before I start my day and I’m trying to keep things in perspective. This state of chaos is temporary. I won’t be pregnant forever.

When my husband and I met at the ripe ages of 18 and 21 we were so bright eyed, bushy tailed, and terribly naive. We fell in love and wanted to get married between semesters of college. We wanted to do it around December 16th but some relative in my then fiance’s huge family had already called dibs on that date, so we settled for the 23rd.

“Two days before Christmas? Do you really want to do that?” People asked us.

Yes, we did. It was a brilliant idea. … Or so we thought.

Nearly 14 years and three kids later we’ve realized that was not a bright idea. It was actually kind of a crazy idea. But it worked for our situation. And thankfully our parents were kind enough to show up.

Know what else is a crazy idea? Moving over Christmas. Yet here we are. If you see me share any cute pictures of my home this year know that this is what’s really going on behind the scenes…

Definitely not making the cut for the ‘gram.

We decided early on that even if we closed before Christmas we would wait to move until after. And trust me, I know this could be A LOT worse. Had we had to show and try to sell our home in the middle of all this I’d be curled in a ball in the corner right now crying and unconsolable. Thankfully we do have a little breathing room and flexibility. But still… This time of year is a lot.

Last year at a Talk Early summit we heard from a home organization expert, Rachel Rosenthal. When things are disorganized it can impact your stress level. Especially this time of year when we have a slew of notes and requests from teachers. So many dates and events to remember and so on and so on. One of the things she suggests is setting up a command center.

In her words:

Command centers are a low-tech, high-reward system that will cut down on the time you spend coordinating everyone’s busy schedules. The command center is where we keep our calendar and is a way to take stock of what we have going on in our lives so that we know the fundamentals of who, what, when, where, why, and how. I have one designated go-to spot for everything.

Right now everything gets tossed into a pile on my kitchen counter and I inevitably miss things that I forget to add to our digital calendar. I’m not really attempting to be awesome this Christmas BUT next year, I’m totally going to have it together with a command center in my mudroom.

I started packing a few weeks ago, and I’ve just been doing a little bit each week. Yesterday I tackled everything in the bathrooms. A large part of the packing process is getting rid of things we don’t need. In the past when we’ve moved we’ve taken A LOT of stuff that we didn’t need, so I’m trying to narrow things down a bit.

Here was what I pulled from my bathroom yesterday. Everything on the bed, and these boxes to the side of my bed all came from my bathroom cabinets and drawers. There’s actually even more than this that wasn’t pictured. It was nuts.

This is what I narrowed it down to:

Now picture that going on in every area of the house. From clothes, to toys, to kitchen supplies. It’s been a process but I’m so glad I took the time to go through it all and didn’t just pack everything. Once we move in I’ll worry about getting them unpacked and into neat containers.

We are going to ring in a new year in our new home and I’m looking forward to having so much more order in our new space. Granted, I know myself and that I’m just not an extremely neat and organized person, but I am trying to do better.

With a house in boxes, a moody 4-month-old, a slew of family coming to town, and a move a few days after Christmas. There’s a lot going on, and the timing isn’t great. And it sometimes feels like a lot to manage. But I get up every morning, meditate and remind myself “I can do this!”

How do you keep yourself mentally together over the holidays? 

This conversation was written in partnership with TalkEarly, and organization focused on having healthy conversations around alcohol responsibility among our families. For more resources on having open and honest conversations with your children please visit TalkEarly.org

.I was going through some old papers when I stumbled upon a small notebook we’ve had for years. I opened it and flipped through the pages to see our newlywed budget from nearly 14 years ago.

My husband had an athletic scholarship for so we had a huge discount on rent, and we tried to be as frugal as we could in other ways.

from humble beginnings to dream home: interracial couple newlyweds

Even back then we were extremely aware of money. Not that we had a lot, or much at all. But we were careful not to spend more than we had, and to save what we could. Even if that was just a few dollars a month.

We would separate our money from each budget category and put the cash for the month into an envelope. When money for food was gone it was gone, and we had to eat what was already in the house until the budget reset the next month.

I created a regular meal plan for us to make sure we stayed under budget. There was Sonic 5 burgers for $5 night. We split that third burger, and we rarely splurged on fries.

There was $5 pizza night. And we ate a lot of ramen noodles and grilled cheese.

At the end of the month whatever was left over we could use as fun money, or save.

I remember being so excited when I’d saved enough to buy us our first couch–A futon from the local thrift store. It was no more than $40.

The first automatic payment I set up was to ourselves… A $75 auto draft from our checking account to our savings account. We still have it set up to this day.

Though we no longer use envelopes, and our food budget is much larger than $150, we’ve continued to live by the same disciplines for years. Living below what we make. Saving everything we can.

I think part of that had to do with having a scarcity complex.–Being so worried we would run out of money.

When we transferred schools, lost our rent discount and were both finishing school. We applied for any job we could get, and we were excited when we both got on campus jobs as custodians. Excited to earn on the “higher end of pay”–Something like $7/hr. We earned and saved extra money by donating blood plasma on a regular basis–Two to three times a week, or as much as they allowed. The cookies and juice at the plasma center were a midday meal I looked forward to.

How a leap of faith brought us together and made me believe some things may be fate.

There were times where both of us had jobs, just one of us had a job, and for some scary moments when neither of us were working.

We learned to live extremely conservatively. And as our salaries increased, our lifestyle, for the most part, stayed the same.

Afraid that something could go wrong and we may not always be able to afford a car payment, we saved and paid cash for our cars (except one time, and after that we said never again).

We use credit cards for rewards points but pay them off every single month. And we try our best to live off one income, and save the other.

Discipline is doing what you want. Even when you don't want to. Click To Tweet

When I set out for the goal of finding our dream home I was dumbstruck by the prices of what we wanted. It seemed unwise to set a goal so high. Especially when we were used to spending so much less. And I didn’t want to be “house poor.”–Where we’re barely able to afford our home, much less anything else to go with it.

But I thought what if we saved enough to pay for a lot of it up front… That would change everything.

Our payments would be comfortable.  And we’d prove to ourselves that we are able to afford our dream and continue to live off similar monthly bills.

We were paying extra on our current home, and those extra payments, along with fees on another property (we’ve since sold) add up to a similar monthly expense.

I did a lot of math and discovered that saving to put half down would be that magic number. To upgrade our home but not our bills.

Now we’re less than three weeks away from closing. Almost across the finish line. We will spend one last Christmas in our beautiful house where we’ve made a home, then ring in a new year at our new place.

It still doesn’t feel real. I don’t know if that feeling will hit once we sign on the dotted line, or when the moving truck pulls away. But those cute college students who split a third cheeseburger every Monday night have gone so much further than I’d ever dreamed. And I’m so proud of them.

So we’re moving next month.

I can say that now. Yes, let’s take a moment to freak out about that.

We still don’t have a closing date set in stone. The builder seems to think it’ll be mid-December. Mid to me means December 15th, but I haven’t gotten word that we’re 45 days out just yet. 45 days out would put us at December 24th. So I’m predicting it’ll be more like late December. Maybe even the last day of December.

Regardless we’ve decided we’re spending one last Christmas in our beloved home here (albeit with plenty of boxes) and then we’ll ring in the new year in our new home. We’ll list this one for sale hopefully the first week of January.

I’m beginning to freak out, just a tad. About many many things. Mainly these seven things:

I haven’t started packing

At all (is that terrible?). However, I have been working with a decluttering coach and going through my house category by category and eliminating about half of our stuff. So far I’ve done clothes, books, papers, movies, pet and craft stuff. I still have a looooong way to go but my plan is to do one to two categories a week until mid-December. Then frantically pack everything else in about 2 weeks. I’m hopeful packing will be easy since I’ll have already gotten rid of so much stuff and I’ll be leaving behind everything we want to pack.

I’m worried I’ll miss something

The house is really coming along and it’s finally starting to feel real. We have trim, tile, and paint and cabinets. We just got countertops too. I’m trying to drive out and see it a couple times a week instead of just once a week now. There are still things we need to decide on and I’m worried I’ll miss something.

There are tons of trees in our backyard but I’d love some of the brush closer to the house to be cleared out around the oak trees and set ourselves up for what we envision our backyard to be. Our lot goes back 875ft so we could literally camp a ways back and not see the house. But closer to our home we have big plans. As septic and propane tanks go in and the yard gets done, I want to make sure we don’t overlook anything inside or outside of the house.

Carrying two mortgages

Though we’re extremely fortunate to put a down payment on our new home without using equity from our current home, our savings will be taking a HUGE hit. So we’re trying to find that delicate balance of achieving my goal of paying half up front. But also still having extra funds for emergencies, new things for the house, and potentially two mortgages for a few months. Our market seems to be doing well, so hopefully it’ll stay that way as we prepare to sell and we can replenish our savings once we sell.

We have no place to sit or eat

Our kitchen table is literally broken, and our super dark but comfy living room furniture is going up into our theater room. That means downstairs we don’t have seating. I *did* order a camel colored sofa I love and worked with a designer at a Pottery Barn to pick out chairs to go with it but they won’t arrive until the end of January.

Via Pottery Barn: My new couch looks kinda like this

Via Pottery Barn: I ordered two of these chairs but they’re a little darker and hopefully super durable

Even when they do though, there will definitely be no eating on those pricey pretty pieces of seating. So I need to decide on bar stools and a kitchen table stat. Which brings me to my next freak out.

Designing and Decorating

I did mention how this totally makes me crazy right? I’m terrified all of my design choices and I am not skilled in this area at all. However, the last few weeks I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of HGTV and I feel like I’m finally starting to understand things or at least what I like.

Now I’m looking at pendent lights for the kitchen and searching for the perfect kitchen table and barstools. It’s finally getting FUN since I’m more aware of what I like but things add up fast, and I am stressed about choosing the right thing. I think one important fact I need to remember is it all doesn’t have to be done right away. I can take my time. Maybe we will even move our current table so we can eat someplace and I won’t feel rushed into choosing something.

Deciding on this space

For the most part I’ve stopped second guessing my design choices. I’m more or less planning fun ways to work with what I’ve chosen. However, we have a big cut out in the corner of family room that I initially thought would be the fireplace. Turns out the fireplace isn’t there and our TV won’t fit in the niche. So we are moving the large TV upstairs in the game room and the TV from our bedroom will go above the fireplace and we will make a nice cabinet/floating shelves situation there. OR build in our TV there in a amour kind of thing. Here’s what I’m thinking right now:

I’ve changed my mind about this little area no less than 7 times. But I do think I like this. I like the idea of hiding my TV but I also like the idea of displaying photos on these shelves. People say a mantle is fun to decorate but I think this area would be too. If you have suggestions please let me know!


It feels like just a month ago we were picking out our lot and deciding if we were doing this. I can’t believe how quickly this process has flown by (having a newborn in the middle of it all helps). This is the busy time of year for bloggers, which I’m so thankful for. But I’m still getting used to a baby, limited sleep and being a mom of three. Our schedules are jam packed as it is before adding in the move and all these other decisions and loan processing things before then. Plus there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas to plan for. I do love being busy so these next couple months are sure to fly by. I just hope I won’t be too banged up on the other side of it all.

Wish me luck! And if I seem like even more of a hot mess than usual… Well, now you’ll know why.

When it came to planning my wedding I really didn’t care what went down. I was just excited to marry the man I loved, and I wanted a fabulous dress. Whether or not I had bridesmaids, fancy flowers or a tiered cake was not on my priority list. I was no where near being a bridezilla but I think I’m making up for that now as we build a house.

Maybe it’s because I was almost 19 (yes, you can read all about my being a young bride here). Or maybe I just am generally a pretty low-key person. Either way, I think I’m more than making up for it now as we build my dream home.

Builder upgrades worth getting. 7 Tips for new home design center choices

Knowing when you’ve found “the one”

I’m not going to say choosing a house is quite like choosing the right spouse, but it can be pretty stressful.

We started the house hunting a couple of months ago. And by we, I mean I. Waking up to a new house listed on Zillow was a great start to the day. I toured a few houses with my very patient realtor, but nothing seemed quite right. I actually had more luck browsing previously sold homes to get an idea about what was out there but not on the market. After a month or so I started to feel a bit frustrated and like either I’d never find the perfect house and have to settle for close enough or that the perfect place would pop up but I’d be too scared to go for it. But still, deep down I just knew the right house would appear at the right time.

I’d just finished lamenting to a friend about this fear, but when I left her house I’d decided to go visit a neighborhood I’d seen before and chat with a different builder about their plans. I walked in with one floor plan in mind, and walked out with one I hadn’t considered but had already fallen in love with.

By then my husband miraculously had come around to the idea of moving one more time. Admittedly when we were building the home we live in now, it was suppose to be our forever home. But that was when we had just had our second (and thought to be last) child. And when I was preparing to be a stay at home mom (not knowing my blog would become my full-time job). Now we’re taking everything we love about this home and bringing it along for this new one, but adding some things we wish we had:

A much bigger yard (2 acres as compared to our teeny tiny lot). Slightly larger bedrooms, still all on the first floor. Plus an upstairs playroom and theater room. We will have a study, formal dining room, a huge utility room and a three car garage. So my there’s one for his car, one for his gym and one for me to park. That was just one of the requirements in a place we were looking for.

Builder upgrades worth getting. 7 Tips for new home design center choices

Once we picked our plans there was a bit of back and forth with the builder about structural upgrades and price (yes, you can negotiate the price of new builds too), and finally we all came to an agreement. This is where my housezilla really started to show. I want to do things right, and right the first time. This means a bit of obsessive research, calculating and planning.

A couple weeks ago my husband and I had our first scheduled meeting at the design center. They’d booked us for three appointments. Three hours at the first one, two at the second and another two at the third. If you’ve ever built a house before you know how these appointments go. There’s an office building full of beautiful options–most of them upgrades that come with an extremely large markup. I spent night after night trying to research what options are worth upgrading with the builder and what upgrades you can do for a fraction of the cost later.

The thing is you’ll come across a lot of articles that say upgrade everything you can now and just wrap it all into your mortgage. But I don’t want to be paying off those upgrades plus interest for 30 years, especially when there’s a large markup. So I made a spreadsheet of upgrade wants and estimated costs. We’d already spent a lot on structural upgrades that we knew we wouldn’t be able to change later, so choosing carpet over hard floors for now isn’t a big deal for us.

These were our structural (and lot) upgrades we made:

Premium lot upgrade (to a larger, more flat lot with nice trees)

2nd floor game room

2nd floor media room


Bay windows in the master bedroom

Level kitchen island (a custom change we asked the builder to change)

Builder upgrades worth getting. 7 Tips for new home design center choices

(I totally jacked that sold sign cause ours wasn’t up yet. But don’t worry, I put it back after snapping this photo). 

Here’s what we’ve added to design upgrades:

Water softener loop (to hook up our water softener too. A must-have for us). I over-estimated the cost for this, so we were able to add in some other upgrades we liked.

Getting tile laid on the diagonal (to make the kitchen and bathroom areas look larger). We debated this upgrade depending on price but it came in lower than I planned so we added it in.

Blinds installed throughout the house. At $2100 I’m still debating pricing this out at Home Depot and canceling this order this week.

Tub upgrade. A strange priority for us. The design center wanted to charge us $1485 to simply add jets to a tub but couldn’t tell us what tub we are slated to get, or how large it is. Considering you can buy a really nice huge tub for that amount or slightly more, we passed. We asked for a 6ft tub in place of the slated 5ft tub with jets. I did some research and sent some preferred options to the design center in our order preference. They sent that to the builder and luckily they came back with a reasonable price for this upgrade and we went for it.

We added in a few other things like blinds inside the back door, a pots and pan drawer under the oven, and some $77 sponge holders under the sink. Adding in the electrical upgrades (prewiring for our projector, surround sound and extra ethernet/CAT5 and extra outlets) and we were still below my preferred budget. Last minute I wound up adding in three pennate lights over the kitchen island and it put us a little over but get this…

Total, I was hoping to stay below $10k in design upgrades. Going in I didn’t want to mention that and make everyone laugh (the average customer spends around $50k+ in upgrades). Our designer told us we set a record for the least amount spent on upgrades for a Coventry and I’m pretty darn proud of that. I think we also set the record for being done the quickest. We chose everything so fast we were able to cancel one of our 2 hour appointments. We came in a little over $11k but we got all of our priorities and a little more.

Advice for visiting your builder design center

1. Research as much as you can, ask for pricing: Builders can be so secretive about prices beforehand. I asked for a price list before going in and ours told me they didn’t have one, and that they don’t have a website. In this day and age I feel like that is just cray. It’s not just Coventry that works this way though. Plenty of builders have a similar process. Gehan did give us a price list once we were under contract so we had a general idea. But if your designer doesn’t do this, there are other ways to be prepared…

2. Go to a design center preview: This was a HUGE help for me. I went up the week before our deign center meeting with my realtor and though we didn’t get to see upgrade prices, we did get to see all of our builder’s standards. So I was able to pick out our carpet, kitchen cabinets, counter tops, and other things without agonizing over each decision with a designer over my shoulder. I told her what we’d already picked out, and we tweaked a few things. For instance, the carpet I initially chose was too yellowish. And I changed out a large tile backsplash for subway tile.) This also made it so the first five hours of design meetings was done in just two. Our designer called my husband and I a treat!

3. Decide what you want at move in vs what you can wait for: We spent way more on structural upgrades and knew we’d hold off on plenty of our design upgrades. We knew the upgrades that were must haves for us (like the perfect tub, and a water loop) and waited on others. One of the most expensive upgrades when you’re building is flooring. Since we are having a baby we decided to hold off on getting hard floors throughout until she’s walking. And enjoy the carpet for a few years. Then upgrade to the flooring we really want for a fraction of the price later with cash.

4. Phone a friend (or an expert): I called a few local electricians and floor people to get prices on upgrades we may want later, and to get an idea on what’s worth doing now. I was told TV mounting prewiring is a waste of money, but audio prewiring is absolutely worth doing now (though still ridiculously overpriced). A couple examples of expensive upgrades you can DIY: Light dimmers were $230 from the electrician. You can buy your own dimmer switch for $13. A peep hole for the front door is $105. You can use your own drill and put a peep hole kit in for $9. An in-home surge protector is $800 from the electrician. The exact same one is $129 at Home Depot. Each basic ceiling fan was $395 from the builder. We can get much nicer fans and install them ourselves after the fact for much less.

Builder upgrades worth getting. 7 Tips for new home design center choices

5. Have an idea of your style: I’ve read it’s good to have an idea of your style beforehand as you help make your design decisions. My design style is “Traditional classic with a touch of modern.” It’s pretty redundant but it makes sense in my head. I didn’t want to go super modern and all white everything. I want my kitchen to look pretty and charming, but not extremely memorable. We want them to like it, then forget it the moment they’ve left (catch the reference?). This is one reason I went with a beveled subway tile backsplash, but passed on laying it in a herringbone pattern.

Builder upgrades worth getting. 7 Tips for new home design center choices

6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get answers in writing: There were quite a few things we were unclear about that made a significant difference in our design costs. We thought the home was prewired for ceiling fans, then were told it wasn’t, then finally told it was. We were initially told the home would have brick and stone on the front (which I was really excited about). Then at the design center they said stone accents were a $2500 upgrade. I clarified with the builder’s agent and she confirmed the stone is a requirement for the neighborhood. And therefore not an upgrade.

We wound up saving about $3000 in design upgrades just asking for clarification with these things. We also considered ripping out the tub after moving in to put in our own. But luckily they worked with us on getting the one we wanted even though it didn’t initially appear to be an option.

7. Don’t overthink it: I’m normally extremely indecisive, but with these choices it was easiest to go with a quick gut decision. The longer I debated a choice the harder it was. Mostly because there aren’t really wrong choices or many things I’ll regret. There is one decision I made that I changed before our last appointment and that’s having a 60/40 split in my kitchen sink vs a 50/50 I previously chose. I couldn’t remember how it was set up at our current house but I do like having one larger side.

I know this is A LOT of information but I hope some people find it helpful. We still have a long way to go (we haven’t even broke ground yet). But I thought it would be fun to document the process from the beginning. I searched and searched for something like this before our first design meeting and didn’t really see much information out there. So hopefully this can help someone else with similar questions.

Have you ever built a home? What other advice can you give about this process?

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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