Construction on our new house was about half done when the plumber went out for nearly two weeks because a cut on his finger was badly infected. That held up the electricians, who needed to run wire for all the lights, outlets and switches. That delayed the Sheetrock installation, which delayed the painters. The shell of the house stood empty. I was tempted to drive to the plumber’s house to personally flush his hand wound and administer antibiotics.
Now, after roughly 11 months, our new home is finally finished. While building a house from the ground up has been one of the best experiences of my life, I learned some tough and expensive financial lessons along the way. Here are some of the things I wish I knew before I built my house.
Starting. Takes. Forever.
Waiting to break ground was the most frustrating part. It involved three major hurdles: Getting the floor plans approved by the development’s architectural-review committee, which meets monthly. Getting the final contract from the builder. Getting a construction loan from the bank.
“We want clients to know there will be a lot of emotional ups and downs. It’s not a controlled environment—there’s weather, there’s subcontractors.”
I won’t bore you with the twists and turns, but all the paperwork pushed our start date back six months. We had already sold our old house in New York, and our new house in South Carolina wasn’t nearly finished. As a result, we rented a house near the construction site and put our furniture and other belongings in storage. In all, that set us back about $20,000. If I had known it would take so long, we probably would have listed the house later than we did. On the flip side, moving early meant we could visit the construction site every day and be part of the process.
Lots of expenses aren’t included in the price of the house.
We paid $20,000 for the land, not including property taxes and property-owners association fees. Before construction could begin there were some preliminary steps required by the POA, the builder and the county where we reside. We spent $1,400 for a required topographical map and tree inventory; $630 to outline the home’s footprint with stakes and tape; $800 for the architectural review; $3,000 to the development’s road-maintenance fund for wear and tear; $150 for a septic-system permit, and $450 to drill test holes for the septic system. These expenses couldn’t be included in the loan—because we didn’t have a loan yet. And the money was due before our New York house sold, so our financial adviser suggested selling some of our holdings to cover the upfront expenses.
Record rains delayed construction work. | Beth DeCarbo/The Wall Street Journal