After nine months of carrying the big load – multi-tasking and watching the gestation process of birthing a brand new home – I am now sitting at the breakfast bar in my kitchen, writing my final blog.
I moved in last week and I am enjoying the final weeks of summer living in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
On the first morning in my new home, I walked outside with a cup of coffee. I could smell the salt water and then I saw, right there on the front lawn, the tiny bluebird of happiness. I knew I was home.
While I am a little proud of myself, I DID NOT do it all by myself. I had guidance from the following people: Matthew and Ellery, Andrew and Mona, Debby and Paul, Bill and Kitty, Debby and Paul, Larry and Jan, Ellis and Linda, Lloyd and Jennifer, Andy and quite a few others. My family and close friends have come through listening to my progress every step of the way, and offering suggestions. I love you all for helping my dream happen. Thank you.
This process has been a BIG learning experience. For anyone attempting to build a new home, stick-built or modular, I have a few lessons learned.
1. Dream First and Dream Big: There are many home building options so try to go for all the things you WANT. Manage your “wants” and your “needs” with your budget. Know what you will NOT compromise on. I wanted a garage, but because my home in did not sell, the garage will go on later. I got what I needed/wanted now and it’s only downhill from here on out.
2. Location, location, location. I know several people who purchased retirement property, paid it off and they don’t want to build there now – and in this market they can’t sell. This is a huge financial investment and WHERE to move was the most exhaustive, frustrating thinking I’ve ever done. It took me about three agonizing years to decide, and it was time well spent. My conditions were: a place where I can make a NEW life, near water, near friends and a community, near the water and beachy environment. My list of locations may seem silly, but I considered the whole world: a villa in Tuscany (ok, you saw the movie too.); a condo on the Amalfi Coast in Italy; the Pennsylvania mountains, the Rocky Mountains, Southern California, Maine, Florida, New Mexico. Eventually I calculated those things that are really important to me: family, friends, culture, independence, longevity. It takes time to mentally turn down a Tuscan villa for the Northern Neck of Virginia, but I did not settle, I dove into my new location with conviction and audacity.
3. Get advice. Talk to a financial planner. Talk to your accountant. Talk to builders. Talk to anyone who will listen. Search the Internet for similar adventures. And then KEEP YOUR OWN COUNSEL. Every decision is yours and if you get in trouble, they will not bail you out. Try to figure out how much you can build without ruining your retirement savings. My new mortgage will be a 1/3 of my big home in Frederick and it’s perfect a my retirement income.
4. Count your money. With all the research I have done over the past year, you CAN build something you are pleased with. There are many options. You need to marry your financials with your desires. In this economy you must consider the worst possible scenario and all the “what ifs”. What if I run out of money? What if the land has zoning issues, or water issues, or won’t perk, or others. Play the “what if” game with every big decision you make. My big “what if” was “what if my home doesn’t sell?” Can I manage two mortgages? The answer was yes, if I don’t add the garage at time of construction. I accepted that and when my Frederick home sells, I will add the garage and a screened in porch. But I am now in my new home and I can breathe…financially.
5. Take care choosing a builder. Because I interviewed many builders, saw many home styles and asked for recommendations from friends, I am delighted with my final product and my builder: Lloyd Dilday of Chesapeake Homes, in Lively, Va. EVERY DETAIL was completed, every cost was managed and I was advised every step of the way. Friends seeing my new home are amazed of the handiwork, the cleanliness and the quality. Because my builder has been in business for 40 years and because his reputation in this community really matters to him; I have a home where a checklist of unfinished items is not necessary. I have built two homes and this is a first for me.
6. Coordinate, plan, write lists, and count your money over and over again. When you have a plan, WORK THE PLAN. Interview several banks for construction loans; talk to local officials about zoning laws, water availability, sewer, cable, electricity etc. If you have a good local builder, most of this will be included in your building cost and it’s a great time saver. But you will have to know about this stuff anyway.
7. You can always purchase a home instead of building new. I considered this and could not afford it, nor could I find what I wanted. Building was actually less costly than purchasing someone else’s trouble, so I built. I purchased and paid for the land before I built, in that way the land was considered a partial down payment on construction.If I purchased a home already constructed, I could not have qualified.
8. Plan the process to sell your existing home. Don’t wait. The market is not what it used to be. (But it’s coming back.) Clean, stage, and mend obvious issues in your home. And then plant a statue of St. Joseph in your front yard. (I was advised to do this but my home is still on the market.) I know it will sell, and I’m not going to worry. Pass along this link to anyone who’s interested in buying a lovely home in a great neighborhood in Frederick, Md.
9. Embrace life. This journey was a backbone-building experience and an adventure in so many ways. I learned a lot about construction, patience, people and finances. Now I am here and it’s wonderful.
10. Don’t Give Up. The details, the finances, the pressure, the timetables, the personalities of so many people could have affected my progress, but I kept on.
And now every morning as I bicycle to the beach, I realize that I made my own dream come true.
Chesapeake Homes Design and Model Home Center is located on
Route 3 in Lively, Virginia. 804-462-7706