Good morning! I’m writing this post in real-time like I used to do in the Stone Ages of blogging. It’s currently 5:02 a.m. and I’m weirdly wide awake after an exhausting weekend (I crashed early last night). Jamie is fixing me a cup of coffee and then he’ll head to the garage to work out while I work behind my laptop, except this morning I’ve decided to share on this page versus All Things Madison because I’m simply feeling inspired to do so.
It’s interesting how much this virus has changed so many of us and the trajectory of our lives in ways that maybe we don’t even realize. One of the many ways that the virus has caused a Domino-effect of decisions is our recent choice to build a new home.
While it was a decision we faced years earlier than we expected, we’re not totally surprised by it (and neither are any of the people who know us the best). We’re currently feeling very, very excited and grateful and I’d love to document how (in the world!) this came to be.
In early September, we had a very direct COVID-19 exposure. Jamie and I both had zero symptoms and tested negative, but we still decided to quarantine for a while. During that tight quarantine time, we got out one evening and drove around to two neighborhoods: one that I’ve had my eye on and one that Jamie’s had his eye on. We started looking at them through a different lens of potentially building a custom home in one of them one day.
In fact, let’s back up. Why were we even talking about custom home building in the first place? I thought we were in a home we loved that we could stay in for decades? Yes and yes.
But also, yes and no. There is no doubt about how much we love our current home. We really, really love it. But do we want to stay here for decades anymore? No. We bought this house firmly believing that our family was complete with two girls, and then we had our (best) bonus baby (ever).
And while this home is still phenomenal for a family of five, the layout is not going to be conducive for how we like to use our home. We’ve known for a while that we wanted a different layout. Square footage wise, we didn’t want anything much bigger. We just needed to have space that was more comfortable for our family.
There were four things that our current house is missing that we desired in a future home: a better bathroom situation for our daughters, some kind of permanent office space for Jamie and I, a second story so that we aren’t all completely on top of each other every second of the day, and no homes directly behind ours (just a personal preference that I’ve realized I really enjoy since I like being in our backyard constantly. I love a serene, quick backyard). Our current house has large bedrooms, a dining room, an expansive entry way, and two master closets, and though we love all of that, we would rather the square footage be more tailored to how we use our home.
Okay, back to quarantine. So we drove around and kind of realized that the neighborhood I’d been eyeing isn’t actually one that I could see myself moving to one day. Jamie agreed.
So we drove over to The Village of Oakland Springs, which is a traditional neighborhood development in Madison that Jamie has loved for years. In fact, when I first saw the plans online in 2017, I immediately knew that we’d be moving there when we moved to Alabama in 2018. I loved it. I remember calling my mom and my friend Amira and telling them about it, and they were both kind of underwhelmed by it. The neighborhood was basically nothing at that point, and we just couldn’t see the vision yet. Plus, there was only one home at the time with a three-car garage (Jamie’s MUST HAVE), and it was out of our price range. I loved it though. (That same house just went up for sale for $221k more than when it was for sale in January 2018. Wow.)
Throughout the last few years, we’ve kept our eye on that neighborhood, driving through it every few months gawking at the beautiful new homes. Jamie continued to talk about how much he’d love to build there.
And that’s the other thing about this neighborhood and the street we liked: it’s a custom home builder. So we knew that one day we could sit down with an architect and really map out a home in our price range that functioned how we wanted it to without the elements that we didn’t want/need.
After driving around that evening, we emailed the agent and asked if she could give us details about what some of the current homes are going for so that we could start setting our expectations right. It’s the type of neighborhood where very little info about the lots and homes are online, so we had to inquire.
We knew absolutely nothing about custom home building, so we figured that we’d probably need to save a lot of money between now and 2025 (ish) if we wanted to make this a reality down the road. Basically, we needed to be financially prepared.
Long story short, the realtor surprised me by sending two floor plans of homes that were set to be built. Both were gorgeous, but one of them wasn’t quite the home we were looking for.
The other one was perfect. Perfect. Like, I CAN’T UNSEE this floorplan. It had the DeSpain family written all over it. If Jamie and I were to take all of our conversations over the last couple of years and map out our dream home, this would be it. Every single square inch. I kid you not. It’s not 95% perfect. It’s 100% perfect.
They needed a large chunk of money down though to custom build, so we figured we’d hold onto that floor plan and build it down the road because we didn’t have that much cash. But then the builder surprised us with taking less down. I remember hanging up the phone with the realtor who had just shared the “good news” and laying my head on the counter as Jamie was like “Oh crap, really?”
But honestly, we just did not want to move. I didn’t want to leave my neighbors. I didn’t want the headache of moving. So for a bit, we decided that this wasn’t the right time to move, and that we would just start saving extra cash like crazy. I remember we said that we wanted to save $50k extra to put down to build that exact house in five years.
Two problems with that though.
1.) The lot our dream home was slated to be build on would be gone. You cannot replicate the lot we’re getting. It’s on the perfect street, one block from future retail and restaurants, two houses away from ponds, no backyard neighbors, the house faces west (which is a must have for us), one street away from the future neighborhood pool and fitness center, etc. etc. etc.
Even if we wanted to build this exact house, we would lose the lot, and this felt like a huge dealbreaker for me.
2.) Say we went bananas and saved an extra $50k to put down on the house. We know without a shadow of a doubt that that exact house will be $50k higher in five years, if not way more. It’s just that type of neighborhood and city where the housing market is going to continue to go nuts for a while. So if we put that $50k down on a house that’s priced for $50k more, we’ll be starting right back at the same place that we are now, but we’ll be five years behind in paying off the mortgage. Plus, the increase in our new mortgage is less than it would cost to save $50k.
At this point, we were kind of freaking out. I even had a big boohoo fest with my neighbors and confessed what was going on. LOL. I’m very, very close with a few of them and so are my kids. So I needed them to know what was up!
We just kept wanting to throw in the towel because “we just didn’t want to do this right now”. We had no reason to move. But when we looked at five years down the road, we know with certainty that we’ll be very, very itchy to custom build and move. And then we wondered if not hopping on our literal dream home now would be a huge financial mistake.
So the next step was meeting with the builder himself. I brought over 100 pictures I’d printed from Walgreens, and we basically went through and asked what we could get for the price of the house. Sam Bryan with Jimmy Bryan Construction has been so great to work with, and he basically went through my pictures and said “Yes, we can throw that in” or “No, that’s a $25,000 cast iron door”, LOL. In that initial meeting, he was able to tell us that we could absolutely customize the home for the list price.
Oy. We really thought that meeting would deflate our balloon and that we’d be done talking about it. We figured all of our “wants” would be massive upcharges, but nope.
During this time, we were driving out to the lot constantly. Friends and family would ask us if we’d prayed about it, and we’d just laugh and talk about how we’d been sitting out there praying together for weeks.
After about three weeks of walking through this process, we finally sat on the couch to make a decision. We’d felt heavy about it all day because we knew that night was “the meeting” we scheduled to have with each other.
We had every single piece of information we needed to make a decision, and we had done a deep, deep, deep dive into our finances. And everything was pointing to “Yes! This is an amazing opportunity and a well-thought-out financial and family lifestyle decision.”
But we decided that we just didn’t want to do this. We didn’t want to go through the process of selling our house, and we were worried about fluctuating interest rates (what if they skyrocket in 2021?) We also wondered if this type of decision is something that should be well-planned out over the course of a few years, not a few weeks? Were we rushing this for no reason?
We felt a great sadness in deciding that we just didn’t want to go through with it. When push came to shove, we were just scared about making a bad decision. But we just felt so sad about it. Thankfully we were on the same page though. We decided to pass on the house.
The next day, I texted Jamie and told him that I wanted to revisit the conversation again that night. He said that he wanted to talk about it too. We just felt unsettled after saying “no” to the house without a concrete reason beyond “it’s just not a good time”.
That night, the girls and I sat down to eat dinner because Jamie was running late. He walked in, gave me a kiss, and apologized for being late. He sat down at the table with a huge smile and his face and said “I’m late because I wanted to drive over to the new house to see what my new commute is going to be like. Let’s buy the house.”
I erupted into a fit of giggles, kept asking if he was serious, and told him I felt the same way.
The next day we paid a lot of money (which did make us question everything all over again LOL), but man oh man are we excited. Very, very, very grateful.
I absolutely, positively love home design. Exterior, interior, you name it. I’m not good at it by any means, but I love pouring over Pinterest and Instagram and designing room by room. My passion for this began in our Kansas house as I tried to update it on a shoestring budget and then spilled over into this house as I’ve overhauled and designed one room at a time.
The opportunity to do that with an entire house as it’s being built is so fun! Maybe it would be overwhelming to some, but I could not love it more. I already know that I’m going to be so sad when it’s over. But I can’t wait to see the finished product.
As for my neighbors, we feel solid enough in our friendships that everything is going to be okay. 😉
A home functions differently for everyone of course, but we really put a lot of weight into our home. I remember looking at homes with our realtor in Tennessee right after we got married in 2011. We saw the home that we would end up buying and talked about how great it would be to have our friends over for dinner or have our friends and family come visit and stay a weekend with us.
I firmly (!) believe that if you intentionally foster an inviting space, that people will come (whether that be seating at a table for dinner or a comfortable bed and fresh towels for guests who stay overnight). It doesn’t matter how big your space is, but rather what intentional decisions you’ve made to make your home a place that others know they welcomed and not any kind of extra hassle or burden.
So, there’s the story! We expect the house to be finished in May(ish). We will list our house about 60 days prior and hope that everything lines up well with timelines. If you think we’re bananas, just know that I don’t blame you. 😉 My whole family knows that we’re nuts and definitely march to our own beat. But we’re happy! And excited! (Have I said that 10 times?)
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother in today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 5 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo