How has building a house affected your marriage/relationships?

sweet.reverieApril 10, 2013

During the course of building our house (which should be completed in July) many people have told me that building a house is one of the most stressful things you can do with another person. Have you found this to be true? How have your relationships suffered or improved?

For me, yes, DH and I bickered more over the last 10 months than we usually do. Luckily we have pretty much the same taste and I trust him with bigger decisions (septic placement, etc).

We also have two little people under 4. I feel most guilty about my relationship with them. There have been times I have lost patience because I HAD to be on the phone and they chose these times to act like crazy people or I have had so much on my plate, sometimes I just want to plop them in front of a movie to give my brain a rest!

I know in the long run, building this house will provide them a wonderful place to grow up, but sometimes it feels like a short, but very dark tunnel, lol.

What are your thoughts? Experiences past or present?

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This probably is the hardest things we as a family have done, We lived in our first starter house for 14 yrs and we finally had make the dream of building our home on our own property come true. We had so my obstacals and after selling our home and the dh starting a new job its been so stressful. We are now renting until our home build is complete in Sept, Like the saying goes "No one said it would be easy but it will be worth it". Besides having cabin fever in this small apt, I feel we have become alot closer as a family. I can say that building a home has many challanges but, if you really want it to will work, look around for the right builder and good bank if you need to finance and have alot of patience.. I am thankful this forum is here with so many people willing to share there stories on there build process. I am driving my self a little crazy on all the decisions to be made, but I know soon we will be in our wonderful place called "Home"..

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 11:41PM
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We have built twice now. The second time around we had way more input as it was a completely custom build vs the semi-custom we did the 1st time around. Yes, it is very stressful--the many many decisions, the timing they have to be made in, the things that go wrong, the things you didn't plan for that happen, juggling family/job/school/sports/other relationships--it all takes its toll. But the one thing we found was the worst for our relationship (at least until we figured out what was happening) was the builder/sub pitting one spouse against the other. I can't tell you how many times the builder would call my husband and say that I wouldn't make a decision or they couldn't move forward because I was dragging my feet. Or worse yet, they wouldn't like my answer to a question or a spec on the plans they assumed was there because of me and would turn around and go ask my DH hoping to get a different response or to be able to talk him into authorizing doing something the way they wanted to do it vs how it was specced. Once we figured the game out, the trust that had started to slip was restored and we took on everything as a team at that point period. Then there was no way for any of those games to happen anymore and the stress level went down significantly. I truly think that's the key--when you figure out why you're having relationship stresses over your build you either realize you're not married to the person you thought you were and things continue to slide from there or your relationship grows stronger and you vow to never build again!

Just my experience and $0.02!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 11:43PM
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Our situation is very different than most, as I am actually building the house myself. Meanwhile, my wife is 600 miles away, maintaining the income stream and insurance. She hasn't had much input, as she trusts me to make most of the design decisions. This is both good and bad; I hope I get it right! We of course go over all of the drawings together, but she has a hard time visualizing what the 2D drawings will translate in to when it's all done.

The only stressful part has been the separation. We normally go everywhere together. About once a month, either she visits me, or I visit her. Each trip back 'home', I fill the van and trailer with things that have to get moved, making the traveling more efficient.

We have come to cherish our limited time together, so in an odd way we are closer than ever. She has put out feelers for employment in our new state, so she could be joining me at any time.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 6:17AM
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We certainly had very stressful times during out build and we'd have "heated" conversations but we pulled through it, thank heavens! It helped that my husband didn't really care about interior/exterior choices - he left almost everything to me. The bad thing about that was I had to do the leg work so alot of the load fell on me. (I am self employed and my job allowed me the ability to work around our build.) Often when I was "down" - he was "up" and vice versa so we balanced each other out. We prayed alot too.

I never thought I would ever want to build another house, but we both think we could do it again!

Our builder told me recently that he sincerely thought that one of his couples he's doing a custom for was going to get a divorce. So I guess if you have marital problems to begin with, and you don't learn how to work together while building - the marriage can certainly suffer.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 8:01AM
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I don't understand. The vast majority here "build" by writing checks and deciding on trim and colors.

How is that stressful? Delicate people...

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 8:48AM
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We did find building to be stressful but not for our marriage. We were a very united team throughout the process. We just celebrated 15 years in December so we've become pretty good at compromising. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get everything I wanted in my dream world, but I knew what was most important and what to push for and he trusted me when I told him we would regret not doing something now even if it meant going over budget a little. That said, we didn't go over our "true" budget, the one one we knew and never revealed to the builder.

That said, I do think the kids suffered during the process. We moved for them and in the end, our move was worth it. But, I was a horrible mom during that time. I spent way too much time on the computer and didn't spend enough time with them. They hated the process.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:41AM
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Jrldh... I disagree. Many on the forum are very involved in their build. My husband and I are doing fine through this process, but we are used to working together and discussing big things, knowing when it needs to be a joint decision, etc. we run a business together now and built and office before this home. Thankfully, we also have agreed on areas for each of us to cover... Me the decor decisions, him the landscaping and outdoor stuff. That has really helped us each not have to sweat so many of the details individually.

My kids are growing weary, however. I have heard more than one, "Do we have to go out there again?" I try to take care of most things when they are in school or preschool, but occasionally, dropping by the tile shop or appliance store on the way home from school has been more efficient. So, sweet reverie, I agree that it is tough on the kids. We try to make a point to let them check out their rooms and baths when we are there to see if they can spot any changes wine last time. Sometimes I am amazed at the details they see that many adults do not! I will have to say that the warmer weather has been fabulous. They would much rather play in the dirt pile than trapse around the house. It is much safer, too.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:56AM
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We decided in advance that we were going to have fun building our project, and keeping that commitment in mind helped to to lower stress and keep things in proportion. After 30+ years of marriage I guess we now know that choices about plumbing fixtures, light switch locations, and which refrigerator to buy are not life-altering and do not warrant any level of drama.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 11:04AM
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Well, for is there are multiple levels of stress because my husband is doing quite a bit of the finish work but has to also do to his regular job too leaving me no break with the kids, which gets tiring. Our rental is for sale so we are dealing with showings. Our lease ends at the end of this month and our new house will not be done till July so I will be moving into my parents house a hour away (their TWO BEDROOM house might I add! which puts me on a couch) and DH will need to stay here with a friend to finish everything.

The stress has not come from "choosing plumbing fixtures" but from unexpected financial costs and having to devote our entire attention to the house but also make time for everything else.

So jrldh if you could handle my situation with no stress at all, you are far better person than me. :) I think most people who build do not have endless funds, time, energy to devote to building a house...thus causing stress. The whole thing would be much easier if I won the lottery.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 11:35AM
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I understand that people are involved but I don't understand why this would affect a marriage. It's not hard physical or mental work. I'm surprised that some relationships are so fragile. What do they do if there's a real life challenge, like cancer or an accident.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 11:52AM
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Finances have been shown to be the number one stressor in marriages. There is not any other expense (usually) that is greater than the amount spent on a home. Even what seems to the small things can add up, cost-wise, and the choices you make are difficult to change once all is said and done with the build. I think for folks with great marriages, there are more things to be agreed upon than in most day to day things.

If you add to that, caring for children, aging parents, existing health problems, finances, household chores, work, and several hours a day of hands on oversight or work at the new house, it can be challenging and exhausting.

I remind myself that I am by blessed to have this opportunity to build my dream home and make choices that suit our needs and desires. We continue to cover the process, the workers and our family and marriage in prayer. I look forward to finding what God's plan is with our new home. I have had to put a young mom's bible study that I host in my house on hold during the build,and I cannot wait to fill my new house with mom's like you, sweet reverie, and all the kids. Too bad you are not in NC!

All in all, it is a process that is fairly short, and in 2 months we will be moving in. Only one day and one thing at the time.

I don't think anyone is comparing building a home to a life threatening disease or accident. It think the challenge is in the logistics and financial impact. Just my 2 cents. :)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Sweet.reverie - I agree with you that, for most people, building a home is horribly stressful and it does put a strain on our relationships.

First off, you are spending more money than you ever have before in your entire life and you are probably committing yourself to making payments for the next 20 to 30 years! No matter how confident that you and your DH are that you can handle those payments, there is ALWAYS a niggling worry that maybe you were fools to jump into this. What if spouse gets sick and can't work? What if car breaks down and we have to buy another one? What if one of the babies gets sick and we have to deal with horrible medical bills? What if.... What if.... what if.... You know those thoughts are running thru your mind and I can assure you that your DH has them running thru his head also. STRESS!

Second, you are having to make thousands of decisions about things that you and spouse never before in your life ever even thought about... much less discussed! In the process you are going to discover many areas where your tastes simply do not coincide that you never before guessed were there. In a strong marriage, you will already mechanisms in place for negotiating such differences... but just because you CAN (and probably WILL) negotiate them successfully, having to do it over and over and over again practically everyday is stressful. Kind of like being newlyweds all over again and having to get used to each other's foibles.

You are building a NEST. I know many people will say "it's just a house" but, let's face it, shelter is one of our most basic needs. For those who are building a home for their family, it is more than "just a house." You and your DH are in the process of providing for one of your family's most basic needs, so psychologically, your ability to do it right feels like a measure of your ability to provide for your family. Stress!

You are having to get ready to move. Moving to a new residence - even one you're not "building" is stressful. There is all the packing to do, trying to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, and the disorder and discombobulation that living around packing boxes brings. You may be leaving behind friends, family, neighbors that you've come to rely on, even the stores and businesses you typically frequent. And much as you may be looking forward to your new home, in the back of your mind you know you're going to have to make adjustments. STRESS.

On top of the normal everyday duties that you have to take care of when you are not building, both you and your spouse have to find the time/energy for the demands of home-building. Chances are, both of you are shorting yourself on sleep/rest just to try and stay on top of everything. No big deal to short yourself on sleep for a night or two, but house building takes months and months and months. Too little sleep over an extended period contributes to stress.

And as a mother with two small children, on top of all the stress that almost all home owner's face, you are also responsible for minimizing as (much as possible) the stress that your babies feel. And let's face it, sometimes, you are simply not going to do a terribly good job of that. Then your babies will be out of sorts and cranky which will result in you feeling guilty and even more stressed!

And then there is that whole "living in a rental that is up for sale and feeling that you have to keep it constantly "show-ready" that you mentioned in your blog... Ugh, anyone who has ever sold a home can tell you that THAT, all by itself, can be enough of a stress to make you blow your top.

Frankly, I honestly don't know how you're doing it all! You need to give yourself - and your DH - KUDOS for how well you ARE doing!

And then, maybe take a step back and ask yourself, "of all the things I am trying to accomplish that are making me feel stressed, which ONE is the least important to me and my family? " Then make up your mind to simply stop doing that one thing and see if that lowers your stress level enough. If not, then decide what the next least important item is and stop that one too... until you get to a point where you feel reasonably in control again!

If I were in your shoes, I think I would decide that keeping the rental house "show ready" does absolutely NOTHING for me and my family. Do YOU really care if the landlord finds a buyer before you move out? Will selling the rental house make YOUR life or your spouse or babies' lives one whit better or more comfortable???? I think not. It might make the landlord happy but does his happiness take priority over your babies' happiness? Over your DH's? Over your own?

If you agree then I suggest you resolve to keep the house only as clean and neat as YOU and YOUR FAMILY want/need it to be to be comfortable. Forget about what prospective buyers might think. If prospective buyers see dirty dishes in the sink, undusted bookshelves, unmade beds, a scummy bathtub ring, or toys and clothes scattered all over the house, is it really any skin off YOUR nose? C'mon, EVERYBODY - except maybe people who can afford a full time housekeeper - lives like that sometimes. It is not even anything to be embarrassed about!

If I were you, I would also put an immediate stop to agents being able to get into the house and show it when they hadn't notified me well in advance. If the rental house has two doors, then go to the hardware store and buy a new lock and put it on one door so the agent doesn't have a key to that door. Start using the door with the new lock to enter and leave the house. Then, whenever you leave the house, (or when you are home and don't want to be bothered by unexpected "shows") lean a sturdy straight-backed chair against the door that the agent has a key to so that the back of the chair is wedged under the doorknob and the chair is resting on two legs against a non-slip floor. Anyone attempting to get into the house would have to push hard enough to break the chair or break off the doorknob. No agent is going to go that far. Remove the braced chair when you have agreed to a showing so the agent can get in.

As for jrldh - if he has found home-building not be be stressful simply because "it's not hard physical or mental work" then he is one of the LUCKY few. But I have to wonder about his comments that he can't understand why this would affect a marriage. My suspicion is jrldh is a single guy with little or no insight into what goes into making a strong marital relationship and absolutely NO understanding of the stresses of being a mother to two children under age 4.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 2:13PM
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We did (and continue to finish) a lot of our project as a DIY effort. I found that working to exhaustion was a great way to dispel the "what if" worries. A combination of being too tired to worry, and a feeling of accomplishment as things got done. Worrying about stuff that hasn't happened (and may never) sucks up way too much time and energy that might better be employed elsewhere.

Planning the finances with a healthy reserve for the unexpected (and you can surely expect the unexpected!) will help a lot. Thorough planning up front with conservative, realistic assumptions is a good start, but keeping something on the order of 25% of the budget in reserve for surprises makes them a lot easier to deal with.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 3:06PM
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Momto3kiddos: You are too sweet! I do wish I knew someone else building a house in real life :)

Bev: Your post made me tear up a bit! Thank you for your kind words and you are right, I do need to let the "clean house for showings" thing go. Part of me just feels stupid because I wasted all this effort for these landlords in hopes they would let us go month to month at the end of our lease and she was so quick to just say no, even though she knew we did not have anywhere to really go. But I need to let that go too.

Every time I drive down our driveway to our house I get renewed energy because I love it so much. DH and I actually had a good talk tonight about our expectations for the house. Since we get so much inspiration from Houzz and Pinterest and all these other PERFECT houses, it gets in your mind that your house will look like that too. We have tried to pay attention to detail where it matters and it will be a nice house, it is at the end of the day, a 300K build- which is not high end :) DH and I decided to get those Houzz houses out of our minds for now. We won't have tens of thousands of dollars left over for landscaping and perfect furniture- those things will simply have to come with time.

I read on here once: It take a year to build a house and a year to make it a home.

I am keeping that in the forefront of my mind. When the house is done, it will not be perfect. But it will be ours and for that we are beyond lucky.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:17PM
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As a 71 year old woman who has many physical challenges, who had just buried my dearest friend and husband, had a house to sell, and move several hours away, then build a house, I had to learn that there is no such thing as a "perfect" house, because we do not live in a perfect world. Was I scared and sometimes terrified? bet, but I had to put myself and my circumstances into God's hands and ask Him to give me wisdom and guidance to do the right thing....and He was merciful to me and granted my well as sending me the best crew anyone could ever wish to have. So to young people who have not lived your lives as long, please let
go of the stress and pettiness of perfection before it ruins the most precious things in your lives...your family...and possibly your health. Things my house perfect?..maybe not to many, but it is for me. Enjoy your project...let some things go..they are not worth it in the whole scheme of life.
Just my 2 cents!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 10:59PM
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If you're concerned about building a house being overly stressful on your marriage, I'd suggest you postpone the building project.

I'd make a couple suggestions:

1. Choose a time in your life that's "right" for building. If you have toddlers, elderly parents, or a stressful job, that might mean that waiting is the right choice.

2. Build within your finanical means. Several people have made comments about money being one of the biggest stressors in a marriage -- if my social group is typical, that's true. So many people here are planning large, expensive houses, and if you can comfortably afford them, that's great. But if they're a stretch, cut back. Playrooms, baths for every bedroom, bonus rooms -- these are all luxury items, but so often on this board they sound like necessities. Build what you can comfortably afford, and allow for some unexpected costs.

3. Take your time in the planning stage, and once you've set things in motion, do not second-guess yourself. One way to do this: After you've made a choice (say, on cabinets), stop looking at other options.

4. Accept that everything won't be perfect. Pick the top few things that are genuinely your "must haves" and make them your no-compromise items, but be prepared to accept "okay" in other areas. As everything comes together, that less-than-perfect tile or that questionable paint will blend in with everything else, and no one else'll ever notice -- whether you notice or not depends upon your attitude.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 9:48AM
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Ms. Pete, I think it is too late for sweet.reverie to postpone. They are well underway.

I am in the same boat as you in some aspects sweet.reverie as I have pretty much quit looking at houzz as I get a little disappointed knowing that my build will not be close to 99% of those pictures. That is not to say that I will not love my house and know that this house will be great for me and my family.

I have been following your blog and I have to say I love your house so far. I love the style, I find the way it is being built interesting, you take great pictures, and your children are gorgeous! I can't wait to see your house finished! Keep your chin up, the project will be done before you know it and you will be on to making great new memories in your beautiful house!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 10:13AM
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If only it were as easy as just saying to the builder : 'Here's the plan, give me beige walls, medium stained foor, beige carpet, grey tile, white cabinets, light colored granite, large trim painted white.' and then walk away assuming the builder will take that information & build the exact house you've been planning & envisioning in your head for the past few years. To the builder, its just another project & money in the bank. To you, its the home you will live in, raise your family in, have holiday celebrations in, have gatherings of friends over, and grow old in. And that doesn't even cover the part about the financial investment. With all that riding on it, it's no wonder building is stressful. I can assure you, jrldh would be very disappointed in the final result if all he did was pick out color & trim.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 10:22AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We didn't find it particularly stressful for us. I think part of it was that we had common overall goals and direction for the house in terms of size, location, energy efficiency, etc. Further our roles were generally well defined...he's the engineer in the family and paid a lot closer attention to the "factory" side of the, electrical, HVAC, etc. I was the decorator and paid closer attention to the views, the room sizes, the design, the lighting, the finishes, etc. Further we had a great architect who became a family friend and played the role of mediator when we met with disagreement. And we were willing to "fight it out" when necessary, by which I mean gather the facts and make the arguments to hear both sides so that the best decision could be reached.

Looking back on it, I think we enjoyed the process quite a bit and are pleased as punch with the final result.

But then again, I have heard the tale more than once of the wife running off with the builder....

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 11:33AM
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sweet.reverie, I took a look at your blog and just wanted to say that I suspect that your house is going to be NICER than those on Houzz and Pinterest. Your exterior has pleasing proportions and looks in harmony with its surroundings. You see it and think, "this would be a great place to raise a family" -- it is warm and inviting like a friend, not cold, standoffish, or overwrought. If you can do this on the outside, I'm sure you will do it on the inside, too -- trim can use inexpensive materials to great effect! And, you have the most amazing "accessories" of all -- your kids -- can't do any better than that.

Remember, the rooms on Houzz and Pinterest represent the finest selected work of professionals across the country and are staged. I've recognized some of these rooms from open houses on the market and thought, wow, that didn't look so great in real life!

PS. A home is never finished, you have the rest of your life so you shouldn't feel rushed :-)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 5:02PM
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Looking back, I realize that the most stressful things had to do with the things the contractor did, instead of my own work. I had him do the excavation and concrete work, and, although he did a good job, there were delays and 'oopses' that drove me crazy. When I work on my own, I can go back and re-do something until it meets my standards, and I can work at my own pace. I imagine that turning an entire build over to a contractor would be far more stressful than building it myself!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 5:15PM
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Just starting to build a 2nd new home. The 1st one was fully-custom though this one is semi-custom.

Advice and guidance that helped us the most during the construction of the 1st house:
1. I was told that the builder will become the worst enemy by the time construction was over
2. It will put a lot of stress on your marriage

I am a crazy person so I decided to prove everyone wrong. The builder became a very good and trusted friend by the time construction was over. My wife and I have now been married for 28 years and the 1st house was built 14 yrs ago.

We believe this was possible because:
1. We asked the builder for advice on decisions, then went home and discussed it and before making a decision reviewed our options one more time with the builder. This process ensured that we all were communicating and looking out for each other and were not trying to s---w each other.

2. In case of a dispute we (builder and us) would come up with a solution in which both parties had to put their skin in the game. Example: We had a dispute about the large window in the foyer which was installed by the builder as per the signed off plans whereas verbally three times we had told him that we want the window that he has in his model home. Now replacing the window would cost extra $$s. Instead of fighting and arguing we shared the cost of the replacement 50/50 because both parties were at fault (lawyers please do not comment because I am not taking your livelihood away, I am just saving myself money and headache). In the end we got what we wanted saved ourselves the headache though were a little lighter in the pocket.

3. As husband and wife it was only one decision that kept us away from talking to each other for two days and then finally she won. This was because we discussed and discussed. Now decisions that were not reversible anytime in the future were the ones we discussed the most and for the rest (colors, trim, cabinet, landscaping etc.) we discussed but she made the final decision.

4. Before we started building we made a commitment to ourselves that we were not going to stretch ourselves beyond our limits. Going by the norm we could afford to build a more expensive home than we did but that was a conscious decision because we wanted to have money to enjoy the home rather than get into cash flow.

5. The best part was our boys loved the process and were excited about the whole thing.

6. Only regret that we built a home that was so (5,000 sq ft) big that when the boys were out of the house we just did not use most of it. I call it wasted space and utilities.

That is why now in a new city we are building a relatively smaller home.

Hope this helps and will be coming back to seek your advice as we venture into this new project.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 8:39PM
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Amtrucker: Thank you for your nice comments! I am already driving my facebook friends CRAZY with all the pictures I take of the house, lol.

MrsPete: Yes, drywall starts next week, so we are way beyond a stopping point. And stopping is not what I want anyway.

For my husband and I, now was our time to build. We are high school sweethearts and have been dreaming of building a house since we were 18- 10 years later a bunch of stars aligned (we sold our first house, our dream land dropped 50k in price, interest rates were at historic lows, we have no other consumer debt) and here we are. I supposed we could have waited till the girls were older, but then they would have had to move school districts when we built. We could have waited until they left the house, but we want to help with college. We could have waited until we were ready to retire but we want to pay this house off and have no mortgage for retirement. I don't think there is a perfect time to do anything. We are not high income earners- my husband is a fire fighter and I am a part time photographer and our wages will not go up significantly over time like if we were to become CEOs or something. I don't feel that the house itself will be a stretch for us, we are financing quite a bit under what we were approved for. It has been the unforeseen start up costs which surprised us. We did our homework before we bought the lot and were told everything was done when we asked the city. Turns out, they discover after we submit for our building a permit that a firetruck turn around that was supposedly approved, was not. Add in a couple more large surprises like that and money we had thought we were using for something else, went to other things.... normal house building things I suppose :)

Overall, my husband and I have a very healthy marriage and I am not worried in the least about any long term damage and my builder is certainly not as cute as my firefighter husband, so no danger of me running off with him as someone mentioned, lol!

mydreamhome: I wish it was that easy too!

Oaktown: thank you for your kind words! I really hope it is a place where people just want to BE. I want all my girl's friends to think of our little cozy house in the woods as the ultimate hangout spot.

flgargoyle: I think that has been a major source of frustration for us. As best we try to make ourselves and wishes understood, something is always lost in translation, leaving disappointment. As crazy as it sounds, I too wish we could have done more ourselves.

Shagupta: What wonderful advice! Thank you for chiming in! I hope your second build goes as smoothly.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 12:44AM
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sweet.reverie: Thank you for your comment. A few things I struggle to deal with and fail with are greed and non-humans besides those two things I have the confidence of finding a way around. These two things I fail at is because I have never been close to either. Never had pets or greed. The lord always gave me more than what I need.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 1:21AM
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So far we're doing okay. We've always been good at making decisions together, and after 1 1/2 years of having our last house on the market, living in our little rental with out showings feels almost like a vacation.

For managing building related stress, what I try to keep in mind is:

1) We're all on the same team. We want a nice home, the builder and subs want to build nice homes. The builder wants to honor the agreement he made with us, so he's going to be fair about costs (he's a good guy!) and he and his subs are professionals. If there are problems, we start with the assumption that everyone means well, and work from there.

2) Most of the details we need to choose will be invisible to us within a few months of moving in, and anything we really regret we can change.

3) We are incredibly lucky to be able to do this at all.

4) Our house will likely always be a work-in-progress. We're paying our builder to get our house to a fully finished state, but we're going to be constantly improving things, so it's okay that everything isn't perfect immediately.

5) We have made the choices we have for a reason. And while I am sometimes jealous of some of the homes here and on houzz, I don't want to pay for a higher end home than we're getting, and so I do my best to shut down my sour grapes. Also, I think it can be easy to blur all the nice things together and feel like everyone is getting all the upgrades, when really most everyone is picking and choosing, like we are.

6) Recognize that some things are beyond anyone's control. At the moment we are at a standstill because the late spring means that our land is too muddy for trucks to be able to access the site (right now, there's a layer of frozen ground under the surface, and that keeps water from draining the way it should). Everyone involved in the build wishes this weren't true, but there's no affordable way to work around it. I refuse to get stressed about the weather. It is what it is, and our house will be built eventually.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 10:07AM
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sweet.reverie, as an aside -- since you are a photographer, perhaps you might barter with your builder that you would provide professional photographs of his/her work (your house!) to be uploaded on Or if you offer residential photography services, you could use your house photos on to generate buzz for your own business!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 11:46PM
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Oaktown, I try to suggest it, but it kinda fell flat. Which I thought was odd because I would have loved to see well done photos of one of his houses from start to finish! Oh well.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 5:10PM
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I rarely post on these boards, but like to read all of the information. I have found alot of good ideas and tips in this thread so wanted to say thanks. My DH and I are first time builders, basically of what will be our dream home (aside from lottery winning). We are married 12 years and have been together for 20 - high school sweethearts. We have been through a lot together; we know eachother well. But building has been stressful!!! I agree!!

The hardest part for us was realizing the costs of every single little item and how those would add up. So it is the financial aspect that caused the biggest challenge.
The root of our arguments was this: I wanted item X and it cost $200, which I feel is a worthwhile purchase. DH thought $200 for X was not necessary and should be tabled for later. Meanwhile, DH liked item Y, which cost $500. And in his eyes this item was a necessity, and to me it was ridiculous. This was the basis of our issues. We finally had a really great conversation that allowed us to prioritize what we needed in the house, wanted, and wished - in that order. Then we each picked a few things that were in the want/wish columns and were able to secure those. That was we each felt "treated" to a few special things, but also kept our eye on the main prizes of what was NEEDED in the house.

Also, as another here said: becoming a team vs. "THEM" helped us too! We dislike our salesman (for whom we've made a vulgar nickname) and laugh together when he emails or calls. Each of us battling him on our own - a nightmare. Tag teaming him? More enjoyable!

We have a three year old and I second the rough time he's had. Poor kid has watched enough TV for a lifetime, and spent hours in tile stores and "not touching" lighting fixtures. He's excited for his new house and his big boy room and his very own toy room; but I've also been warned... he may ask to "go home" after we move in! But I know we are moving him to a better home and future, better school district, and a huge yard to play in, a lake in the subdivision that he can swim in, and a state park he can walk to. But he doesn't get that just yet. :)

And in the end, I agree with others and remind myself... what a gift we have that we are even able to do something like this. I never imagined in a million years that I would be able to do this! A "modest build" in terms of this website, but my 3000 sf $375K house on 1.3 acres in subdivision with some $1 Million homes is more than I could have ever dreamed we would be able to have, especially as we are moving out of our starter home, 1970's ranch, 1300 sf on 0.17 acres with a chain link fence. In my new house, I will eat my dinner and see only trees in my back yard. From my master bedroom, I can see a state park. Right now in my current home, I can see 15 neighbors' houses from my dinner table, and I haven't opened the blinds in my master bedroom for about 7 years because there's only chain link fence to see. We are lucky, grateful, and anxious to get to our new place... together!!!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 2:53PM
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We are very early in the process, still -- I think we've been doing good so far, but I think budget will be the stressor for us.

My husband is normally a fairly laid-back (and rather indulgent) guy, but with so much money on the line here, even he is starting to wig out a little. I think a lot of things I would really like to do (especially in terms of trim) will have to wait. I know that's his biggest worry -- is that I'll start saying, "Oh, and we need this! And this! And this! And I can't LIVE without this!"

And I know -my- biggest challenge will be accepting that some things will just have to wait and that our house may not look like what I'm picturing in my head until further down the road. (Which is probably for the best, because with 3 kids under 7, it wouldn't stay looking gorgeous for long!)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 11:16AM
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My DH and I are contracting this house ourselves and now that its to drywall finally we are doing all finish work except cabinetry. We are not professional builders but have had this major remodeling "hobby" for 30 years now. We have our own business and a farm in addition to this build. So although I focus on the house full time I have about 20 hours a week where I have to be focused else ware.
This build has had MAJOR hold ups, hurricane Sandy, and health issues, for instance but nothing we haven't been able to deal with on our own and a GC would NOT have been able to deal with better.
That said we are so ready to be finished and are getting a bit short tempered and impatient.
We have no "us against them" outlet; no real clear division of duties. We just both do what we need to, to "get her done".
DH left this AM for his 6-day semi annual golf trip to Florida. Thank God he is able to go and enjoy himself. I will not be able to go anywhere until after move in day; no way could I enjoy a trip at this stage, that's just me.
One thing that keeps us together on this project is the great home we will have when finished, the accomplishment of creating this new homestead for our family. If we get to paying attention to what others, extended family/friends think of our madness, well then we can get a little sideways. Some acquaintances have distanced themselves from us. Not sure what that's all about but we are focused on this build so don't have as much time.
A this stage of life we have come through many other stressful time periods that we have had no control over. Illness, disasters, economic downturn; this building a house is in some ways what we have control over and to be cherished as such.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 1:54PM
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