Dream Home Disaster

We just crossed 800 days building my dream home. I’m going to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and what I wish I would have done differently through this process. I’ll go through all the miserable things that have happened while building this home and explain the things that we could have done differently so it would have gone substantially smoother. 

I want to thank all the people who have played a part in building this home. This home is large. It has lots of weird intricacies and details that I know a standard builder never deals with. We knew that when we decided to build the home. The first thing I learned is that when you’re building a home like this, there are lots of problems that maybe haven’t ever been solved. So you need to have patience and gratitude to all the people that have figured out what those problems were and solved them. This home has taken longer than expected, but turned out to be everything that we wanted and more. 

Have I been frustrated with certain subs? Of course. Have I been frustrated with the timing? Of course. But the overall outcome has been incredible. Once we’re in the house, I know it will all be worth it. I want you guys to learn a thing or two from my massive mistakes with this dream home disaster. 

One of my favorite rooms in the house is my new office. We have a studio downstairs for all the YouTube stuff, but for real estate, sales, everything else I do, I will spend a lot of time in this office. 

Next is the entry to the living room, dining area, and kitchen. We’re still waiting on a couple key pieces. The painters are here finishing the baseboards. Everything else has been painted except for the baseboards that had to go in after the hardwood floors. I am just flabbergasted at how the kitchen came together. This is the brainchild of my wife and Lindy the designer from Four Chairs. They’re awesome and it’s been so fun to watch it come together. We had to wait on the marble hood because you had to put countertops, cabinets, and the backsplash, then build and install the hood. We’re getting that in three days. 

We have a homework room that has sliding doors that look super cool. The house has seven other internal sliding doors and I think they turned out awesome. 

The landscape has been absolutely incredible. We got all the pavers done, we’ve got all the trees around, the landscapers at B&K Landscaping just crushed it. We had an idea of what we wanted and they just put it all together masterfully. We’ve got outdoor speakers and a fountain going in by the house. The pool, living room, and kitchen area will all be one combined with this back patio and we love it. 

Since we started this home, my wife and brother have gotten cancer. We’ve been through Covid, many ups and downs in different ways on top of trying to build the home. I used to hear people talk about building their dream homes and how hard it is. I always laughed and thought it was silly. Now I know that when you’re building your dream home you want it to be perfect, and there are so many things that can go wrong. If you’re building any home, understand that there will be multiple setbacks, mistakes, issues, and problems. You’ll be trying to deal with life and work and family on top of going through this process. You need to plan for that and understand you’re taking on another job. It’s been fun and it’s worked out great, but know that it’s a lot of work. It doesn’t matter how good your builder or subs are, issues will come up. 

One thing I didn’t understand getting into this process was all the little intricacies of building a home like this. When you’ve got lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, showerheads, etc., trying to put all that together with shipping and making sure they match, orders can show up incorrect or damaged. 

In the bidding process, I wish we had known all of the fixtures and got our bids according to the price points on the fixtures. Our original lighting bid was for $15,000. We ended up spending closer to $70,000 just on lighting. This also happened with sinks and other fixtures. Make sure you get all of that figured out in the bidding process. Make sure your builder knows what finishes you want. 

There are going to be time delays on some items. Make sure you get orders in early. Once they arrive, walk through with the subs and make sure that everything is there. We thought we did that, but then got down to the end and realized that a couple drains were missing, faucets were missing, one of the faucets was the wrong color. We ended up waiting even longer for the right stuff to show up. That happened with lighting, plumbing fixtures and other items in the house. So order early, bid properly, and double check it before the subs show up to start installing. You will save yourself a ton of time and money this way. 

This house has some incredible features including a pool room, basketball court, gym we've got so much awesome stuff. However there is one feature that I didn't realize I would love as much as I do. Our designer said we needed this toilet. I had no idea I could be so in love with a toilet but as you walk in it opens up for you. It mists the bowl so you don't get anything sticking to a sticky bowl. It also instantly heats up the seat. I've been told it has a lot of other features for cleaning my behind that I'm going to love but I haven't tried it yet. The fact that it opens up and says hello I really appreciate.

Also the painters have done an incredible job but there are paint touch-up stuff that still needs to happen in all of these rooms. There are some lines, cracks, dents and dings a lot of that is what they're working on right now. 

Another favorite spot is our mudroom. We feel like it came together perfectly. It's got this brick floor that can take a lot of damage, a great place for the kids to put on snow clothes to get ready to go to school, etc. We love the lockers for holding your stuff, a place for our keys and from there to the garage. We’ve got spots for  my nicer cars, then our daily drivers. We've got electric plugs, one on each wall. We also just got the central vacuum throughout the whole house, they just got that finished.

The other thing that is so neat is our smart home. I've got speakers throughout the entire home. We also have dimmers on the majority of the lights in the house. Here you can shut down all the lights in the house or you have the ability to turn on everything you want with that welcome switch. You can also control all the lights, speakers, locks, everything from your phone.

One quick shout out I wanted to give is to our tile people that were fantastic. They sent the wrong tile mixed in with the right stuff. Our tile guy was pulling from six different boxes, doing everything he was supposed to. He sent them a picture because they just sent tile that was mixed in. It looks like there were two different brands that were put together. This looks like handmade stuff and you pay a lot for it. We thought for sure they'd want to make it right but they responded “No, you get variation that is how it is.” They weren't willing to do anything which was crazy for what you pay for this stuff. 

The final tile looks beautiful, but we had to go and scrap a bunch of the boxes that were ordered because they just looked ridiculous. One other thing that was crazy is that before it had the grout it really looked like it was going to look good. Once you have the grout it really popped those white tiles that you could tell just didn't belong. My tile people were great, they came back and chipped out the ones that we didn't like. They're fantastic even though the tile company Clee absolutely screwed us over and said “Oh no it's supposed to look that way.”  

We’ve had so many different weird random issues with so many different companies. It’s pretty normal. You run into so many bumps along the way. I would say the thing that’s been important is going with a contractor that has subs that are willing to come and just make sure that it looks the way that you want it. We went to the Parade of Homes here locally and we saw a lot of these things come up that hadn't been fixed in other people's homes. This isn't a bash on them or their contractors but I'm so grateful that we had people working on the house that just wanted to make it right. They were willing to go the extra mile to get that done even when the tile company is providing tile like this. Even with other things that we've run into, they still took ownership and made it right for us. 

Timing plays a big role in a dream home build but it's really hard to coordinate timing. We had no idea we were going to hit Covid where lumber, roofing, literally everything was going to skyrocket in pricing. It also made it way harder to find labor. We built at a time where everyone else was building, and we built in a time where interest rates were on the rise very quickly. All of these things can end up being catastrophic for building a home.

One thing I felt that I did really well was negotiating my interest rates. I locked them in so that I knew whatever I was locked in at the front I was going to keep in the back. One mistake I made is I only had them locked in for a year and a half because I had no idea that my dream home disaster could potentially take over two years to get to the finish line. I had to do a lot of back and forth negotiating to get them to hold the rate. 

Originally I was locked into a 3.6% interest rate but we did go way over budget. My loan, or the borrowed amount, was going to be $1.5 million. It ended up bumping to $2 million dollars that I borrowed so adding that extra $500,000 did really well because for a jumbo loan rates now would be close to 7%. However because of the negotiations I did I was able to get them to not only add an extra $500,000 to our borrowed amounts or borrowed $2,000,000 total but I also was able to lock it in at a 4.25% interest rate. This is better than anything that I've heard considering the fact that we went over our 1.5 years and we had to add an additional $500,000 to a loan that was a one-time close. A special shout out to ICCU. Out of all the banks I've shopped for years and years they have been the best. Make sure you do everything you can to lock in rates. 

The other big mistake was pushing on the front end for the price. You're pushing the builder, and they're trying to bid and compete and make sure that they get your business. If I had to do it all over again I would ask them to give me the worst case scenario price and then add 10 to it. I want them to make it look massive so that I could have gotten approved for the larger amount on the front end. Then if I didn't need it I wouldn't have to go through the negotiation process again. It's much better to have too much loan than not enough loan and have to go back to the bank, especially in a climate where rates are on the rise. Luckily it panned out but t was really tricky to work through that. 

Give your builder the exact finishes you want them to shop. Order everything that you can on the front end. Do everything in your power so not only do you know what your real price is going to be with the finishes that you want but hopefully you can order a lot of that and lock in pricing if you can. Instead of rushing the builder I would have provided the exact finishes, fixtures, everything. I would have spent more time on the front end with our designer or in that design process so we could get everything ordered and that way the price wouldn't have continued to creep till we're over a million dollars over our original bid.

We built a big Jack and Jill bathroom which came together so well. We decided to do the big mirror with lights coming out of the mirror. It was a lot of work for them to put it together but I really think it turned out cool. 

The other bedroom and the laundry room came together so perfectly. We've got a laundry room on each floor and this one has all natural stone. Another thing that I learned through the process is when you're working with your tile people, your plumbers, (my plumber’s absolutely incredible). We found a problem with natural stone. It can look very uneven and different with the grout, and our fantastic tile sub came and fixed it for us. 

Another mistake that we made is with the block sink, they’ll have to rip out tile to build this wall strong enough. That's another piece of advice I'd give you going through this process: anytime you have something that's unique or out of the ordinary, you want to make sure that you let your builder know upfront. That way they can prepare properly. We have a wall that is going to need to be reinforced where we didn't communicate that properly. They’ll have to take out tiles and reinforce it so that it can handle a 300-400 lbs. sink. 

I also just got my brand new gym from Force USA. I'm really going to work this year to make it the most fit year of my life. I did tons of research and ended up going with this company. I'm probably going to pitch them a lot if my muscles get bigger. I will pitch them less and that way I can blame the gym equipment rather than my work ethic if I don't get bigger. We'll keep you posted. This gym is absolutely incredible. 

Another mistake we made was kind of a bummer. We added this washer and dryer. We thought we added it with enough time but the people that we didn't let know were the HVAC people. We've got plumbing, we've got electrical, but we don't have a vent out of the house. There are a couple solutions we're working through but it's a little stuff like that where if you're not paying attention to every little detail you can end up with a headache like this. 

Lots of people that said our pool would never come together and I believed it but the pool people pulled it off. It looks absolutely awesome. We have one more cleaning that is happening this week. There's just a little more stuff in the bottom. I think they did everything in about five cleanings from absolute sludge that would eat up a body to looking like a beautiful pool.

Our HVAC people were here earlier today just getting everything installed so that we can turn on the heater for the pool. All of this stuff runs from an app on my phone. There's a Spillway waterfall which is really cool. You can immediately have very hot water come into this tanning ledge where a lot of times we'll have kids hanging out. If you want a colder pool but you have kids that want to come and splash around in the water this is going to be awesome. It will be kind of a hot spot when we turn on the cool waterfall. It's going to be a ton of fun for me and the kids and sales reps that come over. 

There are a couple more things I want to include that I think will make a huge difference if you're getting into the building process. I've talked about this first one before but any specialty items make sure that you get an exact number pegged down. When it comes to my HVAC I did not know that was going to be an extra $60,000 - $75,000 on top of our original bid. My builder didn't understand all that went into the pool install. The biggest reason for that is, I was using pool people that I was kind of the contractor on. I was the one dealing with them, asking questions, going through that process. My builder just said look they could build the structure but everything involving the pool was on the pool company. 

The problem was I didn't understand that that included the HVAC that would be required for this. When we got his HVAC guy in here he told us what needed to be done and again that wasn't something that should have fallen on my builder. That was my mistake for not understanding that that was going to be my responsibility. His people still helped us, it just ended up costing a lot more to be able to get it done.

The other thing is through the process make sure that everything is written down. There are lots of change orders that you go through. You want those written down so you know what that's going to be. With cost plus, your price is your price right? Your builder isn't manipulating you or taking advantage of anything. It's just what it costs and they get their fee on that. You want to make sure you know what's going into that. They're a little less incentivized to get their bid dead on for what your desires are because again they're cost plus. If it goes up, it's not as big of a concern. There were lots of things that were substantially more money that were unique that included the glass doors throughout the house, the HVAC system, a lot of the tiles we chose, fixtures, etc. So make sure you get that dialed in on the front end.

The other thing is when it comes to grout, tile, and paint colors, all of that stuff on your cabinets is to make sure you use text or email. Get specific details because there are lots of things where we didn't get specific details and so then a lot of times instead of asking us the subs would just do things. We ended up with grout colors that we had to go and change and we ended up with flooring that was going the wrong direction from what we wanted. 

There were lots of these little things that had we written it down, then it could have been their fault. But when nothing was clarified they just kind of did what they thought was best, That's where you run into issues. You may wonder why wouldn't the sub just come and talk to you, well we felt that way a lot too. Some subs were more easy to work with and admitted they should have asked us. Others were more difficult. They did the herringbone the wrong direction in my office. We told them we wanted to go towards the focal point and they said “We put it in, you didn't say anything. This is how we thought we're not going to rip it up and redo it and pay for that just because you didn't clarify something.” 

That really sucked and it is what it is. I think it turned out great but we weren't going to go and spend extra on anything and everything. So just make sure that you're over the top annoying. I feel like I'm a great person at follow-up, asking lots of questions but there were still things that we didn't clarify enough. Some things ended up getting done in a way that maybe we weren't over the moon excited about. 

For the most part everything in this home turned out just how we wanted it to be, but there are things that are going to change, have issues, etc. Maybe the designer of the home or the engineer of the home missed something. Things like the direction that it faced and which areas were going to have issues with snow. This home faced a different direction when we copied the original plans and because of that we had a lot of water issues that then ended up causing a lot of leaks. 

Some of this was on the roofer and they came and fixed that. The other part is the way that this was designed. There are certain areas on a roof that just have to handle a ton of snow. Because of the order of things, there was one year where we didn't have insulation in yet but we did have heat in the home. We ended up getting a lot of heat out, we got ice dams and then that caused the leaks that caused roof damage. 

All of those things now have since been fixed. Had we gotten heat tape and maybe done things in a slightly different order it wouldn't have been an issue but it's a unique home and a unique environment where we got lots of snow this last winter. 

Make sure that you're thinking about everything possible and asking tons of questions about all the things that could go wrong. With a lot of these issues the subs and our builder just made them right. They were able to get them fixed and get them done properly. That's something I wish I would have thought about more so that I could be on top of it. Again, ask tons of questions. Make sure that you get everything written down. Clarify things on the front end. Make sure that you understand that the loud bird is the one that gets the worm. 

Consistently follow up with subs. We'd put a time frame on it, hold them accountable and we'd call them when they didn't show up. Once I started getting involved with my general contractor I feel like that sped up a lot of those things. 

The last thing is there are lots of different permits and things that can get in the way. We had to wait on our septic, water, and electrical, all because of different permitting that we had to wait on with the city. That's just another thing that can be out of your control. Do everything you can to plan for a worst case scenario time frame and a worst case scenario budget. A lot of times when you're building a home this stuff just happens. You're going to end up over budget, over your time frame. If you show patience with that and plan accordingly it's going to end up a lot better. 

I'm so grateful that we waited way longer to sell our house. I was going to sell it almost a year ago based on when I thought this house was going to be done. Waiting until the right time, we've only had to live in one of my rentals for a couple weeks before we're going to be able to move in here,  

It's been such a fun painful, scary, long, awesome dream home disaster process. If I had to do it again, I probably would. We'll see once I'm living in it. I'm sure it will all be worth it but it's been a ton of fun. I hope if you're building a home this helps you to go through the process.