Home Building 101

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I'm Katelyn James Alsop, a photographer, educator and momma who believes any photographer can have a profitable AND purposeful business.


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most of you know, we built a house last year!! This time last year they were breaking ground and we were FREAKING OUT!! So exciting and so overwhelming at the same time. We were such newbies and we learned so much through this process! We’ve received some emails from other couples who are entering into the home building stage and while we aren’t pros, we did learn a few things about the whole process!! We built with Eagle Construction in Goochland, VA and there were a few reasons we decided that we HAD to work with this company. Eagle’s floor plans were unlike anything we had seen in the area.

The included features were amazing and we wanted something FAR from cookie cutter. We live in a subdivision and so our process was a little different than those building outside of a community. We know that one day when we have kids that want to play sports in the yard, we’ll have an issue. Our yard isn’t enormous because we’re in a subdivision. However, this is the perfect setup for us right now. All of our yardwork and maintenance is included in the HOA and since we’re traveling a lot these days, that’s an amazing setup!

Michael and I visited the model home on a Friday and we were signing a contract on Sunday. It seems like a whirlwind looking back and it was! Everything happened so fast but we knew it was the right direction for us and we’re so thankful for our new space. As we continued through the design process and the building of the home, we learned a few key things. Some of these words of wisdom came from making mistakes and some came from great advice from others who had built many homes of their own. Enjoy!!

1. When signing off on the floor plan, ANALYZE EVERYTHING. Windows, doorways, rooflines, etc. We bought the floor plan of the model home and there were several items that we thought were included but were really “upgrades”…. and “upgrades” add up FAST!

2. Visit DAILY if possible! We are so thankful that we were able to visit our home site almost every single day! This ensured that we found mistakes quickly so that they could be addressed. 

3. TAKE PICTURES!! And take a lot of them! Take pictures of all of the beams and boards before the drywall goes up. This allows you to see which way your boards run and it makes stud finding easy for decorating! 

4. Ask Questions…. even if they seem dumb! You’re the one paying for this house… and you deserve to know absolutely everything about it!!  This is your baby! 

5.  Ask for advice and hire help! We hired a dear friend of ours  to help us pick out wall colors and this was a LIFESAVER! The ONE ROOM that I selected the color by myself is a hideous shade of sea foam. I thought it would be more “mint”!! We’ve never shown that bathroom on the blog because of it’s wall color disaster but we’ll fix it one day! 

6.  Upgrade the areas of the home that will be used the most. For example, our upstairs bathroom is as basic as they come! However, our downstairs master bath has a tiled, walk-in shower. We are SO thankful for this advice. We splurged on something that increased resale value and we use it everyday. We also decided to carpet the stairs. This isn’t as pretty as hardwood stairs but since we have a first floor master, we only use the upstairs when we have guests. One day, our upstairs bedrooms will be used for kids and carpeted steps may save up a few trips to the ER…. not to mention it saved over $3000! WOWSERS! We almost went with hardwood stairs and I’m so thankful we saved that money! 

7. Weigh your options. For us, if we wanted to stay within our budget, we could either have a tray ceiling in our bedroom or a door “handles” instead of door “knobs”. They were the same price but we could only pick one. We decided to go with function over “pretty” and we now have door handles that are easy to open with an elbow when you’re carrying groceries or laundry.  We approached a lot of our decision making this way and it allowed us to stay within budget. If we wanted to have a 60/40 sink, we weren’t going to get the handsoap pump built into the granite. If we were going to have awesome faucets in the half bath, we had to use standard faucets in the other bathrooms. This was a great way to stay under budget but still splurge in a few areas. 

8. Be picky and complain…. nicely. If molding isn’t straight… it should be. If a light fixture isn’t centered, it should be. This is a brand new house! It’s easy to think “Well, that’s not a big deal I guess” but then when you think about what you’re paying for this, you’ll realize it needs to be as close to perfect as possible! 

9. Do everything in WRITING! Verbal conversations mean absolutely nothing in the home construction world. If you call your site manager to tell them something needs to be changed, you need to shoot them an email as well. Have proof of everything you communicate about. We were treated very well throughout our whole process with Eagle but we did have a few hick-ups along the way and we learned that written communication is key!

10. Share the process! Allow friends and family to visit the site during construction and share in your excitement!! We took many friends to our construction zone during those 6 months and it was so awesome for them to see it under construction and now as a home!! 

And here are some of my FAVORITE images from the ENTIRE process!!! Enjoy!  and Ps. You can view more posts about our home HERE! 

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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