We don’t know anything about building a house. One day last summer, Kyle dragged me through a “model home” for a builder company that has homes popping up all over Chicagoland. “It’s just for fun,” he said. “Just to get ideas.”
And it was fun. And boy, oh boy, did it give me ideas.
The open floor plans. The stone fireplace. The shiplap “accent wall”. The fake-wood floor that looks like a real wood floor. “The can lighting is nice”, Kyle said. I didn’t even know what “can lighting” was until we started this adventure – but now I’ve realized that I can’t live in a house without it.
I know this because, after we sat down and started “building our house” with the builder rep last weekend, I asked her what the “alternative” was if we didn’t do can lighting. Because apparently can lighting – much like pull handles and stair railings and granite counter tops – would be “extra”. “You’ll have a switch with an outlet,” she said. “So you could just plug a lamp into it. And it would be on the switch.”
I don’t know why I was expecting her to say “uh, different lights?” Instead our only other option is a lamp. On a switch. And I’m assuming they don’t give you the lamp as a housewarming present. So, the alternative to can lighting is no lighting.
“We’ll need can lights in every room.” I said. “Add that to the list.”
“The list” started filling up fast with things like – stainless steel appliances, “Group 2 cabinets” (because that’s where the white cabinets are), brushed nickel faucets, a 4-ft garage extension, the fake-wood vinyl floor that looks like real-wood-and-not-vinyl, the French doors for my office, plumbing for the basement, one of those blower/fan/exhaust things in the kitchen…? It’s supposed to help with smoke, I guess, when you’re cooking. I don’t know, that one was Kyle’s idea. Apparently he thinks I’m going to be doing a lot of cooking.
The builder rep asked us questions about “what kind of toilets” we wanted, and “sinks” and “were we okay with the tile in the shower?” because “it’s not subway tile” which is apparently all the rage.
Eventually she settled on a price.
I’m not even going to tell you how much it was. Just know that we built a two-story, four bedroom house with a basement and “can lights in every room” – and it was more than we were planning to spend. Like $80,000 over budget. And she hadn’t even added on “the land” (because that’s extra) or the property taxes.
“You know…” I said. “We don’t really NEED a four-bedroom house. Maybe we could go a little smaller?”
“Yea,” Kyle agreed. “This is our starter home. We don’t need a big house right away. Right?”
“Right.” I said, and we both looked at Karen (the builder rep) and asked her to go back and build us “something a little smaller”. So, she did. And it came back $40,000 over budget. (At least we’re making strides.)
Karen presented us with two other options that could potentially fit within our budget. Kyle and I pretended to know what our “budget” was. When we first started this process – before actually talking to anyone – I said our budget was $550,000. Because I used one of those “calculators” that I found on the Internet and plugged in the number we pay in rent every month and it said “Based on that mortgage payment, you can afford a $550,000 house” and I was like “Cool! This house-buying thing will be a cinch!”
It’s not a cinch. And, realistically, we should not be looking at a $550,000 house. Unless we want to spend the rest of our lives eating baked beans out of a can for dinner.
“Is there anything… smaller?” I asked Karen. “Or…” Or… I don’t know. I think I was about to ask her if she could wave her magic wand and give us a friends-and-family discount. On a house.
“We really don’t have anything *smaller*…” She said, seeming genuinely disappointed. Karen was the sweetest, nicest builder rep we had talked to. (Granted, we’d only met with two. But Karen was the best.) “Maybe you could try a townhome?” She suggested. “Have you thought about that?”
A townhome. I had been very against “townhomes” when we started this conversation – way back when I thought we could afford a $550,000 house. (The townhomes in our neighborhood START at $600,000. So. Even with our fake not-a-real-budget budget, we couldn’t afford it.)
There were a few reasons why I had been so anti-townhome. One – because I’ve heard the HOAs were astronomical. Two – “We have to… share a driveway?” Three – “We also have to share… walls? Like in an apartment?” Right. But we own it. We’re paying to own part of a driveway and one side of a wall.
I’m sure it’s not all bad. I’ve been coming around to the idea lately – mostly because “well it’s still better than an apartment” and “at least we would finally own something!”
We’ll probably have another meeting with Karen before it’s all said and done (I feel like I should invite her to our wedding at this point). Stay tuned!