Do Your Homework Early

Be more ambitious. Do your homework. There’s no easy way around this.”

-Anthony McCarten


-Visit as many model homes by custom builders in your area as you can. Be upfront with the sales consultant and tell them you are building a custom home and are just there to get some ideas. If you do not, you will get stalked as you tour the home. Take pictures of features you like and want to remember. If you like the color/finish of flooring, cabinets, paint, etc., ask the sales consultant for the brand and color.

-Drive through neighborhoods with the same style of homes you are building and take pictures of different color schemes that you like. It’s easier to see how color combinations look on a larger scale as compared to small color samples. If the homeowner is outside (and they appear to be friendly) stop ask ask if they would mind sharing the names of their paint colors.

-Create a binder or folder on your computer to compile all of the information. You won’t have as much time as you think you will to do this later in the process.

Our story…

       It seems like it wasn’t long ago and we were 10 months out from the start of construction. Life got busy and now we are only three months out with a lot to accomplish. The intriguing part of building our own home is that we are able to design all spaces to our liking versus buying existing construction. Michelle and I find ourselves on our phones/computers almost nightly searching for home features we think are interesting and unique. Again, Pinterest seems to be the best place to view a wide range of ideas quickly. We are “pinning” ideas for different areas of our house: exterior, kitchen, great room, drop zones, etc. Luckily, our tastes aren’t far off.

Entry light and ceiling

Beams in great room

Built-in grill

       I didn’t realize how much of an asset it was to view existing homes/features on a weekly basis with my buying clients. I occasionally snap a few pictures of cool home features to bring home and show Michelle. On the flip side, I would also find home features that looked cool online, but were a bust once I saw them in person. We quickly delete those ideas from our saved Pinterest boards.  Below are ideas that I’ve seen in active listings that I snapped pictures of to show Michelle.


       We are also spending time on the weekends visiting model homes with all the local builders. The moment we walk into model homes, the sales consultants attempt to smother us hoping for a potential sale (I get it as I do the same things at open houses). I quickly explain the purpose of our visit and they back off. We take pictures of features we like throughout the homes. We found a cabinet style and color that Michelle LOVED in a Drees model home. We asked the sales consultant for the brand, color, and finis, which he gladly provided. Visiting these model homes not only provides us with some good ideas, but it also makes us even happier that we are building a custom home due to some quality concerns we noticed with some of the builders (surprisingly at varying price points).

Model home cabinet finish

Model home office ceiling

Model home master bedroom

       Michelle and I started going to different home improvement stores such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Menards to price various types and styles of flooring, tile, lighting, etc. We thought these stores would give us a good idea of how much we could expect to spend (thinking these stores would be the most economical). We also started going to specialty flooring (Floors To Go) and lighting stores (Indiana Lighting). There was a wider range of products in these stores both in price and quality. The biggest difference between the stores was selection. For example, Lowes had 10 choices for luxury vinyl plank versus the 150 options at Floors to Go. Although we didn’t make any specific selections at this point, we are at least much more educated for when that time comes. Our quest will continue as we visit other stores, such as the Tile Shop, Floor and Decor, etc. until we have to make our selections for our contractor.

       I am also in the process of doing a few home improvement projects at our current home so that it’ll be ready to list in the spring. One morning I ran into Home Depot to get some exposed aggregate sealer for our driveway extensions. On the way out, I decided to walk through the lawn and garden section. To my surprise, I found 3′-4′ spruce trees and some flowering plum trees on clearance ($50/piece). I had intentions of buying some trees to plant around our property in the spring and I previously discovered that most nurseries sell these trees for $200 or more a piece. I quickly found a cart and loaded 5 trees. I gladly purchased these discounted items earlier than anticipated to save significant money. Within the next two days, I cleared some time in my schedule to plant the trees out at our lot. We will continue to look for deals and discounted items that we can purchase early.

Cheap trees!

Cheap trees planted