Monday, July 11, 2011

Why We Built

Every Friday I have been sharing with you our house building process that occurred 3 years ago (check out the progress here).  I have had some people ask why we built…and here’s your answer.  It’s lengthy.  I apologize.  Our scenario is definitely different than most who build a house.

Why we built our current house begins with why we built our first house.  Meet house #1…

We built house number one because we had a small budget with a limited number of options due to location (we wanted to build somewhere between Iowa City (so I could finish pharmacy school) and the Quad Cities (where Nate was working)).  Our options were less than desirable. The houses that were available were at the top of our price range and needed a lot of work.  We were okay with doing the work.  We just wouldn’t have had to money to do so.  We also knew that we needed something that would hopefully sell easily in around 2 years once I graduated from pharmacy school.  Renting would have been an option but we wanted the added equity in owning something.

Nate’s dad suggested that maybe we should look into building a house.  We both thought he was crazy. There is no way we could afford to do that.  We couldn’t even afford a house with a working bathroom or electrical system.  After doing a lot of calculations we decided it was something we could pull off using Nate’s young 20-something body and his dad’s previous house building experience.  (Interesting fact: growing up Nate always lived in new houses.  Two of which were built by his dad.)

Luckily we built in a county that allowed Nate and his dad to all of the work on the house without the use of a contractors or professionals (plumbers, electricians).  They did all of the work on house #1 except for the foundation walls, the roof, the drywall, and the heating/cooling. That means Nate and his dad (with the help of various other family members) poured the basement floor, framed the house, did all of the plumbing and electrical, cabinet installation, floor installation, etc.  Nate’s mom and I painted, kept the boys fed/hydrated, and carried boards from one end of the lot to the other (girl jobs suck).  All of this hard work allowed us to stay within our goal budget and have a new home.

 Why did we build house #2?

After house #1 we swore we would never build again.  Ever. Done. House building was stupid.

Nearing the end of pharmacy school, we started searching for houses in the Quad Cities.  We again ran into the problem where the houses we liked/could afford would need more work that we would be able to pay for…and, weirdly, I think we were both itching to build another house.

2008 was the last year you could build a house in Iowa without the use of a contractor.  Contractor = lots of $$$.  We banked on the sale of our first house, purchased a lot, and got to work building house #2…


House #2 is obviously larger than house number #1 which means we weren’t able to frame the house ourselves but we still did a lot of the work (which you can read about here).

The profit we made from the sale of house #1 left us with the down payment for house #2.  By doing a lot of the building work on these two homes, we now own a home that is valued at ~$140,000 more than our mortgage payment.

This post kind of makes building a house sound all super and wonderful.  The finished product is.  Getting there…not so much.  Picking out floor plans, light fixtures, and paint colors is fun.  So fun.  Some people thinking picking out every detail in a new home is super stressful.  We LOVED those decisions. Spending every free moment covered in saw dust and plumbing goo..not so much fun.  Nate and his dad have spent over a year of their lives on these houses. When building our current house we would all go to work from 8-5, eat supper, and then head over and work on the house until about 10.  Every night for about 4-5 months.  Plus all day on the week-end…every week-end.  Nate’s dad enjoys it.  Nate and I are still deciding.

There you have it.  The reason we built our house.  Will be build another one?  We won’t say never (we’ve done that once) but we are both very content with our house and would love to stay in it for many, many more years!

Any specific building related questions you have for us?


  1. That is awesome! I cannot believe you actually did the work!

  2. that is so awesome!!! my husband does not have those skills, but oh i wish he did because i know it would save us a ton of money on projects! well, i still love him for other reasons. :)

  3. You have a beautiful home, and the great satisfaction that you did most of it yourselves. That's awesome!

  4. I bet that goo and dust is worth it now, especially when you think of the money you saved!

    And yes, I have a building question: will you come build a house for us? Maybe a beach house somewhere, since we're perfectly content with our current house? You can trade did-that-customer-REALLY-just-ask-that pharmacist stories with Rick ("My NuvaRing's not working"--"how are you using it?"--"I put it around my wrist" is the latest). :)

  5. Beautiful home and how awesome to do it yourselves!

  6. Wow, I tip my hat off to you. That is some serious dedication to getting what you want which I admire. I also love that you could bank a whole bunch of cashola because of your hard work. That's only fair, right?

  7. If you ever get the itch again, you can come help us maybe build a house in about 2 years :o)

  8. What an accomplishment on both houses. It sounds like you sold your first when the market was still doing well. What great luck that you were able to build without using contractors. Not only are they expensive, but they tend to take their time in completing the project. Thanks for the post.

  9. What an accomplishment on both houses. It sounds like you sold your first when the market was still doing well. What great luck that you were able to build without using contractors. Not only are they expensive, but they tend to take their time in completing the project. Thanks for the post.

  10. My dad build our home 20 yrs ago and I loved it. I was 15 at the time and we got to pick bathroom tiles, fixtures etc. This would be a dream come true for me except my Hubs is not handy at all (I hang the pictures) so this sadly would not happen for me.

  11. That is awesome! I've been considering for a few years about builing a house (small one). I would have to use sub-contractors for a few tasks....but I think hubby & I could do a lot of the work.

    What's been holding me back? I have a property that needs property line re-zoned, I live in S. Cali and my empty lot is in Portland, and I have 2 toddlers.

    I'm sure someday it will still happen though! Most things I put my mind to I get done!

  12. Totally worth all of the stress & hard work! Your house is gorge.

  13. I had no idea you guys built your gorgeous home YOURSELVES. Nevermind TWO homes!!! I just assumed you had used a contractor. Now you are officially my idol.
    I used to swear that I'd never live through another remodel, but here we are doing it all over again :)
    I guess it is easy to forget how difficult the hard phases are when the reward is so great.

  14. What a great story, I've always wanted to be one of those super DIY-ers, so cool that you are

  15. Wow! I wish we could do all the work ourselves too, but it looks like well be using husbands uncle who is a
    Contractor. at least he's going o give us a family discount ! we have zero skills in the home building category!

  16. So glad you answered this because I've been wondering!! I think we want to build someday, but I think we're a couple houses away from that day. (I think. Who knows!) I can totally identify with the schedule, though. We did that with this house...but only for 2 months. I think 4-5 would have killed me. Especially the nights when we were plumbing at 1am. Kinda made me want to jump off the roof.

    Your house was definitely worth it, though. It's so beautiful!!

  17. That's incredible that you guys built them yourselves! What awesome skills you must have now! You did a great job, too!

  18. Wow I am amazed you guys did that yourselves! What a labor of love and brings new meaning to the term DIY!

  19. Wow! Congrats on building 2 homes by hand! My husband and I have built 1 home through a builder, so... you win, haha! The hardest work we did was deciding on a floorplan, cabinetry, lighting, etc. It would be super cool to say that you actually worked on your home with your own 2 hands!

  20. The pictures of house #1 are no longer available/showing up. Do you still have them posted somewhere on your blog? Would love to see them!!!! Great job on house #2 by the way! Love it. :)


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