Custom Home : Choosing a Builder

I first started writing this post over a year ago, back when we were still very much in the midst of building our home. I stopped writing it then because I realized I should probably wait until I’ve at least built one home with a custom builder before deciding if I had any valuable insight to offer when it comes to choosing a builder…

Now that we are all moved in, I can honestly say that I am so grateful that we went with our gut and had the builders that we did. While we definitely had some rough patches during the process (which I now know is to be expected), they managed to build our home during a pandemic and they did it all on budget (not to say that we finished on budget but that’s because we added things, not because of anything our builder did) and with only a 2 month delay (which I also learned is not even considered a true delay in these trying times). Not only did our builders deliver on their promises, but their after market service has been impeccable. Does that mean that we have no outstanding issues with our home? No, of course not – there are thousands of details that go in to building a house, so things are bound to go wrong – but great after market service means that I can count on my builder to address the deficiencies properly and quickly.

So while I am so grateful not to have any building horror stories, I still like to think that the steps we took prior to choosing our builder helped match us with a company we knew we could work well with. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a custom home builder:

  1. Reputation within the Trades

Online reviews can help narrow down the choice for a builder but not every client will write a review; in fact, I think that unless a builder specifically asks their clients to write a review, most wouldn’t even think of doing it.

What we found to be really telling is how the trades spoke of our builder. We happen to know a few trades people in the industry and asked them if they’d heard of our builder. While none of our contacts had worked directly with them, they knew of the company and were able to ask around for reviews – all of them came back really positive.

My top recommendation when choosing a builder is to put in the leg work and ask around for honest reviews. If you don’t know anyone in your area that has the inside track into the construction world, show up at your potential builder’s job sites and see if you can get some insight from the trades that are there. Typically, a reputable builder will have their own “go-to” subcontractors that they always work with. You want to avoid the builders that hire any random trade because, without the benefit of longstanding work relationships, they can’t honestly vouch for the quality of work from that trade. So, if you show up on a site and find out that that was the first time the framers/roofers/plumbers/etc… were doing work for this particular builder, I would take that as a warning sign and do some more digging.

2. Timelines

Timelines are a really important factor, especially if you are looking to sell your home around the time that your new build is scheduled to be ready. Unfortunately, most builders won’t give you a precise timeline due to all the unknows that can occur during construction. Those that do give you a timeline, will usually include a bunch of non-liability clauses into the contract in the event that they can’t meet the deadline.

So when I say to consider timelines, I mean to consider it in the context of assessing your potential builder’s credibility. We met with several builders and general contractors before choosing ours. Some quoted us 6-8 months to build our home, others 8-10 months, one even said he could get it done in under 6 months (we wrote him off right away)… If anything, we knew from speaking to several builders that a realistic timeframe was in the 8 month-ish range (of course, at the time, no one could have predicted the impact of the pandemic).

Our builder actually came back with the longest timeframe – 1 year. While some would think that it would be best to go with someone who can get the job done faster, we appreciated the extra time because we figured it would minimize the possibility of further delays since they were already giving themselves a cushion for unforeseen events.

3. Communication

Communication is huge! If your potential builder says he’s going to send you a quote today and then a week goes by and still nothing – take that as a warning. While there may be a legitimate explanation for the delay, if a pattern of poor communication is shown prior to choosing a particular builder, you can almost be certain that it will only get worse with time.

We had one potential builder that took a month to send us a quote and when we emailed him with follow up questions (almost immediately upon receiving the quote), he took another month to respond! Needless to say, we didn’t give him a second thought.

During our build, we sent out builder a lot of emails and text messages (a lot!) and while we did have some communication issues, for the most part, they answered every email and message without us needing to follow up for a response. That is a true sign of a company that knows what they are doing and that values their clients.

4. Organization

I am a very Type-A person, so I have a deep appreciation for all things “organization”. Personally, I really believe that being organized is a non-negotiable requirement for home building.

A builder who is on top of their projects will know exactly what is happening at the location at any given time. They have their trades lined up, they give the client ample notice about deadlines for design selections, etc.

At the onset, one way to tell if a potential builder is organized is with how he delivers all of the requested information to you. For example, in our case, during one of our preliminary interviews with our builder, they suggested that we look at floor plans that they had previously done to see if there is anything there that we could work with (this would have cut back on design time). After that meeting, within less than a day, they sent us an email setting out all of the things that we had discussed and attached the floorplans.

While most would think this is standard practice, some of the builders that we met with didn’t even bring a pen and paper to our initial meetings. They didn’t remember what we were looking to build or where, even though I had set it all out in emails to them prior to the meetings. So there are definitely ways to gauge if your potential builder is organized enough prior to going with them, that will show you if they will be on the ball during the actual building process.

5. Compatibility

Maybe the one factor that you can control and that doesn’t rely on information from or observation of others is how you vibe with your potential builder.

In our case, our builders were European, like us, with similar cultures and traditions and they had young children. So I didn’t have to explain to them the need for a formal dining room, they just knew it had to be there. They knew we needed a finish space in the basement with guest room, play area and a bathroom. They understood the need for at least two freezers, a pantry and a pot filler. They just knew us. And, in turn, we felt like we knew their character as well. All of that “compatibility” was established before we signed the contract.

Signing a custom home build contract is essentially agreeing to being in a professional relationship with a builder for several years. Not only are you working with them to build the house, you also need to know that you can trust them to address any shortfalls once the house is built. You want to make sure you get along with that company before committing.

While I am sure there are much more specific factors that would appeal to each individual, these were the initial ones that we were looking for each time we met with a builder. Feel free to leave a comment or question below if there is anything else you’d like to know about hiring with a custom home builder.

Custom Home – Month 17 & 18 – WE ARE HOME!!!

Phew! It has a been a whirlwind of activity around here! When I last left off, our builder had told us that they likely would not make their latest deadline which sent us into a panic since our landlord had already said that he could not extend our lease beyond September 30…

For a long few days we seriously contemplated moving all of our belongings (and our children and dog!) into the unfinished portion of our house while construction continued upstairs. Then, our builder advised that they were going to work miracles to get everything done in time for the end of September. And then, as though the stars aligned, our landlord agreed to let us stay an extra two weeks into October, provided we moved all of our belongings from the basement of our rental out of the house by the end of September so that he can have workers start finishing the basement. Crisis averted!

“Work miracles” is definitely one way to put it! There were trades working on top of trades nearly everyday, including the weekends, in September to get the house completed. Ultimately, September 30 proved to be too ambitious because we needed a buffer of a few days between when the Certificate of Occupancy was issued and when our bank would finalize our mortgage. So we ended up closing on our house on October 7, just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving!

Like any new build, things were not 100% completed upon closing. We had temporary garage doors for a few weeks, some of our exterior doors are still backordered (we have temporary ones for now), we were missing a faucet in the powder room that has since been installed, we had a leak in our kitchen sink that has since been fixed, our pocket doors still don’t close, we are missing cabinet doors, etc. But it is fine because we are home!

Now that the “construction phase” is behind us, we have a whole new set of “pandemic challenges” to deal with, including the fact that none of our appliances were delivered and there is currently no date set for when they will be in stock. For now, we have a loaner fridge and stove, we are hand washing all of our dishes, and relying on friends and family to do laundry every week (there are no laundromats near us)… But it is fine because we are home!

And since being home, we’ve already been able to enjoy our first family celebration! If you were here for my very first construction update post, then you know that we found out that I was pregnant almost immediately after we sold our house and closed on our land. That was the start of our home project and we’ve since come full circle as Luca just celebrated his 1st birthday in his very own home!

While my monthly Construction Updates have come to an end, there is still lots to share! Once we get fully settled in (it’s taking much longer than I anticipated), we will start tackling our long list of DIYs and I’ll be sure to take you along for each one, big and small!

Custom Home – Month 16: Standing Still AGAIN…

The month of August started so strong. Floors were tiled, then hardwood was installed, then the millwork went in and then the countertops!

All of that sounds amazing but what we don’t talk about is the amount of time the house still sat untouched this month. Tile was done in three days; hardwood was another three days; millwork was one day and counters were in within a few hours. After that, nothing.

We expected trades to be working simultaneously on the inside and outside of the house since we have repeatedly communicated to our builder that our landlord is not extending the lease and we need to move out by the end of September. Still, a balcony needs to be built, covered deck needs to be finished, we haven’t chosen our stucco color, we are missing interior and exterior doors, septic has to be delivered and installed, showers need to be tiled, electrical and plumbing need to be connected, and countless other stuff that could have been done in the days that our house sat empty.

Needless to say that with all of the excitement at the things that we do see come together, we are beyond stressed. We’re trying to remain optimistic but the reality of the situation is starting to kick in and we are losing some much needed sleep over it.

I hope to give you a much more positive update next month!!! Until then, here’s a glimpse of our exterior elevation in its current unfinished state – I am beyond in love with our front door pillars!

Custom Home – 6 Moving Tips For When You Have 30 Days To Go!

While we don’t have an official move-in date yet, we are roughly 30 days away!!! It feels like forever from now but, when at look at all that I have left to do until then, 30 days is not a lot! Here are a few things on my current to-do list…

1. TAKE DOWN WALL DECOR

If you haven’t already, take down all of the wall art and remove any nails or screws from the wall. Wall shelves can probably also come down now if they’re only serving a decorative purpose.

In addition to the wall art, you may want to also take down your wall-mounted televisions, provided you have the TV base on hand to use until move-out day. This way, you can start filling in the holes from the TV mounts, leaving you with one less thing to do at the end.

2. DISMANTLE FURNITURE

This might be premature if you’re actually still using the furniture but if you have a spare guest room that won’t be used for the next month, then consider taking apart the furniture now so that you have one less room to pack at the end.

3. SELL AND DONATE WHAT YOU DON’T WANT

We have been on a Kijiji selling spree lately! Now that the cabinetry has been installed in our new home and we can see the spaces come together, some of our current furniture isn’t going to work, so we’re selling it off to avoid having to move it next month.

In addition to that, there are certain items that we just don’t want anymore. We’re selling those too and donating anything that is not worth selling.

4. REVIEW YOUR MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS

If you haven’t already done this, change the delivery address on your monthly subscriptions.

I’m actually putting a hold on our Amazon household deliveries for a month so that we don’t risk having items delivered at either address when we’re not there.

5. SET UP UTILITIES FOR THE NEW HOME

We’ve already put in the request to stop the utilities for our current rental to end on the last day of our lease. Now, I need to set up the utilities for our new home.

If you’re moving into a new build, like us, the utilities may not yet be connected (it is not uncommon for the builder to do that at the very end), but you can fill out the connection forms online and then, once the builder makes the necessary connections, your accounts will be set up.

6. CREATE AND COMPLETE YOUR PUNCH LIST

Our moving punch-list is an ever-evolving checklist of little things that need to be done to help make the move a little less hectic. The goal is to keep the list handy and add/remove items as you go… Here are a few of the items that are currently on my list:

  • ConfIrm moving details with moving company and set aside money for movers;
  • Back up all of the computers/phones (just in case we have internet connection issues when we move);
  • Use up all of the food in the house;
  • Remove keyless lock from door (it belongs to us) and re-install house lock;
  • etc.

There you have it – we’ve officially made it to the 30-day stretch! If you’re not quite at 30 days yet, be sure to check out my 90-day and 60-day posts for what we did to prepare for our move back then.

Custom Home – Month 15: More Walls, More Prep…

Month 15 was fun!

There were people working at the house almost daily which was reassuring in that we may actually be able to take possession by the end of September. [If you’ve been following along then you’ll recall that our landlord wants to sell the house that we are currently renting and has advised that he will not extend our lease past September 30, so we need our home to be ready by then!]

Drywall was installed during the last few days of month 14 and then, this month, the walls were taped, mudded and painted! Yup – the house has been fully painted! We played it safe and used my favourite white – Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace – throughout the whole house. In addition to that, most of our interior doors have been hung and the floors have been prepped for tile install.

Outside, they’ve started installing the stone and it is looking great! I will admit, however, that if there is one process of the design phase that I really do not enjoy it is picking the exterior colours. It Is Hard! We’re very happy with the stone selection but we have yet to finalize our stucco colour – we know we want grey but there are so many varieties of grey… If you pick one that is too warm, there’s a risk it will look beige; if you pick one that is too cold, it’ll look blue…

So here we are, 15 whole months later, and we still don’t know what our exterior colours will be.

On a personal note, it was my birthday this month and we celebrated at the house! We went after hours, set up a little picnic in the middle of our living room, had cake and it was perfect! Luca is next in our family to celebrate a birthday and we are so hopeful to host his first birthday at our new home in October!

In case you missed it…below is a round up of this month’s home decor finds that I am really looking forward to unpacking as soon as we move in.

Now that the walls are done and the floors are prepped, month 16 is (I hope) the month where all of our design choices will start to come together. Exciting times ahead!

Custom Home – 6 Moving Tips For When You Have 60 Days To Go!

Sixty days to go!!! Honestly, part of me can’t believe we are so close; yet, it feels as though we are so far because there is still so much to do! If you missed last month’s moving post, see here for things you should be doing at around 90 days prior to moving.

In addition to the 6 items listed in my 90-day countdown post, here are 6 more “to-dos” to check off your list now that you are 60 days away from moving!

1. FIND A MOVING COMPANY

If you’re like us, you might not yet have a firm closing date which means you can’t actually schedule your movers. You can, however, start researching different companies and get quotes from at least a few so that you know what to expect when the time comes.

2. FIGURE OUT YOUR WINDOW COVERINGS

Window coverings have been on my mind a lot lately (see my recent post regarding our choices this time around). If you’re planning on getting any custom blinds or shades, the lead time is about 4-6 weeks (longer if you’re building during a world pandemic!), so now is the time to get a few in-home consultations done and put in your order.

3. GIVE NOTICE TO YOUR LANDLORD

If you’re in Ontario, most month-to-month leases require a 30-day termination notice but your lease might stipulate a longer period – I have seen a few that require 60 days. Read through your agreement and be sure to provide ample notice to your landlord to avoid any issues when it is time to vacate.

4. PACK SOME MORE BOXES

If you followed my advice from the 90-day checklist blog, then you’ve probably already packed away items that you know you won’t need until after you move (for us, I packed our winter gear since we’re moving at the end of the summer). Now that you are 60-days out, you have an even better idea of what you can likely do without over the next two months. Pack as much as you can while you still have the time to separate and label everything (it’s inevitable that, in the end, you will just be throwing all the remaining items in various boxes, so you might as well try to minimize the madness ahead of time).

5. USE UP THE FOOD YOU HAVE IN YOUR PANTRY AND FREEZER

I love having a stocked pantry and freezer but I don’t like moving food, especially fridge/freezer items. For starters, there’s always the chance that your appliances are not delivered on time and then you’re left with food you can’t store. If you’re like us, you already have an upright freezer that you will be bringing to the new home but we still have to disconnect and thaw it out before transporting. So save yourself the heartache of throwing out perfectly good food by making plans to consume it now!

6. BOOK TIME OFF WORK

Similar to booking your movers, if you don’t have a firm closing date yet you may not know exactly what days you will need to take off work but – trust me! – you will want to take a few days off when the time comes (if you can, plan for a week or even better, two, away from the office). Let your employer know now roughly when you expect to be moving so that you can plan your leave and your workload accordingly. That way, not only will you be able to move your belongings into your new home but you’ll have some time to also set up your space (i.e.: furniture, cable, internet, etc.) before returning to the daily grind.

That pretty much sums up my 60-day moving checklist. We are, of course, busy almost daily with planning things during the actual construction of our home, so I take solace in making these checklists for the other aspects of building a home that we sometimes overlook. Still can’t believe that there will only be 30 days left by the next time I post my last moving checklist – be sure to check back in a month for any tips and insights that I can offer.

How to Pick the Right Window Coverings

After building three homes, I feel like there should be a university course about window coverings! There are so many options in the market – shades, blinds, electric, curtains… and don’t even get me started on the type of drapery pleats! For now, since we’re still a ways from moving in, we’re focusing on just our blinds and shades options – curtain and drapes will be a blog post for another day.

Timing

Before we delve into how to pick the right window coverings, we need to talk about when to pick the right window coverings.

In both of our previous homes, we were so eager to have a move-in ready space that we immediately had our window coverings installed in the entire home. In our first, we installed the same coverings throughout the whole house. In our second, we had two types of shades – one throughout the whole main floor and another for the upper level.

Here’s what we learned from our previous homes – in both cases, we should have waited before investing in the window coverings. The reality is you won’t know what you need for your windows until you live in your space – you need time to know how you use your home, when and where the sun hits, the level of privacy that you actually need, etc. So, this time around, we’re only having shades installed in the bedrooms (babies gotta sleep!) and the rest we will do piece-by-piece as we work on each space.

Blinds, Shutters and Shades

An expert will tell you that there are lots of differences between blinds, shutters and shades. For the average person wanting to decide on window coverings for their own home, the main difference is the material used for each and how they are installed.

Blinds are usually made of wood, metal or composite. They provide a cleaner but harder look.

Shutters are the same as blinds in terms of “hardness” but they are installed differently. Blinds are installed at the top of or above the window recess and usually open from bottom to top. Shutters are attached to the window frame, making them sturdier but meaning that they can only be open to either side of the window.

Like blinds, shades are installed at the top of or above the window recess but they are fabric-based, so they project a softer feel to the window.

Things to Consider

Light and Privacy

The main reason we get window coverings (aside for the aesthetic feel) is to control the amount of light in a space and what people can see from the outside.

For a bedroom, it seems obvious that we will want blackout or, at the very least, room darkening. For a kitchen or dining room, a light filtering covering is usually best.

Blinds can be tilted up or down to let the sun in without needing to be opened from the bottom up. Shades, on the other hand, need to be rolled up for a true room brightening feel, regardless of the level of sheerness of the shade.

Budget

The size of the window plays a big roll on the price of the window covering; the bigger the window, the more expensive the covering. Also, if your windows are a special shape, you’ll need to factor in custom sizing/design which is, inevitably, more expensive.

If you’re planning on covering all of the windows at once, you may need to compromise a bit on quality to make the project affordable. (Hence, another reason why waiting to install the window coverings is a good way to go).

Cleaning

This factor is often overlooked but, having had different coverings in the past, it is something that needs to be considered!

Blinds and shutters hold a lot more dust and need to be cleaned often; but, they are easily cleaned with a dust brush or dry cloth. Depending on the texture of the fabric, dust is often hidden on shades but cleaning them is harder. A hand held vacuum does the job for regular cleaning but you may need to hire a professional for a thorough cleaning or for any accidents or spills (I’m imagining kids’ dirty hands on the shades)…

Preference / Feel

The last thing to consider is actually the driving force for our choice – the feel we want for our space. As of now, we know we want blackout fabric shades for our bedrooms – I like the softer look of them and the fact that light will not filter through (except for on the sides, of course). Since I don’t know how our living room, kitchen, dining room, etc. will feel until we’re in the house, I’m holding off on making any decision for those spaces.

Our Windows – Then & Now

House 1 – California Shutters Through-and-Through

California Shutters were really “in” when we built our first home in 2011. I thought they offered a timeless and rich look with a clean feel; so we installed them everywhere! We lived there for 5 years and I never got tired of them; they were even a selling point when we listed our home for sale. My only complaint was that they could only be opened (fully) towards the sides which meant I was limited in what furniture or decor I could place near the windows.

House 2 – Zebra and Honeycomb Throughout

I went for a softer feel in our second home in 2016. We did white zebra shades on the main floor and honeycomb shades (aka cellular shades) on the second floor. I loved the feel of the different materials but the shades didn’t all work for our space.

Our great room, for example, was south facing which meant that the sun hit hard there during the day and the shades did nothing to keep out the light and the heat. This sometimes made watching tv on a Saturday afternoon difficult and uncomfortable…

The honeycomb shades upstairs opened up and down and were cordless. The problem with those was that, over time and after frequent use, the shades wouldn’t stay up. So, for example, I would open the shades to mid-window but after a few minutes they would drop. This was likely a defect in our specific coverings but still something to consider when thinking of cordless options.

House 3 – To be determined…

Third time is a charm, right? Well, only time will tell since we’re reserving our selections until after move-in.

What we know for now is that we will be doing blackout fabric roller shades with a cord in each of our bedrooms. The cord will be mounted on the side of the window (for safety reasons with the kids) and we opted for a light grey in the boys’ bedrooms and a pearl white in the master bedroom.

We chose a more simple, white, basic option for the basement guest room – it still offers a custom feel but is more budget friendly.

My last suggestion when it comes to selecting window coverings is to not do it alone! Most companies offer free in-home consultation to discuss your specific needs. They are the experts in the industry and can advise you on things to consider when making your selections and, since it’s free, you have nothing to lose!

Custom Home – What to do while you wait for your Building Permit…

Ok, so you’ve designed your dream floorplan – you know the layout of your home, the size of your rooms and the location of your windows. Now, the “behind the scenes” work is being done by the engineers, architects, builders, etc. who are putting together the package needed to submit and obtain your building permit.

So what are you doing?

Here’s a list of things to consider doing now in order to save you time, headaches, (and maybe even money) down the road!

1. Figure out your exterior and interior doors

The first thing we had to do after our land was cleared was order our windows and exterior doors. Those are installed as soon as the house is framed and the roof is installed, so you have to pick them very early on. Researching your options before the building permits are even issued gives you a little more time to decide.

The interior doors won’t be needed for quite some time (after drywall is installed) but you will want to know what type of interior doors you want for each space before framing starts (i.e.: pocket doors, dutch doors, glass doors, etc.). We had noted our pocket doors during the floor planning stage (so they were already part of the plans submitted for the permit) but the other doors were decided afterwards. While the doors aren’t installed until much later, they are usually ordered early on so knowing what you want at the onset will save you some headaches down the road.

2. Go see your suppliers! (millwork, electrical, plumbing, tile, floors)

By now, you should know who your builder’s suppliers are. If they have storefronts, go visit them. If they have design centres, go visit them. Visit everyone and make a running list of all of the options that you like.

In our case, our builder had budget allowances for each of the major items, so we would make our selections from their suppliers up to the allotted amount and then we knew that we could source the rest on our own. For example, we ordered all of our tubs, toilets, and a few other plumbing items from our builder’s supplier and then, once we maxed out the allowance, we ordered our other plumbing items such as faucets, etc. ourselves from more big-box places like Home Depot and Wayfair.

Millwork is another big one. While you probably won’t be able to “shop around” where millwork is concerned, you might be able to start getting an idea of what your wish list will cost. Millwork was by far our biggest ticket item but, unfortunately, it was also one of the last things that we finalized (and we all know that the closer you get to the end, the less $$$ there is left for upgrades!).

3. Choose your appliances

Your appliances will actually dictate a lot of the steps in your build. You need to know the size of your appliances for your millwork design. In our case, our fridge/freezer is niched between two walls in our kitchen, so we actually needed to know the size before framing started. You’ll also need to know certain features – for example, do you want a gas range, a fridge with a water dispenser, etc… – in order for the plumber or gas fitter to know what lines need to be installed.

Depending on what is happening in the world at the time of your build (i.e.: we’re building in the middle of a pandemic), there may be long delays for appliances, so you want to choose and even order them very early on!

4. Consider furniture layout

You won’t need your furniture until you move in but the purpose of thinking about your desired layout right from the onset is to know how the other aspects of the build need to be planned out.

For example, our original plans that were submitted as part of our building permit application, had two set of french doors in our great room. Once we started thinking of how we wanted to place our couch in the great room, however, it became apparent that we would not have enough room to open the doors (which, under Ontario Building Code, have to open inwards) and have a large sectional. So we immediately changed our design from two sets of double doors to 12′ slider doors instead. Had we waited until we moved in to start thinking about our furniture, we would have been a lot more restricted in our options.

Electrical is another item that can be catered to your furniture selections. For example, while Luca is still in a crib, we know that he will eventually be in a Queen bed like his brother and that we will always have a King bed in our master bedroom. Knowing these sizes, we were able to tell our electrician exactly how far apart to install outlets, so that they are on either side of the beds.

5. Make a list for each stage (electrical, plumbing, framing)

Your builder isn’t going to be able to answer all of your questions at the moment that you think of them. We knew we wanted soffit lighting long before our land had been cleared but we also knew that we couldn’t expect our builder to remember all of our wish list items from the onset. The reality is, they are not thinking about those things until the time comes to install them so it is incumbent upon you to think of and plan your wish list.

In order to try to stay on top of things, I divided a notebook into different sections – framing, electrical, plumbing, millwork, etc. – and every time an idea or question would come up, we would write it down. That way, when the time came for our electrical walkthrough, I would open our notebook to the electrical section and go through each point and ask any of our questions then. We did the same for every other step in our build to ensure we covered everything that we could think of.

Basically, the purpose of the above suggestions are to minimize surprises down the road. Your builder will likely direct you along the way but the reality is they won’t be answering all of your unknowns right from the start (they just don’t have the time to go through every detail from the onset), so if you want to try to keep on top of the build, the onus is on you to do your research.

Custom Home – Month 14: If These Walls Could Talk!

Month 14 and… we have walls!!! Lots has happened this month to get us to this point!

We started June off by having the insulation and stairs installed! We were really worried about the stairs because they had been backordered for several weeks and we’d reached a stage in construction where work could not progress without the stairs but, luckily, the stars aligned and we have one less plank to walk!

On the outside, the house was wrapped and the exterior stone was delivered! The wood beams for our front columns were installed and our garage floor was poured!

Offsite, we’ve finalized our light fixture and tile order AND we chose our kitchen counters! We sourced our own stone from a fabricator in Ottawa. We looked at several products but ultimately went with Quartz, in part because that is what we’ve had in our last two homes and it worked well for us. Plus, the cost point was what we were comfortable spending at this stage.

Our kitchen counters finally arrived after months of being stuck on a boat in a shipping container!

And to end the month… drumroll please… WE HAVE WALLS! Drywall was installed last week!

See! I told you lots happened this month! Our builder told us that going forward, since we’re less than 90 days out, we will start seeing lots of progress every week – looking forward to seeing what month 15 brings!

Custom Home: 6 Moving Tips When You’re 90 Days Out!!!

I can’t believe how fast things are moving! If you’ve been following my monthly updates then you know that there was a stretch of time where the house sat untouched and then, after that, our closing date was extended (you can read more about that here). But that’s all history now and (barring any unforeseen delays) we are officially 90 days away from moving!!!

Here’s what we are doing now to prepare for the move:

1. RESEARCH INSURANCE OPTIONS

You know that commercial where they show a couple using dial up internet in the ’90s and waiting forever to get an insurance quote? That’s how I feel even though I’m using 21st century technology…

In my experience, filling out a form online does not yield the best insurance quote. You actually have to call different providers and go through all of the details each time in order to get their best possible price. Needless to say, the process is time consuming! And since our current car insurance is set to renew in August, getting quotes now allows us time to shop and also ensures that we can add our vehicles this year (as opposed to waiting until next year’s renewal) for an even better discount rate.

2. THINK ABOUT YOUR INTERNET AND CABLE NEEDS

If you’re moving into a rural area, like us, not all of the major internet and cable providers will be available. Hence why we needed to start researching this ahead of time. Some providers, like the one we will be going with, can actually hold a discounted rate for you until you eventually move in. So, in our case, the provider was having a special sign-up promotion in June and is guaranteeing us the same deal even though we will not be connecting with them until September.

3. PACK ITEMS THAT YOU WON’T NEED

Winter is officially over!!! (I really hope I didn’t just jinx myself by writing that…). And since we’ll be moving into our new home at the end of summer, I have started packing all of our winter gear that won’t be needed until after we’re in the new house.

I’ve also done an inventory of what is in our kitchen/bathrooms/closets and have boxed up anything that we aren’t using (and won’t need until after our move-in). This frees up some space in our current rental and provides us with a better idea of how much we will need to pack at the end. It’s also a great way to go through your belongings and purge whatever you know you won’t want to keep.

4. SECURE YOUR MORTGAGE RATE

In Ontario you can secure your mortgage rate up to 120 days before closing. Since we had some delays, I waited a bit longer to ensure that we give ourselves a window for any unforeseen issues. So we are now in the process – with 90 days out – of firming up our mortgage details. Locking in your rate is especially important if you’re purchasing at time where the mortgage rates are going up!

5. CHECK YOUR LETTER MAIL

Currently, Canada Post charges $60-$100 for mail forwarding! Over the last few months, I’ve kept track of the mail we get (banks, Costco, magazine subscription, work, etc.) and made a list of whomever we need to advise of an address change. In the era of online banking, we don’t get that much mail so I’m hoping that we can just notify all those who do correspond via snail mail of our move ahead of time and save ourselves the cost of mail forwarding.

6. KEEP YOUR BOXES

If you’re like us, you use boxes every week (Amazon subscriptions, Costco purchases, diaper boxes, etc.). In preparation for the move, we’ve started keeping those boxes and any bubble wrap/wrapping paper. It’s a good way to reuse cardboard and it’ll hopefully save some cost on packing materials.

Your to-do list will inevitably get longer and longer as you get closer to move-in day. The above are just some of the things that we’re doing now to get us started and (hopefully!) reduce some of the moving madness at the end! Check back next month for what we’ll be doing when we’re 60 days out!!!