We have now been in the house for about six months now. It feels like home! It’s a space that we imagined and thought about for over two years. For the most part, reality has matched our hopes and expectations pretty well. And most of the few surprises have been positive ones. Here is a quick rundown of the highlights and lowlights so far.
Highlight: The Views
One of the main reasons we chose the lot we did was because of the big southerly views. And one of the biggest priorities for the design and layout of the house was to further maximize those views. All of that process has paid off. Nearly every day we are treated to long views over the mountains from the master bedroom and main living areas. Even my office, which is tucked into a small stand of trees near the back of the house, has a long view visible from my desk. I can’t imagine them ever getting old.
Highlight: Hot Tub Time
Though it wasn’t installed when we received our certificate of occupancy, we got our hot tub installed before Christmas. It’s an Avalanche from Wind River Spas. A year before we contacted a number of spa technicians who didn’t sell hot tubs and asked them what brands to look for and what brands to avoid. Wind River cropped up at the top of almost every list. When we had a ski condo we used the communal hot tub there every weekend, so we figured we would get plenty of use out of a hot tub. We were right – we’re usually in it 2-3x a week, at least. And though I knew the view from a hot tub on our second-story deck would be good, it’s better than I expected. The sitting height of the hot tub is higher than a chair on the deck, so you get a little more view when you soak. It’s great.
Highlight: Outdoor Dining
Since we moved into the house in late November, we haven’t had much time for outdoor dining. We had our first dinner on the patio the other day (after picking the larger version of this set, which we’re quite happy with). I had some hesitation about building a big deck without any stairs to ground level, but it’s worked out really well. No stairs mean no mud or dirt to speak of, and the deck lives much more like an extension of our living room.
Lowlight: Punch List Stuff
The house wasn’t finished when we moved in, and six months later it still isn’t finished. Some of the exterior stuff is weather-related – painters can’t paint deck railings when it’s snowing out. We can’t get a cement front stoop when it’s snowing out. So that stuff should get ticked off this spring/summer.
But other interior stuff isn’t finished either. Fortunately almost all of it is minor cosmetic stuff, and some chunks got finished early this spring (some trim finishing and trim paint, stair trim). Other stuff needed to be fixed because it wasn’t right the first time around – for example, our electrician installed phone jacks into the walls instead of Cat 5 ethernet jacks. This was the remaining punch list as of a little over a month ago:
It would be nice to get this stuff knocked out. At one point in January Shaun estimated the remaining interior punch list stuff would take three days. That seemed optimistic at the time. Still seems optimistic four months later.
Highlight: Location Location Location
Paying a lot of attention to location has also paid off. We have easy access to skiing and trail running and the outdoors, but the grocery store and elementary school are both less than 10 minutes away. When the weather is nice it’s easy to ride our e-cargo bike with the girls to the park or to the lake. It’s cliché to say it, but the location has been critical.
We’ve been in Colorado for 13 years and we’ve never had a garage before. In our old house we crammed all of our outdoor gear into a cramped basement. Garages are awesome! A place to tune skis! Rig rafts! Store things! Including cars!
We had to write a couple of big checks near the end of the build. Our original build budget, excluding land, was $630k with a $60k contingency fund, so call it a total budget of $690k. By January, things looked like this:
A week ago we found out that deck railings and some additional exterior paint would run us another $3,800 out of pocket. And assuming we decide to do a concrete stoop and recycled asphalt for the driveway, those will be out of pocket as well. All told, we expect to be over-budget by something like $110k-$120k. Not terrible for building in the time of COVID, but it’s hard not to wince when writing what amounts to a six-figure check.
Mixed Bag: Refinancing
As soon as we received our certificate of occupancy we worked to get our loan refinanced. Our loan was a single-close product that flipped from a construction loan into a 30-year fixed. At the time, our fixed rate was 4.25%. In the winter of 2021-22, interest rates were super low, so we scrambled to refinance. We ended up getting a new fixed-rate 30-year loan through PennyMac, brokered by Sage Mortgage, at 2.99%, which shaved a nice chunk off of our monthly payments. The outcome was good, though working with Sage was problematic. They used an old payoff number for the old loan in closing, so we ended up needing to bring more cash to the table than we should have needed. Then, when we tried to track the excess payment, Sage went no-contact with us for months until we filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That got their attention, and we eventually got things sorted out, but it was much more of a hassle than it needed to be. One silver lining of the process was that it required us to get an appraisal – the house appraised at about 140% of what it cost to build, land and all.
On the whole, we’re happy where we’re at and where this process has gotten us. We aren’t in any hurry to build again – hopefully we’ll be here for a good long while.