The Best (and Worst) Decisions I Made When Building My House

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Learn from the mistakes I made -- and the really good choices.

Over a decade ago, my husband and I built a house. While the project was fun, it also necessitated making tons of decisions about everything from what kind of construction mortgage to choose to what types of door knobs and towel hooks to go with.

We made a number of really good choices, but inevitably, a few mistakes. Here are some of the best and worst decisions I made when building.

These were the best decisions

We made a few choices in building that have saved us money over the long term, and ensured we still love our house more than a decade after moving in.

Here are some of those key choices.

  • Incorporating energy-efficient products: When we built our home, we added a geothermal system, as well as energy-efficient water heaters and extra insulation. This has kept our heating and cooling costs down. Having lower bills over the past decade has given us a lot of flexibility in our budget.
  • Not building a bigger house than we needed: We also didn't go overboard on the size of our home, though we could have afforded a bigger place. By keeping our house a reasonable size, we kept the price tag of the construction lower. And our electricity and maintenance costs have been lower as a result. We use all of the rooms every day, so there's no wasted space.
  • Thinking about our future needs: When we built our house, it was just my husband and me and our two dogs. We've since added children to the mix. But we knew this would likely be the case, so we prepared by adding lockers in our mud room for four people, a playroom on the first floor, and bedrooms for two kids. Since we thought ahead, we didn't need to upsize as our family grew.

These were the worst decisions

  • Not getting a construction-to-permanent loan: We didn't know a lot about mortgages when we built our home, so we just got a construction loan. A construction-to-permanent loan would have allowed us to switch to a standard mortgage without applying for another loan or paying a second set of closing costs. But we didn't realize that at the time, so we scrambled to find a lender when our builder was done.
  • Focusing too much on the small stuff: We spent a lot of time agonizing over silly decisions like which floor grates and door hinges to use, and ended up paying to upgrade these features. We don't really notice them today at all, so this was a waste of money.

Fortunately, our mistakes weren't major. But we learned a lot, and if we ever build a home again, we can repeat the smart decisions while avoiding these errors.

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