Lauren Brown, Versatile Imaging
To refresh, we have had a series here on CD called “Building With the Boys”. Two of my dearest house-crazed friends, Tim Loecker and Justin Kettler, have chronicled their travails of building with home builder Mark Hayes. I met Tim and Justin years ago when they were buying, fixing and flipping houses faster than Aunt Jemima. About a year ago, Tim calls to tell me they are scraping a home on Azalea and he’s going to be my neighbor in Preston Hollow. Justin asks me to get him some Marlborough Reds and Natty (Nattie?) Light.
Well, guess what. Twelve short months later, the house is complete, painting are up, furniture in, and Tim and Justin are just loving both their new palace and the entire home building process:
CD: So! The masterpiece is complete! You have both survived?
T&J: 2012 was all about the year of survival – the day we moved in was the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar. I guess if we can survive an apocalyptic event, we can survive a construction project!
CD: Sounds familiar! Relationship intact? Any quibbling?
T&J: Candy, if we’re still breathing, we’re quibbling! But it keeps each of us in check. Between us, if the baby is ugly, we call the baby ugly. And we don’t give each other blue ribbons and high fives for dumb ideas. Of course there were a few moments when hammers were raised and tile was thrown, but not the expensive stuff! We each had our wins and losses. Our most heated battles revolved around the front door and the wood floor stain. (CD: Tim won the front door, Justin won the wood stain). All in, it was a smooth process. With a decade’s worth of house projects behind us, we’ve gotten the process down quite efficiently and have learned to manage with our heads and not our emotions. Transitioning to new construction opened up the flood gates, but we credit our builder Mark Hayes for being a savvy mediator. He’s the unsung hero, counselor, advisor, and could dish the cold hard truth! We approach our projects as a financial investment first, and a creative project second, which greatly reduces the emotional factors and stress that often play into the building process.
CD: Calling my reality show producer — I see this as great TV, especially tossing tiles! OK, but tell me, what was the most stressful part of this whole process?
T&J: Finding the right lot at the right price point was the most difficult part. Especially in this market, concerns over whether we could even compete with numerous competitive offers and if we were overpaying for the dirt were some of our bigger concerns.
CD: And it’s getting worse. I think you came in at the perfect time.
T&J: Yep! As far as the house itself, details are indeed the devil. Making tough decisions on design and materials to maximize our investment, while keeping “Justin and Tim” personal preferences in check, is always a balancing act. And now with the market exploding the way it is, we feel lucky to have timed our project the way we did, and feel confident this will be a great investment.
CD: I agree!
T&J: We also self-induce our own stress, you know, just for kicks. We hosted a big going away party for our friend Craig two days after moving and two days before Christmas. All while the world was ending per the Mayans. Now that is stress! But thanks to our friend high tailing it, the house was whipped into tip-top shape without any hem-hawing.
CD: Both of you have remodeled countless homes in North Dallas – in fact, I don’t think there is a home west of Inwood that Tim and Justin have not touched! Do you prefer building from scratch?
T&J: There are a couple left out there we’d still like to get our hands on! But, this being our first ground-up, new-construction project, we were anxious to see how it would compare to our previous renovation projects. Would it be more stressful? Were we going to be hemorrhaging money? Were we choosing the right general contractor?
T&J: The process with new construction certainly has its stressful moments and the sheer number of decisions to be made can be overwhelming… if you let it. We are fortunate not only that we have experience working together, but we also have very similar design aesthetics which make for much faster decision making. With both of us being so hands on, it also enables us to keep things moving more quickly if one or the other is out of pocket working or traveling on business. But our building experience was overwhelmingly positive, and we’d do it, and will do it, again in a heartbeat.
T&J: First of all, it’s a numbers game, so run the numbers with someone you trust…have a reputable, rock-solid realtor pull legit comps and let the numbers speak for themselves. Our realtor, Alice Simonton, was invaluable in helping us come to terms with the decision. There are some neighborhoods where building new does not make sense. Conversely, there are other neighborhoods where remodeling is an exercise in futility. Then there are blended neighborhoods where either could be an option. If the cost of a major remodel is within the same stratosphere as building new, give me new all day long. Great foundation technology, new mechanicals, and energy efficiency are worth their weight in gold, or in this case, bricks!
CD: Right on, baby, I’m a new home gal totally. But what are the advantages of building that you see over remodeling?
T&J: All building projects can be exciting and remodeling certainly still is a great option for many homeowners depending on a home’s age and condition. We found building new enabled us to have the ideal design and the advantages we mentioned previously. Though not without headaches, building new was a far more enjoyable process, eliminating many of the surprises one might “discovers” when renovating. While time will tell, we feel there will be a stronger return on our investment when we go to market with a newer home.
CD: Now that it’s all done, tell me about the boo-boos: like, what would you have done differently?
T&J: Well, that depends on whom you ask! If it’s something one of us wanted and not the other, the one that didn’t get their way would have done it differently! But one change we would make is to have a “central command” center for the electrical system where we’d control dimmers, timers, and other gizmos from a panel or even a smart phone. So, we have to actually get up and flip a switch or manually dim a light…. I know, just terrible, isn’t it? After 10 years of houses, we definitely had a lot of notes and made sure to address a majority of our past lessons learned. And the cherry on top was our builder Mark Hayes. You can’t underestimate the value of a skilled, honest, open general contractor like our builder Mark Hayes.
CD: Just like all my Candy’sApprove home builders. People just don’t get it that the builder makes all the difference! Did you have to make any changes that have broke your heart?
T&J: We definitely worked from a budget, so we had to choose our impact pieces wisely and had to know when to scale back on design features. Websites like houzz.com inspire us to dream big, beyond the confines of a budget. So, when the rainbows and puppies yielded to reality, we shed a few features on our wish list. We took the ax to some patterned ceiling applications and a “focal wall” behind the stairs in favor of a metal roof. Our visions of a collapsible glass door unit to the backyard…yeah, go price those bad boys out. Of course, we wanted a room just for the tabby cat, but Baxter now conducts business in the laundry room. In our world, even the cat has to make concessions.
CD: OK, I know this is extremely sensitive but I HAVE to ask: did you stay within budget?
T&J: Does anyone really stay within budget? Actually, with the exception of a couple of splurges like the aforementioned roof, or as we like to call it, the metal Cadillac over our heads, we were able to stay close to our budget by finding lower-cost materials we could live with to enable us to splurge on other impact pieces, like the marble chevron tile in the master bath.
CD: I think it’s more like a metallic Bentley. Now spill it out: are you committed “new home-phytes” or will you (ever) go back to remodeling?
T&J: We loved the new build experience, but also know that not everyone has the same experience. The minutiae can wear out an already busy person or family. It’s not lost on us what it is like to make 1000 decisions and pray it all comes out as you imagine. We recognize the advantages we have to make this process a bit more manageable: no kids and soccer games, we both love to design stuff, and we have past experience. As for remodeling, we never say never. Just like we never say our home isn’t for sale! And, you never know what our next project will entail…but don’t think we haven’t started the inspiration portfolio for our next project! If the opportunity arises to find another great lot and build again, that would be our preference. Bottom line, building new removes a lot of constraints.
CD: Anything I missed…
T&J: We have a few key perspectives that have helped us over the years:
-The wheel has already been invented: What you want is probably out there, even if you have to piece the puzzle together. Use resources like CandysDirt.com, SecondShelters.com, houzz.com, pintrest.com, and magazines to guide your inspirations and decisions, both when remodeling and building new.
-Make decisions quickly and move on: We’re convinced looking back and second guessing are key contributors to projects taking forever to complete. This is also relative to the degree of communication you have with your contractor/builder on lead times so you don’t run into bottlenecks.
-Partner with your contractor: The more engaged you are in the process, the smoother it can go. Expecting the builder to handle everything is one approach, but a team effort can help expedite the process.
-Don’t sweat the small stuff: It is easy to fixate on one thing and nit pick. Like a piece of artwork, you have to take it all in and see the bigger picture. And that is scary at times! This doesn’t mean lower your bar, but it does take a degree of trust and patience. Of course, a solid planning and research process can address 80% of the concerns before they become just that.
-Appreciate simplicity: Whatever design genre you prefer, think understated elegance and impact pieces where they count. This isn’t solely about budget. Even if budget isn’t an issue, so many homes today would be more tasteful, in our opinion, if they had only not added that “one more thing” to it. Plus, this will help your home transcend trends and time stamps that scream, “I was built in 2012.”
-Be committed: It’s only temporary, so make the sacrifice if you decide you are going to build or remodel. You have to be in the right mindset, create the bandwidth if it doesn’t exist, and have your game face ready. The decisions are endless. Grout colors? Lord help us all! Cabinet knob location? OMG! There were many late nights and weekends researching, sketching, discussing, and cussing. Granted, your budget may allow for a designer to help with these decisions, but at the end of the day, you are still the one pulling the trigger and have to live in it. Look, building and remodeling are not for everyone. There is a good reason the spec home and move-in ready home exist!
We will have more true building stories coming up on CandysDirt.com, including a total home re-do. If you have a building project or remodel you’d like us to consider, holler at Candace@CandysDirt.com