Moving into a newly built home is quite an experience. I had a home built in 1999, but somehow this experience is different. I am probably not as naive as I was when I had my first home built. I also have a partner in crime in this house purchase. Dennis and I decided last year that we wanted to winter someplace warm, and after some deliberation of where that move should be, we decided on the Phoenix, Arizona area.
This past December we came to Phoenix, enlisted the help of my cousin’s husband who is a real estate agent, and had him take us to homes around town. We started looking at ready built homes, low priced, both in regular neighborhoods and 55+ neighborhoods. The first day was an absolute disaster. These homes were in despicable condition. We realized quickly that we needed to rethink what we wanted to spend on this next home.
The second day, we checked some higher priced places. Now things were beginning to look up. One place that was really nice was a modular home. In fact it was beautiful from top to bottom, and it was located in a 55+ neighborhood. The downside of this home was that although the home was very inexpensive, one would not own the land that it sat on—there was a monthly charge for it, plus an enormous association fee. We would get into this home for a small amount of money, but the majority of the money one would be paying monthly was really high and did not go to the equity of the home, but to the neighborhood. That was a big no.
I was beginning to feel stressed that what we had in mind was not workable. Then Dennis turned to our agent and said, “Show us new builds.” I didn’t say a word. I was in shock, and in awe once again of my husband who is flexible to think out of the box. One of the reasons Dennis did not like the lived-in homes is that they were older and not energy efficient. As a civil engineer, he looks at systems in the home, windows, walls, insulation, heating and cooling. He would rather pay more for the home that builds equity than pay for utilities that give us nothing to show for it.
We visited a few new neighborhoods in one of the areas that is quickly growing. I was glad not to move to a neighbor for only seniors. If I want to sell my home, we can sell it to anyone, not just senior citizens. We selected a home that allowed us to be creative in selecting the finishes for the home. Some of the builders had packages, where the wall colors, carpet, hard flooring, cabinets and countertops are all in a particular package. You couldn’t pick and choose. I get that solves the problem for some people so they don’t overspend on their finishes, but Dennis and I wanted to create our own environment. We came back to the first neighborhood we looked, and the selling agent pointed out a building lot to us that we may be interested in—it had been sold twice and the contracts had fallen through. Now they are building on each side of the lot. In Arizona the builders erect a wall around each yard (this was done way before our president suggested building walls)! It would be difficult for them to build on this lot if the other two homes get completed, therefore, they dropped the premium on the lot. If you are wondering about what a premium on a lot is — many times the builders will charge more for a lot because it is bigger or has some other advantage. The advantage for this lot was that we had a clear view of the San Tan Mountain from our back yard. So this lot was available to us without any extra cost, and we immediately said yes.
We selected the same floor plan of the model home. These homes look very small from the front. Unlike Missouri homes that spread out (the typical ranch style home), these homes are deep instead of wide. Our home is 1,600 square feet, much less that the footprint of our Missouri home. We signed the paperwork and headed for Missouri, to await approval of our contract. One month later we were required to return to Arizona and select the furnishings of our home. Builders are pretty sneaky when building their model homes. They pretty much upgrade everything, so when we wrote the contract, I had their agent take me though the model home room by room, and point out what was standard, and what was an upgrade. In January, we selected the furnishings, all the way from the kind of kitchen sink we wanted to the flooring and paint colors.
Construction had begun on the home so we were able to see some progress on the lot. Homes in Arizona are built much differently than in Missouri. Most homes don’t have basements in Arizona, so they pour a concrete slab, and they post tension it, so it won’t have issues with cracking. One of the first things they do before they pour the foundation is a water test. They literally fill the footprint of the slab area with water. I am assuming it has something to do with making sure the soil packs down so there will be no settling issues. The building inspector has to approve this process before they can start the building.
We were now three months into the build, and were required to return for our framing inspection. All the 2×4’s are up, and the roof is up. The cement tiles are sitting in stacks on top of the roof. They will not be set in place for a couple more months. The weight of the tiles will push down on the roof until the inspector feels it has completely settled. Then they will tighten all the joists to the roof. That is usually done right before finishing the house to give ample time for the settling of the weight. That process eliminates the roof from sagging from the weight of the tiles. As we walked though our framing inspection of the stick built home, we are able to say where we wanted every outlet. Anything we wanted the to make a change on was written on the cement foundation with a large marker. It was really quite interesting . We actually had a stud moved over, and where the builder wrote, “Add stud,” I took a photo of the stud there!
On that trip we also visited the marble and granite company to select the actual piece of granite they would install in our home. Unlike the outdoor granite places in Missouri, this was a large warehouse in a very upscale shopping center. We were given hard hats as the employee took us to view several slabs of granite, and we selected the pieces for our kitchen. Having so much input during the construction phase made us feel like we were part of the process.
The not fun part was all the work for the mortgage company. Do you remember when getting a mortgage was an easy process? When I was a young married person, my husband and I wanted to buy our first home. We knew nothing about the process or how it worked. We found a home that was in the price range that my dad, who was a building contractor, said we could afford. My dad called his bank and told them that his daughter and son-in-law wanted to buy a house and he asked what kind of mortgage they would give us. The banker told my dad on the telephone the terms of the mortgage, and that was all we needed. We didn’t fill out piles of paper, and give them pay stubs, etc. The money was ready at closing for the people from whom we purchased the home. Those days are long gone no matter how good your credit is. Nothing today is done on a handshake.
Our home was completed in June. Actually, we asked for a delay in closing because we were going to be in Europe the last three weeks of May, and would not be available for the closing. The contractor was willing to work with us. We were home three days from Europe when we loaded our car and drove to Arizona. We had pre-closing walk through where we pointed out all the little things that needed correcting. I was rather surprised that this home wasn’t perfect—that they don’t have a pre-closing person to do the inspection to make sure everything is perfect. We closed in good faith that everything would be completed on our punch list. The neighbors had a copy of our house key to let the various contractors in.
Speaking of good neighbors, the first neighbors we met was a lovely family. Mom is a school teacher, Dad is a sheriff, and two sweet elementary aged son and daughter. While we were in Missouri, our sheriff neighbor parked his car in our driveway. Don’t mess with the Walker’s house—the sheriff will notice!
After closing on the house, and getting a delivery of a sectional sofa, giant television, and the master bedroom set, we stayed for another week, and then made our way back to Missouri. One of the decisions we made after buying this new home was to decide to sell our present home. We plan on being snowbirds for a while. Dennis’s mom will turn 100 years old in November, and we don’t plan to leave Missouri while she is still with us. On the other hand, we decided we didn’t need to own and maintain two homes, and while she is with us. We will rent an apartment near where her nursing home is located. Eventually, we will make our Arizona home our permanent full-time home.
We came back to Arizona this month for three weeks to get it furnished and ready for when we arrive back at the end of the year or beginning of next year. To our surprise all the items on the punch list to complete were not completed. I immediately called the builder and they came to the house. First they told us that they can only come in to correct things when the homeowner is there because we have to sign off on the work they have done. Nice hearing that 3 months later! On the other hand, these nice women took an inventory of what needed repair, and had contractors come look, and set actual dates for repair. We have had trades people in and out of our home for the past couple days making the fixes needed.
We now have all the rooms furnished. There ares some accent pieces we can get when we return, like end tables for the living room, and night stands for the guest rooms. Our dining room table is on back order. The walls are also bare right now, so in January we will be bringing artwork, decorative objects, and framed photographs to begin the decorating phase.
Owning a new build is a work in progress. We have completed the large furniture phase, next is the small accessory and decor phase. The last phase will be the back yard. We are given an empty slate of dirt and walls. We will be putting together a space in the yard to be able to entertain and enjoy our mountain view. That will not start until early 2019.
We are going back to Missouri at the end of this week. I am really hoping to sell our home soon so we can transition our lives to maintenance free, and carefree days. I will be glad to be back in Missouri to see our children again. Of course, I also have California children who I will see more when we come back to Arizona.
If you have been following my blog for the past 1+ years, you know that all of this would seem like an unbelievable dream for me. I am so blessed. God sent me a wonderful husband in my 60’s, a husband who loves new adventures as much as I do. We are looking forward to our time in Arizona, and exploring the western half of the United States. I am humble knowing all of this is a gift from God. None of this I deserve. He gives us always much more than we ever deserve, including our salvation in Christ.
I told my children years ago when they started becoming successful to never forget where they come from—how hard our struggles were, and to be grateful, and kind to others because they also have those struggles. I have not forgotten my humble beginnings. I have not forgotten the bad stuff, and found my way out. I have not forgotten who I am. I am grateful beyond words. God is good!