Building your dream home without regrets.
Colin Anthony, of Centertown, says he would do it all over again when it comes to building a house. As his family outgrew their St. Martins home, Colin and his wife toured listed homes in Mid-Missouri and scouted pieces of land, but, like many prospective homeowners find, none met all their wants and needs. Luck was on their side, though, and the family stumbled across a 5-acre lot that was perfect. With the help of MRA Construction LLC, Colin and his family moved into their dream home in May 2020.
Like Colin, millions of people dream of someday building a house and making it their own. But the idea of building a house can be overwhelming and terrifying. Many are left wondering — Where do I even begin?
“You have control over what does and doesn’t go in your forever house. You can do everything the way you want, and you can look back knowing that that’s exactly what you wanted…”MATT ALLEN
VISION TO REALITY
When deciding to take that leap and build a house, many people may be tempted to immediately call a contractor. Before dialing, set up a time to chat with a financial institution regarding what is affordable.
“It’s surprising how often people go through the design process, only to realize they can’t afford the dream house they envision,” says Matt Allen, owner of MRA Construction LLC. “If you’re up front with the contractor and you can let them know what you can and can’t afford, we can help you and steer you in the right direction.”
Once you have the finances outlined, contact multiple reputable contractors to discuss the building process before selecting the contractor for the project. Matt suggests researching and checking references — not hiring a contractor after seeing their sign in a yard. Rely on the contractor’s expertise and guidance throughout the entire building process, making sure the process is comfortable and their judgment is trustworthy. You’ll also want a contractor who can provide pushback and guidance — not simply someone who says yes to every idea.
“People like me, and other contractors, are willing to give them the proper guidance on building their house so they don’t get overwhelmed with all the different scenarios involved,” Matt says.
Once there is a general idea of the next steps, look for a piece of land to build on and work with a contractor to develop a house plan that will fi t in that space. Know what you want in a house when meeting with a contractor — square footage, a garage, a basement, how many stories, etc. This will help the contractor find the most efficient, and cost effective, ways to construct a house on your land, and it’ll make the bidding process easier. When working with a contractor, they can start to dive deeper into the dream house blueprints. This is where plans of building a house really shines, and they can be customized to everyone’s desires.
“You have control over what does and doesn’t go in your forever house,” Matt says. “You can do everything the way you want, and you can look back knowing that that’s exactly what you wanted, and you could live in this forever.”
It’s not uncommon for the design process to take a while to go back and forth with the contractor on the home’s layout, exterior, fixtures, etc. Knowing which appliances and cabinetry are wanted will also help make the design process smoother. Appliances can dictate the layout of the cabinets, which impacts the placement and installation of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. From there, homeowners can start picking out the bricks, windows, flooring, doors, trim, light fixtures, security systems, and more.
For Colin, Pinterest became his best resource. He and his wife scoured Pinterest for ideas before and during the design process, creating boards, and subboards for every room. Colin also visualized himself walking out of each room throughout different parts of the day and pinpointed features he liked or didn’t like — even mapping out where trash cans or power outlets would possibly go. One day, he parked his vehicle on his lot and watched how the sun traveled so he could visualize how it would strike different areas of the house throughout the day. At the angle he initially wanted to construct the house, he realized the sun would glare into his garage and living room, which would potentially create issues later. Colin went back to the drawing board, remaining flexible as he thought through all these details.
“I didn’t want to wake up every day for the next 30 years angry that we did this or didn’t do this,” Colin says. “You don’t want to have regrets, so it’s important you really pour through that (design) process.”
After designs are finalized, a contractor can put you on the schedule to begin building. It’s important to know that the building process will vary depending on the size and details of the house, the contractor’s schedule, and supply and labor shortages. Some smaller homes could take eight months, while other larger buildings could take a minimum of a year to construct. But before you know it, it’s time to contact the electric, water, and sew-er providers to set up new accounts. Landscaping is typically one of the last items on the checklist before moving in. But like the home itself, visualizing its design in advance will help with the process down the road.
MONEY, MONEY, & MO’ MONEY
With projects this large and long, it’s easy to quickly lose control of finances — going over budget by tens of thousands of dollars. Building a house is already expensive, so every dollar matters.
“People tend to go overboard very easily because people want based on what they see, which can get people in trouble,” Matt says.
To reign in expenses, Colin transferred everything from MRA’s bids into Google Sheets and checked in with Matt weekly regarding invoices to stay up to date throughout the building process. Settling on details early will help homebuilders stay within their budget. But no matter how much is planned, flexibility and extra budget will help lessen the blows of those unknowns. For Colin, that issue was building an on-site well that cost double what was initially planned.
“You can’t look at the Earth and know that it’s going to be 100% perfect,” Colin says. “There’s going to be some gives and takes.”
Matt recommends those wanting to build should hunt for sales on appliances, cabinetry, light fixtures, and other home details. Contractors often receive discounts from local and department stores, so check with a contractor to ensure the best deals. And finding ways to save money doesn’t mean homeowners need to sacrifice the quality of the build, Matt emphasizes. For example, installing cheap windows could be a short-term saving, but their lack of energy efficiency could raise future costs.
“I understand people are trying to save money, but there’s a difference when trying to save money on a cheap item versus finding a better-priced, quality item,” Matt says.
Ultimately, contractors understand that most people don’t know all the little details of building a house, so checking with contractors and asking them questions is key.
“It’s a big investment,” Colin says. “It’s not like buying a candy bar. You need to be comfortable and satisfied because you don’t want to have regrets.”
“It’s a big investment. It’s not like buying a candy bar. You need to be comfortable and satisfied because you don’t want to have regrets.COLIN ANTHONY
7 tips for Saving Money During the Building Process
- Watch for deals on appliances, cabinetry, light fixtures, and other items.
- Chat with a contractor about discounts. Some contractors may receive large discounts at local and department stores.
- Know when to splurge. Opting for certain high-quality items, like windows, will save tons of money in the long run.
- Do some work yourself. Painting walls, installing flooring, or even picking up trash at the job site could save hundreds in labor costs. Be careful, though, and know what to do to avoid ending up spending more money to fix errors.
- Choose a location carefully. If contractors have to raise up the land, or do a lot of excavation, the budget will feel it.
- Reduce square footage. The bigger the home, the bigger the price tag.
- Be flexible. Something as simple as repositioning the house, or moving a garage, could save tons.