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Posted by Justin in Chandler, AZ on 8/9/2009

My sweet and patient wife was kind enough to post the following on our family's blog:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Justin Deserves Some Recognition

While we were building our house, we were very aware of how many people around us were struggling. We have been so blessed in the past few years as we rode the real-estate boom with a house in Chandler and some land in Show Low and were able to save a reserve to allow us to buy some land in Chandler to build a house. It was a risky deal as we had to buy a larger piece and bank on the plan to split it and sell it before we ran out of money making the payments for the whole thing. Luckily for us, we got a buyer within three months, and originally we split the lot into two 1.25-acre pieces, but the buyer wanted slightly more land, so we re-surveyed and had the .25 shaved off of ours to give him 1.5 acres. He paid us enough more for the extra .25-acre that we were able to add an unfinished basement to our plans! It was really a miracle for us, because less than a week after we closed the deal his wife changed her mind and decided she didn't want to live there. They tried to sell the lot for over a year, but then with the real estate bust, the value dropped and dropped until they let the bank take it.

So during this time a lot of people we knew were upside down on their mortgages, losing their homes and/or their jobs (Justin actually lost his during construction, but luckily Ellsworth Publishing had a full-time opening at exactly the same time) and here we were building our dream home. We felt so blessed, but at the same time didn't want to make anyone feel bad, so we always hesitated talking about the size of the house and haven't really invited many of our friends over since it has been "done" because we didn't want to appear to be show-offs. It's crazy because our income does not substantiate being able to build this kind of house; it was just funny money from the real-estate boom, and ALL of it was going into our dream home.

I've been thinking about it for a few weeks, however, and thinking about how much sweat, blood, time, anxiety, and sacrifice Justin had put into this house since we broke ground in June of '08. He was our general contractor and did as much of the work himself that he could possibly do. He woke up early to come to the construction site before work, then often returned right after work for another several hours or long into the night. Justin easily put in 14-hour days, oftentimes more, working at his regular job and at this house. He deserves some recognition because it IS a beautiful home, and I couldn't be happier. Not to mention it wouldn't have been possible without him because it would have cost us FAR MORE money to have paid someone else to manage the job and we couldn't have had the house we have if it hadn't been for Justin. We came in $35K under budget even after we took extra out at the end to finish the bonus space above the garage (turning it into a 2bed/1bath guest apt.). With the great mortgage rates, our payment really isn't that much more than our previous 1,600 sq. ft. house in Maricopa! I couldn't get our floorplan to post, but if you are curious how it all flows together here is a link:

Justin really accomplished something great; probably the hardest project of his life, and he shouldn't feel guilty showing it off! Thanks, Babe!

Front of the house. Our front yard is not finished, not graded. That's another project for another time. The stucco had color in it, so we didn't have to paint it, but we do have plans to eventually paint the trim a different color.

Back patio. We accidentally set our house WAY too high so we extended the patio and put steps in to make up the difference. The steps are great to sit on in the cooler months!

The family room off of the kitchen. Our TV doesn't fit in the niche, so it's on the floor until we upgrade to a flat screen like the rest of the world. This sectional was our first retail furniture purchase over $100 since we've been married. We've always bought our furniture used or at auction, but I had very specific plans for the sectional I wanted in this room. The longest piece is over 17 ft. long. Thanks for a good deal from Joe at Kerby Furniture!

My favorite room of the house! This kitchen is awesome, and just as awesome is the deal it all was! I had gotten about 8 bids on cabinets from local and out-of-state companies. The cheapest bid for just the kitchen was $14,000. This was for basic cabinets with particle board framing. We decided to go with a company on the Internet for some RTA (ready to assemble) cabinets with solid-wood construction (frames made from plywood instead of particle board). These cabinets were actually from their "value" (aka cheap) line and with shipping we only paid $10,000 for the entire house cabinets (bathrooms included). Of course we spent over 40 hours putting them all together ourselves, but we saved a ton of money. We also got our kitchen appliances (Jenn-Air Floating Glass oven, fridge, dishwasher & microwave) from a gal off of Craigslist. They were brand new, and we were able to get them for $3,000 when retail would have been about $6,000. The Travertine for the floors we got from a marble and tile auction at a great price, and the kitchen table/chairs I got for $125 at a model-home furniture sale (it still had the tags attached, and you'll die when you see the kind of money the silly home builder paid for it - granted, it originally came with four chairs, and the bench and the home builder only sold it with two chairs and the bench. Either way, I like the table, but seriously, it is NOT worth that much!

The computer center right off of the kitchen, so nobody is isolated, and mom can work on it without having to be in a different room from all the action. The chairs around the island are from a company called Suspend-It. My kids will eat here until they are 12 yrs. old, cleaning underneath them is a breeze! The granite in the kitchen was also from the discount section at Arizona Tile. I think we only paid $700 for three huge slabs to do the entire kitchen. (Of course then you pay the installers, so it did cost more than that to finish).

The best thing about this front door is what a deal it was. We had decided that we had to downsize our door, because the extra-large doors were just WAY too expensive. The plans called for a 4'x9' door but those were about $2,000. We had priced out smaller doors (3.5'x8') and even those were going to be $1,200. Well, we found this 4'x8' door on for $800 prior to framing, and just had the framers make it work!

Kids bathroom, decor from IKEA. Faucets/sinks/knobs from Our master bathroom isn't actually fully finished yet, so that's another picture for another day.

Posted by Mary in PA on 8/10/2009

Mary's Forum Posts: 101
Journal Entries: 60
Interview Answers: 15

Private Message

Image from Mary's blog
You both deserve to enjoy your accomplishment to the fullest! Justin, your hard work through the thick and thin of the project has really paid off - what a lovely house you have built for your family. Both of you were willing to work hard AND to take a calculated risk - and then put a ton of effort in making that risk work out. I hope you enjoy your home for many years to come.

And now with this experience and success under your belt, you can share what you've learned with others who have a similar interest and desire - and so the great thing you've accomplished can be amplified by encouraging others to strive for their goals.

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