February 24, 2012

On a Rollercoaster in a Whirlwind

I realize my blog has been sadly silent for months now. Well, it is all for a good reason (or at least I'm hoping so!). Mr. Uncommon and I have been house shopping for over a year. Last summer, we gave up the house hunt and went under contract to build a house [insert freakout face here]. Little did we know what we were getting into.

The neighborhood is one that we were familiar with all along. It is a redevelopment revitalization project in a part of town that used to be pretty undesirable because of run down aesthetics and the unsavory characters that used to frequent the area. However, the location is totally desirable, just a short walk to the city center and train station, a quick drive to the huge State Farmers Market, and still within a walk to one of the city's greenways. It doesn't get much better than that.

Phase I of the project had already been completed. This entailed renovating existing historic homes that were salvageable on an adjacent street. The builder was ready to get started on Phase II, which involved building historically detailed new houses where the city had razed dilapidated, uninhabitable homes years ago.

We were nervous because, well, we were the first. No other houses had been built on that street yet. We didn't have a model home to look at to get a feel for the size and layout. We just had some drawings and floorplans that the builder had already picked out for each lot. We picked the one we liked the most (and could afford without going hungry) and started asking questions.

Our biggest concern was space. All of these houses would be small (by most Americans' standards), on small lots, and in close proximity to neighbors. We wanted to maximize our storage options and privacy while maintaining the small scale and affordability. So we worked with the builder to create a shower under the stairs, move some walls, raise the roof (literally), and build in as much storage as we could into every nook and cranny possible. This process took a couple of months.

Once we had things as efficient as we could get, we signed a contract and started the process of waiting. We knew that the holidays were fast approaching, and we expected that there would be plenty of bumps along the way. No one told us we would be on an emotional roller coaster inside what felt like a whirlwind.

Have you ever had a say in how your house would be designed? Would you trade an unfinished storage space under the stairs for a small bathroom? Would you ever buy the first (yet to be built) house in a neighborhood if the location was awesome?

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