Why We Chose to Build

At the end of 2021, Paul received word from his employer that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all employees would be working from home indefinitely. We’d been down the “everyone stay home!” road plenty of times before, but this was the first time they didn’t give a target date to get everyone back to work in person.

We’d been living in a small two bedroom apartment in a very expensive tech hub since graduating college nearly two years earlier. We didn’t mind that Paul had to work from home. In fact, we were hoping to eventually turn it into a permanent arrangement so that he could avoid a commute and see our son more often during the day. However, Paul unexpectedly working from home from the beginning meant that the three of us were stuck in our small two bedroom apartment all day long, and it was getting cramped.

When Paul took his dream job two years earlier we knew we would never put down roots in that city, but we were willing to put our other plans on hold for a while to make it happen. Working from home indefinitely was the first hint that we didn’t need to be living in that city for him to keep his job. Paul’s two year mantra of “we need to buy a house!” was suddenly a possibility.

Paul has always been the much more… proactive (?) half of our marriage (I’m the planner). He immediately started emailing people to find out if working from home permanently would be an option, and after I caught my breath, I started looking into where we might want to move.

I won’t go into that deliberation too much because I’m an indecisive person (the understatement of the century!) and there was a lot of back and forth (I grew up in a military family so having total freedom to decide where we would live was a foreign concept), but a few weeks later we’d gotten word that if Paul was willing to accept a pay cut, we could move.

We decided on Utah. Paul is from Utah and I’d lived there for a few years while we were in college and liked it. We both have some family there, we love the great outdoors, and Silicon Slopes offers lots of good options for jobs if and when Paul decides that he wants to take on something new. It’s expensive, but not as expensive as the place we were living, and it’s in a similar time zone to the one the rest of Paul’s team works from. It’s not perfect, but it checks most of our boxes.

After we settled on a location, I started to look at houses. Unfortunately, life is not an episode of House Hunters. There were hardly any houses listed in our price range, and those that were listed seemed way too expensive for what we would be getting. I guess that’s the reality of house hunting in a rapidly growing area, mid-pandemic.

We realized we could 1) pay what we were hoping to pay for a house that wouldn’t work well for us, 2) pay more than we wanted to for a house that we were okay with but didn’t love, or 3) probably pay more than we wanted to for a new build but get to pick what we really cared about and leave the rest. We settled on option #3.

Building a new house is not the best option for everyone. The three biggest drawbacks I can think of off the top of my head are 1) it’s expensive. Because everything is new, you’re going to be paying more than you would pay for a “used” house (and it can be really expensive if you are not prepared to say no during the design process).

Building a house with a tract builder is going to be far less expensive than something like a custom build, but 2) tract builders don’t always have great reputations for quality and longevity. We spent a long time looking at tract builders while trying to pick ours (I have a post coming about this process), and even though we love our choice, we know we need to stay on top of the process for things to go smoothly (which should be really exciting because neither Paul nor I know anything about construction!).

It’s also going to be a long process, because 3) building a house is slow. When you’re buying an existing house, you can probably move in within a few months. We signed our final contract two months ago and our house plans are still with the city for permitting (sob). We’re hopeful our builder will set our dig date next month and be done early fall (and that’s assuming there are no major delays or shortages, which isn’t all that likely). Realistically, building a house will take most people about a year, start to finish.

So, if you’re looking for the cheapest option or the fastest close, building is probably not for you. We, on the other hand, have a lot of opinions about houses and plenty of time to wait, so build it is!