Lessons From My New Home Journey
I’m certain you’ve heard of it, and, depending on when you’re reading this, you’re living through it… unfortunately.
Because of COVID, the real estate market was coo-coo crazy in 2020 when I sold my house, I received over 30 offers!
A seller’s dream!
However, I wasn’t quite sure if and when I wanted to be a home-owner again, so renting was my choice for a while.
But because of COVID restrictions, I had it up to the max with being contained in my condo, plus, racing my teenager to the living room in the morning was getting old.
I wanted a bit more space, a little more privacy, but I also didn’t want to give up my moderately priced, maintenance-free place.
1st world problems, I know.
After lots of considering and reconsidering, I decided not only to buy a house again, but to get a new home – new, new though. 😏
Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to compete with 20 or 30 people on a resale crib, so I picked a home that wasn’t just new to me, it was new to the world – aka a new construction.
I’m writing this post to share with you my experiences from this very recent journey, but especially to help women like me – doing it alone.
While the FIIRM Approach focuses on helping women prepare their finances for divorce, I recognize there are non-financial pieces that matter while you’re on your journey.
This purchase brought out a lot of different experiences and emotions, some that I had never been through before.
Yea, I’ve owned a home before, but this was interestingly different.
The process involved A LOT of decisions to make because my house was semi-custom.
That made things exciting, fun, scary, and emotionally exhausting. 🥺 Sometimes all of those feelings happened in one day.
Ohh and let’s not forget pricey!
Plus, I knew my DIY skills were wack!
I wasn’t handy with my first house and my husband did most of the work.
Then all the normal fears came along.
Can I really afford this?
What if I lose my income?
What if my health fails and I can’t work?
What if it’s too much for me to handle?
For the most part, these thoughts are SUPER normal, and thankfully I didn’t let them stop me from moving forward.
As a hard-working badass woman, that’s more than half the battle!
Anyway, I closed about 90 days ago, and so far, I don’t want to sell it and move back to my condo…lbks.
In no particular order, here are MY top 8 lessons worthy of sharing when you’re on your new (new-to-you) home journey.
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1. Acknowledge the fears & then shut the front door on them
The fears are going to show up on your doorstep, ring the bell, and wait patiently for you to decide what to do.
You’re going to send them away and they’ll be back again.
Regardless, they are just doing their job, which means we have to do ours.
Send the fears away over and over again, I don’t care how many times they come back.
During my “WTF was I thinking” moments, thankfully I had people I trusted to talk me off the ledge and here we are.
Give your family & friends permission to help you send the fears away during this journey.
2. Invest in an interior designer for your new home
Listen, I know my favorite colors. You probably do, too!
I know my design style. I’m a transitional girl – which is a mix between traditional and modern.
I definitely knew my budget. (duh… lol)
But, bringing it all together is a totally different story!
Therefore I knew I couldn’t afford NOT to hire help in this area.
I researched house photos on Pinterest, HOUZZ, and Instagram.
I don’t fully understand concepts around design, mixing patterns, colors, and textures, and I tend to be a bit of a scary cat trying new design things.
Considering my favorite colors are black, gray, and navy blue 🤣🤣 I figured I needed help, STAT.
But wait… First, let me start off by being completely honest with you.
I had NO idea how much it cost to hire an interior designer.
I did what my “Type A self” normally does and learned very quickly.
To my surprise, I learned that interior designers can cost you as little as a couple of thousand dollars, or as much as $10,000 in just fees, depending on the size and scope of your project.
So nope, it’s not cheap, it’s definitely an investment, however, many have flexible packages and you don’t have to hire them to design the entire house (see our next blog post).
I think it’s worth it to at least consult with the designers because today a lot of it is virtual, and you can even get renderings, mood boards, and have virtual design sessions.
There are even some that will design just one room!
Syfrin Interior Design is a great example – they offer a 5 Step Guide to help you turn your master bedroom into your personal sanctuary! I truly believe women deserve to have this, especially when you have kids that take over the rest of the house! (Future blog post coming about this concept)
Personally, I had the pleasure of working with McCall at Interiors by McCall for my master bedroom, bonus room, great room, and master bathroom in my new home.
McCall lived in Spain at the time, and was AMAZING to work with virtually! She was great at incorporating my existing furniture into the new home, which helped me SAVE money. Look her up on Instagram or her website!
My “Master Bedroom” design by Interiors by McCall
My “Dining area” design by Interiors by McCall
My conclusion: They can be worth their weight in gold, especially if they’re experienced and align with your sense of style!!
3. Be strategic with your upgrades
Structural, electrical, and plumbing upgrades can be totally worth it.
I made a lot of decisions around the layout of the house that I just did not want to give up on, and I knew “doing it later” would be as expensive, if not more.
I upgraded outlets, canned lights, insulation material, and even showerheads and faucets (partially at the suggestion of interior designers)!
I even strongly considered not adding an outside irrigation system.
And then I thought again when I pictured myself manually moving around the sprinkler 10 times a day to keep the new sod from dying!
I don’t have ACRES but my thumb is brown for a reason… lol.
And some of this may sound silly or frivolous to you, but the peace of mind that I have from making those upgrades was totally worth it, especially as a single woman.
Because my house is not my life or my idea of a hobby. I want to entertain in it, find peace in it, and be comfortable. I’d rather not think of it as a part-time job or the project of minimalism for the next 10 years!
If you disagree, cool. I respect your superpowers and/or your budget!
However, I’m happy I made the choice to do a lot of the upgrades on the front end.
When it’s your turn and you’re considering an upgrade, ask yourself, “Will it cost me more to do it later?” “Will I ACTUALLY do it later?”
4. You Truly Save Money When You’re Organized
There’s a LOT of follow-ups with new construction or major home renovations.
A nauseating amount, actually.
While you may have most things in writing, it’s normal to have verbal conversations about plans, intentions, or changes.
Unfortunately, some of those details are either just genuinely forgotten about, or lost in translation.
If you’re organized and have a very strong sense of what you want, what it should look like, and where things should go, you can spot errors quickly and alert someone before it’s too late or expensive to change.
Google Drives, follow-up emails, or spreadsheets are your friends. It will keep you from going crazy during the process and likely save you money and time!
5. Don’t freak out (too much)
Speaking of going crazy…
That takes me to my next lesson.
I had a bit of a freak out/meltdown moment.
Actually, it wasn’t a small moment, it was HUGE!
Apparently, when a house is being framed, be aware that it may look much smaller than you thought it would.
So once my house was framed, I walked through, took a look around, and I was FREAKING OUT!
Maybe it’s an optical illusion or maybe your eyes can’t really grasp the scale of the home, but it looked super tiny. It looked so small, I didn’t even want the house anymore.
Crazy, I know.
Now that it’s finished, I feel much better, but I actually looked it up and learned that it’s a real thing, not just a Nikki thing.
There were other things that freaked me out too, but ultimately I either spoke up or decided I could live with “it”.
6. Paint is still a lifesaver
You can paint almost anything.
Obvious, I know, but I think I forgot about this.
If there was an award for the least handy person on the planet – I’d win it!
I had existing furniture that functionally could be used again, but it was the wrong color.
My son and I had an interesting time spray painting & painting lots of stuff, just to try it out. I have to admit it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I didn’t have to spend any money on new pieces, and if I ended up hating the new color, then my loss would just be a few dollars and a little bit of time.
So before you throw something away, maybe ask yourself, can it be painted or spray painted?
I know I literally saved THOUSANDS doing this.
7. Build your home maintenance team EARLY
Do the research to find a great handyman, a great electrician, a plumber, and a carpenter, and make them a part of your team for your house ASAP.
I can promise you, whether it’s a brand new house or a 50-year-old classic, you’re going to need them – probably sooner than you think.
Generally, when you’re building a new home, most of the items in the home are under warranty for about 6 to 12 months, give or take, however, there’s still going to be things that go wrong.
Use Yelp, Angie’s list, or sites like handy.com. Ask friends for referrals. Ask some of the builder’s subcontractors: usually they know people or can recommend quality workers to find someone who you can trust and who won’t take advantage of you.
Sometimes it comes down to budget or a desire to DIY, but if you are anything like me, you will save a lot of time and frustrations by hiring out.
8. Split up your move into your new home
Our move was unique and it was done in three different stages, because we had boxes & furniture in multiple places.
However, if you can move in before you actually “move-in”, I highly recommend it.
Move #1 – things that could go over in my car or a small UHaul that I rented. These are items that either I didn’t want to risk putting on the truck or would make the big move longer.
Move #2 – Almost all the boxes.
Move #3 – Big furniture and remaining boxes.
I cannot tell you how helpful it was with the help of family, friends, and even a professional organizer to get my house practically unpacked – or, at least, in their proper room before we physically moved in and started sleeping in the home.
Tanya Thomas at Everything Has Its Place was a Godsend. Her team had my pantry, cabinets, office, and other areas organized BEFORE we even moved in. Plus, she’s a professional stager, which is a fantastic combination in an organizer!
A few people thought it was crazy to do so many moves, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made because it made the transition into the house much more seamless.
So 60 days later, we had one room left to decorate, but everything else was basically done.
Living out of boxes just aint my thing, but I realized that’s a “nice to have” situation, HOWEVER it is doable.
Professional organizers can range from $50- $125 an hour and you might be able to book someone for as little as 2 hours. If you need someone to just support your efforts and not be certified, then you might be able to find someone for as little as $25 an hour.
I get it – cost is relative.
Either way, please, please, plan accordingly, so you can get settled into your home as quickly as you’d like.
The Financial Tips
I hope you got something useful out of the lessons and tips above.
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Founder & Managing Director
Nikki is a 16-year financial services professional, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst ®, and the primary divorce financial strategist for The FIIRM Approach. She helps female breadwinners prepare for divorce to avoid common financial mistakes and confidently maintain their financial security. She uses proven strategies within the FIIRM Approach methodology so her clients can manage their money, debt, and credit in their new financial life. TAKE ACTION & LEARN about the tools that can help make your new money life easier. Grab your FREE Ultimate Resource Guide HERE.