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Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

Once upon a time, in December 2013 to be exact, our little family of three stepped inside our newly finished cookie cutter house for the very first time.

(Curious to see this blog’s very first post ever? Check out the very very “before” here.)

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

If we were a normal family, we would have moved in our furniture, unpacked our suitcases, and called it done. Well…we’re not normal. (And normal is overrated anyway, am I right?)

Mere months after moving into our new house that still smelled like fresh paint, we busted out the power tools.

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

We pulled light fixtures off of walls to make them something different. We created a construction zone in our living room. We even spray painted our existing bathroom fixtures. To be fair, after we tear it apart, we put it back together again in an even better way.

And since we started documenting our DIY adventures upon move-in day, a lot of people must be thinking, why didn’t you just buy an old house and fix it up instead?

If you ever wanted to know our reasoning behind it, here it is. (And of course, everyone’s homeowning experience is different. This is just our take.)

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

1. We had no “surprises” to worry about.

Old houses are great and all. Beautiful even. But y’all, they intimidate the bajeezers out of me. Two years ago, when we bought our house through a stock subdivision builder, Robert and I knew very little about home improvement (I much less than him).

So it was great for us to buy a house that was under warranty by the builder. Old houses are a big risk, especially for someone without any contracting knowledge. We knew that our house would be sound in structure, electrical, plumbing, and any other money pit scares that might come with an older home. (Ever seen the Tom Hanks movie “The Money Pit”? I’d be freaking out like Shelley Long.)

It’s been a great place to learn with our training wheels on.

2. We got the biggest bang for our buck.

Stock builder houses are known for being cheaper per square foot than a custom built home. Or at least, in our area that’s the case because we looked into that option.

Because our subdivision was building nearly all identical houses, the builder was able to keep the prices very low. Even though our house didn’t have any real personality or charm, we couldn’t argue with the big amount of square footage for the smaller price we paid.

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

3. Location, location, location.

If the perfect condition, low-cost, charming house exists, it was nowhere on our radar while we were house hunting in our town. The suburbs for us was a great way to get the best of both worlds- a little taste of the countryside without being miles from a grocery store and close to the city without hearing horns honking and sirens blaring. Great schools, welcoming community, and a 10 minute commute for Robert. Win-win-win.

4. It’s safe for our family.

When we started house hunting back in 2013, we’d looked at a few fixer uppers that really tempted us to buy an older house with lots of charm, but the biggest scare we had was safety.

Our daughter was not even a year old yet, and the thought of her being around lead paint, mold, asbestos, or even the possibility of an electrical fire made me go into mama mode.

5. It was the perfect blank slate.

I really had no idea what my decorating style was in the beginning (though I found some tricks to figure it out), so all white walls and beige carpet really gave me room to explore. The possibilities were endless, and I didn’t have to work around any outdated features as I figured things out.

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

6. It’s very energy efficient!

Our builder used all energy efficient materials in our house, so our utility bills are much lower than it would be in an older home. And no one likes a drafty, cold room in the dead of winter anyway, right?

7. We could cheaply change it to reflect our personality.

Since there were hardly any interesting architectural features in our house, it’s our favorite thing to add to jazz up a room.

Our wide doorway connecting our kitchen and living room had no moulding, so we added a faux beam for about $80. Our windows had no trim at all, so we added our own moulding that cost us very little. We added interest in our hallway and foyer with board and batten and a shiplap wall for much cheaper than we could have ever done through paying for upgrades in the initial building process.

8. We could pick our own pace on the to-do list.

Because we didn’t have any emergency home projects in the very beginning, everything on our to-do list was cosmetic. We can take our time in choosing which projects we want to do because a new build is safe, efficient, and modern. Although, we still choose to work fairly quickly around here.

Why We Tear Apart Our Brand New House | Bless'er House

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve definitely run into some disadvantages with the suburb cookie cutter living thing (ahem…HOA, I’m looking at you), but it’s great for this phase of our lives. We still dream of wide open spaces in an old, character-filled farmhouse…just maybe when we get more brave and build a bigger nest egg.

Have you found any great advantages to living in a new house? Are you in the DIY-in-your-new-house club too? Or did you get lucky with the perfect gem of an older home? I love hearing these house adventure stories, so bring ’em on!

P.S.  THANK YOU  to all of you who took the reader survey yesterday! I was so touched by so many of the sweet comments y’all wrote. My heart truly overflows. I love you guys! There’s still time left to take the survey and enter the giveaway if you haven’t yet. 🙂

 

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38 Comments

  1. Sometimes I watch House Hunters on HGTV and see young (inexperienced) house hunters craving a house with “character”. I can’t tell you how many times they choose the very old darling house while I am sitting in my living room saying “no, don’t do it! you don’t know what you’re getting in to! Pick the new one, you can always add character! Way less stress than uncovering layers of problems!” Can you tell this is the voice of experience? Been there and done it! Adding character to new is perfect for unless you have a huge emotional attachment to a place. It made sense for the one young couple who renovated her grandfather’s old house, but otherwise I think you have made an excellent decision.

    1. Thanks, Beverly! I know what you mean. I always think of “Money Pit” with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. It’d be my luck I’d buy one of THOSE fixer-uppers. Haha!

  2. can you tell me where you got the pendant light above your kitchen table? I love the light and everything you did in your house! Beautiful!

  3. I understand what you mean about older homes. when we bought our house five years ago we did not think much of the benefits of a new home. We only saw two houses, one older and needing a lot of work, and our now home. We fell in love with our home at first sight and it appeared the only fixes where cosmetic. The home inspector only found an old roof and the previous owners replaced the roof before we closed. However, just a year in our pluming in the master bedroom burst. Our kitchen cabinets are falling apart, the bathrooms both need new pluming, the AC needs to be updated soon and all of our appliances went kaput just months from each other. Five years in and we are still fixing our home. Our house does have a lot of charm and to die for huge windows no longer seen in homes in our area. However, it has been a roller coaster keeping up with home repairs.

    1. Ugh! I can’t imagine going through all of that! So sorry, Natalie! I always dream of having an older home but then I hear about experiences like that and get completely terrified of them.

  4. I love what you have done with your home! I just have to say, you are lucky! My husband and I purchased our NEW home in September 2012 and found MOLD in our kitchen in the spring of 2015. MOLD in a BRAND NEW HOME? Yep. Turns out after I did some research, 1 out of every 4 new homes end up with mold! Who knew right? My husband wanted a move in ready house so we stretched our budget to get just that and now, just outside of the builders warranty we are stuck. Sadly, our kitchen is still in disarray, but we are finally reaching the end. Turns out it was a simple step the builders just skipped for some reason, but in order to prevent the growth of mold throughout the rest of the home (on the perimeter) we are going to have to replace EVERY single bit of flooring on the ground level, which is approximately 1550 square feet! I will say my families journey has become a blessing in disguise as we are now learning SO much when it comes to home remodeling. I think you may inspire me to start my own blog to document our cookie cutter home transformation. It really is so amazing to see how much a modern builders bland home can rival a true craftsman home. Thanks for sharing your home story!

    1. Oh my gosh! That’s horrible! I had no idea a new home could have mold that quickly! So sorry you’re having to go through such a nightmare!

  5. YES!!!! love this post. This is exactly our (my husband and I) feelings about our new townhome. We are JUST starting now – just moved in – but I’m so excited to make it our own. It’s really nice to just have a blank slate and work from that to update things cosmetically. I love love love your house! I am still trying to figure out my style, but your home improvement projects are so inspiring.
    -Christene

    1. SO much easier, right?! Cheers to finding your style! It’ll happen. But it’s a fun adventure while you figure it out.

  6. Your home is BEAUTIFUL! I think your reasoning makes so much sense. The area we live in is so new there really aren’t any old fixer uppers around, but even if that was an option it would make me really nervous too!

    1. Thank you, Alexis! That’s exactly how it is in our area. It is growing so quickly that everyone is having to build new.

  7. Love this post! I always wanted to purchase an more “cookie cutter” home because of the option of a blank slate. My husband is all for the old and creaky homes…hence the reason we ended up purchasing a 1970’s ranch. It does have some major updates (an overhauled 30K kitchen, updated bathrooms and laundry room) but it also has the 1970’s pine wood paneling and the two prong outlets (seriously, why did they do that???). So fixing it up and updating things is quite daunting! I also have ALL P-O-P-C-O-R-N ceilings (why??) throughout the house and have been told I have to get it tested before removing because, you guessed it, asbestos!!! YAY! I do love our neighborhood though and have tried to do as much as I can on the budget I have right now. 🙂

    Love your blog!

    1. Ohhh the popcorn ceilings! I had those growing up and my parents eventually paid to have them scraped last year. I’ve seen a great alternative to put beadboard or barnwood overtop of the popcorn ceiling to add character and prevent the drama of having to scrape. But if it has asbestos, that’s definitely a different story. The list never ends, right? Sounds like you’ve already made most of it your own though. 🙂 Hope it gets easier from here for you.

  8. This all makes so much sense. We chose to do the alternate route by buying an almost 100 yr old house, but like you said it comes with many more issues! I wish we had nice things like energy efficiency and a lack of bad surprises! 😉 Do you ever worry about return on investment when it’s time to sell since all the houses in your neighborhood are the same except for yours? (And yours is different in a much cuter, better way, by the way 😉

    1. It’s a toss up either way, right? Haha That is a lot of drama to deal with, but the charm of a 100 year old house certainly can’t be beat. Really I think we will get a good return on our investment because the area where we live is booming very quickly. Everyone seems to be moving into this area and neighborhoods are popping up all over the place. It’s a hot location right now, so already our home’s value has increased for that reason alone. But I do think the work we’re doing to it will increase its worth quite a bit. And if anything, it will probably sell well whenever we get to that point. (Hopefully.)

  9. YES! This is our take on it all too. We are beginner DIYers – so starting small & working our way into the bigger stuff was more our speed. We wanted something that had only our memories & only our smells. (my hubs has a very sensitive nose & no matter how we have cleaned & repainted in the past – he can smell previous tenants) So building new was perfect for us – but we can add things as we can to personalize it to our taste & make it different from the 20 others that are identical (literally) within view. Besides – I find that my taste change quickly – I have redone my office & the powder room each 4 times in a year. So – not spending a fortune when I do that helps a bit.

    1. Haha! YES! The smell thing. That’s how my husband and I were too. If our house is going to stink, it better be our stink. J/k That’s really gross. 😉 We do love walking in, inhaling deeply, and taking in that “new house” smell. I love so much of what you do, Gina. I think you’re making great progress in your own house.

  10. When we were house searching, we really wanted an old house with charm and tried to steer clear of the cookie cutter homes. We quickly found out, though, that all of the old, charming homes in our budget were in need of MAJOR repairs. Repairs that we weren’t comfortable with having to make. We ended up stumbling onto a house built in the 80s that really only needed cosmetic upgrades and it was a steal of a price so we jumped on it. Of course once we started ripping into things, we always seemed to find something we weren’t expecting. Water damage around the fireplace, water leaking into our master if the upstairs shower was being used, and pet stains and the smells that go with that… soooo many pet stains. We’ve still been very fortunate that even though the house was really outdated and gross due to not being maintained AT ALL, there have been no major structural issues to deal with. My father-in-law was a contractor for most of his life and my husband worked with him all through high school and college, so we felt a little more comfortable having to tackle bigger issues with a house. Sometimes I feel like we’ve bit off a little more than we can chew, but that’s mostly due to the season of life we are in (hubby in school and raising a toddler). I can totally see why y’all went with a new home though and then slowly tackled things to turn it into your own!

    1. Yes! It’s so eye-opening when you really dig deeper into those older houses and see all of the problems that lie underneath. That’s great that y’all found a happy medium though and that y’all already had some great experience under your belt. We’re right there with you in juggling home improvement with a toddler. We’re lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents nearby for babysitting. Power tools and 2 year-olds are a tricky combination.

  11. I love what you did to your new house! Your reasons make perfect sense. We went the other route and bought the older charmer…and I have to tell you..my husband and I watch “The Money Pit” and half laugh half cry. The surprises you find inside older walls are not always good ones. Everything from bad wiring and leaky plumbing to four layers of paint over wallpaper and a fireplace that was deemed unsafe to burn in. Oh….and on move in day we discovered the previous owners had painted around their furniture in several rooms! We have decided our next house will be one that is new but made to look old! 🙂 Love your blog..and your home. Always inspiring!

    1. Ugh! Yeah, I totally can understand the half cry half laugh thing. I can’t even imagine the drama that goes with owning an old charmer. That’s so funny that they painted around their furniture! I mean…it’s funny and it’s not. But all you can do is laugh. 😉 Thanks for the love!

  12. We are on our 4th home. I have had 2 brand new homes and 2 previously loved homes. I think it is harder to start really putting in elbow grease on a new home because everything is “perfect” when you move in. Not a ding in the woodwork, no scratches on the floor, no grout that needs repair. People think you’re crazy for doing things to it. On this past house I tried to put my builder money where it counted and opted in for central vac and upgraded the cabinets. Kitchen cabinets are expensive and putting in central vac after a house is already built is ridiculous. I’m happy with both of those decisions. I’m embarking on my “perfect” master bath next week for part of the One Room Challenge and family members think I’m crazy for working on a “perfectly good bathroom”. I love your not-so-cookie-cutter house now. Keep working on it.

    1. Yes! I totally agree. I’m sure it makes no sense to a lot of people. We did the same thing you did. What few upgrades we could manage, we used for features that we knew would be practically impossible to DIY- arched doorways in the downstairs, extra space added to the garage for a workshop, and our bathroom upgrade to include a separate garden tub and double sinks. I’m sure people will be singing a different tune when your new bathroom looks a hundred times better than the “perfectly good one”. 😉

  13. I love that you have added your own touches to a builder-grade house! And you do an amazing job – your blog and home have been a great inspiration to me! Pretty sure ours was cookie-cutter when it was built in 1975 so it sometimes feels like we’re doing the same, just 40 years after it was built.

  14. Great explanation for your choices and solid reasoning. My husband and I build from scratch in Greece and we are still not done… never will be the way the economy is going. Good luck with your journey and know we all support you and will be with you.

  15. We bought a house built in the 1970’s back in 2012 that was disgusting. It had been on the market for some time and my husband and I saw the potential right away. My husband does have a construction background so that part didn’t scare me. We did a lot of upgrades before we moved in and continued for a long time once we were living here. We took a little break and are back at it now doing more changes we love. They remind me of what you guys are doing to make your house fit your style now. My dream would be a fixer farmhouse on some land, but that’s not cheap where we live in CA….it’s always fun to dream!

    1. Ohhh yeah the CA market is so high! Our house would cost 10x as much there as it does here, I’m sure. That’s great that you guys have done so much already though! It’s a neverending, tiring journey but it’s a lot of fun too. 🙂

  16. I think you’re doing a fantastic job with your cookie-cutter house, Lauren! When it comes times to sell, you’ll be amazed at how your home with shine above all the others. BTW – I enjoyed seeing you on Periscope yesterday. It’s always nice to hear the voice behind the blog.

    1. Thank you, Suzy! We’re having a lot of fun transforming it. I actually needed that reminder about Periscope! I keep meaning to post the video here on the blog. So glad you enjoyed it!

  17. We made a similar choice with our last house as well. Eventhough it was more semi-custom, we had lots of changes available to us, we chose to only add what would be difficult to add later (like plumbing, electrical placement etc.). We chose to add our own touches as we lived in the home. It was nice because we didn’t “need” to do anything to our home and could choose projects as we wanted. We added a lot of equity to the house by doing it this way too!

    1. We did the same thing! What few upgrades we did choose were with the same reasoning you had. We chose to upgrade our bathroom to be bigger and include double sinks and a separate garden tub from the shower since there’s no way that would be DIY-able for us. Good to know you added equity! That’s great! I’ve been asked about return of investment before.

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