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Building in the Time of COVID

In thinking about writing an article on building a house, I have one piece of advice for you: Don’t build a house! If you’re still thinking about building a house, read that first line again. All kidding aside, I’m sure you’ve heard it said that building a new home is one of the hardest things you can do as a couple. I can tell you that nothing else even comes close.

It all started back in June of 2020, with the contract on the new house officially signed on July 1, 2020. We moved in last week. That’s right. In September of 2021. Why the delay, you may ask? Well, what happened wasn’t as simple as over-promising and under-delivering. It wasn’t even the date/delay cycle that’s so common in all big projects. No. This was building in the time of COVID. That meant taking any timeline and throwing it out my non-existent window, because nothing would happen until the COVID gods said so.

Let’s talk lumber. No one thought lumber futures would move from $448 to a $1700 high, and back to $534 as I write. Of course the issue there wasn’t just price – it was getting any lumber at all as COVID slowed – or shut down altogether – the nation’s paper mills. And then there was particle board, which became scarcer and more expensive after all the buildings that had to be boarded up due to riots. But that’s another story. I just wanted mine! I won’t even mention fixtures …or loaner appliances. 

So what are the blessings in all this? Well, let’s see. Paint is still paint, it just costs more because repainting one’s home served as entertainment during the last year. Luckily they didn’t board up the inner cities with marble or granite, and despite the run on toilet paper of 2020, people apparently haven’t been replacing their toilets. For these small blessings, I do look up and say thanks. The Good Lord only gives us what we can handle!

Speaking of what we can handle: for the exterior of the new house, we chose a modern white brick with black accents (garage, shutters, shingles, etc.). After a monstrosity of a house in town was built using enough white brick for six of my home, the brick people had no more. Not to worry, however. They had a replacement white brick and they assured me I “wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” so I approved it sight-unseen. You know what they say about famous last words. 

Fast-forward to the brickwork being affixed to the house. I was in Wyoming with my three boys on a summer roadtrip when I got a call from my wife telling me that the house looked like the underbelly of a dead fish, and we should just abandon the whole project. I responded with loving spousal support and told her that I looked forward to many happy years in the underbelly of that dead fish. (Note to anyone who needs to hear this – don’t say that.)

Fast-forward a little further to getting home and heading to the scene to review the brick. It was white, but with brown, pink and gray-ish splotches. If I had chosen to live there, it would have been beautiful. But that was not the plan. So, now we have a beautiful painted brick house that’s whiter than any brick money can buy. 

All of this is to say that building a house with your significant other is actually easy. Just keep the communications lines open and build a house when there are no global supply chain issues. Not that any of that matters now that we’re finally in, right?

Would I build again, you might ask? Well, I’ve learned that white doesn’t always mean white, and I’m very appreciative of finally being able to sit on my deck. So for now, that’s all I can say. 

If you’re thinking of building or buying a new home, please, give us a call so we can answer any questions you might have, talk about budgets, and perhaps offer a cautionary tale or two. 

Article by David Smyth, Senior Partner at Family Financial Partners — a financial services firm in Lexington, Kentucky.

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