Building a home from scratch is never a simple project. What if you are a single woman in your mid-twenties looking to build a home for investment purposes? What if you have no prior construction experience or mentors?
That was Sandi Foster, and she built a house with no experience. You'll enjoy learning how she did it, and why you can too.
Homeowner: Sandi Foster
Project: Build a home from scratch
Budget: Under $60,000.00 (Initial investment)
Why Consider Building a Home From Scratch
By the time Sandi Foster was in her mid-twenties, she’d saved $4,000. She asked her mother for advice on the best way to invest the money. Despite not having a high-school diploma, her mom had developed a common sense approach to saving and investing. Her mom recommended buying land and building a house. Sandi protested. She knew nothing about home construction and reminded her mother there were no close males in the family, but her mother assured her that they could handle this ambitious project together. Soon Sandi and her mother were working side by side building a home from scratch.
Deciding where to build was easy. Sandi had visited New Hampshire frequently and knew that some day she wanted to live there. She found a piece of land bordering a large pond with an asking price of $4,500.
Sandi took a small loan to start the site work and put in the septic system, and fortunately, she was able to connect to a community well. Her next step was to hire a contractor to build the shell. She used a picture of a chalet she found at a home center for inspiration. The contractor built four walls and a roof and roughed in the plumbing and wiring. Over time, Sandi, her mother, and numerous family members and friends would finish the rest.
It took ten years and a lot of hard work, but Sandi finally finished building her home from scratch. Sandi was living in Massachusetts at the time. She worked full time and would load up her car on weekends, with the supplies she could afford at the time and drive 80 miles each way to work on her dream home. Sandi learned so many things including:
- The proper way to frame a corner.
- How to hang and tape drywall.
- How to make a wall jig out of 2×4’s.
- How two petite women could use a wall jig to lift drywall up to the ceiling and nail it in place.
When building her home from scratch, Sandi made a conscious decision to use the best materials she could afford and not cut corners in the construction. For example, even though knotty pine is more expensive, Sandi used it instead of drywall for most of the walls on the first floor. She wants to enjoy this house for many years.
Challenges of Building a Home From Scratch
Time was the biggest challenge Sandi faced building a home from scratch. She was committed to completing the project, but also had a full time job and typical day-to-day living. Her mother’s declining health also prevented her from working on the project as often as she would have liked, but she persevered..
Once the project was completed, Sandi enjoyed it on weekends until she got married and moved farther away. Eventually, it made sense to rent the property. Dealing with tenants was a whole other set of challenges. Some renters took good care of if the property, some did not. Most honored their commitment and paid the rent faithfully, others not so much.
Time passed, Sandi got divorced, lost her job, fell in love, found a new job, had a child, and her mother passed away. Eventually she started to consider moving to New Hampshire again. The little chalet so lovingly built by a single woman looked small to a woman with a family, so ultimately they settled in a nearby town.
Advice for Building a Home From Scratch
Believe in yourself and ask for help when you need it. Neither Sandi nor her mother possessed much in the way of physical strength. Her mother was barely 5’2”, but she more than made up for her lack of strength in dogged determination. They struggled a lot and Sandi would get discouraged, but if her mother said the drywall was going up on the ceiling, that’s where it was going, and giving up was never an option.
That said, Sandi doesn’t necessarily recommend building a home WITH your mother. As she looks back, sometimes she’s amazed they both survived the process.
The little chalet has been an oasis of calm, a safety net, and Sandi’s only source of income between jobs. It has also served as a reminder of all those who helped build it, as most are now departed. It was her intention to keep it in the family, but the chalet has weathered numerous tenants and Sandi has grown tired of dealing with the hassles of being a landlord. She is currently weighing the possibility of selling her first home.
Have you tried building a home from scratch?