Real Families Tell their Home Building Experiences

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ROSEVILLE, MINN. (August 15, 2012) — Four real Twin Cities families who recently built or bought a new home shared their stories with us.

Room to Grow:
By Wendy Danks

With two growing boys, two healthy careers, and a love of their neighborhood, building new was a no-brainer for Michael and Tina. “We lived just two blocks away,” Tina said of their previous townhome. “We love the school, the neighborhood, and we knew we wanted to stay in the area.”

Their new neighborhood is on the border between Brooklyn Park and Champlin, near Oxbow Creek Elementary School. It’s family oriented, with plenty of nearby parks. Eight-year-old Jasiah and three-year-old Jaxon were more than ready for their own yard and their own rooms. And, screenwriter Michael’s first big movie was getting ready to shoot in New York, so the timing couldn’t be better.

The couple had looked at a variety of model homes and builders in the area and chose Jonathan Homes. “I loved a house down the road,” Tina explained. But Michael had visited a model from Jonathan Homes and told her, “We’re not going to consider that house until you see this house.” One look and Tina agreed.

“Out of all the floor plans, the layouts and the quality, it was the best that we saw,” explained Michael. “We liked it alot.”

With the right builder, the right plan, and a perfect cul-de-sac lot, they jumped right into the home building process.

“The process itself is kind of tedious,” Michael admitted. “It’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of decision making, but other than that I don’t think it was any more difficult than any other tough decision that you have to make.”

“It was scary, but a lot of fun,” Tina countered. She also pointed out that “things look so much different when they’re on a grander scale than when they’re in a showroom.” She laughed about how they ended up repainting the exterior after the red they selected was just wrong.
Move-in day was just around the corner when we visited, and both Jasiah and Jaxon were happy to show off their rooms. Jasiah said he was excited about the move, but said he would miss sharing a room with Jaxon, but just a little.

The boys also showed us the extra bedroom upstairs where their dad will work before he turns the entire unfinished basement into his office. “That’s the great thing about screenwriting,” said Michael. “All you need is your imagination and a computer.”

Tina has laid claim to a sunny room off the kitchen, thinking it will become a room for crafts or other creative and homey activities. As an interactive design director for a local agency, she puts in plenty of energy at work and wants a place at home to relax.

Now that they’re ready to move in, Michael explained that the four-month-long process “felt like a natural progression for me. Everyone was great, and there weren’t a lot of hiccups. I would build again in the future.”

Making Life Easier: by Fran Howard

At first glance, empty nesters Jim and Diane were living the perfect Minnesota lifestyle. They floated between their spacious suburban home in Shoreview with a swimming pool, and their summer cabin in northern Wisconsin. The couple’s two daughters and seven grandchildren visited often, making this family’s lifestyle seem enviable. But was it?

“It was getting to be too much work, keeping up two places,” says Diane. She and her husband knew they wanted to hold onto their cabin, so they decided to sell their house of 22 years and buy a townhouse with less maintenance. “No one really used the swimming pool much,” Diane says. “And we no longer wanted the yard work.”

Jim and Diane had looked at townhouses during the housing boom, but Jim thought the price tags were higher than warranted, and he was a bit reluctant to build a new home. “I didn’t want all brass and glass without the warmth I had enjoyed in our home,” he says.

When the couple discovered Shoreview’s Whispering Pines development, Jim started to come around. After the small development’s original builder filed for bankruptcy, leaving the development half completed, Accent Homes, in Ham Lake, resurrected the project in 2011.

“We visited Accent Homes’ model in late July of last year and committed in December,” says Diane. The couple purchased the second of Accent Homes’ seven lots. Five months later on May 7, Jim and Diane moved into their new, single-family villa home which, while not technically a townhome, includes lawn care and snow removal with their homeowners association. “It’s very open and spacious with lots of windows that look out onto pine trees,” says Diane.

With Jim in his mid 60s, they decided to think ahead and prepare for the future by building a home with a floor plan that offered single-level living just in case they ever needed it. The couple’s new home offers a main-level owners’ suite and laundry, two bedrooms on the lower level, two fireplaces, and an exercise room with a sauna.

Today’s improved building materials and techniques also helped convince Jim that it was time to build. “Our previous home was built in 1984, and we took it over in 1989,” says Jim. “The construction of our new home is far superior. The amenities are better. You get a complete cycle of upgrades when you buy new, and there are so many more selections today.”

Before beginning the building process, Accent Homes visited Jim and Diane’s Shoreview home to better understand the couple’s needs and tastes. “Coming to our home helped them help us choose various materials and products,” says Jim. “Accent Homes’ designer and space planner, Jim Kuiken, was invaluable in providing us with professional insight and left us feeling we had a personal—and much appreciated—advisor.”

Jim and Diane remained very involved in the building process and visited the construction site daily. “Every subcontractor treated us like queens and kings,” says Diane. “It made us feel like these people really enjoyed working with Accent Homes.” Those feelings further convinced Jim and Diane that they had made an ideal choice in their most important selection—their builder.

Back in the Market: by Fran Howard

As parents of five children age 12 and younger, Dan and Heather knew a move was in their near future. Not only was their lease on the split-level home they were renting in Farmington due to expire, but 10-year-old Austin also needed to be in a school district that could work best with his autism.

The family was also desperate for more space. Dan, an IT consultant, had taken a position that required him to work from home, a space he shared with his wife, 12-year-old Kaitlynn, twins Austin and Zachary, seven-year-old Elizabeth, two-year-old Naomi, and poodles Tough Guy and Lady. In the summer, Heather also takes care of two nieces. “The house we were renting had no formal office, and with seven kids and two dogs, trying to work a 40-hour work week from the couch just wasn’t going to work for me,” says Dan.

Even though they were renting, Dan and Heather were not new to homeownership. They had already owned three homes, moving to larger spaces as their family expanded, and they built two of those homes but had never hired a builder. Instead, they preferred to act as their own general contractor. In 2008, Dan and Heather sold the last home they owned, but with home values falling and Austin experiencing serious health issues, the couple decided to wait to re-enter the market.

Having determined that the Rosemount public school district was the best choice for Austin, the family started searching for homes. “We looked at both previously owned and new homes, but we found we enjoyed the new style of homes more with their wood floors and granite counters,” says Dan. “And most of the previously owned homes that we looked at would have required work.” The family actually made an offer on one previously owned home but was outbid by another buyer.

Of the model homes they visited, Dan says the one by Country Joe Homes in Lakeville’s Jamesdale Estates was far and away superior. The Lakeville-based builder’s homes had an open feel, Craftsman-style woodwork, and energy-efficient Andersen® windows. “The sales people were also very accommodating,” says Dan, which helped convince him and Heather to hire Country Joe Homes as their builder.

The family’s new home, a two-story walkout, with four bedrooms, three baths, a three-car garage, and 2,768 square feet of finished living space, is not all that much larger than their 2,200 square-foot rental home. However, the home’s unfinished basement provides Dan with a much-needed workspace retreat and provides the option of finishing the space in the future.

“I’m now in the basement, next to the furnace, but it’s fine,” he says. While the new home does have an office, Dan and Heather decided to turn it into a music room for the kids.

Another aspect of the home that the family loves is its open front porch. “It’s a really neat concept,” says Dan. “Everyone in the neighborhood sits on their front porch, rather than isolating themselves on a backyard deck.” The porch is also Heather’s favorite feature of the home. “I love sitting on the front porch watching the rain fall and having late night chats with my husband,” she says.

The Jamesdale neighborhood will eventually contain 36 single-family homes. Currently about half of those homes have been built and sold, mostly to young families. “There are too many kids to count, and a lot of couples in their mid-thirties,” says Dan. Both the neighborhood and house are proving to be ideal for this large family.

In Search of Playmates: by Fran Howard

With two daughters under the age of six and a son on the way, J.J. and Mandy wondered what on earth they were doing living in a well-established Eden Prairie neighborhood, where most of the homes were occupied by retirees and empty nesters.

When Mandy met J.J., who had moved to the United States from South Africa, he was living in the home. When they married, Mandy moved in. “It was a beautiful home, but not very kid-friendly. There was no way to block off the stairway, and we needed a larger house because our family was expanding,” says Mandy. “We also wanted a neighborhood with more kids and to be closer to a park.” While Charlotte, age five, and Berkeley, nearly two, could play with each other, if they wanted to play with friends their own age, Mandy needed to make official play dates for them.

As a senior engineer who works remotely, J.J. didn’t need to worry about commute time and as such could live anywhere in the metro. Mandy, who grew up in South Saint Paul, had lived in Saint Paul prior to meeting J.J. and thus was familiar with the east metro, so they began their search in the south- and east-metro suburbs.

Woodbury’s Stonemill Farms was one of many developments they considered. “We started looking at one builder’s home in Stonemill Farms, but found ourselves wishing that the hallways were wider and that the toilets were not behind the bathroom doors,” says Mandy. “Sometimes you just need to get the kids in there quickly, without having to maneuver around a door.”

Before leaving the Stonemill Farms development, the couple crossed the street to look at a spec home built by Michigan-based Pulte Homes. The four-bedroom home had a bonus room over the garage—an ideal play space—and an office with doors that close. “At our Eden Prairie home, the office was a room with three-and- a-half walls,” Mandy notes. “It was not conducive to being on a conference call with a newborn crying in the background.”

Better yet, the toilets in the Pulte home were not tucked behind the bathroom doors and the hallways were wide enough for J.J. and Mandy to easily move in their oversized furniture. The home’s three-car garage was also perfect for the couple’s two cars as well as their bikes, snow blower, lawn mower, and all the other trappings that come along with a young family. “The pantry was large and the kitchen had lots of cabinets and storage space,” says Mandy. “There was also a deck, a mud room, a front porch, and a yard where the kids could play.”

With so many pros lining up in favor of the Pulte home, J.J. and Mandy made an offer that day and moved into the home 30 days later. “There are lots of kids in the neighborhood, and our house is only four houses from the park,” says Mandy. “Everyone has kids. This community has been such a blessing for my family.”

The family’s choice to purchase a pre-built home with all of the selections already made for them saved J.J. and Mandy time and energy that they can now devote to their new baby boy—who was expected to arrive in September.

More Information
Joan Knight, PR Specialist, Knight & Associates
763-205-2720 • mobile: 612-889-7721
Wendy Danks, Dir. Mktg & Communications, BATC
651-697-7565 • mobile: 612-296-5551