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oh joy builds a house: a construction update + both good and bad things that have happened…

Oh Joy! Builds A House: A Construction Update + Both Good and Bad Things That Have Happened... / via Oh Joy!

Oh Joy! Builds A House: A Construction Update + Both Good and Bad Things That Have Happened... / via Oh Joy!

It’s been a few months since I’ve given you an update on what’s happening inside the construction of our house! We now have walls, doors, and windows! Plus, finishes (like tile and floors) are starting to go in! Here’s a mini walk-through video for you…

This (almost) 5 year process has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least, so I wanted to share some of the awesome (but also not-so-awesome) things that have happened recently…

Oh Joy! Builds A House: A Construction Update + Both Good and Bad Things That Have Happened... / via Oh Joy!

Not-so-awesome things:

Break-ins. We were given a heads up when we started this project that break-ins are unfortunately very common on construction sites. I was in complete denial because I just believe that most people are good people. But we’ve unfortunately had a handful of break-ins over the course of this project with the most recent being not too long ago. People mostly steal tools and sell them to pawn shops. Even though it’s not a house that we yet live in and so many people are currently working there everyday, it still feels completely violating.

Money Stress. I have never been so stressed about money in my whole life. Everyone tells me that home ownership changes the game, and they weren’t kidding. Being a renter thus far in my adult life has sheltered me from this feeling of knowing the stress of owning property that is yours…plus, all the responsibilities that come with it.

I Cry a lot. I’m already a very emotional person, and I cry probably once a week lately. It’s a lot of things to manage on top of my regular job, running a business, and trying to have some sort of life. There are some days I just want to give up and undo all of it. I truly do try to remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and my husband has been so amazing is reminding me of that!

Oh Joy! Builds A House: A Construction Update + Both Good and Bad Things That Have Happened... / via Oh Joy!

Awesome things:

It’s starting to look like a real house! Once the walls went up, it all started feeling much more real. It was no longer just this pile of dirt that we looked at for years! We are now able to walk through and actually see how the space is coming together, where things will go, and where my family will be living.

Having control over where we live and what we do to/for our house. No more broken faucets due to faulty old plumbing or having to wait for a landlord to fix something that always breaks! I’ve rented for so long that I gotten used to having to make do with old parts that constantly break. To know that we can fix something or change something on our own feels very freeing.

Seeing all of our hard work pay off. This project has been nothing short of time-consuming and stressful. But when I have a moment to take a deep breath and really take it in, it’s pretty incredible when I let myself appreciate how hard my husband and I have worked to save and save (and will continue to save) over the course of our adult lives for this forever home for our family.

{Photos by Lily Glass and Morgan Pansing. Video by Jenner Brown. Construction by Boswell Construction, Architecture by Project M+, Interiors in collaboration with Cleo Murnane at Project M+. All other layouts by Joy Cho. My pink dress is Kate Spade, boots are Red Wing Heritage. Written by Joy Cho.} 


  1. The heartache, frustration, and money being spent will all be worth it once this process is all done. I can only imagine how difficult it is to design/build your own house and all that goes with the details (plus working with contractors). Hang in there, you have the rest of your lives to enjoy and be proud of the home you’ve designed from scratch. Good luck and thanks for keeping us posted on progress!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this process with us, Joy! Especially the tough stuff. The transition from renting to owning a home can be rough. I can’t even imagine dealing with the stress of building your own home. I am the newish owner of a 100 year old house and every time we try to fix something, we discover more major $$ work that needs to be done. We are only a few months in and there have been times where my husband and I exclaim that we wish we had never bought. I was not only crying every week, but almost every day.
    Yet, I am beginning to see the light at the end of it all (literally–the electricians just finished rewiring our house) and it is starting to feel better. As your house comes together and starts feeling more like a real house, you will feel relief and excitement again. And you have a great family right by your side the whole time–which is what counts the most even if everything else falls apart. All the best to you!

  3. Ah thank you Dawn! That means so much that others understand the emotions of it, too. I’m happy that you guys have rewired! That’s huge!

  4. Hello Joy !
    I don’t even know if you would still respond to this comment since it’s an old post..but anyhow, I am about to embark on the “building a house” journey, but very scared, but very excited at the same time. I moved to LA 3 years ago (and am here to stay). I as well actually moved from my tiny and cozy apartment in Brooklyn Heights.
    I am about to purchase a lot, I’ve met with the architect/builder who has already built homes around the area. Permits are Ready to Issue.
    I will be buying the lot first to pay off, then getting a construction loan after to transition to a permanent mortgage. I think if there’s something I am most afraid of, it would be the financial aspect of it. Of any big/hidden costs that can arise. Did you find that to be true for you? Would you do it all over again? I greatly appreciate all your posts, they are very inspiring.

  5. Hi Clair!
    Congrats!! (Also, I used to living in BH, too…love it!)
    Definitely check out all my posts in this series as you progress. But to answer your question…
    Your path sounds exactly right! The finances were definitely the most stressful part to me. And not that the costs were hidden but many were unknown esp since our land was never built on and it’s on a hill. So some of the costs had a range attached and the lower end was great but the higher end was way more and often we didn’t know how hard (or not) it would be until they started. Other costs that pop up include engineering fees and other subs that your team will need to call upon.
    Now that we are in and we are done, it was all worth it but what I would have done differently:
    -Built on flat land (we would have saved a lot of money)
    -Saved more cash. Even with the construction loan. The banks only loan 75-80% of the appraised value which is fine for a completed house, as the hope is that you wouldn’t spend as much as it’s worth. But often appraisals based on plans are dependent on comps which isn’t very accurate if the homes in your area as much older and you can’t compare them to a brand new build. So we went back and forth a lot with appraisers as the amount we could borrow depended on it. We didn’t get a totally accurate appraisal until we were done which didn’t help our loan but did help our mortgage conversion.
    Hope that all helps!


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