Our DIY Fixer Upper Story

Part 1: Building Our Dream Home While Getting Out of Debt

I’m so excited to have my friend and fellow blogger, Alicia Bertram, guest posting today to share her family’s incredible story of building their dream home, nail by nail,  from start to finish. This, all while paying off consumer debt and making some crazy decisions along the way to reach their goals!Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

“3-2-1 WE’RE DEBT FREE!” I’ll never, ever forget the feeling of our debt free scream, just six months after building our dream home, on our dream land,  from start to finish.

It was 2015, and like many American families we were struggling between the desires of living the American dream, and the reality of our consumer debt. But, it was precisely that dream of building our forever home that was the reason we got OUT of debt instead of racking up more.  If that goal seems a little crazy, the way we got to where we are now might seem even crazier!

Read for our DIY fixer upper story and learn how we achieved our dreams, and the unconventional decisions we made along the way.

Our Story

“We can do this!” is the way my hubby and I approach most aspects of our life.  Simply put: we’re do’ers.  Case in point: when I got pregnant with our second child, we knew the small house we lived in at that time was not going to be functional for our family, so we decided to add on our own addition…starting the day we brought our daughter Lucy home from the hospital. We’ve never been ones to shy away from a DIY challenge, even when it’s a little crazy or inconvenient.

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Two years ago, our dreams got bigger when we decided to purchase our dream land and build a home. Then, we met with a home design specialist and our dreams were temporarily dashed – the home we dreamed of was going to cost about $450K.  Um…we didn’t have $450k. So, after we picked our jaws up from the ground, walked out with our tails between our legs, and threw ourselves a pity party, we sat down by ourselves and worked through the numbers.

After calls to contractors, numerous bids, and a talk with our banker, we decided we could build this home ourselves for $230K – around  half the cost!  We thought, “we can do this!”  But, could we really stick to the budget?  Most projects go 15-20% over the budget…were we kidding ourselves that this could work? Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Then, January 5, 2015, as our home building project was just commencing,  our dreams got even more spectacular when discovered Dave Ramsey and our whole outlook on money and budgets changed. So now, not only were we going to plan and build this home on our own over the next 18 months, but we were also going to pay off $63k of consumer debt, come up with a $20k down payment, and save another $20k to cash flow. Again, our mantra was, “We can do this!”, but it was going to mean big sacrifices.Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

For  the first 10 months we lived with my parents (and paid a mortgage on our old house for 5 of those months…long story!).  We worked nine jobs between the two of us…yes, nine!  We sold our beautiful SUV and bought a Hooptie to eliminate our car payment and begin tackling our student loans and credit card debt, while stockpiling cash.

That September, we moved onto our land and into a…wait for it…camper!Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

For two months we lived in that camper. This enabled us to live on-site so we could focus all of our free time on the house.

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Siding. I swear we sided for weeks!

After those two looong months, we finally got to move into…wait for it…our new garage!Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Our biggest sacrifice: we had to shower with hoses using a 6 gallon water heater for 2 weeks. It was the worst!!!

And it is there that we stayed for 5 months while we worked tirelessly on the house. From start to finish the house building process took us 6.5 months.

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Mr. Bertie installing under cabinet lights in some new Yoga pose.

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Shiplap day! I had the help of our 12 year old pup that day!

Mr. Bertie would not let us move in until everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was done.Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

We were 98% complete and he would not let us move in until the last nail was in the last piece of trim.  While it was incredibly frustrating at the time, living in a garage and all, I appreciate it now because it forced us to complete it rather than live in an unfinished mess.Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

After all was said and done, we had completed our 2,500 sq ft. home with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a photo studio, on a budget of $300K ($70k of which was for the land).Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

When the building was complete, we anxiously waited for the appraisal. We hoped we reached our goals, but we weren’t sure what to expect.  You see, our land has 53 acres of trees and a pond (Mr. Bertie’s hunting land) and it can be hard to find comps.

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Me in the skid steer cleaning up the driveway and house site.

The appraisal came in at $450K! Not only had we come in on budget (it is possible) but we also came out of it with a nice chunk of equity – $150k to be exact!

Six month after our home was complete, we became consumer debt free!!!

do you have what it takes to Build A House?

Are you wondering if you have (or your marriage has!) what it takes to build your own home?

In our case, neither of us had ever built a home on our own before. However, it was certainly a huge help that Mr. Bertie is an electrician by trade. He also grew up with a father figure who built houses for a living.  He spent many hot summer days learning the trade and many days shingling.  He knows the basics and isn’t afraid to ask for directions (thank God!).  And hey, if all else fails and you don’t know what to do? YouTube it!Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

I grew up with parents who made me work hard and so even though I didn’t have the know-how, I was willing to try.  Mr. Bertie tested me every day giving me things to do that I thought I wasn’t physically able to do.  He would never ask if I could do it, he would simply tell me what to do and then if I didn’t succeed right away I would try again.  I was able to do things I never thought possible all because he believed in me.Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

While building a house can be incredibly straining on a marriage, there were moments like this that made us stronger.

Getting to the Good Stuff

While I’ve loved sharing with you the process of how we built our home, I’m even more excited to share the after pictures of our finished, decorated home. Stay tuned next week when I’ll be back to share my tips for making our house a custom, Pinterest-worthy home – and how we did it all within our original budget!Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five Marigolds

Our DIY Fixer Upper Story: Building our Dram Home While Getting Out of Consumer Debt | Five MarigoldsAlicia Bertram is a dreamer and photographer who blogs at Berties Build On a Budget. Please visit her blog for more details on her budget and their building project details!

11 thoughts on “Our DIY Fixer Upper Story

  1. lindsayylyall says:

    This is so inspirational! The craziest DIY I’ve ever done is reupholstering my couch (which was successful!), but I kind of think we could do some home remodeling. Your house is BEAUTIFUL!

  2. Brit Strawbridge says:

    This is amazing!! Way to go!! & YAY to debt free!! My husband lived in a camper for a few months when his parents were building there house so I am sure he could relate! haha Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to see more!

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