Does everyone dream of building their own house one day? One of my earliest memories is of my parents building the home I grew up in. The construction site was an exciting place — dirt hills and gravel mountains to climb and the skeleton of a home that reminded me more of a tree house for adventures than the actual home it would eventually become.
Fast forward to adulthood, where my husband and I found ourselves analyzing the decision to build or not-to-build. My idyllic childhood memories of building a home were met with the reality of construction loans, sky-high costs of materials and an overwhelming process that made the dream of a new home feel just out of reach. The pending arrival of our third child and the impossible task of finding a home that met our needs pushed us to take a leap of faith and tackle the challenge of building a home in a time that didn’t seem ideal — and I’m so glad we did!
We learned a lot, persevered through the ups and downs, and now get to enjoy a home we created from the ground up. And, we aren’t the only ones who have been on this adventure. New construction is booming more now than I ever remember before. When we began our journey, we coveted the advice of others who had built a home.
The first step in the process of building a new home is finding the perfect location. Frankfort is in the heart of Central Kentucky and full of beautiful land — horse farms, Elkhorn Creek, the spacious rural land of Peaks Mill, and Bald Knob hills that are reminiscent of a mountain town, are just a few of our distinct settings. Frankfort is an excellent town for many reasons and offers something for just about anyone. An outdoor lover can hike and kayak, a bourbon enthusiast can hit the bourbon trail and history buffs have a quaint downtown in the capital of the Bluegrass State to explore.
There’s no denying Frankfort has a lot to offer, but finding a home site for building is not always easy. We got lucky and were able to purchase one of the last remaining lots in the Pinewoods subdivision. It struck the right balance of a neighborhood location combined with a larger lot, backing up to green space, which is what we were hoping to find. The lot we bought was not advertised for sale at the time we purchased it. Don’t be afraid to use connections to ask about a desired location, or enlist the help of a trusted realtor who will think outside the box and research on your behalf to secure the location that is perfect for you.
Once the building site has been secured, a general contractor is needed in most cases. It is completely accurate that building materials are higher priced than they’ve ever been and are continuing to rise. However, that is also the case with the prices of existing homes, so don’t let that scare you away from the building process. With an experienced, trustworthy general contractor, I believe you can build a home that will likely be worth more than you have invested by the time the build is complete. The general contractor uses their experience and connections to arrange subcontractors for every step of the build process — excavation, foundation building, framing, drywall, paint, roofing and plumbing, among many other things that go into making a new construction come together. Having a contractor who is accessible, communicative and customer-oriented will prove valuable for countless reasons.
Tim and Jenna Peck are in the beginning stages of building, and feel certain they made the right decision when it came to selecting Jerry Rutherford as their general contractor. They secured their perfect location in June 2021 then worked to set a budget, modify blueprints and interview contractors.
“The obvious challenge with building right now is trying to maintain or even establish a budget while materials are inflated and prices are continually fluctuating,” Jenna said as she reflected on their experience thus far.
She is thankful they chose Rutherford, as he worked with them to modify their plans to prioritize their must-haves and ensure they’ll get the most bang for their buck in the current economy of inflated prices. She advises anyone who is planning to build to interview several contractors to find the best fit and not necessarily choosing the lowest bid received. When investing money into such a monumental project, working with quality people will pay off every step of the way.
Of course, with even the most experienced and reputable contractors leading the way, there will still be changes, delays and some overspending. It’s important to begin with the knowledge that most new builds take a couple months longer to complete than anticipated and that it is common for new construction to exceed the original budget by about 10%. Beginning with this in mind sets the expectation and prevents unnecessary stress or disappointment.
We valued our contractor’s honesty in this regard because it helped us to have realistic expectations. We had the pleasure of working with Lester Smoot, the same contractor my parents worked with to build my childhood home. As an added bonus, my dad assisted with contracting duties, and it was really special to us to have that experience of going through the build with my dad. As I look back on our experience, I know there were weeks that felt long as we waited for one subcontractor or another to finish a job that was delayed, but there were many more little joyful moments that stand out to me now. Our daily walks to check on the progress, coming home from the hospital with our third son and driving by to see that framing had begun, and simply seeing what we had imagined become a reality step by step.
As with anything that is worth doing, any stress of building your own home is worth it all in the end. Jeremy and Sara Barker can attest to this truth. They recently moved into their home, which is situated on 6.6 acres with an unobstructed view of the sunrise that reminds them daily why they put so much work into building their dream home. The couple tackled the huge job of lining up subcontractors on their own without a general contractor.
They had personal connections, experience and did research, which led to their confidence in this decision. Sara credits her husband with the coordination and communication required to stay two steps ahead and keep subcontractors aware of where they were in the process. Sara was in charge of beautification and the pictures don’t lie. That was the right job for her! Details such as an oversized kitchen island, wide woodwork trim and wainscoting make their home feel warm and timeless. Those little details matter.
Building a home anywhere is an exciting experience which should be treasured, but building a home in Frankfort is special in its own way. Andrew and Hannah Johnson are new to Frankfort and their first home here is new construction. Hannah’s advice to anyone building a home is to not skip an important early step that can prevent challenges later in the process.
“My advice would be to make a list of what you want in a home and know what options are available,” Hannah said. “It can be easy to be overwhelmed with choices so having a clear idea of what you would like in your home is helpful.”
Actually listing each aspect on paper can ensure that no desired detail will be left behind. Hannah and Andrew reflect on their experience of building their home fondly and are enjoying Frankfort, especially the downtown restaurants, breweries and shops. Andrew is a bourbon collector, so Frankfort has been an ideal town to call home. The cutest member of their bourbon collection is of the dog variety, a mini Australian labradoodle named Weller! Their home is more than a house. It is where they have planted roots. It is where their family will grow and memories will be made.
When the home that once only resided in your imagination becomes a reality, it is a reflection of so much — your interests, your values and even your location. Frankfort is reflected in the new homes, whether in a bourbon display, the antiques that furnish the home, or simply by the views out the windows that are unique to this area in the heart of the Bluegrass.
What a privilege it is to live in the manifestation of our dreams in the form of brick and bedrooms and a big green yard. When looking around at this physical thing that has been built, knowing it is where family will create memories for years, it is worth the stress and all of the uncertainty during the building process. Often, we are capable of more than we can imagine. If you can dream it, you can make it happen. It may sound cliché, but every time I’ve taken the risk to follow my dreams it has either paid off more than I expected or it has led to a worthwhile opportunity that was not expected. Building a home has been no different.
Sara Barker reflected upon their experience of building a home so eloquently.
“The best part of building a home is watching dreams come to fruition,” Sara said. “Dreams of creating a space that not only we can be proud of and design just how we want it, but to also create a space we can open up and share with friends and family. Knowing that you are building something that started as a sketch on paper and realizing it will be around beyond our lifetime. The idea that the fruits of our labors may help another family decades from now raise their own family.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.