Sitting at his impressive butcher-block table, Adam Ford points out the wild turkeys strolling through his backyard. The open kitchen flows into the living area, and windows on three walls softly illuminate the rooms.
“This is how bright it always is,” Adam says. “It’s something really important to us. It’s great getting up in the morning and having coffee sitting here with the sunshine coming in and the wildlife walking by.”
Adam recently moved into his country dream home in Scotts, Mich. with his fiancée, Kelsey Ladley. With the help of family, friends and GreenStone Farm Credit Services, the couple spent the last year working toward their future.
“We’ve been living in the house for three months,” Adam comments.
“The full build time was about nine months. I acted as the general contractor; my dad (Jim Ford) and I were out here every night from 5 p.m. till 10:30 or 11 p.m., plus every weekend we weren’t rained out.”
Surprisingly, Adam’s only building experience was in high school woodshop, along with some experience in the construction trades through the school’s vocational program. When he was in middle school, Adam’s parents built a house and over the years he helped with renovations.
“I guess that’s where I got the drive,” he admits. “I was always around home projects and I learned to be okay with the idea a house is never really complete or perfect. Even with our house now, there are things Kelsey and I are still working on and would like to complete in the future.”
Kelsey, who works in human resources, does not have much experience with construction but has been quick to learn. She is in charge of designing the house’s three bathrooms and is especially proud of the large, claw-foot bathtub on the second floor. Kelsey jokes she and Adam are local versions of Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper show.
“We still pinch ourselves,” Kelsey says, gazing around her kitchen. “We can’t believe the house is really ours. It feels like we’re staying at someone else’s Airbnb!”
Adam, who works for EPS Security in sales during the day, approached the project with creativity and innovation. Many people ask if he and Kelsey were afraid to build their own house, but Adam answers with a smile and two words: “YouTube videos.”
“We definitely watched YouTube ‘how-to’ videos from time to time. My dad knew how to build decks and I knew how to drywall, and we both knew how to do framing and flooring. I hired out the roofing, concrete, electrical, HVAC and plumbing and I’m glad I did,” he adds.
Despite a DIY attitude and enthusiasm, Adam did not initially plan to build a house.
“Kelsey and I have been engaged almost two years. We were trying to find an existing home but with the market being as hot as it was, I couldn’t find anything with the amount of land I wanted. When I found this six-acre property, the listing made it look like it was all scrub. But we saw the potential that was here,” Adam says.
After locking in a loan with GreenStone to purchase the land, he noticed a house matching what they were looking to build. Working with an architect, they used the design of the home as a basis, adding their own details and additions to the plan.
“I looked at several options for financing the construction loan,” Adam says. “My age and experience caused a lot of lenders to close their books on me, especially when I said I was going to be the general contractor. I talked with Emelee Rajzer and Jessica MacDonald, financial services officers with GreenStone’s Schoolcraft branch, and realized by using the land as collateral, I qualified for a Do-it-yourself (DIY) construction loan.
Jessica was instrumental in helping Adam lock in his loan, and assisted him with paperwork and a one-time closing. Sindi Kozminske, a customer service representative, helped him create an organizational system, using envelopes in a binder for tracking loan draws and receipts.
“Adam was extremely organized throughout the entire process, which made everything go smoothly,” Jessica says. “The project remained on task and was completed within the expected timeline. When we saw the finished product, we were in awe. We were so grateful to be able to assist Adam in building his dream home!”
Adam admits to being a bit of a dreamer.
“I get my optimism from my dad. I don’t think he was ever scared of anything DIY and that really rubbed off on me. When I said, “I can’t find a house, Dad. Why don’t we build?” he didn’t warn me to slow down – he was immediately on board,” Adam says.
Their biggest obstacle to building was the weather. One month last spring, it rained three out of four weekends. It was so wet it was dangerous; Adam purchased $500 worth of tarps and laid them all over the construction. One of his biggest accomplishments was installing the engineered trusses that run across the second floor of the house. Adam hired a crane operator to lift the trusses up into place and then finished the work with the help of family and friends. The heat index that day was 103 degrees!
“I often wonder how soon we could have knocked out the house if we didn’t have the weather challenges, but my dad and I are still happy that two guys working full-time jobs accomplished it in nine months,” he comments.
Adam’s tips for DIYers:
1) Attend a construction seminar hosted by GreenStone.
2) Get organized before you become overwhelmed. I used a system of envelopes in a binder for receipts and loan draws, which kept me on time and on track.
3) Work with a GreenStone financial services officer to take the stress out of loan paperwork.
4) Develop a relationship with your local DIY home improvement store to be a resource, saving you time and money.
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