Monday, 27 September 2010

Diary of Florida House build

Back in 2006, we embarked on a major adventure - building our own house in Florida.  With no prior building knowledge, we threw ourselves head first into the project and boy, it was a rollercoaster!  Here's our diary:-

Glorious Gulf Villa - House Build Diary

New Year family decision to be made; put a lump sum into a pension fund or invest in an overseas property?  Er hello!  For me, it’s like choosing between a date with George Clooney or Gordon Brown!!  It’s a no-brainer.  Overseas here we come!
Attend Overseas Property Exhibition and before I know it, book an eight-day Exploration Trip to Florida.  I drive home and deliver the news to my husband that he’s off to Florida.

BIG discussions/arguments about who should go.  Husband is adamant it should be me and he should stay take the easy route and stay at home with our girls!  Easy – PAH!  Little does he know.  I’m freaking out about the whole idea.  I’ve never even spent a night away from the family – let alone eight nights, 4,500 miles away.

8th May
Departure day.  Try to be very grown up but collapse in a crying heap once through Security.  Not so grown up!  Calm myself down with some Duty Free therapy.
Spend flight showing everyone photos of my girls.  Airline staff very sympathetic to a point, then just keep me quiet with copious amount of gin and tonic!

Land at Orlando and meet my Guide who’s built like Mr T from the A Team called Rocky...only in America!  He has five girls of his own - I think we are going to get on well.

Day One
An early 8am start and spend 10 hours viewing properties around Orlando.  I’m constantly surrounded by Disney paraphernalia which makes me miss my girls even more.  I want to go home.

Day Three
With no joy in Orlando we head to the beautiful Gulf Coast.  With jaw-dropping beaches and amazing scenery, it’s a real breath of fresh air. We arrive in an area called Rotonda, nestled between Sarasota and Naples – it’s stunning. Introduced to a company who build homes from scratch.  I would be in sole charge of deciding:-

Location; golf course, woodland or water front views?
Number of bedrooms; 3, 4 or more?
Design and layout;  open plan, country style, formal/informal areas etc?
Exterior & interior finishings; enough home style encyclopaedias to wade through it made the entire back catalogue of Next Directories look like a light read!

For a control freak like me, I’m in heaven.

12th May 2006
Our wedding anniversary.  Wake up with my emotions colliding; I’m missing my husband, I’m excited that we’ve decided to build our dream home, I’m nervous about signing the paperwork and totally scared about how much I’m about to commit to.  This calls for Rescue Remedy – preferably intravenously!

Seeing the beautiful sunrise, I’m calm again.  I’ve found a wonderful plot of land, overlooking the tranquil waterway and chosen a beautiful villa.  It’s going to be perfect.  Later that day, I sign the deal, open a bottle of wine and ring home for a verbal hug.

16th May
Arrive home.  If I thought the hard bit was over, I had little idea of what lay ahead for the next 15 months.  Maybe it’s the heat but everyone has a mañana, mañana” attitude which drives me crazy.

6th October
Finally the builders break ground.  Any longer and it may have broken our marriage!

Money for the build is rushing out of our bank faster than pensioners from Northern Rock. We pray for a hurricane-free season.

I start working on our website to advertise the villa. is born – virtually of course although it’s starting to feel like my third child. 

Trying to compare monthly update photos from the site is like playing Spot the Difference.  Little progress is being made.  Almost every week a new challenge or dilemma arrives sucking up precious family time quicker than Great Uncle Dyson.  Sleepless nights, frantic phone calls and demanding emails are now a daily feature.  Trying to juggle running a home, being Mum to two girls under five and being a great wife leaves me feeling exhausted.  This is definitely aging me. 

I constantly ask myself “Why did we think it would easy to build a house 4500 miles away?”  I feel totally out of control being so far away from the build but I have to plough on regardless.  The list of people and jobs that I have to manage and juggle is endless from builders and banks to County offices, to interior designers and landscape gardeners.  Honestly, anyone would think it was their house?!  We may all speak the same language but they may as well be speaking Cantonese!

Now the fun starts.  I’m asked to choose everything from the roof colour, to the size & design of our pool.  Most people would find this level of detail a nightmare – fortunately I love it.  However, what I quickly realise is my husband doesn’t share my passion.  Being a Virgo, I’m surprised with his lack of interest.  Normally, he’s all over detail like a rash.  With his eyes glazing over before I even open my mouth he assures me that I have his full trust and I should make decisions on behalf of the family.  GULP! As if the pressure wasn’t massive already, I feel like it’s just gone up a few notches!

We always had May in mind as a month in which the villa would be built and we would all go out to visit but it’s no-where near ready.
After what seems a life-time of waiting, we get the news - the house is finally built.  We all sigh a huge sigh of relief.  All we need now are some renters through the door.  I feel more sleepless nights coming on!

16th October
We arrive in Rotonda to admire the fruits of our labour.
I feel sick with a mixture of excitement, apprehension and tiredness.  The final photos we’ve seen look good but it’s going to be so different seeing it for real.
Oh my God, what if we hate it?
I feel as though I’ve been holding my breath since we landed so it’s not surprising when I nearly faint as we walk through the door...

Glorious Gulf Villa is totally amazing.  Everywhere I look I see things that I love especially the wonderful four-poster bed!  It’s a real home-from-home.  The girls are most impressed to have their very own swimming pool. 

My husband looks at me with new found admiration.  I can’t believe my eyes.  I feel like I’m dreaming.  I’m half expecting someone to put a blanket round my shoulders and hang a medal around my neck as it feels like I’ve just completed the London Marathon!  Instead, in a terribly British manner, my husband makes me a cup of tea and puts me to bed for a lie down to recover.

The journey has been long and emotional.  My knowledge of house building has of course increased but more importantly I’ve learnt so much about myself.  I’ve definitely earned a few brownie points from my family but I don’t think anyone really understands just how much this project has taken out of me.

In Summary
Am I proud of the end resultYes!
Would I do it againNo!
Is our marriage still in-tactJust!

The End!

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