From The Ground Up

This couple was told that building a house would end their relationship—they did it anyway.

<p>Featured Image by Sarah Olsen</p>

Featured Image by Sarah Olsen

Kathy and Jeff Clary were married for several years before they began one of the largest projects a couple can take on: building a house. After planning a small and intimate wedding, it was time for their first major project together.

As Muncie natives, the couple had some specific desires for where they wanted their home to be when they started building in 1993.

“We wanted to be in the country and have no neighbors,” Kathy says. “At that point in time, purchasing a house was very difficult, especially in the country.”

But building was not the initial plan.

“We looked at modular homes for a couple years because we thought that was going to be the better avenue for us financially at that time,” she says.

As they sat in the last meeting ready to sign the papers on a house, they received the news that led them to build. Following months of rising tension in the Middle East between Iraq and Kuwait, the Gulf War had started. President George H.W. Bush organized Operation Desert Storm to expel Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait. This war, as well as a recession in the 1990s, caused some major side effects on the housing market. One of these side effects was a price increase for homes.

“The initial price we had agreed on went up by 20 thousand dollars,” Kathy says.

This amount is equivalent to a price jump of nearly 40 thousand dollars in 2021. It was at this point they knew they needed a new plan. Although they knew they could not afford to buy, they were not sure they could afford to build either.

“My husband was just convinced that we didn’t have enough money to build,” she remembers. “The thing is, you kind of have to learn how to give and take when working with a budget.”

This budget left them with three potential ideas for the project. One was a home with a larger kitchen, another was a home with an extra bedroom and the last was a home with a garage. They went with option number three, believing that would work best for them in the long run.

“At the time I was thinking we don’t live in the kitchen, but it turns out we really do,” she jokes.

As builders looking to construct their forever home, the choices they made did not come easy. Carpets, paint colors and bathrooms all became a debate.

“When you’re looking for lifetime like we were, even when you have an idea of what you want, it can get very difficult to make those decisions and agree on it,” she says.

Just a few months later, the house was almost finished being built. Though the timeline for the build was incredibly strict, the house was not completed on time. This did not stop the couple from moving in during the process — Kathy had taken a two-week vacation for the move, and she was not going to wait any longer. So they packed their bags and moved into an unfinished home.

“Obviously it wasn’t the most ideal situation, but I told myself I was moving in on time no matter what,” she says. “It added some stress, especially for our builder.”

Fast forward to 30 years later. With renovations such as new lights and a new furnace, the one-story ranch home with the metal roof, a half circle driveway and a garage full of kittens still stands. The couple does as well. Looking back at her own experience, Kathy had this advice for those looking to build their house: 

“Everybody’s got an opinion when you’re building a house,” she laughs. “You want to make sure that you don’t let somebody alter your mind, that you stop and think about it long enough that you’re the one that has to live with this.”

Despite the setbacks, like struggling to stay within a budget and arguing about the chance of rain, the couple persevered.

“It’s definitely an exciting feeling because everything is new and it’s yours,” she says. “I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t change something about their home after living there a while, but we’ve been happy as life goes on.”

The final thought, though?

“Looking back on it all, we’d probably never build again. We’re not looking to sell our home. We built it for a lifetime.”

Image by Sarah Olsen

Sources: Office of the Historian, Neptis, SmartAsset

Images: Sarah Olsen

Featured Image: Sarah Olsen

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