"How to buy my first home in Switzerland" guide | Step 9 - Workshops phase, fun or nightmare?

You signed at the notary and think you are done.

You now see yourself in a hike in the Canada Wild because you diserve it?

That's what we did actually! And you should too. Because you're gonna need your full brain-power in the next couple of months!

Workshops phase

There are three slots in which you can be for the workshops phase:

  1. Construction isn't started: you will have to decide about everything including floor plan (except the bearing walls which should be under the architect responsibility), electrical outlets positioning, heating system, roof solar panels, etc.
  2. Construction is ongoing: all the basis stuff listed in the previous point are usually defined, and the remaining choices are on finishing.
  3. Construction is over: at this stage, either your constructor wants to sell at a good price and let some finishing customizable, or he wants to sell fast with a property where you can come with your suitcases and settle.

We were in the second slot that is (to us) the most comfortable with all electric outlets positioned and other complex setups done. Our constructor confirmed that people often do bad choices when they can decide on that, as they think they know better than construction professionals.

This article covers our experience (i.e. slot #2) between our forward sale (signed in July 2015) and the final signature (done in February 2016).


Early sunrise view on the path to home

What we could customize, with what budget

This workshops phase starts like a month in YNAB. You get budget envelopes funded for each type of expense. The allocation definition is done in your purchase contract, and subject to negotiation.

As with any envelope budget: if you stay on track, all fine; if you spend more, you gotta pay for it.
The good news is that if you underspend in one area, you can use the remaining cash in another category.

Tiles

Our budget was CHF 80/square meter, which is huge compared to the standard CHF 40-50/square meter.
We underspent in this category, which provided some overflow for another category —unfortunately we couldn't put these savings to work in a brokerage account...

We appreciated that our constructor works with local resellers for tiles, which helped to be advised properly vs. going to mainstream stores where sales persons do not have a clue about their products.

Together with the kitchen, tiles are the craziest choice one has to made. There are endless possibilities.
So much that our advisor told us: "Constructing one's home is the best way to test one's marriage: if you are still together when you move in, then that's for decades!"
After we finally found our dream tiles for each room, we understood why she said that: you need to communicate so much, and make concessions all along the process... both basic rules for any successful relationship.

As a reference, it took us one month and a half to make all of our tile choices. This can seem large but don't forget to take into account visiting stores (when they are open), getting a sample to try it at home, checking with different lighting settings, and so on and so forth.

Tile joint

This was our "When the hell will it stop!" moment.
We had finished all workshops. I was at work. I got a call: "Hey Mr MP, we are starting to put on the tile, and I forgot to ask you: which color do you want for your tile joints? White, light grey, grey, or dark grey?"

My (internal) reaction?
"WTF!!! I thought we were all done. When the hell will all this stop?!?"

As with many choices, I answered the stylish constructor that I had no clue, and asked him what he would do? He told me light grey was a good option. He chose it at his home because white gets dirty too fast, and strong grey is darkening the room.
"Bingo! Go for it, we trust your judgment more than ours!"

Seriously, did you ever checked the tile joints color anywhere you went? Now, you will!

Laminate floor

We went for this type of floor for our bedrooms and home office. We didn't have a price defined. We had to choose from a specific brand's products — namely quick-step.ch, with way enough color declinations.
Fortunately, we are aligned with Mrs. MP on our style tastes, so it took us two or three iterations to have our final decision made.

Baseboards

You would think they take the same material as the floor, and add baseboards accordingly. And you're right.

The thing is that you have to choose the form factor of the baseboard itself!

Straight cut or rounded cut? With straight you have dust accumulating quicker, and with rounded it's a bit less aesthetic as it's higher.

"So what do you choose?" the promoter asked.

We went for the straight. But man, baseboard! Who would think you even have a choice for them!

Doors

Same as before, no budget but a predefined brand, id est the German company Huga.

I can't help but to be thankful for the constructor we got, as his material choices are of such a superior quality.

We appreciate it every day when we can relax in a room or be on the phone, even though people talk or children play in the room next door.

Door handles

To my surprise, you can have a 300-500 pages (no kidding) door handles' catalog and no specific budget as they have all an equivalent price tag.
But hey, with 10-20 items per page, can you imagine the choice?!

Side story: we finally agreed on one model, but the supplier had only 5 left (end of the production) and we needed 7...
The second choice was the good one!

Kitchen

OK, here you gotta close the (Huga) door, and shut down your social medias so you don't share what is the most anti-Mustachian thing you will read on this blog! Ready?

Let's start by what hurts, the budget.

CHF 32'000... and it ended up at CHF 37'000.

Now the details.

In Switzerland, when you buy an apartment in a standardized building where the constructor looks for economies of scale, you get a kitchen for about 20kCHF. That's already the price of the Toyota Prius (third of the name) I like so much!


How cool is this piece of technology!

With our Italian constructor who likes good design and qualitative materials as we've seen before, we were initially at a budget of CHF 32'000, which got increased by CHF 5'000 during the take-it-or-leave-it final negotiation.
I clearly would have preferred to use this as a discount on the overall apartment price, but that wasn't a deal option.

Even though I understand why we paid so much, this kitchen still represent one year of early retirement expenses...

But honestly, I'm entirely OK with it as I love so much our open-kitchen space. We truly enjoy it with all the wonderful moments we spend there with our kids and friends.

As introduced earlier with tiles, the kitchen workshops were the most challenging.

At least the layout was done, as well as the furniture provider imposed.
We had to choose the material, the color, and the cabinets' setup.

To make our final choice, it took us three workshops of one hour and a half each with the constructor, and several brainstorming sessions with our interior designer cousins.

We finally went for a white oak wood mixed with some darker brown as we got told that wood is something that last with time, both in terms of taste and quality.

The main recommendation here is to not follow fashion — remember the red kitchen trend five years ago that no one likes anymore.

Then, just before the order was sent to the Italian supplier, the constructor called me back while at work (as always as you may have noticed).
"I forgot to ask about the kitchen baseboards and interior of the drawers, which color do you want there?" to which I replied by the same "What would you do for your home."

That was a strong advantage to have this direct contact instead of a big corporate that wouldn't have cared about us.

We went for some standard grey in case you ask!

Kitchen appliances

As part of the kitchen budget (about half the CHF 37'000) were the kitchen appliances.
Hood, ovens (yes, we got two, but a wine storage would have been a better idea if we really had to spend this budget), induction hobs, dishwasher, fridge, etc.

We chose from a (imposed) Siemens brand-catalog.

It's always the same with these appliances: you read the features list and think you will love each of its complex programs.

In the end, you end up using just the timer and the inside light — even my wife who is quite a cook doesn't use much of the programs it offers.

That would be my advice for this category: buy only what you are already using as appliance features.

Shower

Our italian shower... This was a dream.

It was an upgrade that the constructor added to the inital price, meaning we had to get it (life is too hard sometimes!)
I don't have the price details but it was around 2-4kCHF.

The layout was done. We had to decide about the floor color, as well as the length of the shower glass.

Did I already mentioned that I love this shower?!

Bathroom furniture

The layout of the furnitures was decided. We only had to choose material and color, and the range wasn't too wide so it went fast.

About references

As if you were choosing a provider for a business project, I recommend you to ask for references of recent constructions that the promoter sold or that the constructor built.
Then go talk to the people who live there, and ask about quality, pricing, how went negotiation, etc.

What I liked most about our local entrepreneur is that he built it as if he would live in it afterwards. I'm so glad we didn't end up with one of these big construction companies as I heard stories where some would buy cheap materials to make more profits overall — that's not the case of all though, let's not generalize.

Workshops phase: fun or nightmare?

Overall, it was a great pleasure and a lot of fun to decide upon all of these details.
We enjoyed the process thanks to several factors, such as the fact that we have the same tastes with Mrs. MP, and that we were also able to communicate on the few things we didn't agree upon.
Also, we got a constructor with design tastes close to ours, and we could rely on two interior designers amongst our cousins.

We were lucky, and I'm grateful for it.

We love every corner of our new home. Not to mention the huge forest and country side that is surrounding it.


Our forest in summer, with the Alps in the background

Next step: The Move

You did a good job! And you didn't divorce during this critical step, congrats!
I wish you nothing but to have a lot of fun, and to enjoy creating the home of your dreams, the one in which you will raise your family and blossom during the next decades.

After this splurge of cash, it's time to think about the move. How to make it frugal and minimalist? How to save time on your moving date? That's what we will cover in the next article of this serie.

If you're on your way to home ownership (or already a home owner), I'd be curious to know about your workshop stories (fun or nightmare?), and about some of your budget numbers. Let us know in the comments section below!



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