The House That Brent Built: August Update

I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that our house build hasn’t always been a walk in the park. But I hardly even realized quite how frustrated we got this month until I had a chance to sit and reflect. While we’ve made so much progress this month, we’ve also been overwhelmed with the number of decisions flying at us and combined with some unwanted budget adjustments and a setback or two, it’s safe to say that WE ARE IN THE THICK OF IT.

First, the progress! This past month:

  • The sprinkler system went in—yes, sprinkler system. Most homes don’t have them but the treehouse does because of how tall it is
  • We ordered our tile and hardware
  • Windows went in
  • We chose our lighting layout and the fixtures are on their way
  • Drywall is dropped off and insulation is going in soon
  • Exterior siding is going up and we get to paint next!


Insulation in the truck in front of the house

Guys on the pump jack working

Exterior with house wrap and windows

Top floor windows waiting to be installed

We’ve fallen a bit behind. It’s the busy season for builders and contractors and we’ve definitely experienced that as well. Drywall is only now going in and the exterior was supposed to be painted TODAY, but that isn’t happening. Some delays make sense and others don’t and overall I will say that we walked in expecting this so we felt prepared.

The toughest part of the month was having to do some major realignments on our budget. We got our original bid from the builder and it was too high for us. We asked for a readjustment and most of that was taken out of our budget for finishes. But when we head into the showrooms, the designers very candidly tell us that unless we want the barest subway tile, it’s going to cost us more. I think in part we could have been a little more realistic about our original budget and what we would eventually want. It’s one thing to give yourself x amount for tile, when you haven’t gone into a showroom and seen all of the amazing tile there is to choose from. The other part comes from miscommunications with the contractors or having to adjust for unforeseen circumstances. It’s all to be expected but we’ve had to be a bit hardass with our team and ourselves this month and it’s definitely not been the most fun we’ve had on this project.

If I were to do it all over again, or you’re reading this and you’re about to, I would advise a few things:
1. Plan for digressions in your plan and have proactive discussions around what rooms and items you are and are not willing to compromise on. We’re going over on the kitchen counters because we decided it’s essential, but we’re also getting more carpet put in than expected because of the cost of hardwood.
2. Be prepared for a million choices at every turn and find yourself providers who can ground and guide you towards the right ones. For example, we’ve been able to stay within our budget for cabinetry all thanks to the amazing salesperson at General Builders Supply who was able to find us the right manufacturer and material to actualize our dream of flat slab cabinets (GBS, you are wonderful!)
3. Be prepared for A LOT of communication. With your partner, with your contractors, your designers, your service providers and salespeople. All in a loop for months on end. It’s a lot of coordination and we’ve all been schooled in communication through this process.

Lighting comes next, and I’m sure we’ll go through all of this again!

This house build has become a full-time job, especially for Brent, but despite the overwhelm I can feel the bubble of excitement rising in my chest at the thought of moving in less than two months. There is so much to do in our current house before we make that transition and it’s given me a lot of pause for thought, going through the process I help others go through every day—especially my sellers.

We need to pare down our stuff and start packing. I have a ton to get rid of now that Camila is 6 months old. And most importantly, we have to get our kitchen remodeled before, or right after, we move out. It’s hard to even process.

Even though we are well and truly in the thick of it, I just keep reminding myself how fast this next month and a half will fly. Before we know it, we’ll be heading up to the 4th-floor balcony to watch the first sunset from our completely finished home that we built ourselves. Nothing tops that.

We’re Closed! Cozy Home with Secret Gardens in North Portland

This lovely listing located off of N Polk was initially purchased by a sweet couple I helped back in 2014. It was the perfect starter home for them and boasted a big yard. In their time there, they expertly transformed their gardens into a blooming oasis, and it is nothing short of gorgeous. I was so stunned to see it completely transformed when they contacted me in the last few months to help them sell.

Even though my clients were sad to leave, they have the chance to pick up some traveling nursing gigs and are hitting the road with their 2-year-old daughter. What an amazing opportunity! Now, this cozy home is home to new owners who I’m sure are already in love with this carefully crafted space, from the beautiful hardwood floors & charming gas stove to the gardens outside. The location provides the perfect space to raise a family and is minutes away from historic St Johns and Pier Park.

We collaborated on updates to get the home ready to list.  All new countertops and backsplash are just a few of the renovations added. Within three days, we had multiple offers and sold $20,000 over the list price! I’m so excited to see my clients heading on to new adventures and am overjoyed to be a part of a new family’s home buying journey.

Listing Details: Sweet, move-in ready St Johns ranch! Beautiful hardwood floors and charming gas stove in the light-filled living room. Efficient kitchen with new countertops and backsplash. Three bedrooms with ample closet space and half bathroom off the master. New roof in 2018. New high-efficiency furnace, water heater, electric panel, sewer and water lines in 2014. Upgraded insulation and vinyl windows. Minutes to historic St Johns, Cathedral Park, and Pier Park. Enjoy your summer at home in the lovely garden and pergola covered patio. This one has it all!

MLS: #20017320
Price: $389,464Marissa Sainz

The House That Brent Built: July Update

And just like that, July is over. And we’ve got what looks like a REAL house in our backyard! So much has happened this month—it feels like each day is a hurdle of chooses and we’re quickly approaching the finish line. I can hardly believe our finish date is just a little over 60 days from now!

July Updates

We chose our cabinets mid-month. We’re foregoing upper cabinetry, save for one sidewall of floating shelves, for a more open look in the kitchen. We settled on some sleek, modern black cabinetry and chose our cabinets for the bathroom as well. We also settled on some kitchen hardware and last week we met with our designer to choose tile for the bath and kitchen as well. I think we’re going to go with a hexagonal tile.

The contractors have been here framing around the clock this month and between their early start and sweet Camila’s sleep schedule—let’s just say sleep has not been a regular companion this month. But the contractors truly are busting their butts to get the job done—the start around 7:00 and are usually working Sundays as well. Thanks to them, we flew through framing and even got the roof started this month!

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After seeing their framing work on the 4th floor, we made the last-minute decision to try and keep the top-level an a-frame—more vaulted for a sense of space. We added a skylight on the east side and now we can always see Mt. Hood from our fourth floor. We’re super excited about the update—it’s feels so much more open!

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Up Next

Now that the roof is on, we get to start siding! The upper three levels will be in a hardy white plank, and the lower level will be black. I’m particularly excited about the Shou Sugi Ban siding that will be highlighted on the front door, balcony door, and the deck. Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese wood preservation technique that involves burning the wood. We’ve decided to go with a dark shade for the doors.

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We also get to choose our window package soon. We’re trying not to do double-hung windows and I think we’ll love being able to just open the whole window.


This month we had a big overage in framing. Our builders received plans that weren’t fully updated on structural framing and the work was done before we could catch it. That was a big bummer and is going to cost a pretty penny.

In general, though, we’ve been having a great experience throughout this build. It’s been. overwhelming sure, but fun every step of the way. On Friday nights, we climb up to the 4th floor with a bottle of wine and just sit and enjoy everything that is happening, and everything to come. It’s been great to have something so joy-filled to focus on.

Big Thanks
I just want to take a minute this month to thank both of the designers who have helped guide us through this process. It’s made all the difference to have an expert to help us focus ourselves in the overwhelm of choosing interior finishes.

Grace Luebke—a colleague and friend of Brents who works at Siteworks did our initial mock-up of the look and feel of the house. She specializes in hospitality but she made an exception for our home and I could not be more grateful for her guidance!

Renee Chambers—We met Renee through our builder and she’s been a saving grace in moving us through chooses tiles, hardware, and finishes. I feel totally confident in her hands and she’s made these last few weeks something to look forward to wholeheartedly.

And thank you for taking a minute to read and follow long on this massive journey of ours. I’m so glad to have this platform to share with you and humbled you’ve taken the time to share our joy with us. See you next month after we have siding and windows! Woohoo!


New NW Condo in the Lexis!

Can I just say that if I were looking for the perfect introduction to city living, this is exactly the type of condo I would look for? Right in the heart of the Pearl District, this condo is the whole package inside and out. Moments from the best restaurants and amenities the district has to offer and complete with a modern interior feel—polished concrete floors, eat-in bar, and new cabinets, sink, and dishwasher. Take a look at the beautiful natural light filtering in from the massive windows! 

An in-house gym and beautiful community courtyard round out the experience. All convenience, all the time! Take a walk through the gallery below and get in touch for a tour (virtual tours also available). I don’t imagine this condo will be hanging out for long so I hope to hear from you soon!

JUST LISTED: Updated urban studio in the Lexis!  An open layout, a full wall of windows, and high ceilings make this space live LARGE!  Kitchen features eat-in bar, new cabinets, new deep stainless steel sink and new dishwasher.  Walk-in closet has been built out to maximize storage.  All doors and trim updated along with lighting and fixtures throughout.  Smart thermostat and lights featuring night setting.  Stunning polished concrete floors complete this modern look. Two leased parking spaces available. Community amenities include gym & courtyard.  Live in the heart of the Pearl!
Address: 1125 NW 9th Ave, Apt 220
Price: $255,000
0 bedrooms
1 bathroom
566 square feet
RMLS 20002343

Home Build Project: The Walls Are Going Up!

If you have been following along on my Instagram at @marissasainz you know that we’ve been chugging along on our home build project, lovingly hashtagged #thehousethatbrentbuilt. I wanted to take the time to write a longer update here, and will continue doing so until we reach our projected completion date on October 13th! The title says it all—June has been all about framing. Each week of the month, we’ve framed out a new floor and it’s been the coolest thing to climb to each new story to see what our future view is going to be! I’m glad to share that it’s gonna be pretty great and that we can even look out over the whole neighborhood from the top floor!

First floor rental space facing north

Attachment options… Third-floor bedroom facing west

Third-floor master bedroom facing north

We’ve run into a variety of challenges this month, and they’ve provided some very valuable lessons. The first was a major change in our design visions when we found out the city wouldn’t allow us to build the front of the house as a single plane. They require an offset somewhere on the upper levels. We weren’t sure how to go about this while still achieving the modern look we’ve been going for. At first, our architect suggested punching out two of the upper windows, but it was just too traditional for our taste. After some brainstorming, Brent had the inspired idea to punch out the two upper stories altogether and I have to say, it’s going to look so neat! I’m glad we found a way to meet the city’s requirements and still stick to our modern vision.

Another major lesson was that it would have been wiser to go with the surveyor referred by our architects and engineers, over the independent surveyor we hired before the project began. We were happy with the surveyor but throughout the project, we’ve found that their assessment hasn’t jived with what our architects and engineers have needed. We ended up having to pay extra money to have their surveyor redo the job. So should you be embarking on a similar project, I would say—meet with your architects first and talk about their needs and see if they have a surveyor on the team who can do what they need.

Third-floor master bedroom facing north

Third-floor master bedroom facing north. The ceiling is not on yet so you can see the tree where the fourth floor will be.

The third adjustment we’ve made in this wild ride was another city-inspired one. Portland requires that homes be built with a pitched roof, where we had originally envisioned a flat one with a glorious rooftop deck. We were worried we would lose our rooftop deck and the promise of a killer view. But we found a pivot—a SW-facing partial deck on the top floor. From the front of the house, the rooftop will look pitched, and on the back corner, there will be a cut out with an awesome deck.

This month’s changes have made our new home feel real. I was worried when the foundation was laid that we had gone too small—I couldn’t envision how anything would fit. But now that the walls are up it feels more spacious. I can see where the counters are going to be, where the bed is going to sit etc. And the cherry on top is how our big fir tree out front is playing along—with each rising story, it feels like we’re sitting further up inside the tree. It’s beautiful and we’ve even taking to referring to the house as our treehouse.

Third-floor master bedroom facing north

Third-floor bedroom facing west

Next month I’ll write again—we’ve got plenty planned. The roof will go on, windows will be installed and we’ll need to start making a lot of interior decisions—light fixtures, tile, paint, and more! Stay tuned!

If you haven’t yet, you can follow me over on Instagram @marissasainz where I post updates on the house build every week. You can find all of our progress at the hashtag #thehousethatbrentbuilt.