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Building at the Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach: An Introduction

By Karen Tyrrell

After 15 years of living in Ponte Vedra Beach and more than five years of looking at properties, my husband and I finally decided to buy an older home closer to the beach in an area called Old Ponte Vedra, tear it down, and build a custom home.

Sounds fun and maybe a little romantic? It’s not. At least not for us… or probably anyone with a budget.

Budgets ruin everything. Even though we knew what we wanted to do and had done a good bit of what we thought was research (happy hours at the beach with friends who had built homes), we were not nearly as prepared as we thought we would be and our expectations of so much about the process were…off, to say the least.

In this series of articles, I will write about our experiences – good and bad – in hopes they will help folks who are interested in the process make better decisions for themselves, allay fears, or just provide a good laugh now and again at our expense.

The Trials and Tribulations of Getting Started

Lesson 1: You Can’t Really Design a House Without a Lot

We initially threw around the idea of designing the home while we were looking for a place to put it, but the design would depend on the lot size, how the house would sit on that lot, where the views were…blah blah blah. So, no, we did not design a home in advance but were certain we wanted a very traditional shingle-style home. Then I changed my mind about 82 times thanks to Pinterest and then decided, yes – traditional shingle-style home.

Inspiration Home

Lesson 2: Garage Sales Aren’t For Everyone

Still riding the high of a new home/lot purchase, I had the ridiculous lofty idea of having a garage sale to “de-junk” our lives of all the stuff that I didn’t want or need to take to the new home and that I didn’t want to store in the rental. Utter nonsense and everyone in my life knew this but me.

I am not a garage sale person and there was zero chance this would ever take place. I don’t like crowds of strangers, much less strangers rifling through my things. So after packing the home full of items I no longer needed and buying signs and garage sale stickers that would ne’er be used, I ended up calling friends and telling them to take whatever they wanted. The rest was given to various charities and the folks on the demolition crew. We also had people take what appliances they needed – the washer and dryer went to a great home, and the refrigerator to another, and a gentleman repurposed the plantation shutters, light fixtures, fans, sliding glass doors, and cabinets. I was glad they were getting used and not just thrown into a dump somewhere.

(Side note: I did actually label a few items with prices – probably, like, 6 or 7 things. That’s as far as I got before I realized I just did not want to deal with it. I have a lot of admiration for you people who can pull off yard sales.)

Lesson 3: Tear Down Day is Not What You Think

When the home was scheduled for demolition, I envisioned myself in a grungy but effortlessly stylish outfit and hard hat, swinging that giant hammer thing at a wall like on those HGTV shows and laughing at how much fun Demo Day would be! How it actually happened was one random afternoon I got a call from a friend who lives on the street saying the house was pretty much gone, so…no magical TV moment for me. Figures.

Original House

Lesson 4: Hidden Costs From the Start. Did You Say Bulkhead?

Our lot sits on a lagoon and is one of the few lots (of course, because that’s our luck) that did not have a bulkhead. The lack of bulkhead allowed for a gorgeous, “Steve Irwinian” dream of an alligator roughly 9 feet long and a few feet wide to sun herself in the yard. She was a beauty but we have dogs, so…the bulkhead was built in a week by a reputable company here in Jacksonville (reach out to me for their name – they have years of experience and have reasonable pricing. I can’t say enough about the quality and expediency of their work. Also, they managed to not get eaten by the gator so for sure they’re pros.).

Even though the cost was reasonable, as far as bulkheads go, it hurts like the dickens to spend money and have only a retaining wall to show for it. This was to be just the first in a long list of “Crap You Shell Out a Bunch of Money For But Never Really Have Anything to Show For It”.

The next article on Building the Beach will be about designing the home and where the money hose really starts to let loose. Here is a picture of where we are headed.

Where We Are Headed

About the Author: Karen Tyrrell is a 15 year resident of Ponte Vedra Beach. After living in Sawgrass Country Club for 14 years, she has taken on a build project in Old Ponte Vedra. This is her journey. Karen is a real estate agent with The Volen Group at Keller Williams Luxury International.


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3 Responses to “Building at the Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach: An Introduction”

  • Sharon Lauer
    Written on

    Great story and very informative. I have visited pontw vedra, love the area, and am interested in buying there. I had not considered building

    • Gwinn Volen
      Written on

      So glad you enjoyed it Sharon. Stay tuned for more info on building. Karen will be back with more updates!

  • Louise Beasley
    Written on

    Great perspective! So glad we decided not to build, rather remodel/refresh an existing home in Sawgrass TPC. I too am on the lagoon, have retaining wall on my list to keep gators out of the yard. I would love any good ref you have for this task. Thanks!

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