Monday, December 27, 2010

Choosing a Builder

By far the most stressful part of the house building process so far has been choosing a builder. I like to think of myself as pretty handy around the house and go with the DIY route just about as often as I can, but I don't know the first thing about building an entire home. So the choice of a builder was going to be a huge one that would not only affect how the new home was built and looked but also the financial situation we'd be stuck with when the whole thing was said and done.

Even though the plan has always been to start building in the Spring of 2011 I wanted to get an early start and give us plenty of time to make the right decision. Becca and I came up with a list of four builders that we knew about through various avenues. We wanted someone with a good reputation and good referals. We also needed someone who would be willing to work with us every step of the way and keep our budget as a top priority. We've known too many people who have built a home only to realize that they couldn't afford it because they didn't keep to their budget. Lastly we wanted someone who could keep up a good line of communication. There are a lot of details that go into a home and we had to make sure we were all on the same page every step of the way.

In August I began getting a hold of each of the builders to schedule a first meeting. Before we met I made sure to have some questions ready that I asked each one of them. I asked questions ranging from how they choose their sub-contractors to what experience they have with environmental building practices to how they handle time-lines and budgets. I wanted to have a good base of questions that I could ask everybody.

I also made sure to bring a set of my preliminary plans to give to each of them. This allowed me to visually show each of them the type of house we were looking for. It also gave a common set of plans for them to work up some very preliminary numbers in terms of cost. In the end the biggest goal with the pricing exercise wasn't to determine who I would go with by picking the lowest cost because at this early in the process I knew no one could give me entirely accurate numbers. Instead I was hoping that I could develop a good range on what the house would cost while also seeing how willing each builder was to work with me. Most people don't like talking cost early on so I knew it would push each of them out of their comfort zone.

The first meeting was a good one because it helped us pretty quickly narrow the pool down to two builders. I will stop and say that all the builders we talked to were excellent and very professional; however, Becca and I were able to get a good feeling on the direction we were wanting to go and who would help us the most with that direction. After the first meeting we scheduled a time with the remaining builders to take a look at some of the houses they had each built. It was extremely useful to just see how the building styles differed and also help us see some of the features we might like.

In the end, our choice came down to a lot of different factors. Unfortunately for us both builders gave us close pricing and also had very similar types of homes. I'd say the biggest differences came in that the builder we chose, Jason Finley, had some great references from a few friends and acquaintances whose experiences had been great and he also had a personality that we both felt excited about. Jason is a great builder but is still very down to earth and ready to work with us through every step. He continually stressed the importance of staying on budget and was above and beyond the best builder we talked to in terms of keeping in good contact with us and quickly answering every question we had for him. I can't say enough about how excited we are to work with him and I'd encourage everyone to take a look at his website here and take a look at his gallery to see some beautiful homes. Also, as always, if anyone has any questions feel free to comment below.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Pox Upon Your House

Walking around our home right now you would think that the walls had caught the chicken pox. Living in a house for over 5 years with, at some point in that time, two adults, two 100lb+ Great Danes, and a toddler running around the walls tend to take a beating. One of the many odd jobs I have made for myself before we put the house on the market to sell is to repair and repaint all of those marks. So with the freezing cold temperatures and a howling wind I decided today was just as good a day as any to stay inside and begin the repair work. The result being, as you can see, that now instead of a bunch of holes in the drywall we instead have a bunch of rough looking white splotches. Hopefully after everything is sanded and repainted we'll be in much better shape.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Plans

One of my favorite things of this whole process so far has been putting together plans. It's a lot of fun trying to imagine what your perfect house will look like and then trying to get that picture in your head onto paper has been an exciting challenge. I've spent a lot of time trying to think of every detail and determining what the be floor plan is for our new home. Fortunately for us, we have a floor layout in our current home that we really like a lot. So basically I've taken our current plan as a template and just expanded it to provide for future growth. In all reality the house we live in how is just the right size for us, but we want to be ready when do start needing the extra room. For that reason a lot of our next home will be unfinished when we first move in with the capability to grow as we need it. Here you can see one of the first drafts I came up with when putting the plans together.

There is one quick lesson I can provide for anyone thinking about putting together their own plans. It is one that I've learned the hard way: make sure you accurately read the size of the your lot before you begin. I made the mistake of misreading my plot map. And worse than that, I didn't realize my mistake until I had gotten together a set of plans that both Becca and I were very excited about. As a result of my mistake ,along with some funny rules Nixa has when it comes to offsets, my house plans were wider than the lot itself. I ended up having to move a bunch of things around to make the house "skinnier" but I think I've just about got things back to where we like it. Once we get our final draft complete I'll post again with the end result. Next week we meet with our builder to start the work of getting the plans finalized and within a price range we can live with. I hope it all goes well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Lot

We've known for a while now that we wanted to build our next house. I've always thought it would be a lot of fun plus you can concentrate on some of the details you find important that you wouldn't find if you just bought an existing home. The one thing we didn't know was when and where. I occasionally go out and take a look at real estate just to see where things are, so last year, with a lot of prices down, I thought I'd take a look at lots in the area to see if there were any good deals. I knew that we wanted to be either on the east or southeast side of Springfield, but surprisingly enough I couldn't find a whole lot in that area. There were a few good neighborhoods, but nothing that either just really wowed us or that was within the price range I was hoping to stay within.

A little discouraged, I decided to spread out the search area a little and include Nixa as well. I didn't want something that would add a lot of drive time to my daily commute, but if I could find somewhere with quick access to 65 I thought I would be fine. So when I found some lots in our price range in a neighborhood called the Villages of Wicklow we thought we'd drive through and take a look.
As soon as we entered the neighborhood we fell in love. The houses were all nice and very unique. The architecture was different than everything else we had seen and it looked like everything was very well taken care of. Best of all we found the perfect lot. The lot is about half an acre, which is about the same size as our current home, but rather that wide like we currently have it's narrow and goes way back. In the picture above the big mound of dirt and weeds (some fill dirt we were given) is almost the back of the property. Plus, as you can see, there's a view of the neighborhood pond and fountain that we'll definitely be keeping in mind when designing the house. Lastly it's perfect for a walkout basement which is something we really wanted for the next house. All in all it was exactly what we were looking for in a great neighborhood.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Welcome to Our New Home

Well, it's not so much a home as it is a bunch of dirt and grass, but about a year ago Becca and I purchased a lot in the neighborhood The Villages at Wicklow in Nixa. The plan is to hopefully start building our next house on this lot starting in the spring and there's a lot of work to do between now and move in day. From fixing up our current home, selling it, planning the new home, and then the construction and all the details of our next house it's going to be a busy year. So we thought it would be fun to share our experience with our friends and family and hopefully provide some useful information to others who might be building new, looking to buy existing, or just want to do some do-it-yourself projects around the home. We're by no means experts, but maybe someone can learn from our mistakes. I hope everyone enjoys and we always welcome comments and questions.