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Old 04-03-2013, 10:13 AM   #41
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Very good point, Amethyst. I realize every couple has a dynamic that works for them, but I think DW and I are pretty far from traditional American gender roles.

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Would all the "DW always win" and "if the wife wants it, you must get it to have peace" answers change if the male spouse was the one who wants to build?

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Old 04-03-2013, 10:30 AM   #42
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I was struck by the number of respondents whose comments implied that wives are childish, pettish creatures, who will make a husband's life miserable unless they get what they want - like marriage jokes from Grandpa's day and age. In fact I started wondering if everyone was joking and I just wasn't getting it (not uncommon).

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Very good point, Amethyst. I realize every couple has a dynamic that works for them, but I think DW and I are pretty far from traditional American gender roles.
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Old 04-03-2013, 10:54 AM   #43
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We planned to build and even bought land and worked for months on a design with a builder. At the end, we decided it didn't economically make sense. Basically building and getting exactly what we wanted was going to cost substantially more than buying an equivalent already built house that was a few years old, even after we did some remodeling of the existing house we ended up buying (and the remodeling was discretionary).

You pay a lot for the privilege of building. One thing that was clear when we were working on the design was that even if you build you never get exactly what you want in all respects. There are always constraints. Some are financial (most people have a budget) while others might be based upon lot size and layout or legal limitations (zoning, HOA, for example) or physical requirements of the site.

I also have seen a lot of home construction and I've seen way too many situations of bad construction where things go wrong. I didn't want to be in that situation. I was just very reluctant for that reason. I eventually got to where I was going to build anyway, but the reason we ultimately didn't was the financial one. I just didn't want to spend all that extra money to build my own house.
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Old 04-03-2013, 11:15 AM   #44
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I was struck by the number of respondents whose comments implied that wives are childish, pettish creatures, who will make a husband's life miserable unless they get what they want ............
A.
I suspect that they were joking, but like any joke there has to be a grain of truth to make it funny. Not that I've ever seen it.
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Old 04-03-2013, 12:17 PM   #45
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My husband is an architect, I have survived two personal custom homes. If you intend to stay in your community only 8-10 years don't do it. The project, from the time you have a contract on a vacant lot, design a house, build a house will easily take a year. Add to that you 'thinking about it' and lot search time... two years.

Save that $ for your retirement home.. encourage her to spend her energy researching that, figuring out what she would want and what your needs will be.

If you do go the custom house route pm me for practical advice.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:20 PM   #46
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My husband is an architect, I have survived two personal custom homes. If you intend to stay in your community only 8-10 years don't do it. The project, from the time you have a contract on a vacant lot, design a house, build a house will easily take a year. Add to that you 'thinking about it' and lot search time... two years.

Save that $ for your retirement home.. encourage her to spend her energy researching that, figuring out what she would want and what your needs will be.

If you do go the custom house route pm me for practical advice.

Wow, that's got to be record territory, I bet he went thru a few rolls of flimsey on those...

The permit and plan review time in cities is often 4-6 months, esp. after the crash when municipal layoffs hit. Then the builders revved up and the staff for plan review is short, as the design and building orgs are in many cases hiring the same people as the building departments, but earlier.

OP, I looked at your profile to see if you had the benefit of living rural, which often makes the permit stuff easier. Couldn't tell, but I like your "state" anyway. Thinking of putting "rest" as my state.
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Old 04-03-2013, 02:50 PM   #47
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My parents built a custom home when they retired. My dad was an electrical engineer, and did most of the architectural drawings himself. He also "helped" the contractor with the electrical work and other things (he likes to build stuff). They came in on budget but several months late. They downsized, and then realized a few years later that they downsized a little too much, as they didn't have a room big enough to host their bridge parties - they ended up building a den onto the house.

It was definitely stressful for them. I remember talking to my mother one day and she was about to go crazy looking at faucets and cabinet door handles. So many little decisions! But, they've been in it for over 15 years now, and they still love it. I will say that they did some smart planning ahead - they built the master bedroom on the ground floor, which is coming in really handy now that my mother is having hip problems and is not extremely mobile...
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:29 PM   #48
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I wouldn't do it. But then again, our last building project got us very familiar with the California Contractors State Licensing board, the aribitration process, the state attorney general's office, learned what an administrative court is, how to collect on a bond, what a mechanics lien is, etc.

Lets just say we're a lot poorer than we would have been, and the original GC is no longer licensed.

(Some of our loss was in legal fees, cost of hiring a new contractor mid-project, etc.)

If you do go forward some advice:
- Consider being owner-builder... In other words - hire the subs yourself, that way you have more quality control over the contract with them and know they are paid. (avoiding mechanics liens from subs since you have direct contracts with them.)
- Do NOT have arbitration clauses in your contract(s). We found out the hard way that if the other party doesn't pay their half of the arbitration fees (fees are pricey if it's more than $50k in damages) then YOU have to drop it or pay their side to move forward. We lost a good chunk pursuing arbitration that never happened because the contractor didn't pay his share of the fees. (Lost it in lawyer fees and sunk arbitration fees.)
- Pay attention on the job site. Daily. Supervise. Supervise some more. Be nice to the subs... they're the ones doing most of the work and will take more care if they like you.
- Any issues with your contractor - put it in writing. If you talk to them verbally, follow up with an email capturing that discussion (like minutes). Email works fine if you retain the emails. Our emails discussing work progress, payments, demands for payments, etc formed a SOLID case. Our lawyer and the state AG prosecutor were impressed.

We ended up with exactly what we wanted (a handicap accessible casita for my in-laws to live in.) But it cost us $200k more than planned (original budget was $250k... so yeah... that hurts). It cost us a lot of stress. And the legal issues consumed us for several years.

So I'd advise against custom building. But I'm coming from this jaded perspective. This hurt my nest egg a lot.

If you do move forward - I agree 100% with the no-granite thing. We redid our kitchen with stainless steel counters and I LOVE the ease of use and the look. It's not as modern as you'd think - we were inspired by a kitchen tour at Hearst Castle... if it worked in the 20's... why not now.
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Old 04-03-2013, 03:51 PM   #49
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Home owner's planning for the 'perfect house' takes time. As an earlier poster mentioned not thinking about space for bridge parties, think about room at the dining table for a feast dinner, how and where you enjoy watching TV. The size of the master bed and bath rooms. Guest rooms.. how many, and how many you need for resale value (an extra bedroom can be used as a den by retirees). Remember you are starting from scratch, think about what you have now that works well because you will want that incorporated in the new house. Building that list of needs and wants can take months.

Finding a good lot, preparing plans, getting permits (plan checkers are frustrated architects, they need to find SOMETHING), negotiating with builders, constructing the house... and then there is landscaping!

If you don't intend to live in that house for 20 years don't do it.

Regarding the be your own general contractor.. the problem that will occur is that you don't know who the good sub-contractors are in your community. For example, you will need an excavation contractor, a foundation contractor, plumbing contractor, framing contractor.. the list goes on. Then there is the coordination of the sub contractors, the waste lines need to be laid before the foundation contractor gets well along.. and you need to be able to confirm that the grade of the sewer line is correct. My husband was the plumber for our first house, we had a general contractor on the second and caught the plumbing sub ignoring the drawings because he 'knew better'. If we hadn't caught that the slope of the line to the sewer wouldn't have worked.

Another sub known to take short cuts is the siding contractor. The siding contractor on the house next door to us installed lap siding face in because he thought it looked better! It dripped in, not out, as a result. On another of DH's projects the siding contractor slipped the underlayment along as he worked, there was no underlayment.

Anyone who acts as their own general contractor really needs to know construction IMHO.
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Old 04-03-2013, 07:05 PM   #50
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We added on to our house years ago. Too young and inexperienced, but luckily, everything turned out ok.

In retrospect, we should have paid for an independent private inspector. Someone that could make sure the contractor/subs weren't taking short cuts in areas where we have no expertise, which at the time was pretty much everything.

Our build quality turned out ok, but I think it would have been much better if we went that route.
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Old 04-03-2013, 08:18 PM   #51
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The other issue when you are acting as your own general contractor is the leverage you have with a sub. Usually the general contractor has an ongoing relationship with the subs, if they screw up on this job they won't get another. When you are a one-off general contractor you don't have that leverage - except maybe posting on Ange's List.
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Old 04-04-2013, 07:50 AM   #52
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....The permit and plan review time in cities is often 4-6 months ...
That's interesting, I got my permit in the mail two days after I dropped it off at the town clerk's office.
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Old 04-04-2013, 08:03 AM   #53
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I wouldn't do it. But then again, our last building project got us very familiar with the California Contractors State Licensing board, the aribitration process, the state attorney general's office, learned what an administrative court is, how to collect on a bond, what a mechanics lien is, etc.

Lets just say we're a lot poorer than we would have been, and the original GC is no longer licensed. ....
Wow. Our experience was totally different. I acted as the GC and the builder was a high school friend who has a good reputation in the area. We didn't even have a contract - just an understanding that he would bill me for materials (all obtained through one local lumber yard) at his cost (which was 15% less than my cost) plus $x per hour for him and his employee and that the labor would not exceed $xx,xxx. He recommended subs for plumbing, heating, electrical, stonework, spray-foam insulation, etc. but in most cases I ended up using local guys who had previously done work for me or people I heard of by word of mouth. Each sub was a handshake agreement too. From demolition to move in was ~5 months and we ended up ~10% over budget but as a consequence of decisions we made along the way to go with better materials.

We had one sub doing tilework that I wasn't keen on that I had him finish up a portion of what he was supposed to do, paid him for that work and then hired another guy for the remaining work.
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Old 04-04-2013, 09:30 AM   #54
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Relationships are very important in construction. Even then someone who really knows construction should oversee the work in progress to prevent expensive errors.
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Old 04-04-2013, 09:54 AM   #55
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Relationships are very important in construction. Even then someone who really knows construction should oversee the work in progress to prevent expensive errors.
Owner-builders also have to be honest with themselves about their opportunity cost. The typical 15% fee for a seasoned gc frequently ends up being a bargain.

A one off custom designed home requires at least half time supervision, and the need is on the job's schedule, not the supervisor's, so you are "wearing a pager". Some people are well suited to the task, most are not. at least half that I am aware of end up spending more $ than if they had a firm bid tied to a scope from a pro builder. [ex bespoke builder here]

I am constantly amused at the new trend to "blog" about homebuilding projects by new owners. They seem to think that all the striking experiences are happening for the first time in history, and to them!

As homes are often the largest purchase decision and asset in most people's lives, also the potential errors are large in decision making on customs. This can happen with or without pro help.
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Old 04-04-2013, 11:16 AM   #56
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Thanks again to all the thoughtful (and sometimes humorous) input. A final decision still hasn't been made, but I think we are now even more tuned in to one particular local builder based on some of the feedback here. They are more like a traditional cookie cutter builder in that they GC the project and they also make guarantees on price and timing (with a few exceptions for things they really can't control). Although most people find something the builder has already done and tweak it, if we want, we can sit down with their architect(s) and start from scratch.

DW and I are still discussing the merits of doing something now. I am concerned about giving up flexibility. Even though we own our place now (with a low rate mortgage), it's in a very popular area and would sell quite quickly.
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Old 04-04-2013, 04:19 PM   #57
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That sounds like a good option. The two of you should make a list of your needs and wants.


Another item on your to-do list would be to talk to a mortgage firm about a construction loan that would convert to a traditional mortgage at a favorable rate.
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Old 04-05-2013, 06:54 PM   #58
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I, too, moved into DH's house and spent the next 33 years making it mine. It is so much mine now that he wants to sell it and I don't.
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Old 04-08-2013, 11:18 AM   #59
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A new wrinkle/update on the situation. The DW seems quite amenable to being able to spend some of the nastier weeks or month (perhaps eventually months) in a nicer/warmer climate. Things are still fluid, though.
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Old 04-08-2013, 12:45 PM   #60
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This would be a great opportunity to try out destinations on your retirement short list. I strongly suggest you stay for a month because in that time you will be living more like residents than vacationers.
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