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To build or not to build...
Old 04-01-2013, 04:05 PM   #1
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To build or not to build...

That is the question.

Actually, my main question is what does everyone think of the following? DW really wants to custom build a house in the immediate area where we live now. She wants the tailoring that comes with working personally with an architect. Also, it's impossible (or extremely expensive) to find the style that we both love and we would be buying a nicer lot than we currently have. Finally, I already owned the current place when we got married and she moved in, so there is some aspect of "it's mine, not ours".

She is thinking the new home would be 75-80% the size of the current one and probably 30-40% cheaper in utilities. I generally agree with that. In terms of cost, I estimate the new house would be 15-30% more expensive (due to nicer lot, custom build, nicer materials). Our current house PITI is about 7% of gross income.

Thoughts on the financial aspect? It's hard for my tightwad tendencies -- there is certainly nothing we need that the current house doesn't have. And it seems weird to spend substantially more on a smaller house. But I know I tend to be mechanical about decisions (especially concerning that the DW moved into "my" place), so I'd especially love to hear from spouses who have been in similar situations.

What about thoughts on building custom? We both have more background in the home building industry than your average couple and I think are well-equipped to deal with the visualization (me) and minutia (her) required. A previous thread on here seemed to be pretty negative about building custom but I'm not sure what the primary factors in that were.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:16 PM   #2
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Based on what you wrote (and didn't), you are going to be building a house.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:20 PM   #3
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Based on what you wrote (and didn't), you are going to be building a house.
+1

Try to minimize the stress and frustration, and do your best enjoy the process.
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:32 PM   #4
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Please don't put in granite counter tops. For no other reason than I am tired of people wanting granite...not even the best surface. My wife watches all the house buying shows......can't believe how many people won't buy a house because it doesn't have "granite". No real point to this comment really....just anti-granite.....like I am anti-Tiger Woods.....anti-slow golfers... etc etc. I do like my new golf/driver though. ......but it looks like a house it going to be built.....
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Old 04-01-2013, 04:34 PM   #5
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Based on what you wrote (and didn't), you are going to be building a house.
+2.

Our first home was a completed builders spec home, our second was custom built starting with an empty lot, and our third we bought a resale (present home). We had a bad experience with homebuilding (second home), but we had moved to FL where we didn't know anyone, and despite our best efforts we chose a builder we regretted. I had to go to the site every single day during construction, and it took longer than estimated, but it was done on budget and as we agreed (though the builder tried to cut corners despite a contract - I actually caught them putting up drywall with no insulation in the outside walls, and roof shingles on plywood decking with no felt, just two examples!!!).

OTOH, I know someone here who has had two homes built, and he and his builder have become personal friends. I'd have no qualms about building with the latter (and we may), but we've been in this area for 20 years and know our way around our community and local reputations/references.

It'll cost more than you expect (always does, I have a BIL who builds high end homes) but if you pick the right builder, I still believe it can be a great experience. From what you say, it sounds like you're very capable of picking the right builder - so hopefully it will be a great experience for you and DW.

Enjoy the new home, when do you break ground?

My DW just got me to agree to a complete gut job kitchen remodel just for resale on a house we're leaving that I didn't want to do if it makes you feel any better (misery loves company?).
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:21 PM   #6
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DWs always win.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:24 PM   #7
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DWs always win.
You mean she first acknowledges there was a contest? I can't even get that far...
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:26 PM   #8
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+1

Try to minimize the stress and frustration, and do your best enjoy the process.
+1, and don't act disinterested when she wants to talk floor finishes, window treatments, etc
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:27 PM   #9
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I completely disagree with the initial responses you got here.
You have to simply tell DW to stifle her desires, grit her teeth, and put up with your current house. As you pointed out, it's YOUR house, and she is merely a guest there. If you have reservations about it, that ends the matter and she must say no more about it.

Of course, today is April 1st, so I think my answer is appropriate.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:27 PM   #10
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You mean she first acknowledges there was a contest? I can't even get that far...


It is a game mastered by DW.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:28 PM   #11
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It is a game mastered by DW.
+1

sigh...
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:31 PM   #12
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Please don't put in granite counter tops. For no other reason than I am tired of people wanting granite...not even the best surface. My wife watches all the house buying shows......can't believe how many people won't buy a house because it doesn't have "granite"..
+1
I prefer quartz ceaserstone
It has a much more modern look. Granite and marble may look opulent is but so yesterday IMHO.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:41 PM   #13
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We built our own home, and while the process almost killed us, now that we can look back many years and forget about the aggravation, we really love the house and couldn't imagine not living here. We interviewed a lot of general contractors before we chose one, and we ended up selecting a great one, so I'm sure that helped.

The one thing that really worked well for us was to negotiate a fixed fee for the GC's services. More than a decade ago his fee was $54K. Everything else he purchased from the subcontractors was then done without markup to us. This eliminated the need for him to guarantee a fixed budget and ensured that we got exactly what we wanted without having to worry about padding the budget or taking short cuts. It was the best move we could have made, as we did a lot of upgrades, but we got to negotiate the price of each upgrade directly, without needing to haggle with the GC.

Good luck with it. It sounds like you're going to be moving forward, if everyone else's response mean anything.
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LOL, literally
Old 04-01-2013, 05:44 PM   #14
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LOL, literally

Thanks to everyone for literally making me laugh out loud!

Two things I forgot to mention (somewhat in my defense). First, we've been in the current place together approaching a decade, including my recently agreeing to and overseeing a fairly sweet kitchen remodel. Second, she w*rks a pretty traditional j*b while I am fortunate enough to have a very flexible one that is probably bordering on light semi-retirement, and she is dying to get her schedule more like mine. FWIW, she could be making mid six figures if she really wanted, but has chosen to make much less (and less than me) to work in a less lucrative field and in smaller companies that also tend to pay less.

Midpack: thanks for the company! I would buy you a drink, but apparently I'm going to need all the pennies I can find Your builder sounds like a real scammer -- no insulation?!? That goes beyond the normal builder stuff I see like non-centered lighting fixtures and mismatched door knobs or toliet flush handles and the like. Insulation is normally thousands of dollars in a project, so the builder not doing it amounts to fraud/felony theft in my book.

Ronstar: shockingly enough, I tend to be more involved in that stuff than she is. I had to teach her the concept of a color scheme (triadic, analogous, monochromatic) and also what the technical definition of "shades" means. And the importance of lighting and CRI, and positioning of the house and windows WRT to compass direction. Where she shines is project managing -- making sure everyone does exactly what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it.

Anyone legitimately think this is a bad idea?
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:50 PM   #15
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+1
I prefer quartz ceaserstone
It has a much more modern look. Granite and marble may look opulent is but so yesterday IMHO.
Thanks for the suggestion and if we do build, it is something we'll definitely look at. I know quartz is lower (basically no) maintenance, but we cook a lot and tend to have large counter top areas. To my eye, the quartz I've seen looks really plain and boring in such large expanses. When we redid the current kitchen, we found a beautiful slab of black and grey granite with huge quartz "rivers" running through it. It honestly looks like a piece of art to me....and for what it cost, it should! The cheaper granites don't have any veining or visual interest, and in that case, quartz would be preferable.
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Old 04-01-2013, 05:50 PM   #16
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Anyone legitimately think this is a bad idea?
Only if you select a bad builder/architect, but I'm sure you already know that.

We built a custom home seven years prior to retirement and were fortunate to find a good builder. The process still involved a lot of stress but basically came in on budget - and almost two months late.

Edit: we have granite with large veins of quartz running through them. And they are dated - the stone is several million years old.
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Old 04-01-2013, 06:08 PM   #17
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The questions that come to my mind are
- how long will you live in the new home - and related to it - how long till ER?
- You said it would be hard to find the design you want. Will you be able to sell the house if you need to? Is the design far out of the norm?
- I think the neighborhood is just as important as the home. Will you like your new neighbors and will they take to you?

We just bought a new home from a builder - ie. we selected the design & cosmetics - cabinets, carpet, flooring etc. After living in a 1925 home for years, we love our new quiet and efficient home. We also have solar panels that have provided all the electricity we need for the winter months.
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Old 04-01-2013, 06:14 PM   #18
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Once we get fully into retirement mode (kind of taking a test sabbatical for now from project work) we plan on moving to a final location and building a final home. It will be smaller than what we have now, but I will make sure that its design takes into consideration all of our requirements (mine and hers) for a successful retirement home. I have already worked out the design and the required elements and yes it will cost about 10% - 15% more to build per sq ft than a spec or normal custom home would cost to build, but we want to make sure it satisfies our needs for the next 30 years ergonomically and socially...
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:23 PM   #19
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Only if you select a bad builder/architect, but I'm sure you already know that.

We built a custom home seven years prior to retirement and were fortunate to find a good builder. The process still involved a lot of stress but basically came in on budget - and almost two months late.

Edit: we have granite with large veins of quartz running through them. And they are dated - the stone is several million years old.
+1 We did a total demolition/reconstruct of our lakeside home just prior to retiring. I played GC and the builder was a pleasure to work with. We ended up close to budget and about 6 weeks late but no big deal since we were still living in the other house.

What was amazing is it seemed like there were about a gazillion little decisions that had to be made, each within a short period of time.

We considered granite but ended up with Corian, which we like. In retrospect, I wish we had gone with soapstone, one of our neighbors has it and it is gorgeous.

From what you have said, she has lived 10 years in "your" place and now is pushing for an "our" place. I agree with others - you're doomed.
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:25 PM   #20
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The questions that come to my mind are
- how long will you live in the new home - and related to it - how long till ER?
- You said it would be hard to find the design you want. Will you be able to sell the house if you need to? Is the design far out of the norm?
- I think the neighborhood is just as important as the home. Will you like your new neighbors and will they take to you?
We are hoping/planning on 8-10 years until retirement. As far as how long we'll stay, it's hard to say. DW also periodically (although not as frequently) talks about moving to CA, or HI, or southern Spain, or LAM. She tends to get tired of something and want a change -- sometimes any change.

The design is likely to be at least somewhat outside the norm. The norm in our area is McMansions that seek to maximize square footage and tend to be either multi-level or slightly contemporary. The DW likes modern, especially industrial (think an urban loft with concrete floors and exposed HVAC piping, etc). But, I think I've gotten her a little more back to center with something either very contemporary or a warmer modern.

Neighborhood is tough to answer. We're not typical in any sense of the word. In the current (and proposed new) area, we are unusual in that we don't currently have kids. That is still up in air. But the more young/hip/childfree type places we don't fit in totally either since we're not the party and get hammered type. The areas near the multiple universities may be best suited in terms of who lives there, but those are all either old and very expensive, or oldish and affordable but in crappy areas.
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