Thinking about building a house...

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by jerryfan6, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. jerryfan6

    jerryfan6 Silver Supporting Member

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    Any advice?

    We are thinking about building a house, mainly because we want to be sure to get exactly what we want. Realistically, our requirements are pretty normal (4 bedrooms, bedrooms on the same level, preferably a ranch, non-oak colors wood, mud room, etc). However, we are having a tough time finding what we want in the area we want to live. Therefore, we are now considering building. Anyone recommend or not recommend it? Any advice?
     
  2. EricPeterson

    EricPeterson Member

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    We are going through it now, we had specific wants and desires so we built. I guess my only advice is to keep in mind that it will likely cost more than you think to build, every time we turn around there are little things that add up, we want to do it right, and we know what we want, so we are okay with it, but I say be prepared for cost overruns.
     
  3. macmeda

    macmeda Silver Supporting Member

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    Get good plans so the builder is clear on exactly what he is bidding on. Then, make sure it is apples for apples so as to avoid change orders / Addition to the scope of work .
    Can't think of everything but try to hit all the bases. If you change your mind on anything try and do it before it's underway by doing walkthrough site meetings often with architect and builder:
    It will be fun just stay on top of it
     
  4. standard24

    standard24 Member

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    You might consider buying a better pre-owned house, for the same amount of money. My wife considered one hundred houses for us, she looked at about 50, and showed me 2 dozen. We wound up with more than twice the home we could have purchased, on a wooded acreage lot, 1000 sq ft guest house, over-sized 3 car garage, parking for 7 more cars, (good for parties), plus main house. Total, 5 bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, two laundry rooms, for the price of a decent tract home.

    Unless money is no object, of course.

    It's almost always less expensive to buy existing. And I would suspect that building estimates are often underestimated. Plus, you could modify for any home for the special items you want.
     
  5. mtperry85

    mtperry85 Member

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    I recently finished building our dream home... there really is no better feeling than customizing a house for the site and your lifestyle. I'm biased, however, since architecture is how I pay the bills :)
     
  6. swlees

    swlees Member

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    We built a new house and moved in last spring. We built on the same property as our old house (we live on a farm and had plenty of room to do it) and lived in the old one while the new place was being built. That obviously allowed us to keep a close eye on the construction, and we were not under any pressure to sell the old one, move, or anything like that.

    We built a timber framed home from Timberpeg and are very happy with it. Custom building does allow you to get exactly what you want. As Eric said, you will have cost overruns and last minute changes. Make sure to allow for that and budget for it.

    Good luck and enjoy it if you decide to go that route.
     
  7. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    This is critical.

    We did a major renov / addition and thanks to detailed specs we had bids within 3% of each other and minimal change orders (mostly our choices). It is very stressful so be prepared, regardless... You will have followup / punch list items for some time as new construction settles in, even if minor ...

    Fun is not how I'd describe it even though it turned out well and we are happy with it (and others who see it think it's great).
     
  8. GasMask

    GasMask Member

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    I've been down that road twice, and I learned you need to think about 3 things- price, quality, and builder. The temptation is to only think about two things- price and quality. If you were buying any other item, from cars to guitars, these would be the only 2 concerns- getting the best quality for the price. With a custom home, you really need to think about the builder as well- specifically, somebody who is great to work with, and will be around to stand behind their work. You'll be working with the builder on a daily basis. Problems will come up during construction. How the builder deals with the inevitable problems makes all the difference. When something is not right, will they bend over backwards to make you happy, or let it slide?

    Having a custom home is a wonderful thing. You can get exactly what you want. If your needs are unique, it's wonderful for those who can afford it.
     
  9. pedalcr8z

    pedalcr8z Supporting Member

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    Go there twice a day and be sceptical looking at everything and point out shoddy workmanship to get corrected immediately.
     
  10. teleman1

    teleman1 Supporting Member

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    Moreso than any advice given on this thread. If you do not have the extra time for random visits and keeping on top, be prepared to be pissed off a lot and usually after the fact.
     
  11. filtersweep

    filtersweep Member

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    No way. Some friends went through this, and they nearly ended up divorced and/or in a psych ward.

    A big developer can build an ugly block apartment anywhere they want, but if a owner-occupier wants to build a single-family home, the local powers make it as difficult as possible. Building codes are out of control around here. This couple spend over 200 000 USD just dealing with petty changes to the plans that were required. They had to live in a tiny apt while they built, as they couldn't afford financing the project and their existing house at the same time. They ended up with a dream house--- about 2 years too late.

    We just gutted our house and remodeled.
     
  12. lefort_1

    lefort_1 Nuzzled Firmly Betwixt Gold Supporting Member

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    I've built once and had a major remodel/addition on a second house twenty years later.

    The Plans: if possible, see the same house built those same plans. Our builder showed us one, but we didn't realize IT had been stretched, so our expectations were for a larger version of what we got.

    The Builder: as said by others, make sure they are here to stay in your area, and not an intenerate builder. Get their CCB (state contractor board number) and check it out. Ask for and check references. Once his concrete, framing, finishing, sheetrock and roofing crews show up, get to know them. They can give you hints as to when something is going wrong (ours sure did!!). Those folks are your allies in dealing with the general contractor. If the contractor objects, tell them to stuff it: you're the ultimate boss on that site ;) . I nearly came to blows with my contractor a couple times, but each time it was over critical/structural issues he had gotten dead wrong.

    The city/county inspectors: They are also your allies. Treat them well.
    Once, an electrical sub-contractor had blasted at least 20 individual 1 1/2" holes thru a series of 2x8 flooring joists in the second story, and had run a single wire thru each to
    a group of cans lights...not the way you do things...the holes were less than 2 inches apart and severely weakened the beams. The general-C said "it's ok", but when I mentioned it to the county inspector he was down within 4 hours and made them re-enforce/sheath the joists. The general was pissed, but he knew he was wrong. You gotta be tough when the integrity of your house is at risk.

    REALLY get to know the lingo of homebuilding and basic structural engineering.
    Ask to have major structural points (roof peaks, trusses, sills) earthquake-strapped even if your local regs don't require it. It's not that expensive in the big picture, and it is worth it.

    Learn your non-violent stress-reduction techniques BEFORE you start the build.
    You won't have any time to learn how to cope, once the build gets going.

    Someone mentioned twice a day visits. I wish I had.
    Some days, almost nothing will happen. Other days it'll look like a new house has sprung up.

    Hang in Cat6, HDMI, Fiber-optic, etc before the sheetrock is put up.
    Our builder had originally wanted to bring in the sheetrocker the day after the QC wiring was approved, but I demanded to have 2 days to hang our low-voltage stuff. I know how to do it so as not to compromise the safety/codes for the AC...if you don't, get the electrical sub to do it for you. Consider putting in some in-wall conduit with 4-6 fish-wires, so you can drag in the NEXT BIG WIRING STANDARD without cutting up the walls. I'm not a fan of wireless (I don't like living next to power lines and cell towers, and wireless could end up being just as iffy, imo).

    Get yourself some loose-fitting overalls, knee-pads, good safety/dust-eyewear, small/bright flashlights, etc.

    Take LOTS of photos of the foundation, framing, HVAC, and especially the wiring in every wall (pre-sheetrock) This will be valuable later when you consider the inevitable remodels/extensions.

    Save some scraps of the hardwood flooring, carpeting and even a couple bits of wood trim. I've used some of each at one point or another.

    I'm sure there is more that I'm forgetting.
     
  13. mmcquain

    mmcquain Member

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    +1 Billion to this!

    I went thru this back in 1997-98 and it was 'um, 'er very educational to say the least. I tell people it is one of those experiences that everyone should go thru ONCE (so they know better for the next time) :eek:

    In our case, we found a development we liked and the builder seemed OK - but we really didn't know what we were doing or what to ask when it came to working with a builder as neither of us had done this before. I asked friends for advice and they basically gave the same advice as above.

    So we sign the contract in August and the builder says they want to put in writing that we have to close by Dec. 31. We had just listed our current house and had gotten a bid on it from the second person that looked at it. So we were like "OK, we can move in with family for 3 months after our current house sells in Sept. and we'll be in the new place by the end of the year... how bad can it be" :bonk

    We sell the old place, move in with her brother and all seems to be going well but we keep asking the builder so when will you break ground? "Oh, we're just waiting on permits... yada yada yada..." This goes through October and into November. All the while we have most of our stuff in a storage place we are paying for by the month and our living in the spare bedroom of my brother-in-law (not great but doable).

    We hit Decemeber and we're like "there is no way you can build a decent house (2-story 2650 sq.ft with 3-car garage) in a month!! WTH?!?!? Also, we had contracted with a pool builder who was supposed to start in January once the home builder was done and they were getting worried because a delay in the home meant a delay on the pool (which would throw off their schedule).

    Long story short... builder had been having money flow troubles and had other homes in the subdivision that were farther along than ours (i.e., already under construction). They were trying to finish them up so they could get paid and have the cash to pay for building our place (our bank wouldn't release most of the funds until closing and were holding the $$ in escrow, which is normal).

    Finally, they break ground mid December but by now we've got a lawyer involved (are we having fun yet?!?!) :messedup

    We ended up getting them to agree to several upgrades and features that weren't part of the original plan to compensate us for their delays and their breach of contract (remember THEY wanted to put in the original contract that they'd be done by Dec. 31... like WE were going to be the problem! Yeah right!!!) and we finally closed mid May (5 months late) and the pool builder was able to start their part of the work while we moved in.

    But wait there's more...

    During the 5 months of construction (Dec to May) I would go by at least twice a week after work to check on things (and make them redo crappy work they'd try to get by with). This became like a second job as time went on. Just a few of the examples of stuff I had to deal with include...

    • We had went over the blueprints prior to construction and marked lots of details like where certain electrical outlets were to be, light switch wirings, etc. They even made a new set of prints with our changes and made us sign off on them. Well... electric is done, drywall is up and I walk in a flip on a light in the master bath and both the light over the garden tub and the light inside the shower come on. Wait a minute - I KNOW we'd specified those 2 lights should be switched separately. So I check my copy of the prints and call the foreman, who says to call the electrician. I do and tell him the issue and he says "Oh I don't look at the blueprints, I just wire it so it meets code as that's all that matters" WTF?!?!?! Needless to say they had some drywall to replace after they had to rewire things. (and don't get me started on the electrical outlet for my wife's piano dehumidifier)
    • I had elected to run my own CAT5 computer network cable (the price they wanted per cable drop was crazy) and the foreman said I could come in on Saturday and do my runs as they would put up drywall next week. So I just happened to stop by Thursday and he says "drywall starts tomorrow" and I'm like WTH you said I could come Saturday to do my network cables. "Oh yeah sorry but we're ahead of schedule" (a first and maybe the only time) so you'll need to do it tonight. Well it gets dark early during the winter months so I'm now alone, holding a flashlight in my mouth trying to fish CAT5 cable over rafters and down between studs until midnight that evening. I even had a cop show up because he saw the flashlight moving around in the place and thought I might be stealing tools or something. I explained the situation and he laughed and said "yep, I built ONCE"
    • Part 2 of the drywall saga - I come back on Friday and the subcontractors (we no speak English) have wrapped my cable around the outside of the electrical boxes that the AC power goes to. Around the outside so that there is no way in hell I'll be able to punch a hole and pull my cable out to mount it to a plate!!! :mad: I had to go find the foreman to come show them they were to just leave my cable hanging free in the wall so that I could get to it after the drywall was up.... Idiots! I see Idiots!!!
    • You know that piece of marble that makes up the window sill on the inside of the house? Normally it goes right up against the side walls and has a small bead of caulk run along the edge to seal it in place. Well, some idiot thought they could use a piece of marble that was cut too short and would just fill in the gap with caulk (the gap was as wide as my thumb!). Needless to say, they had to replace that piece of marble with one cut correctly after I was done knocking it out and leaving them a rather nasty note!
    • And then there were the 398 (yes I counted) nail heads that they had to paint over with Kilz because they had used cheap (non-galvanized) drywall nails, and when they had spackeled over them, the wetness had made the nail heads rust and so we had little orange dots showing through the paint in rows going up the walls where the drywall was nailed to the studs.
    I could go on but I think you get the idea. So watch 'em like a hawk and don't put up with anything. Make them do it over until they get it right! And just when you think something is so simple and "idiot proof" you'll (sadly) find there are bigger idiots in the world (and they work as subcontractors). Oh, for any of you in construction, I mean no disrespect because I'm sure there are fine people out there. But I'm sure you've seen some real losers if you've been doing this for any time (you've probably got horror stories that make mine look like a walk in the park).


    GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  14. mmcquain

    mmcquain Member

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    +1 to this too. Actually, his whole post is great advice (as is the rest of this thread).
     
  15. figgy

    figgy Member

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    If you build in an area common with basements and potential water in the basement, plan for it in the build. Over build the drainage and put in a sump well for future use. Be sure to grade the water from the house. Be sure to divert downspouts properly. Don't rush the foundation. Let it cure before building.
     
  16. jape

    jape Member

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    I've heard several people make similar comments. I would just say this - before you start this process make sure you & your spouse know this is going to be far more stressful than you expected & hopefully you two have a method for decision making / arguing. If you don't, you may end up divorcing over some inane detail like what type of stain to use on the trim.

    My wife & I didn't even start completely from scratch - we picked our floor plan plus a few options from a list the builder had. I was surprised at how much we struggled to make decisions even when we just had a few choices.

    Here is one 'trick' we used. To find a builder - we walked though homes that were in the process of being built. We would find new development areas & take a look at the framed up sites when the workers weren't around. After looking at a few construction sites it was easy to see which crews were doing things the 'right' way & which ones cutting corners.

    A relative that used to be in the construction biz recommended this & toured a few of the houses with us.

    i.e. We noticed a few of the builders didn't even use a proper header board over their window frames. We noticed several little things that didn't line up or maybe weren't square. These are things that could be covered up by sheet rock so they wouldn't be noticeable later when the house was finished. This seemed like a good indicator that the builder we choose was doing things the right way & not just getting by as cheap as possible.
     
  17. jazzguitar14

    jazzguitar14 Supporting Member

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    I do finish carpentry for a high end builder -- were in the tail end of a build from hell as we speak (600k architects personal rancher / ultra modern). Without going to far into explanation, I would not advise a custom build unless money is no object or you have very specific needs.

    A value based "fixer upper" will save you a fortune in red tape permits etc. do a cost analysis per sq foot and have a decent idea of what modifications will cost.
     
  18. PosterBoy

    PosterBoy Member

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  19. swlees

    swlees Member

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    Some real horror stories here. I guess we were fortunate to find an excellent contractor and things went very smoothly. The housing market has not recovered well where I live, and our contractor told us that our house was the first new house he had built in 2 years. The township codes officer said my house was one of two new home permits he issued in 2013 when we started.
     
  20. Ladhilbluesband

    Ladhilbluesband Member

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    OP you're getting all kinds of good advice here. If you're not at least somewhat of a handyman....I'm not sure I'd do it if I were you. My parents built a house about 10 years ago and one of my good friends had one built about 3 years ago and I was on the job site often for the latter.

    My thoughts: I don't think you can build a home for the value of what the market will bear. Meaning if you spend $300K your house would probably only be worth $280K give or take and that's of course very dependent upon where you live.

    I think your General Contractor is one of the most critical components of the piece. In both cases of my experience, we went with friends or friend of a friend. Generally, we just trusted the contractor more but also..I think a contractor feels more obligated to ensure things are done right when he knows it's being done for a friend.

    There are LOTS of very cool blueprints for homes and MAKE SURE you get solid plans. Hell you could even high a reputable deign firm to draw them up for you.

    Make sure you find a friend who's in the trade work, plumbing, electrical or carpenter and have them over to the job site...bribe them with beer.

    If the situation is right, it's a really really fun experience it seems.
     

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