Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to square one

This isn't where we expected to be this month.  In early July, we thought we had three great builders and a great floor plan.  It's now mid-August, and we've got just one builder with a price tag so high that we can't possibly build the plan as it's drawn up.  So now we're back to where we were this Spring, trying to simplify our plan and find a builder that fits both our budget and our desire for quality.

We started with my own drawings of the plan we wanted, which, at about 3400 square feet, was already larger than we really wanted.  During our dealings with the draftsman who created the official drawings, the plan grew to 3600 square feet -- the wrong direction, for sure.  We liked the look of the result, though.  The builders we liked generally charged a certain amount per square foot for their houses, and we'd have had to hit the low end of that range to fit into our budget.

When we met with the three builders and gave them the drawings, everything sounded good.  We talked with their references, and got nothing but great reviews.  When it came time to get the bids back from each of the three, one of them (Ironwood) backed out on us.  They had told us in our initial meeting that they had a busy Fall looming.  When they saw how custom our house was and how "particular" (his word) I was about how things were done, they decided that they didn't have time to give our house the attention it would require.  Rather than leave everyone unhappy with the process, they bowed out.  We later heard from others that despite being a custom builder, they prefer not to deviate very far from their standard style.

So, we got our bids back from the two remaining builders, and one of them was considerably more expensive than the other.  Both were above our budget, though.  We decided to go with the cheaper one (Wilderness), knowing that we'd then need his help to simply our design to fit into our budget.  He was reportedly pretty good at that sort of thing.  Unfortunately, when we told him of our decision, he also backed out, claiming that he was now too busy to take on our project.  This was the first hint we'd gotten of his full schedule, and since he never responded to any further emails we sent asking for clarification, we're left to assume that he also didn't want to work with somebody this particular, but wouldn't tell us straight up.  We later heard from a friend who had a similar experience with them, except he told them directly that he wouldn't build a home as small as they wanted.

That left us with just one builder.  I have no doubt that Mike Rezac builds an excellent house.  From talking with him and his references, I get the impression that he's every bit as particular as I am.  I'm sure we'd get along great during the home-building process.  Unfortunately, that attention to detail comes at a price, and that price is too high for our plans as they're currently drawn.  We're just not rich enough to be this picky.  The down side of the remaining builder is that he's not the type that will help you work out a plan that fits your budget.  He'll happily recommend a good architect to do that, but we've already spent $5000 on three architects, and haven't yet been happy with the results.

All along, we've continued to watch the real estate listings for acreages that meet our requirements for location & size.  Buying a used house will save you up to 20% off the cost of an equivalent new house, which is huge.  We've seen some options that were great houses in lousy locations, and some that were lousy houses in great locations, and some great houses in great locations at prices far beyond our budget.  We've toured a couple of them, but haven't liked anything well enough to buy it.

Where are we now?  After talking things over, I think our new plan is to give up a lot of the stylistic dreams that we had about our new house.  Dumbing down our expectations will not only reduce the price a wee bit, but it will also stop scaring off builders and open up some new options for builders who are capable of implementing our wishes.  We still need to simplify the floorplan somewhat, I'm sure, but I don't seem to be any better equipped to do this now than I was last Spring.  We've started talking with another builder, and we hope that he'll be able to help us get to a floor plan we can afford. We've got a second one in mind that we may contact, too.

We're just so tired of being trapped in our current spot that we're willing to sacrifice quite a bit just to finally get out there to the new acreage.  The dream home is gone.  We'll just settle for something tangible at this point.

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