Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Diary of Building A House: The Beginning (Land & Design)

Welcome to the first post in a long series, journaling the process of building a new custom home, truly from scratch. Like, from my brain to completion scratch, new construction design. I've been working on this for, well basically my whole life, and from tear sheets of magazines from 20 years ago until today, I'm finally getting this show on the road. (Minus the 3 million dollars I could really use :)

As a designer and a consultant for new construction, I have some insight into the construction and finishes however, the financial process and the little details behind the scenes are a daily surprise. Building on your own land is very different than buying a new build in a subdivision. I was able to act as the General Contractor along with my Builder because of my profession. (I had to provide references and resume.)
I've spent many hours reading blogs about building but I haven't seen one that stands out with a specific trail of what, when and how much. Since we are doing a new construction loan, there are ALOT of details and hoops to jump through. I thought it would be helpful to document this journey with things I especially learned, wish I had known, and I'll try to be as transparent as possible with basic costs. (Only because when I was doing this, I had no idea what cost to expect and it was frustrating!) I'll put specifics under paragraphs called "Boring Details" if you're interested, otherwise just skip that part.

The house is in New Hampshire, about 40 miles outside of Boston. The town has an equestrian influence with beautiful antique homes dating back to the 1700's. Many of the homes are hip roof Colonials which is what drew me to this town. 



It's such a cute New England town.





So long story short,  I wanted to design my own house because I didn't want to work around the parameters of an existing plan. I found a building lot by driving around the town and asking questions. Our lot was not listed in MLS but I spotted a Builder in town working on a new house and I stopped to chat. I asked him if he had any land available and he said, "As a matter of fact, I do!" He proceeded to show me 6 acres of just what I was looking for. He had some of the groundwork already done, like perk test for the well and a site survey to know where the best spot for a house would be. It was important that I was able to use a Builder (I actually ended up using him) that would work with me doing my own thing and purchase my own product with my trade discount. We became fast friends and ended up buying the land.

BORING DETAILS: The land was in "Current Use". This is important to know because there is a big tax (ours was 10% of the purchase price) when you "move the dirt" or take your land out of current use. We negotiated having the Seller pay that tax at closing because we knew we'd be hit with it. That money went into an escrow acct. and when we got the invoice from the town a few months later, we contacted the closing Attorney and they paid it with those escrowed funds. There was also another tax called an "impact fee" for a few thousand dollars. Make sure you ask what taxes and fees will be on using the land. When you're trying to hoard cash, coming up with thousands of dollars can derail your plans. 



My inspiration was based on the exterior of this house in Belgium. 


I sketched the interior floor plan I wanted and took the sketch to an Architect to do some mark ups to fix the scale. ( I paid around a thousand dollars) It ended up looking like this:




I took this plan to an Engineer to create actual stamped construction plans. (cost approx 7k).  
In this part of NH, we have private septic system, so with this plan I had a Land Engineer design the septic system and get it state approved. (approx $1500) So far, all of these fees are paid out of pocket just preparing to go to the bank for the house loan. 


Now that I had the construction plans, I began getting quotes for every little detail. I had Staples make 6 full sized copies so I could give to the Builder and subs for quotes. Before I took these plans to the town to get my building permit, I wanted to know what this bugger is going to cost to ensure that I can even do this. Whew, this is scary. I think you could estimate between $150-200 dollars per sq ft for mid-grade finishes at cost. If you're paying retail, you can expect much more.



Here are the basic headers for the budget worksheet, and then of course there are many details under these headers:

  • Sitework
  • Foundation
  • Septic System
  • Well
  • Frame House & Garage
  • Roofing & Siding
  • Windows/Exterior Doors
  • Plumbing 
  • Heating 
  • Electrical
  • Insulation
  • Drywall
  • Cabinets/Countertops
  • Appliances
  • Painting
  • Flooring
  • Fireplaces
  • Decks/Steps
  • Finish Landscaping
That should keep ya busy for a while. :) Make sure you get your quotes in writing with specifics because the bank wants to see each estimate. So far, from closing on the land up to getting through all bank requirements, it has been 6 months. 

Thanks for joining me on this journey! Stay tuned, next up, more about financing a new construction loan and what you'll likely need before you even get to the bank!


Emmi is exhausted and we've just begun.




I'd love to hear any tips you have for me too! 

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