The Countdown

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Awesome! NOW what??

We resume!

The next morning, Andrew wakes up to a new email from the seller, and the first line states:

"Congratulations, we have decided to take your last offer in the amount of $[truckloads of cash]!"

Woah, what? I thought we walked away and it was all over. Switch mental gears again, now we're really excited. Jumping up and down excited. And this is followed by the complete rush of "holy schmidt, now we really have to do this." Wait, are we really going to build a house? Is that even possible? WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?

We hadn't really done any research on what it take to build a home at this point. During the period before closing on the lot, we spent time meeting different architects, some we found online, others were recommended by neighbors or friends. To some one who would consider designing their own home, I would highly recommend to interview many architects. because there is a wide range of approaches, price ranges, styles and comfort levels. We heard everything from, "bare bones, no real flooring, it is impossible to do this project for less than $175 per square foot" (!!!) to "what's your budget? Yeah sure we can do that."

Even though budget was really important to this project, the style of the architect and how well you connect with them is key to sanity. The truth is, you're choosing a relationship, and it is one you will pay a dear amount for, so you better like that boyfriend/girlfriend with a pencil. Looking for an architect was a roller coaster ride for us; some days we thought there was no way to make this work, others left us hopeful. Even after we closed on the lot, we continued to look, and eventually after several months we came to a few realizations about what we were looking for.

Andrew and I had a good idea of what we wanted the design of our home to look like. In reality, our lot is pretty tiny, space is a major constraint, so there weren't a whole lot of directions to go but up. We drew up countless layouts in Microsoft Visio, and it's humorous now to think where we started, and where we ended up in design. The first house was a mansion, straight out of one of the countless home design magazines that took over our kitchen table for several months.

We were fairly confident that we knew what we wanted and we could draw it ourselves, we just needed someone with experience to guide us through the logistical details: how much space is needed for HVAC, where is the best location for conduit, how practical are tankless water heaters, etc. So what was the point in paying an architect to draw up plans that we had 95% already drawn up ourselves? When we designed our home, we didn't reinvent the wheel, and weren't looking for any front-page accolades in Architecture Digest. We wanted a home that fit our style, our family, how we live, and how we wanted to grow.

It's a personal decision for everyone, but we decided against an expensive architect, and went with a small builder (under 50 homes a year) who has a long list of excellent references, and has an in-shop architect. That is probably not a popular choice for architects, but given the work we had done already on our own, we wanted to make the most of our resources [read: cash] and paying a $15 - $45K fee to have someone re-draw what we had drawn, or worse, scoff at our design from an artistic standpoint, did not sound appealing. Going through the design process with the in-house architect was easy, not intimidating and enlightening in a lot of ways, and at this point, I can say I am happy we took this route.

Of course, I say this before we have seen any physical manifestation of our home, so here's to hoping we are still happy with the design when we see it live...

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