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View Full Version : Building a New House - ideas/experiences welcome


alittlejazzbird
02-18-2008, 11:41 AM
Dear SF members,

As some of you know, my husband and I are about to take the monumental, marriage-testing (so I've heard) leap into building a new home. Hubby is taking a VERY early retirement from his company (his only employer - for 26 years, right out of grad school, if you can imagine) and we are relocating to the gorgeous metro Charleston, South Carolina area this year, once our house in New Jersey has sold. We go live with our listing on March 1st, so please cross your fingers/say a prayer that we can actually sell our house for a fair and realistic price. The market here isn't nearly as bad as some areas of the country, but prices have fallen a bit and all indications are that they will continue to fall.

If any of you have had experiences with building a new home, and you'd be willing to share those experiences, your thoughts, things you wish you'd known at the beginning, warnings, etc., I would really appreciate the insight. Feel free to send me a private message or post to this thread, as you choose.

Between this major project and a heavier than usual gig schedule this winter/spring, I may disappear occasionally from the board until our house here is sold and I've found temporary housing in SC and relocated/settled in (hopefully by the end of the summer in time to join my fellow Steeler fans in the Lowcountry on game days!), but I'm always checking in even if I don't post.

(As an aside, anyone who might be interested in our house (beautiful, quiet, small neighborhood location in the mountains about 45 miles northwest of NYC and easily accessible to major roads), or if you know someone who might, please send me a private message and I'll send a weblink once the house is up on the realtor's website.)

revefsreleets
02-18-2008, 04:53 PM
This is what we did when we built our house, and it literally saved our asses: We took pictures every single step of the way, and we had our friend who was in constructuion either A) Look at the pictures or, when convenient B) Actually go through the house. He found dozens of things that were wrong, the biggest being they screwed up the driveway and had to dig the whole thing up and pour again. The builder looked us square in the eye and lied to us, then we had our friend out and he called the guy out.

It's a total CYA thing every step of the way. You should just assume that the builder is out to screw you and protect yourself as best you can. Our neighbors took no measures at all (the one neighbors lived in KC and never saw the house until they moved in...they had CONSTANT problems!).

Good luck!

MACH1
02-18-2008, 05:33 PM
^^^

Thats just one reason you find a builder you can trust, ask for and CHECK their references. Talk to other owners they built homes for and get their opinion on the builder and quality and how easy they are to get along with. Remember you'll be spending the next 4- 6 months of your lives dealing with the guy. In other words do your homework first before you start. Then when you have the plans go over them many many times and make sure your happy with the layout and where things are. Like maybe you'll decide that a closet doesnt work well in that spot or something small like that.

When we built our house we were able to go out and check on it every day, every step of the way. Did a little work our selfs and saved a few $$. And if you find yourself in a crunch for money, one thing you can skimp on is light fixtures as they are easily replaceable when you can afford it. Another good thing to do is wire your house with extra cable outlets(two cable plugs in one outlet) and run CAT6 (internet) wire to every room.

Thats just for starters.
Have fun and enjoy.

MasterOfPuppets
02-18-2008, 06:39 PM
i work in construction, so trust me when i say, contractors are every bit as bad as auto mechanics,when it comes to giving the customers the shaft ! they have no problem with cutting corners when they think they can get away with. the best thing to do, is, your own suprise inspections, and i mean often !!! as has been said, take somebody that has knowledge of whats going on. make sure to get a good look at the materials they are using !!! they'll go with inferior cheap materals, but you'll be paying top dollar for them.

stlrtruck
02-19-2008, 09:05 AM
I never built one but my in-laws were very hands on when they built their most recent house.

And here's the stories I've heard from my mother-in-law. She was adamant about selecting the contractors she choose to do the work. They also cut costs by doing as much of the work themselves (sanding, painting, etc.) - but it was also time consuming for them and looking back they would have paid some others to do some of that work (especially the sanding). They took their time to look at every possible option and decide which one was best for them.

That's about all I can give you from their experience.

revefsreleets
02-19-2008, 06:37 PM
The builder we picked had a Sterling reputation, but the problem was there was literally a building explosion at the time. They couldn't find true craftsmen so they were just hiring anyone who could work willy-nilly. They sold out and built out Phase 3 well before they were even slated to sell out Phase 1. The quality of work went right down the toilet with that kind of demand.

Stu Pidasso
02-20-2008, 12:59 PM
You mey think I'm joking, but for the love of God, incorporate one bathroom for each of the females in the house. Four women? Four baths.

I'm serious.

sherlock
02-20-2008, 01:18 PM
Sorry alittlejazzbird but I don`t know much about construction but I wish you good luck!
It`s a good idea to get people with a good reputation rather than the cheapest quote!

alittlejazzbird
02-21-2008, 01:57 PM
Thanks for all the replies so far, you've definitely given me things to think about and watch out for. I agree with you, sherlock, about the rep vs. cheap price - the contractor we chose was in fact the highest bidder, but everyone I spoke to -- people whose homes he'd built, bankers with whom he had worked, subcontractors and engineers who had done work for him -- everyone raved about him, from reliability and financial responsibility down to what a nice guy he is. His reputation was so far off the charts compared to the other two contractors we were considering, that we decided it was worth a higher cost to get that level of recommendation. We definitely don't have to worry about any kind of building boom for the next year or so. Charleston hasn't suffered as much as some other parts of the country, but the big "development builders" have a lot of unsold inventory there. There are plenty of skilled craftspeople available for hire right now.

We're lucky that we bought property in a small development where we're allowed to bring our own builder and build any kind of house we want, so we're not subject to the shoddy craftsmanship that so many of those production builders are known for. That was one of our main requirements when we were looking for property - it had to be in a location where we could choose our own custom builder and have total say in the type of house we build.

Really appreciate the help. Any more suggestions, please keep them coming!

stlrtruck
02-22-2008, 08:32 AM
Looking forward to updated pics as the house is being built.

alittlejazzbird
03-09-2008, 08:50 PM
Looking forward to updated pics as the house is being built.

I'll be sure to post pictures once we're underway.

Meanwhile, our New Jersey house is officially on the market. I'd appreciate your prayers if you're so inclined, or your positive thoughts, or whatever positive energy you care to put out into the universe, for us to be able to sell the house and close by the end of August so that we can get going on construction and I can get relocated.

I've got some really nice music-related opportunities that are contingent upon my being able to make the move in a timely fashion, so for employment reasons as well, it would be great if the sale would happen sooner rather than later.

If you're interested, here's the listing for our house:

http://www.zillow.com/HomeDetails.htm?zprop=39809059

Please feel free to pass this link on to anyone who might be looking to move - thanks!

stlrtruck
03-10-2008, 08:44 AM
I'll be sure to post pictures once we're underway.

Meanwhile, our New Jersey house is officially on the market. I'd appreciate your prayers if you're so inclined, or your positive thoughts, or whatever positive energy you care to put out into the universe, for us to be able to sell the house and close by the end of August so that we can get going on construction and I can get relocated.

I've got some really nice music-related opportunities that are contingent upon my being able to make the move in a timely fashion, so for employment reasons as well, it would be great if the sale would happen sooner rather than later.

If you're interested, here's the listing for our house:

http://www.zillow.com/HomeDetails.htm?zprop=39809059

Please feel free to pass this link on to anyone who might be looking to move - thanks!

In this tight market it will take an Act of God to sale a house. Trust in Him for the right persons to see the house and to know they want it. God provides all things at the His right time.

I'll pray for his blessings on your situation.

Preacher
03-10-2008, 05:58 PM
Hey Jazz...

1. Put your money in the structure, not in the pretty things. Pretty things can come later. However, structure is permanent and costly to change.

2. If your building a house, DONT SETTLE. build WHAT YOU WANT. If you can't afford it all now, get the skeleton and then come back later and fix the other stuff.

3. Definitely, put in lots of bathrooms... including a Masterbed and bath on the main floor AND another floor if possible. If you EVER have to have a parent or a even a married child come back and live with you for a while, it is good to have.

4. If you can, GET A WALK OUT BASEMENT. It offers more chances for more bedrooms and other rooms.

SCSTILLER
03-12-2008, 12:17 PM
Preach has a couple of great points, but you can forget about a basement down here. There are none. If you want to build one you will have a great indoor pool. Just a heads up in case you wanted a basement. Looking forward to seeing you at the Steeleres bars here in Chucktown. Good luck and God bless you on your move!

revefsreleets
03-12-2008, 07:13 PM
Nice digs, aljb! Good luck!

Preacher
03-12-2008, 07:17 PM
OH...

Your in Charlestown SC?

Yeah, skip the basement! :wink02:

alittlejazzbird
03-12-2008, 08:17 PM
Hey Jazz...

1. Put your money in the structure, not in the pretty things. Pretty things can come later. However, structure is permanent and costly to change.

2. If your building a house, DONT SETTLE. build WHAT YOU WANT. If you can't afford it all now, get the skeleton and then come back later and fix the other stuff.

3. Definitely, put in lots of bathrooms... including a Masterbed and bath on the main floor AND another floor if possible. If you EVER have to have a parent or a even a married child come back and live with you for a while, it is good to have.

4. If you can, GET A WALK OUT BASEMENT. It offers more chances for more bedrooms and other rooms.

Some excellent, very pragmatic advice, Preach! Our house plan has a master bath, two other full baths and a powder room and four bedrooms. We decided on a one-story house because we'd ideally like to live there as long as possible, and as SCStiller mentioned, a basement is a no-no in the Lowcountry...we will have a crawlspace instead. You're so right about the structure being important. It's a real balancing act to combine the aesthetics with the infrastructure and still keep the budget manageable. We've agreed that we're not going to settle during construction, operating on the premise that if we put something off until "later", later will never arrive and that thing will never be done.

You know what my biggest beef is about the whole planning process for a new house? There are TOO MANY CHOICES. You try to find a faucet for your kitchen sink, as an example. You go to a store or look online, and you have 300 choices. You decide you want tile for your kitchen backsplash, there are literally thousands and thousands of options, assuming you can decide first between glass, ceramic, porcelain, marble, steel, stone, etc. It's overwhelming. It's one thing that really can distress me about living in the USA. It's great to have options, but when choices seem to be unlimited, it gets depressing because you can't possibly see every choice.

But I digress. Overall, the planning process for the house has been exciting and we're really looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. And thanks again for all your great ideas - yinz are the best!!

Preacher
03-13-2008, 01:35 AM
Some excellent, very pragmatic advice, Preach! Our house plan has a master bath, two other full baths and a powder room and four bedrooms. We decided on a one-story house because we'd ideally like to live there as long as possible, and as SCStiller mentioned, a basement is a no-no in the Lowcountry...we will have a crawlspace instead. You're so right about the structure being important. It's a real balancing act to combine the aesthetics with the infrastructure and still keep the budget manageable. We've agreed that we're not going to settle during construction, operating on the premise that if we put something off until "later", later will never arrive and that thing will never be done.

You know what my biggest beef is about the whole planning process for a new house? There are TOO MANY CHOICES. You try to find a faucet for your kitchen sink, as an example. You go to a store or look online, and you have 300 choices. You decide you want tile for your kitchen backsplash, there are literally thousands and thousands of options, assuming you can decide first between glass, ceramic, porcelain, marble, steel, stone, etc. It's overwhelming. It's one thing that really can distress me about living in the USA. It's great to have options, but when choices seem to be unlimited, it gets depressing because you can't possibly see every choice.

But I digress. Overall, the planning process for the house has been exciting and we're really looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. And thanks again for all your great ideas - yinz are the best!!

:toofunny::toofunny:

Poor girl!

No, seriously,

Go find a kitchen you like, then just get those colors and faucet!

Or better yet, make you husband do it. THe choice will be made in 4 minutes. TRUST ME!

Unless he is like me. I go in, and then just get lost in the hardware section :wink02:

MACH1
03-13-2008, 11:07 AM
Some excellent, very pragmatic advice, Preach! Our house plan has a master bath, two other full baths and a powder room and four bedrooms. We decided on a one-story house because we'd ideally like to live there as long as possible, and as SCStiller mentioned, a basement is a no-no in the Lowcountry...we will have a crawlspace instead. You're so right about the structure being important. It's a real balancing act to combine the aesthetics with the infrastructure and still keep the budget manageable. We've agreed that we're not going to settle during construction, operating on the premise that if we put something off until "later", later will never arrive and that thing will never be done.

You know what my biggest beef is about the whole planning process for a new house? There are TOO MANY CHOICES. You try to find a faucet for your kitchen sink, as an example. You go to a store or look online, and you have 300 choices. You decide you want tile for your kitchen backsplash, there are literally thousands and thousands of options, assuming you can decide first between glass, ceramic, porcelain, marble, steel, stone, etc. It's overwhelming. It's one thing that really can distress me about living in the USA. It's great to have options, but when choices seem to be unlimited, it gets depressing because you can't possibly see every choice.

But I digress. Overall, the planning process for the house has been exciting and we're really looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. And thanks again for all your great ideas - yinz are the best!!

:sofunny:

Yep, its a good test of a marriage at times. Trying to pick colors, fixtures, hardware, carpet or wood floor, what kind of shingles and all that. But its all worth it in the end.

tony hipchest
03-13-2008, 12:02 PM
not to give you financial advice (you may not need it) but heres a few suggestions-

look into all the "small things". for instance do a google search on "10 tips to conserve energy".

i know if you live in the desert you may not want the face of your house, and the bulk of the windows facing the afternoon sun as it raises cooling costs. or a tree infront of your living room window can decrease cooling costs. the opposite holds true if you live in extreme winter conditions where you can use the sun to help heat the house.

also in the desert a $2000 rock yard as opposed to grass will eventually save you thousands on your water bill. (plus no mowing!)

check roofing tiles. do you wanna re-roof every 10, 15, or 20 years? or do you wanna invest in something that will last your whole life?

look into things that may decrease insurance premiums. a garage may reduce your car insurance bill or perhaps an alarm reduces home insurance. preventative measures may decrease flood or hurricaine insurance.

the point being if you can spend a few extra thousand now and quantify a savings of even $50 a month for the next 30 years (or whatever your mortgage may be) you are making a wise investment. (50 x 12 x 30=$18,000) take the money you save and apply it to the principal on your loan (if you have one). point being, if you can get out of a 30 year mortgage (at $1000/ month), 5 years early you end up saving $60,000 that you can use for retirement, vacation, a new car, etc.

when you buy a house, you take what you get. when you build, you can build in all these small savings that will definitely save you $$$ 20-30 years down the road. plus it helps if you ever want to sell.

those pennies and dollars add up!

polamalu82
03-13-2008, 12:56 PM
OH...

Your in Charlestown SC?

Yeah, skip the basement! :wink02:

A basement isn't going to flood if its above ground. Heres an example of what you can do with a walk out basement.
http://www.vermontcountrybuilders.com/images/ACR13.jpg

Notice the basement has logs on it too. So you don't even notice its all cement behind it.

alittlejazzbird
04-03-2008, 02:26 PM
Hey everybody,

I've been away from here for what seems like forever! I've been insanely busy with gigs, house-related stuff, etc., and just popped back in today for the first time in weeks (I wanted to see what everyone had to say on the Chris Henry story, LOL!).

No takers on our NJ house yet, but we're being patient. We know this could be at least a six month process, and the weather is just now starting to moderate here. April is apparently considered the start of house-hunting "season" in New Jersey, so things should pick up over the next month or so. We're still hoping to be underway on construction in South Carolina by August or September.

Meanwhile, thank you all again for the excellent advice on this post while I've been away. I agree completely with tony's advice about basically spending a little more money upfront to get the quality that will last. We're planning to live there for the rest of our lives, or as long as we are physically able, so we're indeed looking to maximize both quality AND value. We deliberately bought a lot where the back of our house will face due south, which is optimal for passive solar exposure (and we are also mounting photovoltaic panels on our roof to generate some of our own electricity). Our lot is completely level, so we can't do a walkout basement as polamalu82 suggested (nice house, by the way!). But that's completely fine with me - I prefer no basement. The house I grew up in, and both of the houses I've owned as an adult, have had basements, and I never liked the cold damp feel of them, even though the two I've owned were completely finished basements with family room space.

Another month or so and my schedule will calm down, and I'll be back to posting in the Steelers forum. In the meantime, I'll stick my head in now and then to see what yinz are talking about, and THANK YOU again for all your helpful suggestions in this thread - I really appreciate your taking the time.