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Old     (phatboypimp)      Join Date: Apr 2005       07-05-2016, 12:35 PM Reply   
After looking at a lot of houses over the last 12 months we have decided that instead of rehabbing or making significant sacrifices for our "forever" home that we are in the education phase of building our own house. Let me be perfectly clear - we are NOT going to do the work ourselves but we will hire a project manager, architect, contractor, designer, etc. who will actually do the work.

I have bought a couple books to get me started but some of the best Non-Wakeboard advice I have received on this forum.

I would appreciate any advice, lessons learned, mistakes, etc. as we begin to take on this project. We are on the hunt for land right now - it will be in Sonoma County - specifically Santa Rosa. It will be on a 2-5 acre lot in the country. We are initially thinking a ~5000 sqft home including a second living quarters for my parents and other family members. At some point I will build a massive dream garage/barn on the property but that will likely come later.

We have had a lot of people try to talk us out of this option but I am comfortable with the risks associated with building our own home.

Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.
Old     (denverd1)      Join Date: May 2004       07-05-2016, 2:44 PM Reply   
It's a looonngg tedious process, but can be fun, at least the first time. Look at lots of plans getting ideas. if you can incorporate something cool/unique from a few of them, you'll have a place that stands out from the rest and suits your needs.

my only other suggestion would be to get involved with picking your sub contractors for the big ticket stuff. drywall, paint, flooring, masonry, etc. ask custom builders and homeowners (if you can) who did their work. I built mine about 10 years ago and didn't know jack. Subs will cut as many corners as they can and often the GC isn't even aware of it, i'm still finding little things i'm not happy about 10 years later. all easily fixed, just should've been done right the first time.

OTT have fun designing and building your home!!
Old    bigdtx            07-05-2016, 3:02 PM Reply   
Have had a couple of friends who have done this - and I am thinking of doing it myself in the next 12 months or so.

Friend #1 spoke fluent Spanish (we're in Texas) and went by the the jobsite 2 or 3 times a week in the late afternoon (and always on Fridays) and brought a couple of cases of beer for the crews, schmoozed them and made sure they didn't screw him over. They loved seeing him pull up because they knew it was free beer time. I think it worked out well for him.

Friend #2 is a business owner and a major micro manager and control freak. He went by the job site almost every day twice a day (at lunch and at the end of the day) and inspected everything that had been done that day. If something wasn't done exactly the way he wanted then he made them fix it. The general and subs hated it but he always let them know in advance exactly what he wanted so it wasn't a surprise when he wasn't happy. By the end of the build - which took like 9 or 10 months he rarely had to bust balls because they knew if it wasn't perfect it was do-over time. It also worked out well for him.

So... carrot or the stick - or maybe a bit of both.
Old     (bcrider)      Join Date: Apr 2006       07-05-2016, 4:48 PM Reply   
My good friend designs houses. Mostly log/ post and beam depending on the style you are looking for. He did our lake house. He's done designs for houses all over the world so don't worry about not being local.

http://www.streamlinedesign.ca/
Old     (Studlee)      Join Date: Jul 2014       07-05-2016, 11:30 PM Reply   
We built our house last summer!. Moved in, in September.. get involved like nacho said!. Show up often, unannounced.. if you see something or don't like something, let it be known asap! Get involved, know every process of building your dream home!. Your spending the cash to build a 5000 sq ft house, don't be a cheap ass! Pizza, subs, lunch, etc.. a cooler full of beer goes a long way!. A happy worker, is a productive worker!. After everything said and done, I couldn't be happier! And can't believe people will spend 100's of thousands of dollars to buy a used home.. just remember, have fun!.
Old     (markj)      Join Date: Apr 2005       07-06-2016, 12:48 AM Reply   
You can often save hassle and potential finger pointing by negotiating with a design/build contractor rather than hiring all the people you mentioned separately. How can a builder blame his own architect for any design discrepancies? Seek lots of references for whomever you hire before you hire them. Current customers as well as past ones. Also, be prepared for major sticker shock from beginning to end. Anywhere near the Bay Area is pretty hot for construction right now and people are charging accordingly. Permit fees alone will make you an instant republican if you aren't already. Do you have a budget in mind?
Old     (phatboypimp)      Join Date: Apr 2005       07-06-2016, 8:17 AM Reply   
Nacho/BigD - This is great advice guys thank you. I didn't even think about the unannounced visits. Since I am anal and type-A I am sure that the stick will be involved but also the carrot which is great advice. I will be sure to keep the crew happy but have high expectations for quality.

Tristan - I agree completely on the new build. Most of the homes in the area are old and in need of a complete renovation with an unappealing layout. It is a lot more work but I believe it will pay off in the long run. I also love this kind of stuff so I am looking forward to the challenge understanding frustration/delay/cost overrun is part of the game.

MarkJ - I think we will likely go with the build contractor. Although my brother-in-law is breaking ground on his house (which will be bigger and more extravagant) this summer and has a "project manager" he hired to oversee all of the different specialists if you will. If that works out I might use him as well. I am not looking forward to the permit process/costs but luckily my brother-in-law is going through it now so he should be able to give me some good advice. In regards to a budget we are planning on ~$3-400K for the land and $275 a sqft with some flex built in.
Old     (buffalow)      Join Date: Apr 2002       07-06-2016, 8:34 AM Reply   
I am a HVAC contractor for the last 25 years. I have flipped homes and commercial properties and built thousands of commercial properties over that time. That is not to boast, but to tell you this:. The project will likely take twice as long as you expect or are told. You will be double to triple the budget you start with. PLAN ACCORDINGLY.

Tips:
-Make sure to interview 2-3 general contractors and get real references. A quality contractor will be happy to submit this and their customers will be happy to show off their work. Bad contractors will not.
-Make sure that EVERY contractor that will touch your site submits insurance BEFORE he starts work. If a non-insurance contractor is on the site and something very bad happens, you will be in the fight of your life, which is always a losing battle.
-Make sure that ever time you pay your contractor, you get a lien release from all the subs and than your general.If the general contractor does not pay the sub contractors, and does not get the proper lien releases - he can disappear and the subs can come directly for you. In our world we do not pay the general until we get all the releases first this protects me as the property owner.
-Make sure you contract includes specifics including price, scope, inclusions and exclusions - that you agreed to 100%. If it is not in writing than it does not count.
-In your budgets allow plenty of room for changes and surprises. They will come up and you need to have room to flex. These can be innocent changes or changes to your plans that you make, but either way you will need time and money to make changes once it starts
-Call the city by yourself (don't count on your super) and educate yourself on costs. You will be surprised in the beginning, but at least you will be prepared.
-Even if you hire a project manager, do a contract and include what is expect in terms of hours per week, schedule, etc. I recommend offering them a bonus to beat the date/budget as long as it does not compromise the quality of the project.

Good luck - You can reach out to me any time if you need further thoughts
Old     (phatboypimp)      Join Date: Apr 2005       07-06-2016, 9:17 AM Reply   
Quote:
Originally Posted by buffalow View Post
I am a HVAC contractor for the last 25 years. I have flipped homes and commercial properties and built thousands of commercial properties over that time. That is not to boast, but to tell you this:. The project will likely take twice as long as you expect or are told. You will be double to triple the budget you start with. PLAN ACCORDINGLY.

Tips:
-Make sure to interview 2-3 general contractors and get real references. A quality contractor will be happy to submit this and their customers will be happy to show off their work. Bad contractors will not.
-Make sure that EVERY contractor that will touch your site submits insurance BEFORE he starts work. If a non-insurance contractor is on the site and something very bad happens, you will be in the fight of your life, which is always a losing battle.
-Make sure that ever time you pay your contractor, you get a lien release from all the subs and than your general.If the general contractor does not pay the sub contractors, and does not get the proper lien releases - he can disappear and the subs can come directly for you. In our world we do not pay the general until we get all the releases first this protects me as the property owner.
-Make sure you contract includes specifics including price, scope, inclusions and exclusions - that you agreed to 100%. If it is not in writing than it does not count.
-In your budgets allow plenty of room for changes and surprises. They will come up and you need to have room to flex. These can be innocent changes or changes to your plans that you make, but either way you will need time and money to make changes once it starts
-Call the city by yourself (don't count on your super) and educate yourself on costs. You will be surprised in the beginning, but at least you will be prepared.
-Even if you hire a project manager, do a contract and include what is expect in terms of hours per week, schedule, etc. I recommend offering them a bonus to beat the date/budget as long as it does not compromise the quality of the project.

Good luck - You can reach out to me any time if you need further thoughts

This is amazing insight and advice. Exactly what I need to know. Thanks Buff - I might just take you up on your offer. I have zero interest in missing any steps here.
Old    bigdtx            07-06-2016, 10:58 AM Reply   
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcrider View Post
My good friend designs houses. Mostly log/ post and beam depending on the style you are looking for. He did our lake house. He's done designs for houses all over the world so don't worry about not being local.

http://www.streamlinedesign.ca/
Dayum! Those are some sweet homes!
Old     (VanillaGorilla)      Join Date: Nov 2015       07-06-2016, 6:10 PM Reply   
My advice is to include a completion clause in your contract. We are building now. On budget but over double in the time frame quoted. The whole time I'm paying the interest only construction loan... My last custom home (built in 2014) was completed a month ahead of schedule and I got lazy with the contract on this one. I wish I hadn't.
Old     (westsidarider)      Join Date: Feb 2003       07-07-2016, 3:15 PM Reply   
Like stated above, you want to be involved so that things don't get missed or corners aren't cut however, make sure you know what you are talking about before you go busting chops. I am a glazing contractor and my work is 50-50 between commercial/retail establishments and custom high end residential. When you are a subcontractor and a homeowner who has zero experience with the process and scope of your work starts looking over your shoulder and nitpicking every little detail it can be very frustrating. I welcome nitpicking, once the work is complete. Projects almost rarely go according to plan and there are always moments where things need to be done in a way that may look shoddy during the installation process because getting from point A to B is not always a straight or pretty path. I have worked with one of the best technicians I will probably ever see. His finish work was always amazing leaving me to question how such work was possible yet if you didn't know about his capabilities you would probably take one look at his work space and kick him out of your house. Absolute chaos and trash everywhere. But once he finished and cleaned everything up it left you speechless. Before pointing something out that you don't like, be a little more intuitive and ask questions. You will instantly find out if in fact the work is being done shoddy or if the technician is actually good based upon their response to your questions.

Biggest thing to remember, life is short and nothing will EVER be perfect.
Old     (john211)      Join Date: Aug 2008       07-08-2016, 3:42 PM Reply   
I'm building a lake home now. I bought the property last summer, started with architects in January, have my financing approved and my builder selected.

So I have no real experience at this except what the architects drew. I worked in Philadelphia for a number of years and rode a train to work on the west bank of the Schuylkill across from the Philadelphia Boathouse Row. Wikipedia has a good hi res picture of it. The 16 or so boathouses ... all older than 100 years old ... sit on Kelly Drive, named after John Kelly, father of princess of Monaco Grace Kelly. So that was about all the input I gave to the architects. I wanted a design in the style of ... this is not a technically recognized style, but the best Google query I could compose to get the house styles I liked ... carriage style lake house with boat garage.

My architects did a wonderful job getting the outside look of the house right. The interior plan took a little more input from me.

Anyway, next week I get the structural engineers certified plan. I meet with the builder and lender to be sure we have the same plan in mind for how this all going to happen.

My boat house is going to be a ton smaller than your house. The basement/mechanical area will be 2,000 square feet, with 3 garage doors all 10 feet tall providing access. The living area on top will be modest. The porch overlooking the lake will be better.
Old     (john211)      Join Date: Aug 2008       07-12-2016, 2:47 PM Reply   
Other than that I am in the same mode as you (I'm building), I probably didn't offer concrete advice as given above. To be sure, I have chosen to start carefully with the architects. Maybe you will too. But after that, I am going to relax a little bit on how this works out. The property is in Arkansas on the shore of Bull Shoals (to be technically correct, on Corps frontage). More particularly, my property is on a Corps road (I need a permit for a driveway off that) to a Corps boat ramp. I am right across a cove from a Corps-leased marina and Corps campground. In my opinion, both make good neighbors. As do I think my other neighbors.

When it comes to the actual build, which starts 2 or 3 weeks for now, I have no intention of dropping in 4, 3 , 2 or even 1 weekday a week to either (a) swill beer with or else (b) micromanage subcontractors/workers.

I do not even need architecture plans to build in this part of Arkansas. But once I had drawn for me an edifice with structural steel, the steel suppliers will no longer supply engineer certified plans because of liability risk. So then I do have to have a certified plan.

I hope my network who have provided me references on the people I am going to work with ... pays off.

I'm not really nervous if does or doesn't. As said above, a good thing to remember is, life is short and while things might not work out perfect, things often work out pretty good if you are in a good enough state of mind about it.

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