Deconstructed

We had our first official meeting with the architect today. By official, I mean we are under contract and have actually made the first payment. Just the first of many, many checks we will be writing over the next year. The meeting got off to a bit of a rough start. We showed up about 10 minutes early, inadvertently interrupting the builders while they were finishing lunch (we met in their office). So we made some small talk while they finished eating.

About 10 minutes after our designated start time, the builder received a text from the architect. He was running late due to car trouble. By the time he arrived, we were more than 30 minutes behind schedule. Fortunately he’s not charging us by the hour. The first floor plan he showed us was essentially a block ‘C’ shape with a courtyard in the middle. Nice, but not particularly exciting. Then he told us he had also done a deconstructed version.

For some reason, I interpreted this to mean that he had individual room layouts that were not connected in a whole house floor plan. Like, let’s just look at the individual spaces. What he actually meant was that he had done a deconstructed version of the house. My husband got it immediately and loved it at first glance. I needed to talk through the whole thing before I could start to wrap my head around it. The block ‘C’ structure was still there, but now the bedroom space and guest suite space had been peeled away and put into their own separate wings, attached to the main structure by wide hallways.

It’s house as art. Unfortunately it’s also way bigger and way more expensive than what we can build. There’s a reason most houses are a box – it’s the cheapest thing to build. So now we start the delicate process of scaling it back while still maintaining the integrity of the design concept. It’s going to be a long couple of months.

Architecting a Dream

After two months of relative quiet on the new home front, we received an email from our architect last Friday. He had promised to make our project his first priority in the new year and had finally managed to finish his existing commitments and put together a contract and schedule for us. Shit’s getting real now. I am simultaneously excited and terrified.

If we hold to the schedule he’s proposing, we will have plans ready to submit to the city by early May. Then it’s a 4-6 week wait to get the permit, assuming there are no major challenges to our request. So in theory, we could be breaking ground by mid to late June. The builder’s best guess, based on our verbal description of the house, is that it will be about 8 months to complete the build. Which would have us moving in next March.

Of course I expect that nothing will go to plan. If there’s one thing that working in IT taught me, it’s that projects rarely go to plan. The only thing we actually care about from a scheduling perspective is the the house is fully enclosed before the weather gets bad in Minnesota. That gives us about 4 months for the exterior work. Should be okay.

Check and contract were mailed today. Breathe deep. Stay calm. Let’s get this party started.

Building a Dream

So we’ve officially started down the path of building our dream home. We met with the builders on Friday. I should say potential builders, but I’m pretty sure we’ve settled on them at this point. But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit. A few days after our offer on the lot was accepted, we toured some houses on the Parade of Homes. The third one we visited was a very modern house in South Minneapolis. With the exception of a few minor details, it was exactly the type of home we want to build. The builders (two brothers) were at the house, so we started talking to them. Next thing you know, we are running home to get the survey.

We just had an instant rapport with the builders and they are experienced in using modern building techniques and materials. Even more amazing, they were working with a couple who planned to make an offer on the lot adjoining ours. That wasn’t the only instance of serendipity in this process. While we were writing up the offer with the real estate agent, we found out that he graduated from the same high school the same year I did. He also lives a few blocks from our property. Then we found out that he was the agent for the lot where my dad built his home.

Everything just kept falling into place. Just before we met with the builders on Friday, I had a referral call with one of their previous clients. He could not speak highly enough about the quality of their construction and how good they were to work with. I had been dreading the process of finding a builder and now it seems that a perfect one has just fallen into our laps.

Which is good, because we still have a shitload of stuff to do. Right now we are talking about trying to fast track the design process so we could be pouring the foundation next spring. Our next step is to have a meeting with their architect and designer. In preparation for that, we are reviewing several file bins full of magazine clippings to cull them down to ones that are most relevant. We made some good progress over the weekend, but we still have a ways to go.

And don’t even get me started on the budget.

Get Out the Checkbook

It has been a wild and crazy month. I plan on going back and posting about our extended family vacation, which took us from Phoenix to Baraboo to Chicago. We finally landed back home last week after a nearly month long absence. And of course I have photos, lots of photos.

But something really tremendous happened over the last few days and I have to write about it first. Yesterday we committed to the single biggest purchase of our lives – a one acre lot in a nearby neighborhood. This is the fourth piece of undeveloped property we’ve purchased, but it will be the first we actually build on. What drove this purchase? It’s a long story.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version – just over year ago I found out our next door neighbor was planning to sell her house. This led us to a conversation about where we really wanted our “dream house” to be located and our hands down decision was Minnesota. Having a double lot would allow us to do (almost) everything we were planning for our empty lot in Phoenix. Unfortunately, our neighbor is a total flake with zero common sense and her plan to be out by last winter quickly faded. After more than a year of conversation with her, I hit my breaking point last week when she sent me an email stating that she wouldn’t be ready until November at best.

My response was a big F-U. (In my own head, of course) Fortunately, I had been looking at listings for potential teardowns on large lots since we got back to Minnesota in May. I spent the whole summer vacillating over whether it would be better to combine the two lots or start somewhere fresh. So I kept researching and we would occasionally go out and do drive-bys on places that looked promising. None of them panned out in real life.

The day I before received the final straw email, I had identified some potential properties and we toured them that afternoon. None were perfect, but a couple had promise. Then I checked a new real estate website and found one that looked even better. We toured it on Friday afternoon. By Saturday I was sure it was the one. By Sunday my husband was feeling the same way. We visited it again on Monday afternoon and immediately called the listing agent to make an offer. A few hours later we found out our offer had been accepted.

So after talking about and agonizing about this decision for over a year, we managed to find and buy a property in three days. Everything just came together and it felt right, so we went with it. Of course I’m sure I’ll be feeling some buyer’s remorse when it comes to writing that huge check. But until then, I’m on Cloud 9.