A New Project
I used to work in the housing sector, starting with a job pushing carts at Lowes before moving over to the delivery department once I got my CDL temps. From there I went to work with Wolohan Lumber as a delivery driver. I spent several years working for the company before they got bought out by United Building Centers, eventually enabling me to make my career foray into Information Technology on the Help Desk. So I started as a driver, got a “promotion” to Inside Sales, took on the responsibilities as a Project Specialist and got trained to read blueprints, do take-offs and materials lists, design sheds, decks, garages, pole barns and whatever else tradespeople needed. Since I was handy with computers I was given the task of learning the kitchen design software (without the benefit of paid training). From there I learned how to key locks, then spent some time in the door shop learning to hang doors and build stairs. Spent a couple months in the panel plant building pre-assembled walls for house packages. Floated back and forth as directed by the store manager (it was annoying since I had to bring two sets of clothing – slacks/loafers/polo shirt for inside, or jeans/steel-toed boots/t-shirt for working in the yard or making deliveries. There were times I did both in one day. I learned a lot, and I have a feeling had the Helpdesk job not come along I would have soon moved up to an assistant manager. The funny thing is that I was probably the most educated person in the store, with a four-year university degree. No one else knew pretty much all the aspects of the store and yard operations like I did (I don’t say this to be boastful, just to admit a certain point of pride).
I mention all of this in order to explain my fascination with construction. As a kid my dad would bring home drafting paper and I would amuse myself by trying to draw a house based on 70’s design books. I’m talking something like a central fireplace in a sunken floor with built-in seating, geometric designs with futuristic components and elements, all sleek lines and hard edges. I dreamed of being an architect, but somewhere between childhood and puberty I forgot all about it. I never even considered architecture in college, and I kick myself all these years later. I think I could have been happy and good at it. Hell, I amuse myself from time to time making designs, but it’s nowhere near professional level. My dad, however, damn could he draw.
When I was around 12 my parents decided Huber Heights was not the place to raise a family it once was, so my dad and mom put their heads together and started drawing up a wishlist of things they wanted in a home. After a few months my dad had finished drafting a 1/8″ scale design tri-level home that just looked incredible. Architect even stamped the drawings, and the builder tried to buy the design from dad, but settled for cutting the cost to build the house in exchange for the right to use the house images. Sadly it never worked out – the builder screwed my parents over by reneging on a deal and only gave them their money back when he abruptly learned that my parents owned the land the house was built on, and he could either buy it for a premium, or tear down his house. I still think about that house, and it’s been 30+ years. In design terms it would be ancient history, but classic style never really goes away even if the paint is faded.
So why did I make this long-winded post? Well, for the last week or two I’ve been looking at houses, and after losing bid after bid on houses I finally decided to explore the one option where I couldn’t be out-bid on a house. Build my own. It should surprise no one that the first thing I did was start looking at house plans and considering potential lots. I sat down with SketchUp 2017 and drew up the lot, then made some calculations so I could make a semi-accurate rendering of the house to see how well it was situated on the sites I’d selected. I ran numbers, considered options, put together an endless number of spreadsheets, and only once I felt comfortable did I finally contact my realtor and tell him to arrange a meeting with a builder’s rep. Now, this isn’t to say I was 100% prepared. No one is, and no one can be – there’s just too damn many details to know for the first meeting, or the second, or even the third. New information comes to light, fuzzy details clear up, wishes clash with reality and cost justifications come into play. Most people already have a plan picked out when they meet with a rep – I had three, and for each one I put together a staggering amount of information and details and spent too damn many hours massaging it to come up with a close estimate to be confirmed by the builder’s rep. Now you may ask how I did this, but some of it was blind luck. With my very first design I was actually off by only a couple hundred dollars. My realtor couldn’t stop laughing and asked me to pick the next lotto numbers. The builder’s rep was stunned and pretty impressed. Then again, I work in Information Technology, and gathering data and combining it into a comprehensive whole is sort of what those of us in the field are good at.
Anyways, today was my third meeting with the builder’s rep. I’d settled on a design, drawn it up, made pretty accurate estimates of dimensions and costs, weighed my options, and then finally decided to pull the trigger. I’ve got a lot lock, so no one else can get the lot now (it’s a pretty big corner lot 150 feet long and 85′ wide). My plan calls for a three-car garage, a second floor loft and living area, full lookout basement, fireplace, designer master bathroom, and generally all-around kick-ass plan that meets my needs and nicely balances my wishlist versus what I could afford. I would have loved a gourmet kitchen, but $15,000 for the kitchen plus $5,000 for the cabinetry plus another $6,000 for appliances was just a tad too much, as was the $14,000 for the morning room. In my mind I couldn’t justify $7,400 for widening the house two feet (which actually would have exceeded the maximum width of the available area by a foot). Forget $5,000+ for a granite countertop. While the structural elements won’t be easy to add-on at a later date, the truth is that they didn’t add as much value to me personally as I previously thought, and had I tried to add them I would have been very uncomfortable with the price.
As it stands I came in a couple thousand dollars under my estimate, and in the next week I’ll likely be going under contract and preparing to oversee the building of my brand new house. Oh, it will also be my first. Talk about pressure. More to come!