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Friday, December 20, 2013

Building a house or making a home?

These are our original drawings
Last summer, we decided to undertake the process of building our dream home in Northern Colorado. So, we're not pioneers or anything. Lots of people have done this before, right?

Well, maybe.

When I say "build our dream home" I simply mean we will act as general contractor on the project. I've had too many back surgeries to merit swinging a hammer, but we are prepared to be responsible for the hiring of sub-contractors and for the ultimate outcome.

Scary, I know.

We didn't plan on this journey, it sort of found us. We'd made plans for a major remodel of our current "forever" home, but one day, when I was supposed to be writing, I was shamelessly searching the internet. Just looking at some real estate sites.... when I came across a picture of a gorgeous tree-lined pond. My born-in-Colorado intellect rebelled. That picture was photo-shopped, for sure. I didn't think real estate with a view like that existed around here for under a million bucks.

View from my car 

A week or two passed, and I couldn't get that pretty picture out of my mind, so I persuaded my husband to drive to the address one weekend. Lo and behold! This country lot with a view of a tree-lined pond did indeed exist and it was FOR SALE!

 Just like that, everything changed.

Suddenly, we weren't going to remodel, we were going to build the home we'd always dreamed about! My blood pounded as we crunched the numbers. What we wanted didn't exactly fit with what we could afford. So we crunched some more numbers and adjusted our plans. We talked about foreign terms like "price per square foot" and "construction loan". (Affordability was huge for us. My husband is a minister and I homeschool, so we aren't exactly rolling-in-dough if you know what I mean...But that didn't stop us from dreaming!)

A few weeks and some prayers later, we decided we COULD do this. We should take the opportunity that felt like it had landed in our laps. I couldn't have dreamed of a prettier spot -- right here surrounded by my family and church friends at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Ten minutes from our church and current community. This place has it all. 

Real estate was selling like hot-cakes (do hot-cakes really sell well?) and we imagined selling our current home would be a breeze, so we purchased the lot and put our house on the market. All systems GO.

Here's what we did first:

  • Closed on the lot (Wow. That was so exciting!) 
  • Started working with an architect on house plans. (Wow. That was so exciting!) 
  • Bought the water tap (Wow. That was so exciting!) 

Waited to sell our house. 

Waited to sell our house.

Waited to sell our house.

  • Finalized drawings on the house and started getting bids from sub-contractors
  • Ordered soil and perk tests
  • Finalized engineering on plans and soils
Waited to sell our house. 

I think you get the picture. We are STILL waiting to sell our house. So much for all systems GO. We are stuck like a sailing ship on calm seas. 

But, we were almost glad for the wait. Almost.

We hit some snags:

Here in dry Colorado, basements are the norm. Almost every home has one. They're awesome for future growth, storage, kids rooms... and we'd always planned on having one.

But our lovely lake-front property? Unless we wanted to debut as the next Noah's ark, we'd need to build high to get out of the water table which was at a shocking 4.5 feet in some places.

That meant NO basement and back to the drawing board with our house plans.

Waited to sell our house.

Bedrock is awesome for foundations! But not so good for septic systems. After soils engineering, we found we'd need an engineered system. No problem, right?


The engineering was the easy part. Because of the slow-perking bedrock, our system was colossal. The bid came in just under $20,000. Yep, that's 4 digest and dispel poop! 

Budget blown. Dreams shattered.

Waited to sell our house. 

But we aren't giving up. We are still going to build our dream home. Someday. SOON.

Join me on the journey. I'll be blogging about each step along the way. Our triumphs and disappointments. And maybe, you'll be inspired to learn from our mistakes and build your dream home one day, too.

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