General Mom

Mom-of-5, building a home in California, step by step, with Faith and Feistiness ~ by General Mom Contractor

Month: October, 2012

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Roll-ER-Coaster: Finalizing a Design

We are 9 weeks into designing this house and about to finalize the plans. We are moving in 7 days into a bungalow half the square footage we are currently in. Managed to drop off an average of 8 huge bags of donations a day for the past week and I STILL have a ton of stuff. Add Homeschooling to the ride and life feels like a roll-ER-coaster. I feel like I’m in that kind of scary moment every mom has after planning, picking out names, and preparing to become a parent and then it’s game day. You wonder if you can really do this, will everything go ok and then you get nauseous from holding the hands of both fear and joy.

Finalizing a design is nerve racking and exciting. I pulled out our old house plans from 2004 to see what I would change, read dozens of building books and design books, gathered all the ideas possible and most importantly hired the right firm for me to accomplish a fantastic place to call home for our five children. We now have first and second floor plans and we should see elevations next week.

It’s got to be the artist in me that is sad to say good-bye to some fabulous ideas I have gathered and we will not meet this time. I choose to look at it like, at least I won’t be super happy to rip them out and see them go later on either. You know, who got America to buy in on avocado colored kitchen appliances, and shag carpeting? Some of my ideas were cool for this year…like chevron…right? I keep trying to find somewhere to bring in that darn cute chevron pattern in my house and it’s just not working.

So if you are thinking of building or remodeling, the longer time you have for design, the better. Start with having Pinterest and Houzz accounts. Start naming “boards” on Pinterest and “idea books” on Houzz. Specify “kitchen, master bath, laundry” because then you have all your references to share with your designer and add to their plans.

It’s almost game time and I have final revisions of the plans that the hubby is plotting in a trial program called “Chief Architect.” His daytime job is a professional 3-D consumer products design engineer and this is his final contribution to add all of our designer’s dimensions, so that we can see everything 3-D and visually walk through the house to see if there are any mistakes. Honestly, spacing is the toughest aspect in design. Two feet on the plan might look ok now on paper but living with it is another story when you realize you really needed four feet. You either can’t change it later or it’s expensive to change in the field.

The next step is to get the Civil Engineer to begin his work with how we will be effecting the land by how much dirt we will move around, where the driveway goes, drainage, grading, etc. So, for now I have to commit to this design and that is very hard for me. So, it is what it is. I have to love it and make it work. Time has the upper hand here and it will win.

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The details that bring you to your knees

In order to reduce our costs, we needed to reduce our rent costs ridiculously low in order to build without burning through savings. So, after considering a lot of options, I posted a Craigslist ad looking for someone to rent to us for a year at below market price. We are going from a 3800 square foot home with 7 people down to 1700 square feet with 7 people…and a dog. Totally doable since I have moved 24 times in 38 years. From the smallest being dorm rooms, summer camp jobs living in tents with a dozen 7 year olds, to our last custom house that we built. So, I can do this. I got this. But the part that brings me to my knees is the details in which it unfolded. I explored several options as I mentioned in my last post.

Then I got an email response to my Craigslist ad from a kind woman who is going through a divorce and is moving in with her brother nearby so that she can save money and get back on her feet. She sent me an email asking about our timing and I said we were looking for the right opportunity and then we will move. I made an appointment to see it and googled to death the neighborhood, Megan’s Law, how much it was bought for, school district, etc. It looked amazing for the price!

When I arrived and got out of the car, the cement stoop greeted me with a special impression to my heart, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” I was brimming from ear to ear upon seeing that! When she answered the door, I was all smiles and told her we were off to a great start! It’s a lovely house and just right for us for a year. We had an amazing connection! Even her sister arrived and was wearing a shirt with Scripture on it. It was another comforting aspect to this divine appointment!

One interesting detail to this story started 10 years ago when I was methodically thumbing through 60,000 baby names and their meanings, I came across one that I highlighted and researched. Acacia, ever heard of that name? I had read about it in the Bible, the ark of the Covenant was built in Acacia wood and covered in gold. There are inferences that wood in the Bible symbolize unredeemed, sinful man and it needs to be covered over. Jesus on the wooden cross carries this symbolism even further. Naming a child Acacia got overturned by the hubby. I always came back to that name when naming our other four children over the years. It’s been on my heart and mind for 11 years. Then it hit me like a mack truck on my way home! My heart sank in this one, single, very special detail…the Lord has been preparing the way all this time. Our new street name is Acacia. I am NOT looking for signs and wonders but some special details that only the Lord knew were right before me to bless my heart down to the street name, the door stoop and the house number being one added number than our current one (He knows I can’t remember anything). Humbling to say the least.

Mark 13:33, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.”

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Managing expenses while building a house

In order to stay on a nail biting budget over the next year, we needed to reduce our rent costs asap.  The hubby developed a killer excel spreadsheet that analyzed different options.  When you embark on what can you afford to build a house or remodel, you have to buy the land with a loan or outright.  Then, while paying on that loan prior to a construction loan, you have to pay your current rent or mortgage and expenses.   We needed to reduce our rent asap or we would be burning through savings.  So, I explored All options. No matter how ridiculous.  This took two whole months.

Starting with buying an RV and putting it on the land.  They are really nice!  Affordable too especially a used model and great for resale.  But not really enough space for 7 people even the largest with 400 square feet.  I found one with a master bedroom and three bunk beds.  I had electricians and plumbers give me quotes for temporary electric, water and septic.  But thank the Lord we both got poison oak out at the land and that put that idea to rest asap.  The RV would have been parked right on top of a healthy patch of poison oak.  No thanks.

Next option, apartments.  I could only find a 2 bedroom for our budget and no yard really closed that door.

I asked our pastor if anyone was going on mission trips or had houses for rent.  He said he would pray for God to make it abundantly clear.  Boy was that about to unfold!

Final option, rental homes.  I went extreme and found a super cute pool cabana but it was only two bedroom and no garage.  Really nice kitchen and all remodeled.  The owner got super nervous when I said we have five kids!  Haha.  He passed on us.  I could not find anything big enough in our price range.   So, I took an ad out on Craigslist.

Craigslist wanted ad under housing was my last resort.  Here’s what I posted:

We are a family in the process of designing and building a home in Morgan Hill. Until it’s finished in a year or year and a half (the county is slow), we need an awesome house with at least 3 bedrooms, and a private yard. We have high rent right now (it’s a gorgeous house) but have to reduce rent costs while the house is being built. I thought maybe, you reading this, were just curious who on earth may be posting in the wanted section. You would really like a super nice, meticulous family without the headache of most renters. Do nice families still exist? We humbly say we are AWESOME! That really has to do with our faith in our hearts and you see it in action in our lives. So that means we would take care of your property, have super high credit, pay on time, take care of our personal property as well as yours. So if you are thinking of renting out your home and feel like doing something kind of miraculous, let me know and send me an address or some photos. We need to keep our rent to a nail biting amount, and thus the reason for the ad. But give me a shout and I bet we can make something great work out!

I got a response from several realtors and a few homeowners not in our city.  I also got an email from someone who wanted to share a big house with his family!

Then, I got THE email.  One that was providentially orchestrated by God himself.

Party in the front, business in the back?

When you have to design for a unique lot get ready to trust your design firm.  The process of design does not always seem clear to the homeowner until all the pieces come together.

We are building on top of a ridge which has some challenges.  I am pretty adamant  that I don’t want to come down the driveway and only see garage doors and miss the beautiful front of the house.  So, I have to admit when I got the first floor plans all I saw were corners, tons of them.  I loudly warned my designer the week before to minimize corners for this final revision.  Corners?  Yes, every single corner of your house costs big foundation costs.  Every single change in direction costs money.  Right now I have 22 corners and 19 of them are wrapped around the front and 3 are in the back.  Like what? Don’t ask me why but a mullet hairdo came to mind.  It was glaring at me like I was looking in the mirror of my 6th grade yearbook.  Party in the front and business in the back.  I mean it was a REVOLUTIONARY movement of hair, do I love that? How does this fit into the big picture?  What I could not understand until days later is what the second floor was going to look like.  I got those plans and it looks AMAZING!  I really can see more clearly now.  So, trust your design firm to bring that baby together.  It will be so hard to imagine a 3D image when you are looking at a line drawing.  Now, I see the roof and that the second floor doesn’t follow the first floor like a box.  But it has beautiful lines dancing on top of that party in the front!  The business in the back has articulated roof lines and movement on the second floor.  So, note to self…breathe through the first feelings of the first floor and trust the designers you hired to bring it all together!