Keith and Kinsey's Real Estate Update

Home Build – The Plans

In my last post about building our home, I talked about making modifications to the builder’s plans. Since then, we have received a revised set of plans and made a few more changes. Kinsey & I are to the point where most of the changes being made are very minor. We added two windows to the garage, shifted a few doors and adjusted a wall. Now, I think we’ve got a good set of plans that meets all of our wants and needs.

At this point, the builder will send out the plans to get bids from sub-contractors.  We have given him the name of a few contractors from our preferred provider list who we would like to bid the job. These are contractors who we have had good experiences with in the past or who our colleagues, clients, and friends have highly recommended.  Of course, multiple sub-contractors will be bidding the work, and hopefully our preferred people will be competitive. We will almost certainly use Kinsey’s stepdad at Isthmus Electric as an electrician. We can only hope at this point that pricing comes in within our budget range. If not, we’ll be looking for ways to cut costs.

The next thing we’ll be working on is meeting with the cabinet and flooring suppliers to start picking out some finishes. This will be a challenge, as I know we’ll be tempted to get a few upgrades. Although, we are trying hard not to nickle and dime this out of reality. So, we have asked the builder to give the supplier a budget and limit us to options within our range. Pray for me that Kinsey doesn’t break the bank. ;)

Home Build – The Beginning
February 14, 2012, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Home Build | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Now that we have a lot under contract, we have tons of planning and decision making to get us to the end result of a new home. Prior to offering on the lot we had met with a builder, talked about ballpark pricing, and looked at some plans. We walked into the initial meeting with some rough plans, which I had drawn, in hand. Ironically, the builder had a plan of a house he was starting to build in a different neighborhood that was very similar to ours plans. The only problem, these plans were bid at almost $50,000 more than we have budgeted to spend. We talked about a bunch of ways to save money, mostly in the finishes. We don’t need anything extravagant, so we said; reduce the  stone on the front, ditch the granite counter tops, put in cheaper flooring, we’ll finish out the closets ourselves, let’s select a cheaper lot, and get rid of a drywall archway.

After all of our cost saving ideas, the builder got back to us with another ballpark price that was within our range. Of course, we won’t know for sure if the price will work until the design is finalized and it goes out for bid (to the suppliers and sub-contractors). Although, before we made an offer or committed to a builder, I had another home builder friend of mine price out our plans. His ballpark price was a little bit higher, but was an extremely helpful as a gut check.

Yesterday I met with the designer/drafter and the builder we chose.  We talked through some of the plan modifications we wanted to make. It was fun to be on the client side of this (the opposite of my day job). Some of the changes we made where:

  • Lengthened the garage –This was factored in with the builders pricing guestimate.
  • Adding a fireplace – We’d rather avoid this expense, but not having a fireplace is something I think we’d regret later for a minimal cost now.
  • Moved a basement egress window – This was based on where I thought a potential future 4th bedroom should go.
  • Shifting the basement bathroom rough-ins – This would make it easier to add a wet bar if we ever wanted one.
  • Shrank the mud room – This helps increase the garage size and reduce finished square footage (cost). We are planning put the washer and dryer on the second floor anyway.
  • Reduced the stone work on the front of the house.
  • Deleted the drywall archway feature – We are actually able to turn this space into a useable pantry off the kitchen.
  • Removed a wall – This will save a bit of framing and gain some bathroom space.

We also started talking about some of the other details such as window grill styles. There will be lots more of that kind of stuff to come. I think Kinsey is looking forward to the detail and styling part, but I’m kind of dreading it. I’m more of a spatial layout engineering mind, while she’s more of an artistic mind. I guess that makes us a good team though. In any case, the next steps will be to review the final plans and work on the details. Stay tuned!

To Buy Or To Build
February 11, 2012, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Home Build | Tags: , , , , , , ,

We’ve made a decision; we are building a house… maybe. I’ll start at the beginning of our housing story for those of you that don’t know it. Kinsey was in the process of searching for a condo when we met, and she bought one shortly after**. I (Keith) already had a house that was pretty much a bachelor pad (big yard, garage space, tiny bedrooms). When we found our relationship getting serious we had the challenges of figuring out what to do with two homes. I ended up renting my house and moving in with Kinsey, because here condo association didn’t allow her to rent. Neither of us really liked the others choice of home. So, we agreed that we would find something else when the time was right. Well, the time is right. We’ve sold my bachelor pad and will be ready to sell the condo soon.

We have been watching the market closely for the past 2 years, and actually offered on a short sale house that we didn’t get a little over a year ago (blessing in disguise?). We didn’t necessarily agree on all the features we wanted. The two things we agreed on were: we wanted to stay in Verona and we wanted an office to work with real estate clients.  At the top of my list was a large private yard, and lots of garage space, or a shed (I’m a gearhead with a classic car). At the top Kinsey’s list was an open entertaining space, a master bath, lots of sunshine, and a walk in closet.

We have probably looked at 75% of the houses that have come on the market in Verona in the past year, which is easy to do as agents. Although the difficult thing as agents is that we see all the good and bad of every house. We always tell our clients the perfect house is hard to find (especially with a price limit). Well, it’s true. I’m not sure the perfect house even exists. We got to the point where it was either sacrifice a bit of house for a larger more private lot or build the house we want and sacrifice a little on the lot. We chose the latter and put a lot under contract yesterday.

We’ve chosen to build in the Hawthorne Hills neighborhood of Verona because we can actually do it for a similar price per square foot as comparable existing homes. In many real estate markets this is not the case, but the Verona housing market has been better than most through the housing downturn. We actually chose a lot that backs up to a highway (its 100+ yards off) so that we wouldn’t have backyard neighbors 30 yards away. This was also the more affordable option in the neighborhood. Best of all, we’ve already got some great neighbors! Krause’s, Busch’s, and Kindschi’s watch out, we are bringing down the neighborhood!

The contract on our lot is currently contingent on reaching an agreement on a building contract for an acceptable price. So, we’ve got some hurdles to get through yet. This is why I said “maybe” at the beginning of this post. Our builder thinks we can make it happen within our price range though.  Our next step is to meet with the builder to tweak and tune floor plans. Then he will put the plans out for subcontractor bids to see if we can meet our pricing requirements.

We plan to blog about the entire construction process as we go. So, stay tuned for more info. I promise I’ll keep it more short and to the point next time.

**Editor Kinsey’s note: If he’d only asked me to marry him on our first date…


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