Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Building Barry, Day 1

I'm sitting in the sunroom, a pleasant breeze coming in through the window and sun streaming over my shoulder.  I dig my toes into the extra-plush carpeting, and watch the squirrels and chipmunks playing in the yard.  The apple tree in the back yard is about to bloom, and many of the native plants and trees we've put in the back corner have poked their heads above the leaves I still haven't found time to rake out of the back beds.

Six months from now, I'll probably be looking back on this day with longing.  Because six months from now, we'll be moving into our new house.

Because what I didn't mention in that first paragraph is that it takes a carefully orchestrated ballet to get all three of us through the one main bathroom every morning, and we have so much stuff (despite frequent purges) that it overflows whatever storage schemes we devise.  The sump pump runs every 10 minutes to remove the water that collects around our foundation, regardless of the weather.  The stove takes 15 minutes to get water to boil.  The room our tv is in averages about 15 degrees colder than the rest of the house, year-round, and it's 10'x10' if you're generous with the measuring tape.  We have projects scattered everywhere - photos to scan, things to knit, minis to paint, art to hang, mushrooms to grow, science kits to explore - and no where to add extra storage for any of it without another $20,000 investment to finish the basement and/or knock out walls.

This was supposed to be our last house.  Moving every few years kind of stinks, even if you have a professional relocation team there to support you.  Been there, done that, have the moving boxes to prove it. But after six years, it's become obvious that this house is not going to meet our long-term needs without a LOT of work.  And frankly, every time I look at my to-do list, I feel the need to go have a nice lie-down somewhere instead.  I've lived in houses that "needed work" since 1997, with a brief 18-month break of apartment living in Japan thrown in there for fun.  I've hired contractors, hauled mulch, cursed voluminously, injured myself on more than one occasion, accidentally electrocuted our electrician, and spent hundreds of hours with a paintbrush in my hand.  Don't get me started on how many hours of landscaping I've planned/installed/maintained.  And in the end, NONE of the houses has been right.  They've been fine, okay, acceptable, livable - but not right.

What started a few weeks ago as a whim has turned into a consuming obsession, and after one last-ditch round of "Days of Our Potential Relocation" soap opera fun yesterday* we have finally decided to build a house.

*Look, our friend says these people want to sell their house soon, and it's in the same neighborhood we wanted to move to!  Let's call them and see if they want to sell it to us directly!  Let's go look at the house!  Let's spend hours with a spreadsheet and comps to figure out what the maximum we would offer for the house would be, without even going inside it!  Let's hear the price the homeowner wants to get for his okay-but-I'd-still-have-a-long-to-do-list house!  Wow, that's $60,000 higher than we would be willing to pay ... and $10,000 more than we would pay to get a brand-new house a mile away.  Let's wish them luck and run the other way!  

Our new house will have many - most, actually - of the things that each of us want in a house, plus when we're done, the to-do list will have zero entries on it, other than "buy some extra furniture that doesn't look so tacky in our awesome new house."  Among its finer points:

  • A front porch 
  • A stone facade 
  • A three-car garage 
  • A huge bedroom for Liza (seriously, it's 16x20, you could hold a hoedown in there with room for the band and everything)
  • A lot with a few trees at the back to screen us from the neighbors on the next street
  • Lots of windows
  • A finished basement that has "craft and game room" written all over it
  • An actual, honest to god coat closet that's near the door - two of them, as a matter of fact
  • A first-floor laundry room
  • A loft area on the second floor that overlooks the great room
  • A first-floor master bedroom so we won't have to climb stairs when we get decrepit
  • No neighbor with 19 mature oak trees in her backyard that shed their leaves all over our yard
  • Underground utilities, so no tacky power lines or telephone poles in our backyard
  • The town has busing to Liza's school, so I won't have to start driving her there every day
  • Sidewalks and a path that go to a large park, which is located halfway between the new house and our friends' house a mile south of us
We've spent late nights going through the options we think we want, weighing pros and cons (and costs - always the costs) and trying to figure out how much this sucker is going to cost us.  Our current house was at the low end of our price range at the time we bought it - we could pay off our current mortgage out of our savings if we didn't need the cash for a downpayment on the new place - and the new one is comfortably in the upper end of the middle of our price range.  We could afford a lot more house - but then we'd have to decorate and furnish it, and maintain it, and deal with the sorts of neighbors we'd get along with The Giant McMansion of Doom.  Instead, we're sticking with a more affordable neighborhood, one where we see lots of Fords and Toyotas in the driveways and playground sets in backyards.  We're still going to have to carefully check out our financing options to find one that will give us the payment we want but not have us in hock until we retire, but at least we have options.  We're so fortunate to be able to say that.

We're excited about the idea of building a house, but there have also been some sleepless nights and gut-clenching fear thrown into the mix, as well.  Liza likes the idea of the giant bedroom, and she enjoys climbing on the dirt mounds in the empty lots in the neighborhood, but she's scared spitless of moving away from her best friend, who lives four houses down from our current house. They've been buddies since preschool, and I know Liza is going to be lost for a bit without her.  But it's not like we're moving to Minnesota - we're going to be a 20-minute drive away - so hopefully they'll still be able to keep up their friendship.  And since the house won't be done for six months, they'll still have this summer to exploit their closeness.

Jason and I will be moving closer to where most of our friends are.  We'll be leaving behind some "hi how are you" neighbors, and some of our friends will be a slightly longer drive away (I'm looking at you, Tab!), but our best "couple" friends will be a mile away from our new house.  It's convenient for commuting to work for both of us, and to school for Liza.  It's nearer to the beach on Lake Erie, and the science and art classes Liza sometimes takes.  And it's not right under one of the approach paths to the Cleveland airport, so hopefully we'll be able to have the windows open and still have conversations at normal volumes.  I think the biggest thing I'll miss about our current house is the yard.  Yes, it's a swamp for the entire spring, but I'm proud of all that we've done to make it "ours."  I'll miss the shade - there will be precious little of that in the new house for years to come - and the size of the yard.  I'll miss our edible front yard, and our native back yard.  Our new place has a less-deep lot, which we were going to get no matter where we bought or built - our current lot is really, really deep, if you count the swampy part we won't be able to mow until July.  If you leave out the swamp, I think the lots are about the same size :)  And, of course, until we hire a landscaper to come do his magic, our new yard is going to be a giant muddy plain of hopefully-sprouting grass and nothing else.  Yay!

I'm hoping to chronicle our new-home-building project here over the next few months.  I'm excited to see how it all comes together, and to have - get this - an actual blueprint to the house I live in!  Which should tell me where all the pipes and stuff are so I don't screw up and drill into one when I try to hang a picture!  Imagine that!  So check back often for photos, stories, complaints, and way more detail than you probably wanted about counter heights and low-flow toilet options.  Wish me  luck - I'm off to sign the contract now!

P.S. - I'm calling the house "Barry," since it's the Barrington plan.  And here are some pics of the lot and the model house that's built using a similar plan:

(Our lot is the next one to the left - it looks the same, though)

(This isn't the model house, it's somebody's house in that other development that has the same model and elevation we're getting, only ours will have stone on the bottom half)

(The kitchen in the model, looking over the eating area and great room.  We're not getting a fireplace.)

(The loft, seen from the door to what will be Liza's room.  We're planning to put our family games/puzzles and a table and stuff up there, we think.  Probably.)

1 comment:

K-A said...

Fabulous! congratulations, how wonderful for you guys. Um is there a spare room for o/s visitors?? i hope no one wanting to buy the house finds this blog ;)