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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 10/31/2009

Last week I got the Good Faith Estimate and pre-approval from the lender I found who only requires 10% down. On Sunday, our Realtor happened to be in the area and picked up our earnest-money check since we missed the mailman on Saturday. Wednesday evening we got all of the paperwork signed and faxed to the Realtor to put a contract on the land in Blooming Grove that we have been looking at for the last few months. I guess when she notified the selling Realtor earlier this week that we were about to put in an offer, he notified other buyers that had been interested because our Realtor received an email that night that they had another offer on the land.

So our Realtor went back to the office (she's been great doing things like that for us) and faxed our offer in to make sure they considered ours as well. How is it that the land has been on the market for over a year and then the same day we decide to put in an offer someone else does as well?! I'm a little ticked off. Anyways, I didn't think our offer would be the best because I had actually researched and found out that it would cost almost $15,000 just to get utilities to the property, and I adjusted my offer based on that. As expected, our Realtor got an email this morning stating that they accepted the other offer. I was so disappointed, I had already started picturing where to place our house on the land and where the horses would stay. I guess I set myself up for that.

On better news, I love our architect. With her plans she suggested us to look into steel framing since our house would be three stories. I have gotten a few rough bids and it's looking like a possibility. I am leaning towards steel framing for a few reasons:

1. Stronger! It will last forever.

2. No need for pesticides contaminating the soil.

3. More energy efficient, doesn't conduct as much heat as wood framing.

4. Perfectly straight walls, no warping or shifting.

5. Very little to no waste, as opposed to 20% waste with stick framing. And steel waste is very recyclable.

6. My boyfriend's dad can put it together!!!

I am most excited about the last one since it will save us $25,000-$35,000! Today me and Daniel's parents went to the Sunbelt Builders Show in Grapevine and I learned that I am seriously underestimating his dad's possible contributions. We started talking about how I want to do steel framing and he said he is wanting to do the same thing and already has estimates from a company. Then he said he would put it together himself, and I was shocked. Then he says, "Daniel hasn't really explained to you what all I do, has he?" Nope he hasn't! So he took me to the Market Center where he works creating displays for lighting companies. I knew he worked for lighting companies, but I thought he just hung lights. No, he puts up steel walls for the displays, covers them with drywall, paints them, puts down carpet, does all the electrical, builds any displays they want like gazebos or arches, and then hangs up the lights. So he has crews for everything that I would need to finish out the interior of the house. I was very excited. On top of that, he gets to keep the old lighting fixtures when the companies change out their displays with new lights. I'm gonna be able to get free lighting fixtures which are a big part of the budget!! Can you tell I'm excited?

So all of this new information helps take the edge off of losing the land, but that still makes me sad. Back to the MLS listings again. Hopefully we weren't meant to get that land and an even better property will drop in our laps. Hopefully that happens soon; our plans are going to be done soon and I'll have to start getting bids on everything. 

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 10/16/2009 6:35:15 PM

Yea!! We have plans!! Just schematics, but it's exciting to see our plans taking shape! 

And I've submitted all of the paperwork for our land loan, hopefully we'll hear back from the bank next week!


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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 10/7/2009 11:29:43 PM

Our schematic design was suppose to be finished last Friday for me to see, but our architect didn't like the way it looked, so she is still working on it. She's been pretty great to work with; she is very patient and understanding and seems to really be trying to figure out what we want. She said she is drawing up two ideas for us, so I'm excited to see what she comes up with.

I've been reading all of Sarah Susanka's books lately on the recommendation of a member from the forums. The first book, The Not So Big House got me really excited, everything looked so beautiful and cozy, exactly what I'm trying to go for. Now I'm on the third book, and I feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over. It's all really great, but I wonder how much everything costs. Dropped soffits, differing ceiling heights, sunken rooms... it all seems expensive. It does look beautiful though, and I wouldn't mind cutting back on the square footage. I do feel a little silly asking for a three-bedroom house for our 'future' children when it's just the two of us and we're not even married yet, except that I've dreamt of a room all to myself filled with bookshelves since I watched Beauty & the Beast as a little girl. For now, I'm just trying to relax and let the architect do the work. It's too confusing to try to figure everything out on my own.

We've also silently decided on the land in Blooming Grove. All of the utilities came out costing the same, and there's a water line available; so no need for a well! The only thing I haven't been able to cost out is the price to bore under the FM road to bring the water line to our side. No one can give me an estimate or even a price range except for "at least a few thousand dollars"! I've requested for the water company to put in a work order to get an estimate, since they won't give me the number of the subcontractor that they will use. I'm not holding my breath for that one to come through fast.

Now I am contemplating ordering a private appraisal on the land for a few reasons. 
#1. I'm pretty sure that it's overpriced. They are asking $4,200 an acre when according to a local bank loan officer that I was interviewing for land loans, nothing has sold in that area for more than $3,500 an acre. There is no recent appraisal done because it has been in the family for 70 years before being bought by the current owner a couple of years ago, and I think the seller knows it's not worth what he's asking so he won't get an appraisal to confirm that.

#2. If it does happen to be worth what they are asking or more (which I doubt) I will be the only one receiving the appraisal, and might be able to offer them 80% of the value (regardless of asking price) which would eliminate the need for a down payment, since my employer's credit union loans 80% of land value, not just selling price.

Then again, if it turns out to not be worth what they're asking, I can offer full value, but we will still have to come up with the 20% down payment that other banks require who loan 80% of selling price. I just hate not knowing the appraised value to be able to decide which bank to go with, and how much money we need to save before applying. For $400 the peace of mind might be worth it. I will have to call the bank in the morning to see if they will use the appraiser I got the quote from or their own.

I spent three hours today calling around to different banks, mortgage companies, and credit unions to try to find someone with a lower down payment requirement than 20%. I found multiple places online boasting of 100% lot loans only to call & find out that they don't do them anymore. The economic downturn is finally affecting me. I haven't been touched by the recession as a nurse at a hospital until this and the recent announcement that we won't be getting our merit raises this year. At least I still have a job and the resources to build a house. I did find one credit union that is still doing 100% lot loans. I got SO excited... until they said that I or an immediate relative had to live in the area (southern TX, but not all the way south to Seguin where my grandparents live) to be a member to be able to apply for it. Dangit! At least I tried.

I also downloaded the National Cost Estimator free 30-day trial and man, did it make my head spin! I don't know if I can figure out all of the required components to accurately estimate my house, but there were a few general guidelines, like an electrical 'rule-of-thumb' for $$/square foot. That should get me started, and hopefully prevent me from being ripped off. But then again three+ bids for each thing should prevent that as well. I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit, I should probably wait for my plans to get finished.  :)

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 9/26/2009 9:26:03 PM

As I'm patiently waiting for the schematic design sketches from our architect, I am pushing Daniel to make a decision about land. We went and looked at more land in Corsicana, since that seems to be the only area around with land available. My boyfriend is one picky person!! It's a little frustrating. So far I have been narrowing my search to land lots 10 acres or more, under $80,000, within 60 miles, and with lots of trees -- that doesn't leave me with very many choices. Then as we're looking today he automatically crossed out any that were on a gravel road because, "it'll mess up the car." OK, try getting a Realtor to help you with that long list of requirements!

So we went back to the first one we were looking at in Blooming Grove where I got so upset after they cut down a lot of the trees. Maybe it's because I didn't overreact as much or maybe I'm tired of looking for land, but it actually didn't look too bad this time. They put a big round pond/tank on the level part where we would've liked to build, but there's a couple of other good building sites with a slight slope that we should be able to deal with. Daniel is afraid snakes might come to the house from the pond so we might have to fill it in. Does anyone know what you can do with a tank pond? I was thinking of putting the septic system there and filling over it since it is at a lower level than the building sites. I'll have to post a question in the forums. The good thing though is that is has different kinds of loamy soil, which if I remember reading right, are great to build on. I'm just glad there's already a soil report done!! I will have to call on Monday to get all of the cost info on utilities and such like I did for the land in Azle.

If anyone is interested in this information, I'll type it up here. This is for a lot in Springtown near Azle:
No building permit needed if out of the city, just septic permit (which installers usually take care of for you)
No zoning restrictions, automatically zoned agriculture if in the county and no commercial zones in place.

Sewer costs: Conventional if you have good soil: $4,000-4,5000
     Alternative (aerobic) if you don't have good soil: $5,500-6,500
     Both for 500 gal/day system. 
     Permit if doing separate for Wise county is $360 for conventional systems, $560 for aerobic

Wells: If you can get a good water supply from the Paluxy which is 200-220 feet down it's $4,950 total for a well. If you can't and have to go down to the Trinity which is 400-440 feet it's $9,000 total. 

For phone/cable/internet, one of the providers is Verizon and they said they would run it to the house for free if you sign up for their services.

For electric, the provider for that area is Tri-County Coop and they charge $5.75/ft to run it overhead or $6.87/ft to run it underground assuming they don't run into any rock or obstacles.

Of course this was all just getting one estimate per item, but it helped to figure all the costs that would be additional to get this land ready to build since it has no utilities hooked up. Hopefully it will be a bargaining item to get the asking price down. If anyone in the area would like the info for the subs that I got those prices from, please PM me.

So I have left the final decision up to Daniel because I am tired of driving all over the place looking at crappy land. I have given him a deadline of the end of October to decide between Blooming Grove (Corsicana) or Springtown (Azle). Hopefully we'll be able to decide before then.

After that I'm going to have to figure out how to put in an offer and close the deal. The owners in Springtown don't have a Realtor and in Blooming Grove the owner is the Broker/Real Estate agent. I would like to try to close on our own without a Realtor because I really don't want to have to pay a Realtor a commission since I have done all of the work!! The Realtor in Corsicana takes forever to reply and never has time to show us the properties that I've found online, she just gives us directions.

Anyway, I guess I'm done ranting. If anyone has any info on real estate sales please help!

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 9/3/2009 4:28:15 PM

My architect has received my packet with the retainer check and copies from my dream notebook, so it's time to get started!! I'm so excited! She seems like a great person to work with, and she always sends me informative replies even when I thought I was being a hassle. She also sent me a picture of a kitchen that I LOVE! And she has a three page questionnaire for me and Daniel to fill out so she can get to know us and our wants/needs better.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good. We've found that land in Azle that I like and some more close by, and our old Realtor is on the hunt again for more property down south. I'm hoping that we'll be able to decide on land soon so that our architect can have the views and slopes of it to work with. It's a little hard to go see land though with Daniel working 7am - 6pm, Mon-Fri and me working the next couple of weekends. We'll figure it out though.

Also, my mom and I went to the Fort Worth Home and Garden Market last weekend, and I had so much fun! I got a ton of information on the different building systems and materials I've been thinking about using, and lots of business cards. Most of the vendors were very friendly and were happy to talk about our house and answer questions. The Dallas market is in a couple weeks, I'm looking forward to that one too. I also need to look and see if there are any builder shows in this area soon.


The kitchen idea from our architect that I love!

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 8/21/2009

I am finally preparing the check for the retainer and contract for the architect that I've chosen. It's so hard to pay $3,000 when we're trying to buy land, but I know it will be worth it! She was the most expensive one, but I feel she is the most knowledgeable one about energy efficiency and environmental concerns. She's excited to work with me too, she says she likes my spunk! LOL! So I hope I'm not making a mistake, but I'm ready to get designing! 

Also, I've figured out a kind of loophole that I wasn't aware of regarding down payments for land. I thought when banks asked for 20% down that it was 20% of the asking price of the land. The last bank I talked to that owns the mortgage for the land near Azle that we want explained it a different way. They will give you a loan for 80% of the land value, not necessarily the asking price. So the land we want is appraised at $70,000, but the owners are only asking $60K. I thought that meant we would have to come up with $12,000 down payment. In this situation the bank would actually give us a loan for $56,000 (appraisal value-20%) so we would only have to come up with $4,000 to meet the owner's asking price! That is much more doable for us! And maybe we can talk the owner down a little more to save some more.

I am excited!! Now I just have to talk Daniel into the 1 hr 15 min drive (without traffic) each way to work. It's the same distance for me too, but he has to go through a highway that frequently has a lot of traffic. But he's telling me more and more things that he wants in the house, so I know he's getting excited too. It's just taking the leap and doing what we've been talking about doing for years now. Talking and doing are two very different things, but I know we can do it!

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 8/15/2009 10:19:21 PM

Today we went looking at land again since our first choice in Corsicana didn't work out. The first few we visited in Grandview ended up being horrible, one had a big propane tank right next door, a huge electrical line overhead right through the middle, and railroad tracks at the back. The other one had a pipeline running right through the middle of it. I was getting discouraged again.

Then we drove up north to visit a site north of Azle that I found that was unlisted. It is perfect!! It has tons of thick trees to block out the views of the neighbors, a few big open spaces for the horses, a big dry creek at the back at the bottom of a big cliff/drop off. The land behind is 100 acres untouched except for the owner's small barn and horse,s so lots of deer go through there. You could even see the tracks where the deer come up from the creek.

The owner was actually there cutting the grass and took us walking around the land. He and his wife are very nice, and they aren't planning to use a Realtor at all, which I know will save some money but I have to check and make sure we don't need one for all the contracts. The wife said the bank should take care of the contracts and such so I will call them on Monday to find out.

I am very excited!! This land is closer than the one in Corsicana for me, only an hour from work and 30-45 minutes from my family. The only hold up is that it is 1 hour 40 minutes from downtown Dallas where Daniel currently works, but he's going to look and see if there's a station closer to Fort Worth that he could request.

So fingers are officially crossed! I'm ready to get going on designing the plans!!

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 8/5/2009

I missed my appointment with Designer #2 in Austin, so we had a phone meeting. She seems very knowledgeable, even more so than Designer #1. And although she prefers that we already have the land prior to drawing (which we don't have anymore, unfortunately), I feel like that makes more sense then building it without the land information. This house is supposed to be custom to the land to be the most energy efficient. I'm not sure how I feel about Designer #1 not needing to see land, he didn't want to walk out on it even when we did have a lot in mind.

So I'm leaning towards Designer #2, even though she is more expensive. They send out newsletters weekly about energy efficient building, and I learn a great deal. She did say that since I already have a good sense about what I want, she just needs to figure out the floor plan for the second level, and that she should be able to do it for less than $2,000.

I have read three books front to back already, and I'm halfway through The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home. Man, there are so many technical words in there I have to flip back to the glossary every few minutes! Good thing I like to read. :)

Daniel and I went to an open house a couple of days ago for DR Horton, much to Daniel's protest (he says they're all the same, so why should we look at them if ours is going to be different; but I just wanted to see the quality we could get for the price range). The salesperson was very impressed with my knowledge of blown cellulose, Polyseal, 2x6, etc. Towards the end I asked how much the land cost to try to "compare the value of the house with others" (I was actually trying to figure out price/sq ft for them to build). The salesperson I guess kind of figured that I was looking into doing a custom house, so he said that we couldn't get a custom house built for less than $100/sq ft.

I have to keep reminding myself that these people want my money so they're going to try to scare me out of building. It's a little hard to keep my chin up when I keep hearing people tell me that I can't do this, but I know I can. So I tried figured out their building price. The nice house we were looking at with granite, stainless steel appliances, tile, blown cellulose, etc. was $208,510 for 2,021 square feet. Take out the land cost ($40,000) and the 30% builder overhead/profits = $117,957 builders cost, which is $58.37/square foot. So we should be able to build a nice house with 2,570 square feet for our $150,000 budget. I know that's really optimistic, and it will probably cost us more, but I'm just trying to give myself a little encouragement.

We have two home & garden shows coming up in the next couple of months that I am really excited about. I wish we had plans already so if something comes up for us to purchase at a reduced price I would know exactly what/how much we need. But then again, we might find some cool house designs that we want to incorporate into our plans, so it's good either way.

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 7/27/2009

Last week I got off work early and was able to take my mother to see the acreage that Daniel and I were saving up a down payment for. We drove up and my heart dropped. The clump of trees that we wanted to build our house in that was in the in the middle of the beautiful property had been bulldozed! The only reason I could see was that a stock pond had been built in the middle and maybe the bulldozers needed room? But there were areas not near the pond that had also been bulldozed. I wanted to cry while walking around the 19 acres and seeing 5-6 large piles of dead trees; some that looked so big they had to be 40-50 years old!

Then to top it off, the Realtor we had been working with for the last few months sent me a reply to an email I had sent her with the list of things to check on a property before we buy it. I found the list on this website in the Download Gallery. She said that my list was overkill and that the contract would cover most of those things. But I wanted to know everything, like utility hookup costs and zoning before we save up all of this money and put in a contract! I guess this was just not meant to be. The drive to Corsicana from my work would be 1 1/2 hours each way, and after a 12-hour night shift that would be horrible. It's hard enough for me to stay awake and drive the 25 minutes to home now.

So it's back to the Web to try to find new land to look at, and a new Realtor. I was just so excited about that one because it looked so perfect for us! 

On a happier note, I met with Designer #1 Friday as well. He seemed very knowledgeable and willing to think up new solutions for some of my design problems. His cost was very reasonable, and he builds his own homes so he has lots of contacts for subs. I just have to send him the signed contract and retainer, and he'll start drawing up sketches! I would just like to meet with one or two more designers so I won't second-guess my choice later. He also said that he doesn't need to see the lot; the foundation engineer will figure out what we need to do regarding our lots slopes, etc. So having to look for a new lot will not stop the plan drawing! I am excited to get something going, even though we have to start looking for new land.


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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 7/17/2009 1:49:12 PM

After many hours on the phone I found a few great-sounding designers. I just needed to get local to where my site will be, they're much nicer in the country than here in the city. :)

Here are my comparisons:

Designer #1: 
$.80 for square foot of living space (second floor) only (some other architects wanted to charge me to draw up an empty garage).
Total $1,382
Over 25 years as a home designer, very friendly.
O-B friendly as well, used to build homes himself, including his own, and knows all the details of the industry, would probably have some good leads on subs.
Would be able to consult on site!
About one hour away from me.

Designer #2:
$1.25/sq ft living space only.
Total $2,125 but she wants to sit down with me and visit the site to see how much I'm prepared, which could bring the price lower.
Over 20 years as a designer, two years as a certified professional building designer
*Recommended to me on this forum.
*SUSTAINABLE design, which I love! I've been researching recycled building materials like countertops and glass tiles for the bathroom. It would be great to have someone say "Yes, that's a good idea" or "No, that's a big waste of money." She focuses on building orientation, etc. to save on energy costs. This alone may be worth the extra $$.
Will give me the PDF file of the plans to get them printed myself for less $$.
In Austin, three hours away from me (but that's where all the good ideas come from!).

Architect #1:
$.90/sq ft living space.
Total $1,550.
30 years experience.
Very short on the phone, didn't seem very friendly, would not go into details with me like the designers.
No on-site consultation.
About one hour away.

So basically, my one experience with an affordable architect wasn't that great. Now it's just picking between the less expensive designer or paying more for sustainable design. They both seemed very friendly, were willing to talk with me, and had lots of experience. The houses on their websites look very nice, as well.

I have a meeting with designer #2 next Monday in Austin since I'm visiting a friend there that weekend. I'm trying to find a date/time to meet with Designer #1 before then since he is only available before 6 pm during the week, and my boyfriend Daniel doesn't get out of the academy until 5:00.

I'm excited to get the ball rolling again!

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Posted to ADCountryHome by Angela in Fort Worth, TX on 7/17/2009 11:01:20 AM

Hello everyone,

My name is Angela and I'm just starting on this crazy journey of trying to build our first home. I am an RN and my boyfriend is in the police academy (four more months left!). We currently live in Fort Worth and have been searching all over for the perfect spot of land for us. Right now we are getting all of the paperwork ready to put in an offer on almost 20 acres near Corsicana, and trying to save up for the 20% down payment.

I have also been researching house designs, materials, etc. and my folder has gotten so big! I am interviewing architects/home designers right now, but have not found one that I really like yet. I'm hoping to have all of my planning done in 6 months and get the house built in the next 6 months like the book says, but we will see, I'm not rushing it. My boyfriend's father owns a construction company so he has agreed to help supervise the building, but I want to plan as much of it myself as possible. I also plan on borrowing a relative's RV and living on the land during construction so that I can be there the majority of the time since I only have to work three nights a week.

Ultimately, we would like to have our wedding at our new house with a country theme. Lately I have thought about just getting married at the JOP since that would make things much easier in building our house such a getting loans, etc. I hate always getting asked by builders, banks, architects, "Are you married??" :) 

So right now there are a few things I need advice on:
1. Does anyone else know of a bank requiring less than 20% down payment on a loan for raw land?
2. Does anyone know of a good architect?
3. List of recommended subs are also appreciated at this time, I will need them soon.

Thanks so much everyone! I will post pictures as soon as we have our land purchased!!



What our house will look like, hopefully. :)

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