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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 1/11/2007


Aloha, O-B wannabes. My wife and I are planning the biggest adventure in our lives. Design and build a dream home on the Big Island. We have remodeling experience and I have been an architectural draftsman for many years, but now the rubber meets the road. Very happy to have found this website and hope to learn a lot from all the postings and resources here.  I recommend visiting castleblock.com website for some interesting alternative construction methods. It will be very difficult to keep costs down as the islands are of course, islands with limited abilities to bargain hunt, but it's better to try than not. Anyone who is interested in O-B'ing in Hawaii, please start posting here as it's pretty much open to develop the resources and info we need.

Mahalo,

Guy H.

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By Jon in Ventura, CA on 3/4/2007


Hey Guy,

Congratulations on the home-building adventure you are about to start. I see you are from S.L.O., I am just down the 101 in Ventura. My wife and I are also about to start our first O-B experience on the big island. In order to make it a bit easier on myself the first time through this experience, I have been considering buying one of the packaged homes which seem to be quite popular in the Hilo area. I also like the idea of using alternative construction materials. My original home plans were for a green home using 40' shipping containers as the main structure,  unfortunately the lenders are not willing to give me any money for a project like that, so I am now thinking a bit more mainstream.

Best of luck,

Jon


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/5/2007


Here is one idea of how to contain costs. Get a decent size storage area on the mainland and collect your building materials, tile, anything, when you have enough to fill a 30' or 40' container, load up and ship. This might save a lot of money based on what I have heard about prices on the islands for construction materials.

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By Jon in Ventura, CA on 3/5/2007


Hi Dale,

Thanks for the tip. I have been looking into exactly what you are recommending. By buying the materials on the mainland and shipping them in a 40' container, I have the added benefit of being able to bury the cost of moving my furniture and appliances as well by tossing them into the same container.

This will save me the $5,000 it would cost to send an additional 20ft can. Not to mention, the can will also double as my garage once on the property. Win-win-win situation :-)


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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/5/2007


Jon, another great resource is konaweb.com. The forum for people moving to the big island is very helpful for getting feedback from people doing the big move. I plan on buying as much stuff as possible here to ship over since I have to ship some vehicles over anyway. Keep in touch through this forum and we may be able to save some extra money and recommend subs to each other. You should definitely contact Rob Tucker at castleblock.com because he was a master carpenter in Ventura! I also have a friend building in Honokaa who owns a lumberyard in San Luis County who loves to talk about his plans. Good luck on your project.

Guy

P.S. Thanks Dale for the suggestion. I also recommend fabprefab.com for some really awesome ideas on affordable housing.

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By Jon in Ventura, CA on 3/5/2007


Great feedback... Thanks Guy.

We will definitely need to keep in touch. When are you planning on moving out there, and where are you buying? I am looking in the HPP subdivision 10 min. South of Hilo. If all goes as planned, I will buy the land and get this party started sometime around the beginning of May. Perhaps if timing/logistics work out, there could be some opportunities for us both to save a few bucks by sharing shipping costs/hire subs at a discount based on promise of both jobs/or even by buying supplies in greater bulk.

Regards,

Jon


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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/5/2007


Hi Jon,

We bought a lot on the northwest side of the island several years ago, but won't be able to build for several years from now. That gives us plenty of time to do the minimum 6 months of planning Mark recommends in his terrific book.

We were told $350/s.f. was the going rate to expect, which is why I am determined to go the owner-builder route! I hope to get that figure down to $175/s.f. by every means possible. I'll let you know whatever I find out that helps get me there, but definitely start researching alternative construction technologies that still meet code requirements.

Check out toolbase.org, which is a HUD program to disseminate information on affordable construction technologies. Since I draft for an architect, I get to research stuff for builders and developers who will in turn help me in the future build-out. Also, I have a friend here whose nephew is a real estate agent in Hilo, if you want someone to represent you out there, let me know.

I was in downtown San Buenaventura on Saturday and there was a really neat furniture store that had great modern "Island Paradise" type stuff. They were also giving a demo on Bosch on-demand water heaters at Lowe's. Those get a $300 federal tax credit this year, but they run $1,000, so hmmm... Ventura's interesting, but you have got to do something about the lousy street layout in that town!

Aloha,

Guy
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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/5/2007


In the Green Building forum there are discussions about a variety of alternative construction methods. There is also a discussion about tankless water heaters used as part of a solar water heating plan. And that gets more tax credits in addition to reducing your energy bill which I understand is very expensive on the islands.

Also if your lot is big enough and/or house small enough you can take advantage of prevailing winds for ventilation and solar aspects. Doubt that heating is an issue, but shading is.

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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/6/2007


Dale,

I'm glad you are participating in this forum as well. I would like to know more about Arizona's housing market as well. Who knows, we may end up building there someday. We had a chance to visit Havasu Falls and I couldn't believe something so achingly gorgeous existed! (The photo I took of the second falls is my desktop screen image.)

I am very interested in alternative construction methods since throughout California, the chasm between the haves and have-nots is widening and Californians must develop the will and means to provide proper and decent housing to those being left farther and farther behind. Of course that has to be in cooperation with developers and with respect to the environment. Luckily CalPoly, Slogreenbuild, Habitat for Humanity, People's Self-Help housing and other organizations exist here pursuing means and technologies to that end.

This website is an incredible resource and I can't thank Mark enough for putting so much work into it. I'll check out the green building forum and hope to meet even more forward-thinking owner-builders.

Mahalo,

Guy

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By Jon in Ventura, CA on 3/6/2007


Hi Guy,

I must admit I am shocked to see what they are claiming is the going rate for building on the Kona side! I knew it was more expensive over there, but the estimates I am looking at for a contractor to build my home on the Hilo side put my cost at below $150/sf. By going the O-B route, I hope to save another $25/s.f. or so off that.

I worked several years as an estimator for a large construction company, so like you, I got to spend large parts of my day researching things that will hopefully now translate into cost savings as I move forward on this project.

I will let you know if I need to use the Realtor you know. I just started working with one, but so far I am not super impressed.

Thanks for all the tips so far everyone!

Aloha,

Jon


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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/6/2007


Jon, I have a copy of National Estimator 2006 which I am trying to learn as a check against the bids I expect to get.  Do you have any experience with this program or a recommendation for a construction estimating software?

Thanks,

Guy

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By Jon in Ventura, CA on 3/9/2007


Unfortunately, I won't be of much help as far as the software is concerned. We never used any store bought programs for estimating. This is partly because the guys I worked with were somewhat old-school, and partly because of the changing nature of the projects we worked on. Our company did very large custom interiors for hotels, courthouses, Vegas casinos. and theme Parks like Disneyland. We always did all of our estimating work on spreadsheets, and called or faxed the lumberyards to get the most up-to-date pricing. And... Of course, like The O-B Book wisely recommends, we always got price quotes from several sources.

I must add too, that it was often quite a shock to see how much of a price difference per foot there could be for something as "simple" as say... molding. It would be very common to see one dealer quote something like $2.50 per linear foot, while the next dealer would quote the same molding at $6.50 per foot. I guess that showed me it pays to shop around. (Then again, in Hawaii, shopping around is sometimes easier said than done)

Regards,

Jon


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/9/2007


Here is some initial feedback I received regarding transport costs, from southern CA to Hilo, HI.

No toxic materials, no flammables, no oil based paint, door-to-door, mixed goods, you load, 40' container up to 12,000 pounds, $10,900 (somewhat flexible based on dates and weight), all documentation included. May-September is peak season and is up-charged. Single item loads are cheaper because of paperwork reduction.

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By Jon in Ventura, CA on 3/9/2007


Hi Dale,

Does this price also include the purchase of the container?

I have also been looking into the cost of sending a 40' can to Hilo. I have not called any of the shipping companies and spoken with them directly yet, but the following was copy-pasted from westpointrelocation.com

"40 foot container from Southern California or Northern California to your residence anywhere in Hawaii (subject to road and parking conditions) for $7,795. This rate includes loading the container at origin, but no unloading at destination. For an additional fee, we can provide packing materials and pack your items for you. Good for up to 2,300 cubic feet."

Like I said, I have not followed up on this, but on the surface it looks like a good deal.

Thanks!

Jon


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/9/2007


This was the first quote I got through a freight forwarding website. Supposedly several companies will give me a quote.

The company that supplied the quote specializes in household goods so they may be higher than a traditional freight company. I was told that a "typical' household container weighs about 6,000-7,000 pounds. Which is about what you got for a  price quote as I did of about $1+/pound.

And no that price does not include buying the container. But they let you use it for three weeks on each end.

I was also told they have LOTS of empties coming back, which they would be happy to cut almost any deal on a load.

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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/12/2007


Jon, going back to construction costs on the Big Island, I just visited a friend in Murphys, CA and was told that $350/s.f. is the going rate for residential construction there too! When will the madness end?

Guy

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/12/2007


In the Phoenix area that would be on par with high-end homes in Scottsdale while the other end of the city (and spectrum) is about $100.

I bet the definition of "living wage' in Hawaii is higher than most of us are used to.

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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/16/2007


Dale,

You know the phrase "Virginia is for lovers"? I guess Hawaii's catchphrase should be "Hawaii is for locals - not".

Aloha,

Guy

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 3/16/2007


What's your definition of "local"? I know in Tucson because the large flux of the population you have to have lived here at least ten years before others consider one a "local".

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By Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 3/16/2007


#1 rule everywhere is " if you have to ask, you're not a local" but hang loose anyway. I'm not a local Hawaiian, but I sure pass for one when I'm there (probably by non-locals). Hope that gets me discounts.

Aloha.

Guy

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