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Hi everyone! I'm a newbee, and have read tons of posts already! You are all such a great resource! We will be building the home ourselves with very little outside help.
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Building The Not So Big House?


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Julia's Forum Posts: 19
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By Julia in Norristown, PA on 10/22/2006


It's been a while since I have posted because it seems that the process can get very drawn out. We started this last fall! I have been keeping up on reading the forum and the knowledge here has been extremely helpful. Thanks to all!
 
Background: My father gave my brother and me each two acres on either side of his house. My brother built his house and moved in last fall. My husband and I just submitted our subdivision to the township this month and expect to have our approvals in the next couple of months and our target date to start building is March-April if all goes well.
 
I have been reading Sarah Susanka's book The Not So Big House, and with things getting closer I have been questioning our original dream-house design. Because quite frankly it really didn't have all of the features that we wanted or needed. It was unbalanced for us. Her methods are to build smaller with more detail and finish, rather then overbuild for your needs.
 
A friend who is a GC will be helping us build our house. His architect has been working with me on the house design. About a month ago we changed the entire plan. We went from a 3,000-sq.-ft 1.5-story four-bedroom home with bonus space and full basement to a home around 2,300 or so sq. ft. with one story and two bedrooms and room for future expansion for additional bedrooms if we choose to expand later.
 
My husband and I recently found out we will most likely not be able to have children and since then we have discussed our need for the extra bedrooms and bonus space. While we may adopt 5-10 yrs. down the road, our initial goals are to entertain friends at our home and spend time traveling.
 
Originally my plan was to "stay there forever" because of the gift of the land from my father. A few people made me rethink that "don't ever say forever" because once my Dad would pass on in the future, my desire to stay there may not be as strong. Which I have to admit I had to think about. So we are building for our current needs with the possibility of the house being resalable in the future. The expansion may only be necessary for future buyers, or we may adopt and add 1-2 bedrooms.
 
The architect came up with a unique solution for our needs. We will have a large living room and dining area divided by columns just off of the foyer. The living room will have sliders to the rear deck with a fireplace - perfect for entertaining, which we do often. Separately the kitchen will have an L-shaped eating bar to accommodate 6-8 people and an entertaining area/family room all within the kitchen area. This room will have a cathedral ceiling with skylights that have two double sliders to a covered 12'x22' covered porch with a deck just off of it. The future expansion is proposed to be just off of the kitchen/family area.
 
He designed our bedroom to be a whopping 17'x17', which compared to our current bedroom is large for us, but we have a king bed and oversized furniture that we plan to keep. From the master bedroom he has a hallway that contains large his-and-hers walk-in closets. The hallway leads to our master bath which is at the back of the home; it is our dream bath. The spare bedroom is at the front of the house and is 15'x15' with a cathedral ceiling. We will use this for a computer room/guest room.
 
I would like to hear from others about how you made your decision on your house plan. Was it building larger, building for resale or building for your current and possible future needs? Has anyone built in phases?
 
I suppose I keep second-guessing what others will think about what works for us, since our situation is not the norm. So I am looking for any input and stories from people here who have been in our position or can give suggestions or points of view.
 
Thanks!

Julia

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By Keith in Tucson, AZ on 10/22/2006


Hi Julia,

Welcome to the world of "what to do?". I went through much of the same when designing our house. We even kept looking to buy up 'til the day we cut the building site (nothing found for the money to build in comparison).  My wife is a fan of less rather than more. Our building lot is 3.3 acres, which brings in a great resale value once our home is completed. We intend to live here a long time, maybe retire in the house. My problem was to satisfy my wife's perspective for smaller, while building for the best resale value in the future.

My perspective is that I want decent-sized rooms and usable spaces, keeping in mind both resale value and wife's concerns. I ended up designing a house based on the resale value for the acreage and the neighborhood, keeping it simple and as small as possible for construction cost and daily (cleaning), and monthly (utilities) cost. I ended up going bigger than my wife wanted (two bedrooms 1,500-1,800 sq.ft.), to match the neighborhood average (2,500 sq.ft, three bedrooms).

I kept the design cost effective (fewer corners in the footprint, large covered porches on three sides of the house, interesting but simple open floor plan, and cost-saving material with high resale value and energy efficiency). I increased the resale by putting duct work for HVAC in the laundry and finished flex room for future workshop or gym or home office (off the garage) which adds 500 sq.ft. for higher value, for the cost of $100 for the duct work. The design will fit nicely into any lifestyle (including ours). I even get to have a small separate home theater room/den. We will end up with a lot of value and may even cash it in within a few years and buy something smaller (free and clear with the profit).

So I think you're headed in the right direction. My point is, build it for yourself now, and also plan for resale in the future, with what you can afford to live with over the time you plan on staying in the house with today's perspective.

I may end up building enough of the house to get my C/O, finishing the master bedroom, living room, home-theater room, and kitchen side of the house immediately (the great room/kitchen sits in the center dividing the house into two living areas), while drawing out the other part of the house for later when I have more time, money, and need.

We did that with our last house, and it worked out great. Kept the future master bedroom we built (35x40 with 11-ft. ceilings) as a showroom for our business (S/W art and specialty-antique gallery, which paid for the finishing of it into a master bedroom suite) for four years 'til we had our second child (had only two bedrooms at that time), finished the master bedroom suite in grand style, then changed careers (started a completely different business). Sold the home 8 years later, doubled our investment and kept half the land as our next site. We bought the house next door at the same time, and I'm now starting to build 10 years later on the land we kept from the previous house. 

So as an owner-builder, I like the way you're thinking and it has worked for us. Good luck.

Keith


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By Julia in Norristown, PA on 10/22/2006


Hi Keith,
 
Thanks for your reply. Very helpful and very supportive. I appreciate that.
 
I see that you have differences with your spouse, too. My husband's thought was to build a smaller house with a second huge garage in the back of our lot (which I am totally for, so I can eventually move my business there and we can store and work on our project race cars). That project will be phase two after our house is built. Phase three will be the extra bedrooms if we decide we need them.
 
I am handling most of the design and planning as well O-B'ing mostly myself. He works long hours and is mostly away during the week for 12-14 hr. days. My current business is two minutes from the site, so it will be easy for me to oversee things. Which has given me the ability to spend a lot of time deciding the perfect house for us based on our lifestyle.
 
I feel good about building in the direction that we are going. I like larger spaces. Originally I was going for "cozy" with the (unsaid) feeling that it may actually feel cramped to me.
 
I am planning for the house to be Energy Star compliant, so rather than dump our money into unneeded space, I'd rather put it into windows, doors, insulation, appliances and our HVAC (we are gearing towards geothermal).
 
Currently we live in a standard two-story Colonial with four bedrooms and two and a half baths. We use two of the bedrooms. One is our master and one is an office. We only spend time in our kitchen/family room unless we are entertaining. In the case of entertaining, the dining room and formal living room get used. It's funny how they designed these "standard" boxes. We love our deck, which is huge. Outdoor living is important to us. We spend 90% of our time outdoors in the warmer months (here in Pennsylvania) So I made the outdoor living spaces a prominent part of our plan.
 
I appreciate your input tremendously. I don't like to second-guess my plan. But I still do. It's just so important when you are doing this for the first time and maybe the last time. I want it to be as close to perfect as possible and I am sure that most here will agree with me. But I guess that perfect is what we make of it, huh?
 
Thanks again, Keith.
 
Julia

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By Netie in Salt Lake City, UT on 1/21/2007


Julia,

Now that we've all made it through the busy time of the year - did y'all cement your 'not-so-big-house' plan? I love reading Susanka - she's got a great ability to help laymen conceptualize what I like to call a layered floor plan.  

We plan on building to sell, then I'll get my Not-So-Big House. Of course, that means getting DH to finish the remodel so we can sell this place first..  

Netie

P.S. building new is soo much easier than a remodel!


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