Building a Custom Home This Year? Make Sure Things Go Smoothly!

While it certainly is exciting to build a custom home, it is also overwhelming. Since there are a variety of custom home builders and they may or may not have guides to help one through the process, it pays to get organized before the initial meeting. With all the decisions to make it’s a great way to make it all less stressful. A key step is to get it all out of one’s head and organize all the pertinent information via an easy to use method.

Changes to Existing Residence

When considering the home or residence currently being lived in, what are the favorite aspects? Is the back deck phenomenal? What about all the natural light. Any elements that one would like to incorporate in the new build they should list out.

Now, make a list of the things that aren’t working well. Anything that needs to be improved goes in this list, along with possible solutions. It helps to walk through the current residence and make notes in each room.

List the Most Important to Least

Elements that are most important should be listed or charted so they can be implemented in the new house. The more specific the description the better for the custom home builders to understand. One could even have the builder walk through and see these elements. Anything that’d be difficult to live without should be included. This list will likely change a bit throughout the process but it’s a great start.

For all the information about to be built and collected, a binder with tabs or another type of notebook, even digital is great. Include the names of custom home builders, architects, designers, and contractors in the binder for easy access. Also, include pictures of rooms that are attractive and have decorative elements. Finally, a copy of the budget should be included so everything is within negotiating distance at any given moment. Keeping everything centralized will soothe the stress level.

Prepare the Current Home for Sale or Departure

The sooner one gets their current home ready to vacate the better. Take the time given by the chosen custom home builders and divvy it up as to what things will be completed where living now. Decluttering, yard sales, improvements and listing with a real estate agent are all vital steps to preparing to move out and on!

The best part of getting all this done now is that when it comes time to move it will be much easier. There are plenty of moving checklists online that can be printed out for convenience.

Hope for the Best – Plan for the Worst

It’s scary to read, yes, however it’s better to be mentally prepared. No matter how long a custom home builder says it’ll take to complete something, plan on it taking about 20% longer at least. There are always things to do even if the timing stays on schedule. Plan days so that when something unexpected arises there will be plenty of time on the schedule to tackle it.

Also, when it comes to budget take off about 20% of the total and plan for it. This will be for any unforeseen circumstances. Even with the most careful planning, something is bound to come up that could be an extra expense. On the flip side, something may be less expensive and money is saved.

Working with custom home builders can be stressful, but that stress can be managed. Get a strong plan in place and get to know the process so that there will be mostly success and fun.

How to Maximize the Use of Land When Building a Home

The ideal use of land does differ from culture, traditions and personalities. This article will be focusing on actualization of satisfaction by an ideal usage of land.

The supreme part to make the best use of limited land is to plan. It is certain that heavy planning must be considered before a parcel of land is used for construction purposes. The planning process is complex. It involves a coherent and mutual preparation by all the people concerned. In the case of a family home, the mutual benefit (comfort of everyone) must be considered and not sole benefits (comfort for some) of only one kin such as the parent. It is certain that the land available is restricted to its surface while ideas, wants and needs are abundant in comparison. This is why planning is critical. Once the first brick has been fixed, the cost of changing can be beyond thoughts.

Planning Phase 1

The main element in planning is to gather ideas. These thoughts can be gathered directly, by allowing individuals of concern to discuss about the matter. Some examples of the discussion will include; how many rooms are required, size of each the rooms and the type of house; a one or two store house. Major concerns are what is required in a garden and what will be planted. These are all significant questions that must be generated prior to the ultimate planning phase of the utilization of the land.

Planning phase 2

The easiest way to maximize the land availability is to build a two story house. The house can thus be constructed on a smaller surface area and the result will be more land left. However, this can turn to be an inappropriate approach. The house might be uncomfortable and perhaps slim in physical space. It is important to hire someone to design different models. This will give you a visible architecture of the concretization of ideas. At this stage all the personal plans gathered at phase 1 must be communicated to the designer so that he can integrate them into a professional plan.

Review Plan Phase 2

The architecture has been developed for the land. This design must be reviewed by the people concerned. They have the opportunity to think over the proposal and in order to confirm that the use of the land represent an ideal and maximum usage. Everything must be well located including the garden, doors, rooms, entrance, windows, trees and garage. If any changes are to be made they must be attested at this stage. This stage should be well thought for at least 2-3 month as things done in hurry never last long.

General advises

When planning something carefully it is best to seek opinions of friends and people with experience. The individual constructing the plan himself can be a good advisor but he might as well be marketer. The total surface area must be accounted in the plan. This will assure that the land is utilized to optimum and that maximum benefit can be derived from it.

Remember that maximizing the use of land, does not imply that more land should be left free. It rather constitutes that people using the land are satisfied. They have acquired something that they desire and they are happy with it.

How to Build a Home – Lesson 2 – The Building Lot – Part V – Your Contract to Purchase

A real estate agent or broker can write a land contract to protect your interests. Naturally, a real estate attorney would be even better. If you hire a real estate attorney, tell the attorney to write the contract in plain English so that an average person can read and understand it easily. You would like the Seller to be able to read the contract and make a decision without feeling the need to hire an attorney. Seller attorneys have a knack for killing a sale.

Don’t get locked in with a fill-in-the-blank contract. If something is important to you, I don’t care how ridiculous it may seem, put it in writing. I have stipulated in writing that if a particular tree died, prior to closing, I didn’t want to buy the property! I was buying the property for that tree. As long as the Seller and Buyer agree, you have a deal; but you must specify in the written contract the terms that you want to agree on.

The main items you want in the contract are what I call “contingencies.” These contingencies ensure that if I can’t get the money or the building permit to build this home (or whatever I want to build), I do not want to purchase the property and my earnest money will be refunded. A real estate attorney will be helpful in writing the contract to ensure that your contingencies are enforceable.

Anytime you purchase real estate, I recommend you hire an attorney to look out for your interests. Never rely on the bank or the seller’s attorney look out for you, the buyer. Your attorney is going to read over all the many papers you’ve got to sign at closing, many of which you likely do not want to read and probably would not even fully understand. Most people simply glance at these papers and sign them. The safest bet, though, is to have your attorney read these papers and advise you before the closing occurs.

I had a friend that developed a subdivision. It stipulated in the loan documents that if the lender foreclosed on the property, the lender could collect 15% for attorney fees. My friend assumed that meant actual attorney fees. He did not have an attorney to advise him about the lender’s contingency clause. In short, the bank foreclosed on the property and the actual attorney fees were around $15,000.00. However, 15% of the loan amount was over $150,000.00! The bank demanded and got the $150,000.00. A good real estate attorney would have noticed something like this and advised my friend because of that contingency clause to negotiate it out of the agreement. This can be easy to do up front – impossible, after the fact.

“A note on choosing your attorney.” If you’re going to have a doctor operate on your brain, you don’t want to hire a foot doctor. The same is true with attorneys. Attorneys tend to specialize. You don’t want just any attorney handling your real estate transactions. I’m not saying you need to go to the biggest and most expensive firm in your area to find a “good” real estate attorney, however it’s worth your while to find a reputable real estate attorney who will notice little details that could be a potential problem. Some out-of-state banks may want you to hire a local attorney to issue a written opinion as to the validity of their loan documents in your state. You want more than an “opinion letter.” You want the attorney to read those little things in fine print and advise you of any potential problems. The $150,000.00 fee I mentioned was “legal” and would have passed an opinion letter, but what my friend needed, and what you and I need, is to have such a clause removed from the loan agreement. A reputable real estate attorney will be able to do this and other safeguards to preserve your best interests.

Even if you have the best attorneys in the country checking the title to your property, spend the additional money and purchase an “owner’s title policy.” This is very cheap and something I consider a must. The attorneys are only human and they can make a mistake when they’re checking the title to the property. There can also be title issues the attorney would not be unaware of, such as fraud. The lender will always acquire a title policy to cover their loan but this policy does not cover you and your equity. That’s why you want an “owner’s title policy.” Also, have the policy insure the boundary lines of your current survey. If you don’t do this, you could have a problem with a boundary line that is not covered under the basic title policy.

I remember a builder in Atlanta who bought some land and built a subdivision. After selling many of the homes, the real owner showed up from Florida wanting to know what all of those houses were doing on his property. The seller that sold the land to the builder had forged all the documents and signatures and was not the actual owner. Only those banks and those owners that had title insurance were protected. Over the years I have seen many horror stories like this, so remember to get the title insurance!

Just for your information, if you currently own property but you do not have title insurance, you can still get it. Instead of hiring an attorney, look in the yellow pages and call a title insurance company direct. This will probably be cheaper than going through an attorney.

Tiger Salamander Vivarium – Building a Home for Amphibians

The tiger salamander is a shockingly vivid amphibian, which is at home both in the water and on land – in fact, it begins its life unable to exist on land, and by the time it grows to adulthood is able to subsist on either medium. They certainly prefer land by this time, and enjoy burrowing in sand and dirt, as well as wading in and out of shallow pools. One of their most fantastic attributes is their ability to regenerate, which goes far beyond the mere ability to heal wounds. It enables them to regrow limbs that have been cut off, and even replace some organs – extending even to brain tissue, which is truly amazing by human standards.

Indeed; it is this ability to regenerate that is probably somehow related to their exceptionally long lifespan for an animal their size. In a captive habitat such as a vivarium, a tiger salamander – called this because of the distinctive black stripes running along its green-colored skin – can survive for up to two decades and actually longer than this, with a good regimen of care. The first part of this task of properly caring for a tiger salamander is the provision of a large enough tank for the vivarium you plan to build. Because these amphibians are fairly large creatures at well over 6 inches in length, they will need a large enough environment to avoid feeling cramped in, and a twenty-fifty gallon tank should suffice nicely.

There is another reason why the vivarium tank should be this size, however; if you are planning to house more than a single tiger salamander, a tank that doesn’t afford them enough personal space will encourage fighting among themselves – and that’s if they are of a similar size and strength. If one salamander is larger than the other, he will feast upon the smaller every chance he or she gets, resulting in missing body pieces for a while before they regenerate. Indeed; too much feasting in a single sitting could even result in death for the smaller one. A good rule is a twenty gallon vivarium tank for each salamander you wish to house under one roof.

This talk of cannibalism brings us to the food they eat for sustenance – and not solely due to unfortunate proximity. Although tiger salamanders (and others of their species) tend to eat rather infrequently by our reckoning, the character of their food matters a whole lot: crickets and earthworms, blood-worms, mealworms, etc should comprise their diet. Not more than three times per week, with a good average being just once per week, should you put crickets and food pellets sold at pet stores (made of meat) in their vivariums. Pinky mice and large cockroaches also make good meals, but infrequently, as they will gorge themselves and become too big – which is quite unhealthy for them and causes restricted bowel movements.

As for the vivarium tank itself, make sure the dirt you use isn’t fertilized, because they don’t live in such places in their natural environments. Supply a substrate, then plant coco fiber and soil on it for best results. If you keep all these things in mind, there’s no reason why you won’t have a healthy twenty years-plus of tiger salamander roaming in the land you built.

The Home Owners Many Benefits of Building a Single Level Home

What is a single level home?

A single level home is just as it sounds: It is a home–built on one level. Often referred to as a “patio home” or “slab home.” Not to be confused with a crawl space type foundation commonly used with mobile and modular homes. They are finished and appear the same as any home.

What are some of the benefits of a single level home?

Single level homes have no steps inside and rarely have steps on the outside. People with physical disabilities are obvious candidates for a single level home. Elderly folks or those looking to build for retirement also can benefit from a single level home. Just about anybody can appreciate not having stairs to climb after a hard day’s work. Not having the extremely dangerous hazard of someone falling down a set of stairs is a priceless benefit.

Eliminating the wet, damp, moldy, basement or crawl space that is constantly under the risk of flooding is another huge benefit! Single level homes do not require a sump pump or any type of mechanical drainage system to maintain.

Crawl spaces and basements are notorious for housing rodents, critters, insects, snakes and other reptiles. With a properly built single level home, keeping Mother Nature’s little creatures out of your new structure is easily manageable. Stairways consume valuable square footage as well as being expensive and complex to build.

A single level home is an excellent match for a hydronic, in-floor heat system. With proper planning the slab can operate as a “mass thermal storage system” that will store heat in the winter and provide natural cooling in the summer. This storage system is very energy-efficient and typically qualifies for price reduction incentives by energy providers such as electric companies.

How are single level homes built different from traditional homes?

Single level homes are commonly built with a Frost Protected Shallow Foundation (F.P.S.F.)” or “Monolithic Foundation,” This means that the concrete footings and the slab of the home are constructed as one unit, rather than the traditional footing.

In addition an F.P.S.F. has insulation both horizontally and vertically on the perimeter of the foundation. The size of the insulation is determined by a chart according to frost depth of each individual construction area. The 2009 International Residential Building Code references this in section R-403.3 in the code book. As with any foundation system it is extremely important to use quality building practices and materials.

Understanding the characteristics of the soil and environment is vital as well. “Clay” or “water saturated” soils are undesirable soils when building with an F.P.S.F. A soil that has natural drainage properties such as sand or pea gravel is more desirable. Water saturated soils tend to freeze and expand causing obvious problems with concrete and other building materials. A building site with water saturated soils can be rectified simply and affordably with a more desirable soil such as “fill sand”. One of the major benefits of an F.P.S.F. is the reduced cost compared to a traditional foundation, without compromising the integrity or longevity of the structure.

What about flooding?

Proper planning regarding the slab height according to the high water table in the building area is a sure way to keep a single level home safe from flooding. The use of a good water runoff plan is critical as well. Keeping the slab up higher than the ground and sloping the earth away from the house is vital. The use of “flashing” where the slab meets concrete walks, decks, etc. is extremely important. Common sense will go a long way when planning and building a structure of any kind.

Worried about tornadoes and high winds?

With the weather we experience in the Midwest, the idea of living in a home without a basement can be intimidating if not scary for some folks. There are several different types of storm shelters that will work for a single level home. A well designed, above ground, built-in storm shelter, will protect you and your family, and alleviate some of the fear that comes from tornadoes and high winds that have been known to have devastating results. There is also an option of a below grade storm shelter. These can be as simple as a mini basement which can double as a spare room.

Make your next home a single level home!

Single level homes are becoming very popular in the housing industry. “Why?” You may ask–there are so many reasons! The benefits are plentiful and the costs are affordable. The sky is the limit when it comes to designs, floor plans and options. They are innovative yet simple to operate and maintain. The conservative building practices used are in alignment with green building. They really are the home of the future.