All good goals come with frustration. That was certainly the case today with our small house project. Our large (in our town’s standard) lot of .83 acres is not large enough to plan for a potential larger house later down the road if we, or the next owner, decide one is needed. This is due to setbacks and other county mandated zoning issues.
Ultimately we decided that the likelyhood of us ever building a second house was small enough to not worry about it. It also beat the suggestion of putting our house as close to the neighbors as possible, which I’m sure they will appreciate.
We also learned an important lesson: don’t trust the professionals to get things right. You have to double check their work. In looking at the placement of our septic system, we realized that the professionals put the system about twenty feet further west than it should be placed. This essentially places our septic tank in the middle of the main water flow area of our property. Not good.
Tomorrow, I get to call the county and see what needs to be done to move the septic to a more appropriate place. Hopefully it won’t involve a costly redesign, but if this project has taught me anything, it is that every hurdle just means another check has to be written. Maybe that is a bit too pessimistic… But those are my feelings tonight.
About two weeks before we found out that our architect was moving to Alabama for a job (congratulations to him), our county passed new regulations for tiny homes. These new regulations essentially eased some of the restrictions on how ingress and egress function as well as allowing for ladders to loft spaces. This was allowed for any building under 400 square feet. My husband and I quickly decided that since we both work and are not exceptionally gifted in construction that a tiny house would be the way to go. Since we had a great experience buying our shed from Tuff Shed, that was the first place we looked. They were able to draft a 14 x 28 building on a permanent foundation that we really liked.
I’m sure the first question you will have for me is: why did you decide on a house with a foundation vs a towable house or a manufactured home? The answer to this is simple. In our zoning, those homes simply are not allowed. Based on experience, I do not think that this type of home could fly under the radar for very long without major issues with the county and a couple of or neighbors. Additionally, a foundation allows for a wider building. As it is, we will have a sturdy home with concrete floors, a metal roof and 2″x6″ construction.
Knowing that we are in a six inch sheet flood zone, the representative at Tuff Shed recommended a company as a “permit expediter.” Basically, this company knows how to do the necessary drawings and regulations to keep the permit project moving along. The permit expediter sent our initial sketch to the county building department who said that since our loft was larger than one third of the overall floor space, it counted as living space and pushed our house over the tiny house limit of 400 square feet. Bummer. Chris and I discussed the ramifications of modifying our plans and decided the extra living space (which will eventually include a second bedroom) will be worth the additional expense and regulations.
The next step was financing. Financing our new home has been the hardest thing to do over the last year. We tried numerous banks before we finally found someone to lend us enough money to get started. This leads to question number two: why didn’t we go with a construction loan?
The answer is: we really wanted to. However, we needed to get a down payment on the house and needed cash to do it. Additionally, we found construction loans difficult because they prefer you to use a contractor (which adds a lot of cost) and want to have full drawings, budget, etc. These of course are good to have, but full drawings were going to take time, and I was going to need the cash before then. Finally, many construction loans only loan 70-80% of the total project cost or value (depending on the loan). His includes paying off the note on the land and would have made our budget very tight. Many loans also require large payments upfront (we were looking at one that had four points which added up to thousands of dollars). Additionally, the size of house and construction by Tuff Shed for the shell was likely to be an issue. Be forewarned all those wanting to follow in our footsteps!
The site of our future home
Needless to say, we were approved for a personal loan last Friday and will deposit the check in the bank soon! Last week, we also made the payment to get our water meter installed. This week, we are working on findin someone to install the septic. Tonight, the permit expediter sent us preliminary drawings, and I finally get to say: Our house is FINALLY on the way!
A long time ago, I started this blog to document a changing life. I did not keep blogging. Now, I will attempt to restart this blog. I hope you enjoy it.
Since my last post, there have been several changes in my life.
My husband and I moved in with a friend and his three kids. It was awesome! Sure, it was difficult at times, but an awesome experience of living in intentional community. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
We bought property with the intention of building a small straw bale house last June. After numerous conversations with banks trying to figure out the construction loan piece, we were told to make the house bigger. Basically, we were told the bank would not fund a smaller house (under 1,000 square feet) that we could easily afford. They would only fund a larger house (that would be harder for us to afford). We complied and hired a very talented young architect to design the house.
The house that was designed was beautiful and immediately, it was the house of my dreams. It was two bedrooms, two bathrooms and had two internal courtyards. I still want that house.
So we started saving for construction.When our roommate moved to Texas, we moved out of our rental house. My grandmother gave me her 19′ RV. We lived with some very generous friends for awhile. Then, we brought in electricity, paid the impact fee, and moved the trailer onto the property. That was in early December. Since then, we have been living on our property, saving as much money as possible. We have not yet been able to save the necessary cash for water or septic. Fortunately, we were able to buy a water tank that holds our water supply and will later be used for rainwater harvesting. We also have black water tank that is used to dump our RV.
Another purchase (some debt requires) is a large shed. The shed stores our goods, including our couch, television, and portable washing machine.
This was all fine until the beginning of the summer. At the beginning of the summer, our neighbors forced us to face reality. They forced us to leave the comfort of our someday-I-will-live-in-a-real-house-but-for-now-the-trailer-is-fine mental state when they complained to the county about numerous things. The country girl in me wanted to tell them to mind their own business about what I do with my property. The Christian side of me wanted to remind them they should have tried to work things out with us first. So far, I have managed to ignore them.
However, this issue with the county made us realize that time is running out on our ability to maintain status quo. We had to form Plan B. Since Plan B is its own discussion in its entirety, I will save that for its own post.