Build the Dream or Modify It?

mydreamhomeJanuary 25, 2011

Please weigh in with your opinion...

We are building our last and final home. We fell in love with this dream home 8 years ago. But with everything going on at the moment, we're exploring a couple options:

Build the house and leave the 2nd story unfinished (we will complete 2nd level ourselves over next few years)


Build the 1st level & lose the dream home facade.

Things to take into consideration:

1. We are about to turn 40

2. We have 2 boys ages 16 & 6

3. The house will have a master bedroom/bath, 1 inlaw suite w/bath + 1/2 bath on first level. 3 beds, 2 baths on 2nd level when finished. For single story modification, the living room & inlaw suite will be converted into the kids' bedrooms making it a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home on the main level & no inlaw suite)

4. No we don't need all those bedrooms for 4 people...our thought process was master bedroom for us, each son has their own room, my parents have a main floor suite when they come to visit/need to move in as they age(already experienced this with DH's parents) & we have a spare bedroom that can be used as a bedroom or office or anything else we wanted.

5. My husband is determined to give me my dream house (he has already realized his dream: property & a big new shop. Understandably, he wants to make my dream come true too)

6. I'm ok with modifying the dream & building the single story--not great with it right now, but ok.

7. The single story will save us about $50k upfront, reduce our monthly mortgage payment by $270 & no unfinished project upstairs to worry about.

8. The two story will cost us an additional $50k upfront + completion funds & additional monthly mortgage cost but it will have increased market value/greater equity in it when completed.

So which would you do--build the dream (at greater cost but increased market value & equity) or modify the dream (save money but possibly regret not going for the whole enchilada everytime you pull up the driveway)?

Pics of 2 story dream home & proposed modification to single story:



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A couple of issues with your photos.
1. You have not mentioned what square footage your project will be.
2. Both of your choices are so different: had they been similar, it would be an easier question to answer.

There's no question that the brick home is more elegant and expensive, period. It will be 'hard' to tell the county that you're not finishing the upper story on that home and not have the same tax liability. In our county you would not get an occupancy permit.

However, on the white house, you could have something worth looking into. If the pitch of the white house was higher, you could have a story and a half on that house and it might be just perfect for you! This is the type of home I built and partially finished, then decided to finish all except over the garage. (We did not get a hassle from the county for this house either; however, with the brick version, we know of people having trouble getting the occupancy permit when it was not all finished.)

To finish the area over our garage, all we need is flooring and hook up the AC, then it would be ready to 'go'.

So, I know I would stick with the white house, raise the roof, and modify.

I have over 6,300 under roof, of which about 4,400 is heated, not counting the garage. I had six people in my house in the beginning. Now, two teens, 17 & 19, share the upper floor of 4 BR, 2.5 baths in 1,600 sf. Downstairs I have a huge MBR suite, large laundry with 2 washers and 2 dryers, huge eat in kitchen w/ walk-in pantry, DR, GR, office or 6th BR, and salon or 7th BR, kid's study, and 2.5 baths. In a couple of years, we will not need this huge house and I'm already looking for our next home. AND THIS WAS OUR 'RETIREMENT' HOME. Now, it's really ridiculously large and exhausting to maintain myself. I do not want to hire out for cleaning help either.

I cannot imagine not having the same space downstairs. However, I could see only having two BR's, 1 Bath, and maybe a TV room upstairs.

My home is at the link below to show you how you could expand your roof to add that second floor to the white house base floor plan. You can change the pitch to a 10/12 roof. Mine is a 12/12 pitch. My garage is technically a two car (18'x8' door), but larger than a typical three car garage at (37'x26'); which give us well over 800 sf over the garage to finish very easily.

Here are your photos as I think you wanted to show them.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 8:08AM
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Beautiful home you have. Love the porches! Thank you so much for getting my pictures to show--haven't posted a photo in a long time.

-Right now, looks like occupancy permit/bank approval won't be an issue to leave upstairs unfinfished as long as we have 3bd/2ba downstairs & upstairs sealed off with doors to code.

-Didn't think about the tax end of things--good point.

-2 Story home is 2744 sq ft downstairs, 1679 upstairs

-Single story home would be 2744 sq ft on main level. We would use the 1st floor plan from the two story original set of plans and apply a similar facade to the posted picture.

-We have had a VERY hard time agreeing on a single story facade (probably because we've been picturing the 2 story home on our property since '02). The single story house photo'd above is as close as we've been able to come to agreeing on + maintaining some of the original house's look and feel to our satisfaction--although I will say those columns on the white house are a little too ornate for me; I'll have to go with a more conservative column.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 8:36AM
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Option C. Change the dream.

The large house will be too large for your needs, both as a young family, and certainly as an older couple. The smaller home will suit your needs more, but you'll always feel like you "settled". So, change the paradigm entirely. Start fresh with fresh eyes as to your needs and what your current budget can build NOW. Engage an architect to design something that works for you now, and later and that you won't feel you "settled" for.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 10:01AM
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I really like what "live wire oak" said. If you take off on the larger home and realize it's too much you are stuck and I have heard so many stories of people leaving upper levels unfinished and then can't finish them as they first planned. And the "settling" for the smaller place you will always wonder "what could have been"! I say start over too!!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 10:41AM
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I don't know which house you are going to go with but I had to question your statement that this will be your last home. "Almost 40" seems pretty young to know your future. You stand to live another 25-35 more years. Don't lock into a 35 year plan at this point! Life is a dynamic process. Change is the only guarantee! Just a thought.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Are the vicinity houses as big or bigger than your planned 2 story house?
Are most of the houses pricier than your 2 story house will be?
If your answer is yes to both questions, I suggest you to build the 2 story house; it will be a safer investment.
If the houses around yours are smaller, I would skip the second floor and work on the elevation until I am satisfied with it. Starting over is a good option, too.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 4:03PM
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LilFlowers MJLN

My husband fell in love with the Abberley Lane home since it was an Idea Home on SL. I love the lower floor plan but not too fond of the 2nd floor except for the awesome bonus room. As I am now in a 2 story and do not really like it with three children under 8. I do not want another 2 story home with bedrooms being upstairs. I love your idea to close in the living room to make a bedroom. I would probably add another bedroom on the side of the living room where the porch curves around the living room since there is a small porthole window that is supposed to be there. As is the 1st floor is just a little under 2700 sq. ft. I'm not sure I would want to have an unfinished upstairs. There is really not a way to close off the top of the stairs from the rest of the house. I would just change up the 2nd story to become a hip roof with a high pitch roof. Not to say that is what YOU should do, I'm just stating an opinion about what I would do since we are looking at house plans and keep coming back to that one.

Here is a link that might be useful: Abberley Lane House plan

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 4:44PM
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We are doing this also. The home we are building is going to be set up to have a study and guest bedroom on the first floor that we will use for our two children still at home. We will finish the second story on our own after moving in and they will move upstairs. It is somewhat similar to your second photo above. My design.

You can see photos on another thread...

Here is a link that might be useful: my dream home in process

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 5:20PM
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Thank you to everyone who has offered up their opinion!

Live Wire Oak & Two To Go- I know exactly what you mean about Option C & changing the dream/starting over. Those were my thoughts exactly--if I can't have what I've been dreaming of then I want to build something completely different. I found another plan I really liked alot & sized it down to meet our needs, but my DH did not agree. We have looked at just about every plan between 1800 & 4000 sq ft on S. Living, ePlans, Don Gardner, Frank Betz, Frank Snodgrass, Sater Design, Cool House Plans...well you get the picture. That's where the single story above comes into play--it's as close as we've been able to come to agreeing on an exterior facade for a house.

MarthaElena-The houses in the area are minimum 2500 sq ft and they go way up from there (over 5000+ sq ft). There are a number of S. Living plans in the neighborhood. The houses are mostly very traditional style houses--Federalist, Georgian, Cape Cod, European. So either house would fit in the neighborhood just fine style wise & square footage wise. The neighboring houses range in age from built last year to 20 years old--some are definitely pricier & some are not, so I feel comfortable saying we'd be in the middle with the single story & on the upper end with the 2 story once complete.

HomeAgain-I've been following your thread. I love your layout. I especially like the laundry/mudroom/pantry layout behind the kitchen.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Because there's been a lot of discussion about who's going to have enough money to buy all of the higher end boomers houses when they decide to downsize, it seems like being in the middle would be the safer place to be. You never know when health issues, or the death of one spouse, or another downturn in the always uncertain economy may force a move.

Seems like the suggestion to do a 10/12 or 12/12 pitch roof on the one story so that it could have additional space now or in the future would be the most logical way to go, IMO.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 12:03PM
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I was undecided, until I saw the pictures. That second home is beautiful! :)

If you could do a half story upstairs, would that solve your problems? Maybe two bedrooms and a bath, with a bonus room over the garage? Or one big bedroom, a bath and the bonus room? Then have the master bedroom suite, with a nice sized office/guest room on the first floor?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 3:48PM
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Another great source for house/home plans. This is where we purchased ours. And believe me...I searched every web site for 3 years.

Here is a link that might be useful: great home plan site

    Bookmark   January 29, 2011 at 10:02PM
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Do you have a plan name or link to the white house you have posted...your number 2 house?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 9:49AM
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I would take the facade you really like to an architect or good designer and they can work with your wants and needs. That is what we did and it worked great! We have a very similiar house to the first one posted, but it only has about 3100 heated sq. feet.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 1:00PM
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i'm sort of in the same boat and will finish the downstairs but leave the second story to finish as i can afford to.
would rather have it all right away, but it's just not to be at the moment.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 6:54PM
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mbshack- I was informed that the white house above is a custom version of Bill Poole's Mount Aire. I have not been inside, we saw it in a neighborhood & really liked it. We ended up modifying the dream (with the help of summerfield) and it became kind of a combination between the two houses. It is now complete & we love it! We put in a set of finished stairs to the second story in the rafters (with enough space for 9' ceilings) which we left unfinished for now. You can see photos on the building a home thread for previous months.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 12:26PM
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