Time to move on

MacyPAApril 22, 2012

After nearly 6 months trying to get the floor plan we like for a reasonable price, we decided to move on. We had the floor plan we loved, but it turned out to be almost $100,000 over budget. We made some easy changes on windows, bathroom fixtures and a few other things. Then the builder and architect cut down the size and we spent about 3 months refining it only to have it come back $20,000 higher than the bigger house with the nicer options. How can that be?

I never once thought we would walk away. It really hurts. After talking about building our dream house for about 20 years and finally deciding the time was right, we took a chance and failed. It is going to take some time to even consider starting over.

The one piece of advice I can offer is to find a builder and architect that can give you an idea on the price of the house while you are designing it instead of you building up your dreams only to have them crushed in the end.

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That is a sad, but common, story. It's extremely rare to hear someone say: we wanted to build such-and-such a house and it came in on budget and was the size and quality we wanted. The reality is that, for those of us who don't have unlimited funds, it is easy to convince ourselves that we can get everything we want at a reasonable price. I've built three times, and had really good architects and builders, but it always ended up over budget. I think the only advice I can offer is to plan for something smaller than you would like so you can afford it, but have a plan that allows expansion at some time in the future when your income matches your vision.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 4:22AM
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I may be wrong but what I recall is that you wanted about a 3,800 s.f. one story ranch style house with a 55 ft roof clear span. If that is true, it would not give an architect many opportunities for a cost effective design.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:09AM
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I am sorry that happened. One of the best items of advice I heard (too late for us) is to get a builder on board at the same time you get the architect on board. You will have to pay the builder, of course, but if you get a knowledgable one he can give you some advice from the front end (like a 55 clear roof span is not in your budget ;)) As laypeople, we have no clue. . . Then you don't design a house you can't build.

We designed a house that we could afford to build but it was WAY (like over a 1/3) higher than we expected. We made some expensive decisions along the way, like a walk out basement with raised terrace above (can you say structural steel and concrete???).

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 7:12PM
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Macy- I'm so sorry your project didn't work out, but maybe some time off is all you need. Take a break, be realistic about your budget (not just what you can afford, but what you really want to spend) and then think about finding an architect/builder, at the same time.

If it helps, my mom spent a lot of time researching her retirement home...and finally found what she liked and could easily afford. I think it's as important to have some money left to enjoy life...as it is to have the house. It's so easy to get excited and get more house than you can afford, before the unexpected costs. Maybe think about a smaller home, in a great location...or flexible spaces that can be used different ways.

I don't know much about your project, so only trying to offer some general advice. My grandmother always said...if you really try to get something done and it just won't work out...think about trying it from another angle. Maybe there's a reason for the setback and you'll end up with something much better, than you originally planned.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:43PM
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I feel for you and am going down a similar road. We are trying to juggle an early retirement for my husband (age 62) and build our forever/dream home. We showed the builder a plan with fairly detailed specs. He gave us an estimate which made our financial planner flinch.

So we thought about our priorities and decided hubby's retirement is #1, building the house is #2. We'll put off the house for at least a year after retirement, I'll keep working after he retires - in other words, we're thinking very hard about what it will take to make it happen. God and the stock market willing, we hope we'll make our goal in a couple of years.

Keep thinking about what is really important and I hope your dream works out.

What do you mean by a 55 foot clear span roof not helping with cost-cutting design ideas?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 12:56PM
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MacyPA, in another thread said, "The house is a ranch, is roughly 70 wide x 55 deep and has an open floor plan. The only causes I was given for the roof line [that increased the cost by $100,000] were the depth (55 feet) of the house and the open floor plan which made the trusses big and expensive."

Using a 55 ft truss for a residence results in unavoidable structural costs normally only found in commercial buildings where the return on investment justifies such extra costs.
MacyPA has not told us much about this project but what we do know indicates to me that the cost overruns might not be the fault of the designers. It is rare for a truss to be 55 ft even for a commercial building because few uses other than auditoriums and athletic enclosures require a completely open floor space. Normally for a residence columns are used to reduce the spans and the size of the beams/trusses which greatly reduce the costs.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 2:04PM
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I'm sorry that you are frustrated, but a 70x55 foot home with open floor plan is setting yourself up for that budget busting failure from the beginning. That's a deep pocket dream build, not one that involves around meeting any target number. It's something your home designer should have communicated to you at meeting one when approached with that idea.

There are plenty of ways to have a 4000 square foot home with an open floor plan that don't involve the logistics of commercial construction. Creating two stories, or going longer and narrower, or internal support posts that help to keep spaces defined yet spacious are ways that can do that and won't need a week with a crane and enough steel to build an average ship.

Take a rest and start over by talking to a builder first and have him involved from the beginning. That will keep the design honest and grounded around doable construction parameters instead of designing something that will need engineering studies to be able to create it.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:07PM
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