Western MA Building: Realistic?

GoForAGallopAugust 13, 2014

Just looking for some feedback from knowledgable folks before I start wasting the time of the builders around me.

Buying is very expensive in my area. I have the added challenge of needing about 5 acres (horses), which only ups the price. My budget is about $200k, and in my area that will get me either an updated 800sq ft ranch, or a bigger house that hasn't been touched since the 70's and needs a new septic. Options are dismal.

I do have the option to build on family land, so that the land is free.

I have started pricing out modular homes, and cabins from places like Woodtex. I did a little bit of research into timber frame, and quickly realized it's out of my budget. The issue with modular is a severe lack of ability to customize/poor quality materials, and the cabins, even without the log siding, are not quite what I'm looking for.

My issue is that once you add in basements for the modular/cabins, and utilities, all the things that aren't included, etc, they start becoming way more expensive than they initially seem. For a house that's not really particularly what I want.

I want something in the 1600-1800 sq ft range. I am building on old family land in a rural area, and want something with a colonial vibe. Nothing too modern, no ranches, must be two floors. Your standard farmhouse 30x30 box with a porch is FINE. More than fine.

I am also fine with doing some of the work myself. I can lay down a wood floor, and I can tile bathrooms and kitchen backsplashes. Putting up room trim is no big deal, same with painting. What I DON'T want to do is: drywall. Any sort of electrical or plumbing work. Insulation or siding.

Is it even worth anyone's time for me to start talking to traditional stick-built builders? Or am I going to get priced out of the game far too quickly? I am fine doing some of the finishing work myself (as well as doing things with an eye to upgrading in the future), but materials still need to come in under that $200k mark.

Feeling a little discouraged and overwhelmed. I have what is considered a good job, free property, and what feels like a decent budget, and it still feels like I can't afford a house!

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Annie Deighnaugh

Buy a trailer and save your money until you can afford the house you want...you will need at least $300k I would think...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:49PM
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Wow. Am I really that far off?

The local (well known, well respected, award winning) timber frame place near me can do this plan for $100k. http://www.postandbeam.com/plan/127/

What that gets you is a weather-tight insulated shell and white pine floors that could be used as the main floors for a while.

It doesn't include the labor, foundation, plumbing/electric, drywall and other finishing materials, etc.

Since they acknowledge right on their site (and in person) that they are more expensive than stick-built, I was hoping that if I went stick-built I could keep it under $200k. But if that's not realistic, I won't bother checking around for quotes.

Similarly, the (well respected, well known) modular place puts this plan http://www.the-homestore.com/floorplans/two-stories/whately-1/ at about $100k, and estimate another $75k for the rest of it. But what that $100k gets you is not fantastic....really bottom line carpet (I have pets and an active farm lifestyle so carpet is a no-go, at least on the first floor), bottom line fixtures, etc. Again, was hoping that a stick-built home would offer me a little bit more customization right off the bat, for a similar price.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:18PM
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I live in New England also. BEST case for a normal box colonial for framing, windows, roof, foundation, lumber (all labor and materials included) is 100K. It will be difficult to get kitchen, bathrooms, site work, clearing, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, siding, drywall, insulation, permits, (SEPTIC?), flooring, interior doors (finish carpentry), painting, garage doors, driveway, appliances, etc... for 100K.

Do you have a family or can you live in this house semi-finished? If you can live semi-finished, you can finish stuff over time, and leave some rooms undone (although not sure how your lender would feel about that).

It doesn't hurt to speak to a builder. Your best bet is to talk to some people in the area in the construction business and get a feel for a builder who does lower end developments. New construction is still slow around here, so you may someone who can work with you. Tell him you are on a tight budget and can he quote you a full build with lower end finishes AND separately, quote a partial build where you can do some of the finish work yourself or hire some of your own subs. Bidding jobs is part of their job - so not a waste of time for them, and its a good way for you to get a reality check (good or bad).

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 12:20AM
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Thanks nepool for your experience. I do live on the property it will be constructed on already, no family to worry about having to house, so it could be a slower process but I suspect you're right in that I'll start running into issues with lender.

I will call around to a few local builders and see what they can do for me.

I might just start having to get creative. The place I bought my horse barn farm can get me this: http://www.woodtex.com/cabins/gatlinburg/images/25X40-Gatlinburg.jpg for $145k, with vinyl siding, not log, so it looks less cottagey. It comes turn key, delivered and constructed, for that price, all that I am responsible for is foundation and a GC to hook up utilities. They'll let me customize floor plan as well. (It's just me, so I can combine a few of the bedrooms to have a more spacious area.)

Might have to do that (or a smaller, cheaper model) with an eye to it becoming the "ell"/in-law appt/rental of a more traditional house in the future.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 7:49AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Regardless of build, don't forget about cost overruns. There are always cost overruns. We figured in about 20-30% extra in our budget to handle that.

We built in NE, we already owned the land and we had our design nailed so we had only the most minor changes on building the house, yet we ran into unexpected materials price increases, ledge in one corner of the foundation, etc. And guess who pays for any and all of that...yup, the homeowner.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 8:07AM
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What do local zoning regulations have to say about house trailers, yurts, and other temporary housing structures? Many prohibit them.

Are utilities and septic already on site, or will you also have to have those run to the site? That can run into quite a bit of money, especially if you have rock to deal with.

Is the building site actually a legally separate parcel in your name, with the room for all that you want, and zoned to allow horses or other agricultural uses? No bank or municipality will issue funds or permits to someone other than the name of the owner. And not every place is zoned to allow horses. Or small homes. There are square foot minimums, and other restrictions of usage.

Is 200K the amount that you have saved towards a home, with you getting a loan for the rest? Or is the number the loan you hope to qualify for? In other words, how did you arrive at that figure, and is it real money or loaned money?

Building generally costs MORE than buying existing. Even factoring in you owning the land. More. So, if you can't afford to buy existing, it's very unlikely to expect to be able to construct anything but a pretty small dwelling for 200K. And that is if all of the rules and regulations align to allow that to happen. I would expect you to need double what you are budgeting at minimum.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 11:01AM
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