Should I build a balcony above a porch

bommaiNovember 21, 2009

We are building our first new home in Florida with the backyard overlooking a lake. It is a two story home. There is a screened in porch in the back with sliding door entry from the family room. The builder is in the process of framing the second floor when some one suggested building a balcony on the second floor above the porch. The entry to the balcony will have to be from our master bedroom. My wife liked the idea since she would have a nice view to come out to and may be sit and relax. My builder says he can put a trussed roof over the second floor and put outdoor tile on the second floor. They have to strengthen the footers for the porch, and remove the roof trusses from the first floor and move them to the second floor, put floor trusses for the second floor. The cost for this upgrade is $12k. The house price on contract right now is $316k already. We have to make a decision on this by Monday!!! My builder says I will have to pay cash for this change because he does not want to risk having an appraisal problem if he just increased the price of the house. I don't really have the $12k right now. I have saved 20% for the downpayment. What to do?

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You should absolutely make this change. This may be the one of the best decisions you make in your home design, although the price seems steep. Can you talk him down? Something tells me he's run this 'scam' before. "A balcony over the porch would be awesome. But it costs 12k. Decide Monday" Sounds like a hard sell to me.
And he wants cash? Seriously?

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 2:16PM
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Actually my builder has been pretty straightforward. We did not think about it when we signed off on the blue print. They are already building the house and are framing the second floor and the roof. They have held off on the back porch roofing for me to make the decision. They said if I make a decision by Monday, the framers don't have to wait around as they had other things to work on in the house. I could try bring the price down. The biggest problem for me is the cash issue. I would rather do it in the mortgage but my builder has the appraisal issue. If my house appraises for less than my contract price with the builder, I will not be able to finance this house. That is his concern. Still - I am buying my own appliances with cash - I think he should be able to throw in this into the mortgage.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 9:09PM
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Goodness. First, what is the footage of the porch (and the deck)? That should impact your decision. Second, ask an appraiser, and a local real estate agent, immediately!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 9:52PM
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The back porch is 10'x20'. According to the original plan, the porch is trussed (and roofed) and screened in. We have a nice lake view for the backyard. Once the house started going up, we realized that we could have a nice view from above. Our master bedroom is up there and we thought may be we can walk out into a balcony from the master. That is how this whole thing got started. I am doing an end loan with the builder. I just have a deposit with him. The builder said they will take the roof trusses that are meant for the first story and move them to the second story (so we have a covered balcony) - he was concerned that since we live in Florida (Melbourne), the door to the balcony will take a beating if we don't have a protection like a roof over the balcony. Then he is going to install floor trusses for the balcony, then finish it with outdoor tiles and rails per code.

They also have to strengthen the footers below. They are going to eliminate a large window in the master bedroom and put a door to the balcony there. They are going to add a smaller window beside the door to the balcony.

We are tempted to get this but money issue is bothering me since we already put a lot into this house customizing every little thing. Also, our huge window in the master bedroom is going to become about half the size if we add the balcony. I have never had a balcony before but I do see them around in Florida. Should I get a roof over the balcony or not? Since it is accessed only from the master bedroom, is that a negative?

Here is a photo:

Second story: The window on the left is for my daughter's room, the middle one is from the master bath, and the right side is the master bedroom.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 11:01PM
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we did this as well. i don't think 12K is such an enormous amount in the overall scheme of things. especially when you consider the balcony would be right outside the master. the price seems more than fair; we paid 15K for a much smaller balcony -approx 12x6 which also serves as a small extension to our covered patio below. to me this is one of those things that falls under the "no brainer" category.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 1:08AM
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You've got a contract. You don't have a RIGHT to make changes. The builder can price the change as he pleases and you will have to come up with cash if you want the change.
Change orders are rough. You should have foreseen the great view possibilities and access.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 6:30AM
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Since I've had no real life experience dealing with builders (yet) I cannot offer comments there. However I do like the way the balcony offers a nice extra to Master suite amenities. It would definitely be enjoyed by you.

I'd tell the builder that you are very bullish on the idea (provided you feel that way too) -- and request more time to raise the money or add it to ongoing mortgage, etc. Make it clear to him that though his idea is awesome his terms are not :-). I'd try to make it work rather than drop the ball or taking an adversarial approach. After all the construction is supposed to be a win-win.

Hope you can make it work. It is a great idea!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 6:25PM
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If you can't come up with $12K cash for something like this on a $316K build, which is less than 4% of the purchase price, you are on shaky ground already. Most people spend more than that on routine change orders or by exceeding allowances, let alone adding a balcony.

If the house must be appraised when completed to satisfy the lender (which is what it sounds like -- correct me if I'm wrong), then you are already at risk of having a low appraisal come in. If it does, you may have to come up with the cash difference to satisfy your lender.

Current federal lending regs do not permit a reappraisal just because the first one was low. Appraisers sometimes screw up and get it wrong. These days they tend to be low instead of high. Then there is the recent drop in appraised values in Florida, which is something I am quite familiar with. A property I own there dropped significantly in appraised value over the past year due to low comparables. Your appraisal may come in low for that same reason.

Talk to your lender and make sure you know exactly where you stand. If you are in doubt, get advice from a real estate attorney.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 7:56PM
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All of you are convincing me about the balcony. We are too. We are new to building a house so we did not know about all these scenarios! Thanks for your responses. We were originally going to build or buy a house for $250+ and it has crept up to $316!! We have cash for a 20% down payment. We also have another $18k for other expenses. But we were hoping to not spend $12k from the $18k pot. Anyways, this is probably a house we are going to stay in for a long time. We don't want to regret not doing this. Also, we put a $20k deposit with the builder so that he can finance the build himself. We are going to get an end loan after the build. That is where the whole appraisal issue comes in. I am not sure how this is handled. My realtor says that these issues are always resolved by the builder coming down in price to meet the lender appraisal, but my builder won't commit to anything other than "they will work with us". I am going to give him a call tomorrow to see what can be done.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 11:53PM
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What kind of door should I get from the master bedroom to the balcony? A double door opening outside that has glass in it. Any pictures.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 11:54PM
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Creekside may be right that if you CAN'T come up with the cash, you're already in trouble... except that it sounds like you CAN come up with the cash. The question is whether you want to spend 2/3rds of your available slush fund for this particular add-on.

Since your builder is financing, I can certainly understand him not wanting to add something (on a builder finance basis) that might raiss the cost to build above the amount you would be able to get a mortgage for later on. After all, if you can't get a mortgage for the full amount (and can't come up with the difference), the builder will be forced to either lower his price to you or find another buyer. No wonder the builder wants you to come up with the difference in cash now.

As for adding the balcony, I would think that a private "owner's balcony" above the porch would add significant value to the home. Whether it would add $12,000 in value tho, I can't begin to say. Have you considered getting a private appraisal of what the house would be worth if the balcony were added? I assume the builder must have already gotten an appraisal of the house as originally designed or he wouldn't be willing to finance the build for you. The same appraiser could probably give you a new appraisal fairly easily.

Understand that a private appraisal won't be binding on your bank but it just might give you an idea of whether the bank's appraisal is likely to be enough to cover the added cost. Perhaps if the private appraiser appraises the house with balcony at $12K or more over the appraisal of the house without balcony, your builder might be willing to add it if you agree to pay half the cost in cash now. He would be taking a much smaller risk of the house not appraising for enough for you to pay off his financing.

If you do decide to go with the balcony, be sure your builder slopes the porch roof under the balcony so that it sheds water and then add the decking above that. If the porch roof is flat and has the deck built above that. Also, a roof over the balcony will help with water shed issues since less water will land on the deck and seep between the decking boards. Also, if it is roofed, then if you ever decide you want too, you could screen the deck in or even close it in with removable windows for year-round use.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:23AM
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bevangel - thanks for your ideas. I will approach the builder with these questions.

I do have a question though - my builder is going to put floor trusses for the balcony and then cover it with out door tiles. The roof trusses that are currently at the first story level are going to be moved to the second story level so that the balcony is covered. We are in Florida - so we probably can enjoy it year round. The first floor porch is screened in but we want to keep the balcony open for a better view.

Can you elaborate on shedding water. The roof of the balcony will be slanted down. The floor trusses will be flat. Is that ok?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:40AM
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Personally I feel the floor should have a slight imperceptable slant to shed water. They do that with concrete. If level, it will puddle. I'm a little fussy but my builder spaced the upper floor Joists (you call trusses) at 24" and we have 1 x 4 flooring which is really only 3/4" thick. So it doesn't have a solid feel and sound when walking on it. I asked the builder if it should be 18" spacing, to which he said 24" was code. If so, I would overbuild. Pic...

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 5:56AM
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If you put a roof on the porch will it cause your bedroom to become to dark?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 12:52PM
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Our builder said we can move that big double window to the right hand side as shown in the photo and then put a double door where the window is. The double door will be protected from the sun by the roof on the porch, however, the window will not be covered by the porch. That side is facing west though and we will only get sun in the evening. I am thinking however, if I could split the double window into two single windows and then put one of them in the west and on on the south (both in the south west corner of the room). That way we will get more sun from the south side.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2009 at 10:46AM
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I think thats a great idea as long as your furniture placement won't be affected to much

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 11:25AM
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