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Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Posted by gopintos (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 1, 09 at 12:24

Hi there

I am new to the forum. I joined after reading some of the informative posts during my research.

We lost our home to a fire about 5 weeks ago. Still waiting on insurance to settle, but in the meantime, I have been trying to get ideas on the rebuilding process.

We have our land and barns, we have lived there for over a decade, our horses and critters are there, so building a new house close to the old one is the route we want to go.

I thought I had relatively simple taste. Now I am discovering there are things that I really do prefer, things I really must have, some things it really doesnt matter.

I thought I wanted to put a farmhouse back on site. Something like the Don Gardner Southerland. Then read where undiscovered space bumped up the SF to something like 5000, and I really dont need that much.

Then I saw plans like the O'Neal, Luxembourgh, Hyde Park, Holloway, Genevieve.... and I really like that look also and I think it would look nice in a country setting. They are all basically the same but different sq footages.

We have one son at home. Thought we would have a full basement with his bedroom there, in the "man cave".

Would like to do away with the formal dining room where everyone is afraid to eat, and have one big country kitchen. I would like to see a huge long island, or possibly split into two islands so you dont have to walk all the way around. I cant quite picture in my mind what I want, but I envision some sort of big downhome kitchen with some sort of big downhome table. But most of the stock plans don't really look big enough to have an island kitchen.

I need a mudroom, some place close to the garage, would also like to have a bathroom close by. Thought that would be the laundry room also, however entertaining thoughts of the laundry room closer to the master bedroom, and just thought of that this morning, so not sure how that will work out with most of the plans I have mean looking at.

I want two guest rooms upstairs, with a bonus room. Have one daughter going back to school and one grandson. I have asked them to move home while she finishes pharmacy school. Would like the bonus room accessbile from the upstairs, but also maybe a second stairs either through garage or directly outside. That will be their hangout.

Full basement would be open across the back, mostly for entertaining but I want lots of outside access in the event of a fire.

But we also live in tornado country, so thought should make one room in the corner a shelter type room, all concrete block.

I want a grand entry. Two story. I want easy access to the front door. So many houses look like the front door was just stuck on for the sake of having a front door. I want people to see it, use it, and not have to walk a half a mile of sidewalk to get to it.

I would like to entertain the idea of geothermal heating. Would like to entertain the idea of radiant floor heating. Would like to entertain the idea of stained concrete flooring. I have a bit of a whimsical idea for my cabinets.... not sure about that one yet. The family car is a pick up truck, so not sure about some of the sizes of garages in the stock plans. Would like to have a separate office space, rather than a formal living room, but that would be the first room to go if need be.

But other than that, my taste are quite simple :-P

Anyways, why am I posting? Not even sure. Just looking for advice I guess. I have been reading how people have researched and planned for months and years. I am hoping to be all done by fall, or winter at the latest. And that may not be very realistic.

Some people are saying it is not a good time to build. I would think maybe you could find some real bargains? People needing the work? But I dont know. I have talked briefly with a couple of contractors. Didnt want to move too fast yet though, not until we have dollars in hand.

Anyways, I really really miss my big farm house. But with most of the kids gone, it really was too much house. But now with kids coming home to visit, and mulitplying, I thought it would still be nice to have the space, just a more efficient way to heat and cool it.

But I did want all our main living on the first floor. Thinking about getting older, although that shouldnt be a real issue for 15 - 20 years hopefully.

So anyways, if anyone has any advice, good places to research, websites to visit, please let me know.

Thank you for your time, and thank you for all your wonderful posts from the past. Researching that will keep me very busy.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

I'm really sorry to hear about your home and I hope that you found comfortable temporary housing while you rebuild!

It really depends where you are in the country with regard to whether you build or buy. With regard to big cities like Chicago, I would say buy-don't build. If you want to build, go for it. It sounds like you know what you want.

I am shocked to hear some people on this board building for under $100 sq/ ft. They seem very willing to share how they did it to so you've come to the right place. It has to vary considerably from region to region b/c our bid was a "steal" for new england and we're paying $250 sq/ ft without the high end finishes, trimwork, etc. Our highest bid was $330/ sq ft.

My advice would be to keep doing what you're doing. Once you narrow down some plans, decide what you'd modify about them and hire someone to make those changes for you. Maybe start speaking with local builders now to get a ballpark of what construction costs are in your area? No one will give you concrete numbers until they see a plan, but it will help you figure out if the house you want is within the constraints of your budget. We've had friends design a house only to find out they couldn't afford the build!

building-cost.net helped estimate construction costs, but it was a little low for us personally. It may be helpful.

...don't want to rain on your parade but getting in by this fall or winter is unlikely. In order to be in by this winter, you would need to be at the bidding stage by now for a 2500-3500 sq ft house. That also depends on how motivated your builder is to complete the job!

Good luck- let us know how you make out.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Thank you.

We were fortunate to find a rental house right away. It is about 1000 sf main level, with about another 1000 mostly finished basement.

It has been good for me, because I have been able to see how much stuff we really dont need. And I am able to see things that would really be nice to have.

I live in Central Missouri. The Gardner homes with the gables, I was given a rough estimate of $115 per sf. My friend just had a home finished for less than $100. Her initial estimate was $75, but she made many changes and many upgrades.

Since we have the land and like the location, it only seemed natural to rebuild. But in seeing listings around of things like 200 acres w/old farm house for 315k and another listing for 38 acres with 3700 sf house for 280k, I am beginning to wonder about this decision.

It would be nice to have exactly what I want, although I dont even know what it is exactly that I want.

I think you are right about my wishful thinking of a getting into a home even by wintertime........

THank you for taking the time to reply.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

My heartfelt sympathy over the loss of your home. I'm impressed that you have already begun to think about how to turn that horrible loss into an opportunity to build or find a new home that will match your families needs and desires even better than the one you lost.

It sounds as if, even if you choose to buy an already-built home, you would like to keep the land you already own. Have you thought about how far from the current land you would be willing to live and how daily trips to/from to care for horses and other critters will affect your lives? Being more than a few miles distant may become unworkable over time. So, if you're thinking of buying a ready-built, you are going to be limited to whatever is being offered within a rather limited radius.

Also, can you really afford to keep both or would you be forced to eventually sell the land and barns. I don't know Missouri homestead law but in Texas, you're only allowed to have one homestead so, if you have two pieces of property, the second (non-homestead) piece is subject to levy by creditors if you even get into trouble financially. Also, only the one homestead is eligible for homestead tax exemptions so you'll pay additional taxes on the other piece of property.

But, building a new home - particularly a truly custom home DOES take time. I would be very surprised if you were able to settle on a final plan and select a builder by the end of the summer. And then, if all goes well, you can expect it to take at least 6 to 9 months for the builder to actually build your house.

While tract homes can sometimes be built in 3 to 6 months, that is because the builder has already built the same house many times, knows exactly what he needs and when he will need it. He doesn't have to deal with anything unexpected except maybe the weather. But with a custom home builder, each house he builds is different there are always glitches along the way that slow things down.

Another option to either building a truly custom home on your own land or buying a new piece of property with an already built house on it might be to look into a "build on your lot" semi-custom-home builder.

Basically these companies have a portfolio of plans that they offer but instead of only building their plans in a few developments and then selling you the completed house and lot, they will come build the plan you choose on the lot you already own.

Here in Texas, one such company with a reasonably good reputation is David Weekly Homes but I don't think they build in your area. But there is bound to be a similar company in your area.

David Weekly allows you to customize some of their plans to some extent and of course you get to choose paint colors and have selections to choose from among for various finish options such as brick/siding, cabinetry, flooring, fixtures, etc. But, since the company has built the same exact floor plan many many times, they've worked the kinks out of the plans and can finish your new home just about as quickly as a tract-home builder.

Of course, this only works if you can find a "build on your lot" company with a floor plan in their portfolio that you like. We actually considered going with David Weekly but the only floor plans and elevations they had that I really liked were only offered in the Charleston, SC area. I just didn't like anything in their Texas portfolio.

Anyway, its an idea. And good luck to you.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

I am so sorry that you lost your home in a fire....but welcome to this site......so many wonderful helpful people here. There are many "country style" homes on GW...you might even search the forums for this style of homes....or go to the Decorating Forum. GOOD LUCK TO YOU.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Thanks so much for all the good info.

I don't really know what made me think by fall or winter. I just had it in my head that it would take 4 months to build a house. It just took a friend 3 years, so I don't know what I was thinking.

It has been very difficult with actually letting go. It really isnt so much the material things, it is all the memories that went along with it. But the good thing about memories, you will always have those.

Mostly I wanted to move forward as soon as we could for my son who is still at home. He is a freshman in highschool, so I wanted him to be able to build a few memories in the new house before he moves on. And his friends, at age 15, helped me with that as much as anything. They said we can bake cookies and build new memories :-)

Anyways, thank you again for making me put my thinking cap on. We are renting just north of town, and our property is just south of town, a small town. So it is probably less than 10 minutes to get there. But even that could wear on you after awhile.

If we don't rebuild there, would probably just move all together, closer to my husband's work. But my son is so happy with his school, I would be afraid that losing his friends, his school, and his home would take it's toll. He finally enjoys school. It has been a battle for the last 9 years, and this year, he finally turned the corner.

And I was raised here. All my family is here, my zip code has always been the same, so when it comes downs to it, I can't see us doing anything but rebuilding.

Some of the houses here in town, average out about $100+ per square feet, about the same as building new I think. This house we are renting, is very nice on the outside, but the inside is all still 1966. Even if we bought it, we would probably still sink some dollars into the inside and put the price right back up there.

So anyways, since I don't know yet what I am doing, I am sure it won't be done by Christmas. :-)

I do think part of my comfort, has come from this rental house in a way. It reminds me of the house I grew up in. My parents built our house in 1965 when I was 6 months old. This house is a 1966 and I see many of the same features that I grew up with, so this reminds me of my childhood at times, reminds me of my parents, and that gives me some comfort.

Ok so anyways, this forum has been great. It is making me really think about things. I spent most of the day yesterday just reading posts. I think I made it up to page 20 :-) If I would have built a house weeks ago, I think I would have over done it, made many mistakes, trying to get back what we lost. But now I am re-evaluating everything. Do I really need this or that. We have been managing just fine without this or that, trying to think long range.

So this forum is awesome. I have been so impressed with the way someone posts for help, and you guys just jump right in and say, have you thought of this or that, or move this here or that there, and look at this and someone redraws it or photoshops it. I am just so impressed with the time you guys take out of your own day to help someone else.

Truly amazing and inspiring. Thank you!


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Hello,
Sorry for your loss, we really are.
We also lost our house in October 2007 San Diego wild fire and currently rebuilding it. So, a bit of shared information.
First and most important - hire reputable insurance adjusters - they take 8-10% of your total settlement for content and dwelling and other structures loss, none for additional living expenses. They usually worse every penny- I never heard of a case, where insurance advisers were not able to get you maximum of you insurance coverage on each and every category and sometimes beyond of it. Unless you have a really good experience fighting insurance companies for big losses. It will take them 3-4 months to get you number, but you can start planning right away, assuming you have all your money minus adjuster's fee.
Finding a stock plan on internet is not big of the deal, customizing it - is. Get a custom designer/drafter to implement your own ideas - it does not cost much - $1- $1.50/ sq.ft. It will take time, however - 3-6 months to design, structural engineer and pass development department to get a permit.
The next step is a most important one. Which way you'd prefer to build. Using general contractor or be an owner builder.
First way will be relatively worry free, at least you have a contract and will just need to select finishes. Watch for change orders! Advice is - place everything you possibly think of on your plans and just tell your builder "stick to the plans" on any attempt to slap you with a change order.
But that first way will cost you a lot. GCs still live in year 2005 virtual reality and will charge you adequately.
Recommended way in this economic situation is to find a site supervisor for fixed fee and find subcontractors by yourself and/or with a help of supervisor. www.craigslist.org is your friend - you'll save hundreds of thousands just by placing ads for you work out there. You'll be getting 30-50 bids for your project instead of recommended 3-4. You'll find out that bids differ in times, not in percents. Like $10,000 vs $40,000 for the roof, $10,000 vs $35,000 for HVAC, etc.
And the last, but not the least - keep good relationship with everyone in your family - stress time places stress on relationships - a big percentage families which suffered such a loss got divorced. That is a statistical value, so be patient.
Good luck!


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Very sorry this happened. It happened to some freinds of ours in a small (not so small anymore) town outside of San Diego. Being small town at the time, everyone knew everybody including the fire fighters. One of the firefighter friends saw a small body lying in the hall thinking it was the youngest daughter. Thankfully it was just a life sized raggedy ann doll of the daughters. After everything settled down, our friends ralized how lucky they were that no one was hurt and that the house could be re-built. You lose the house along with some sentimental things/memories, but it all can start anew. Best of luck!


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Did you see gary's house in this post? To me it definitely looks like a farm house.....so much like the one my grandmother had years ago....brought back memories.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

I would stay away from Public Adjusters unless you run into a brick wall with the company and feel your not getting what you're owed. Even then I would stay away as there are too many other options over giving up 10% of your entire settlement. If it's a total loss fire you don't need one anyway as you will probably max out the policy limits.

Check with the county, many will streamline the permit process so repairs or the rebuild can begin as soon as possible. I would also notify the mortgage company if you had one and haven't done so. If you still have a mortgage the check will have to go to them and they will decide how to disperse it during construction so this can be a sticking point trying to access funds. You will have to coordinate that with the builder.

Most insurance companies give you 180 days to replace all of your personal belongings. As your house probably won't be done by then you will have to buy and move everything into the rental or better yet ask for an extension so you can buy later and move directly to the new house.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

I can't imagine what a terrible blow this has been! You must all be reeling.

I suppose my first reaction would be to 'replace', but when you write that you have only one child left at home I wonder if you would think more about where you want to be living in three years. It might not be on the same property. It might not be in the same town.

Since it will be more than another year before you could move into a replacement home...well, by then your son has only two more years of HS. Maybe you'd stay in this rental or another one until he graduates. You could use the time to decide where you want to live -- and buy or build without so much pressure. Will your next home be your 'forever' home?

I don't know if this is even possible, given insurance settlement rules. Can you bank the settlement and 'replace' later?


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

I am out of town so I don't have much time right now, but had to take the time to post to you. We lost our home to a fire about five yrs ago and had a protracted fight with our insr=urace company that took almost two years.

Please don't live in dream land and think that they are on your side. They are not. Think about hiring a reputable Public Adjuster ASAP. You need someone that will be on your side.

I am so sorry for your loss. I know what you are going through. More when I get home.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Thanks so much, you guys are great.

Our insurance WAS great... at first. Now they are dragging their feet and now we have to talk to another person, because we have horses.

I can't imagine what we will do if they won't honor the policy due to the horses.

I use to lease out my horses for a trail riding business, which is not my business but I think the insurance company thinks it was my business. Even if it was, there are separate insurance policies to cover liability. It wouldnt have to fall onto the homeowners.

The rides were not on my property. We only have 20 acres.

Also, the house isnt actually in my name, and neither is the insurance policy. It is my husband's name.

And also, Missouri has an equine law, which basically says you ride at your own risk, in addition to signed waivers that said the same thing, only 2 pages worth.

So I am hoping we get the opportunity to explain all this. But we got a letter Friday stating they MIGHT not pay.

Needless to say, I am not in the best of spirits.

But I feel better having read your posts :-) Thank you!


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

That's a crazy loophole if having horses keeps you from receiving insurance money after a house fire! Do they think the horses started the fire?!

Sorry to hear of your loss. Just my two cents, but if your son finally likes school...I would do everything in my power to keep him there. Add that to everything else and it would be a lot for him to go through psychologically at such a tough age.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

No, I think what they are going to try to say, is that had they known we had horses, they would not have issued the policy in the first place. Well, if they had known about the trail ride business, they would not have issued a policy with a home business which such a potential for a liabily case. And since they didnt know, it is our fault and therefore they don't have to pay.

There is separate trail ride insurance, just for that. Not a homeowner's policy. And the business is owned by someone else. And the house and the policy is not in my name. And rides were not done on our property. I leased my horses and rode along as a guide, so for the duration of the ride, the horses and risk were the property of the "leasee" so they were responsible for themselves and the horse. So I am hoping that once we meet with this other fella, it can all be cleared up. But I am just afraid they are going to make it difficult.

And depending on how long they drag it out, we are making our first mortgage, our second mortgage, and now a rent that is as much as the first mortgage.

So anyways, I had been trying to stay positive, look to the future, find the good, but that is starting to get more difficult :-(

I am still optimistic. I don't mean to be a downer. It is just like a bad dream right now.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Just an update.... Good News, I think... hopefully

DH talked with adjuster this morning, the insurance company adjuster, and it was positive.

The adjuster said, and he said the legal department said that even if it was my business, it isn't an issue and they want to settle this and not have to deal with any issues again afterwards, so he thinks they will settle this week.

Now again, he is the insurance company man, and might be blowing smoke up our rears, but my husband sounded very optimistic and felt much better about things after speaking with him :-)


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Don't be TOO eager to 'get it all over with'. Once you accept their money, there's no going back. Do you even KNOW what replacement would cost you?


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Hi- here is my additional two cents after having to negotiate with an insurance company on a separate issue. Insurance companies, as we all know, are happy to take your money for a policy. When it comes time to pay, they do everything they can to be fair while trying to lower the actual payment for some reason or another. Even better, if they can get someone else's insurance company to pay, all the better. I think they are trying to scare you into thinking you won't receive any payment at all...so that when they come back with a much smaller settlement your reaction is, "Whew, at least we're getting something!!!" It's all about setting expectations. Please don't let them intimidate you- you purchased a policy to cover you in an event such as this and now, unfortunately, you need that insurance. Horses or no horses, your intentions were in the right place so a technicality isn't going to cut it. Good luck- just keep asking them to "Do the right thing." You don't want more or less than the house was worth. That phrase works for me when someone is trying to be a jackass (most of the time).


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Thank you again for the info. It sure helps to have others not so close to the situation to help put things in perspective.

Our policy was such that we will get X amount. But also if it cost more to build, we had some other deal that would pay up to 20% more. So yes, we need to know what they concluded it would cost to rebuild.

On our contents, we would get X amount if we wanted to itemize every single thing. Otherwise, they made another offer of 75% of that X amount, and we didnt have to itemize anything. We decided to go that route, it was a fair offer.

But I can definitely see them trying to scare us into a lesser amount. And that is probably exactly how I might have felt, and least something is better than nothing.

You guys are great, thank you so much.

I havent even been looking through the forum, havent been looking at plans..... just feel like everything is at a standstill. But I am in better spirits today, maybe I will take a gander around today.

Thank you again!


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

I am very sorry about your fire. My Aunt and Uncle (in MD)just went through this recently. In their instance they had to basically rebuild the same house to get the greatest benefit out of their insurance. After the build, they promptly sold the house and moved into something smaller. For whatever reason, the were not able to build a smaller home on their lot and pocket the difference.

Keep your guard up with the insurance company at all times. They want to get out of this situation paying as little as possible.

Good luck.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Gopintos,
Your policy probably contains from several categories:
1. dwelling (your house)
2. other structures (like barn, etc)
3. unscheduled personal property ( your possessions)
4. loss of use ( a cost to rent your FORMER property, not current + furniture rentals, utilities, etc)

For #1
Dwelling coverage usually consists of base coverage - "fair market value", plus (usually) - 50% more of extended coverage (will be paid if you actually rebuild).
Good luck getting 100% of your base coverage without a public adjuster - hard to believe. With a public adjuster you'll get 1.5*X (where X is your dwelling coverage limit) minus 10% of their fee - roughly 1.35*X - much higher than 0.75*X you mentioned.

For #3
Public adjuster will help you to create a list of things you overlooked and you can easily present a list of things which were in you possession like 1.5*X of total coverage - in that case (and it was in mine) you don't have to itemize anything - insurance will just pay 100% of coverage limit - again - minus public adjuster's fee of 10% and you end up with 0.9*X (where X is your unscheduled personal property coverage) and you didn't have to itemize.
There are many other things public adjuster will help you as well. Just get a reputable one and listen. They are salesman, and most likely will pressure you as time sharing people do, but it will be for your good.
Our experience was very positive. Without them we wouldn't be able to get even a half of our money.
Regards.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Your insurance company should be paying your rent on a home comparable to what you were living in. You shouldn't be paying your own rent. Have they offered to give you any cash/checks so that you can purchase the things that you need on an everyday basis to get by?

Please don't let them bully you. Do you even know your rights?

Please hire a Public Adjuster that knows the ropes and will be your advocate. You need someone to watch out for you. Otherwise you are at the mercy of your insurance company. You can't believe anything they tell you. Don't trust them.

Our insurance company adjuster flat out told us lies which we did not know until we hired our own Public Adjuster. Yes, he did make a decent amount of money from our fire, but bless him, he earned every darned penny.

Our fire was nothing compared to the two year battle that followed. Our whole family was traumatized--no I am not exaggerating.

Good luck.


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Sorry to hear about your loss.

We built a plan similar to the southerland. It is the brentwood. Might be an option if costs start running up during your bid process. It is the farmhouse style with about 2500 sq feet.

I certainly hope your claim process goes well. Your statement about your horses and the company not knowing about them.. I'd like to add to all viewing this post, know your agent before you know their company. I am in the insurance business and we do write horse properties. I am amazed at how many properties are insured incorrectly. It only takes a claim for an insured to know how properly they are insured. Unfortunately for some that is too late.

Peace


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RE: Rebuilding after a Total Loss Fire

Hi all,

I made an update posted, I think it was eaten :-P

Anyways, everything is going to work out. Our insurance company came through for us. I feel they were fair and paid policy limits, and while it seemed like an eternity, it was really only 6 weeks to settle.

I have pondered and pondered floor plans. Just when I think I have decided, I find something else.

Love this Brentwood. Thought I had decided on the The Luxembourg over a farmhouse style, but now I am going to have to reconsider :-)

Trying to decide if the lines of the Luxembourg might put the cost up there close to something like the Brentwood? I do love the look of both. Two different looks, but it seems I keep coming back to these two styles, regardless how many plans I look at.

Thanks for letting me know of the Brentwood. I can't get to the Don Gardner site for some reason on my new computer, so having to go through another site, so I am afraid of what I might be missing.


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