Exciting News – Follow Along On Our Latest Project!

August 24, 2015

Exciting news!  We are starting a new project — a major renovation of a 3,500 square foot home on three acres in a suburb north of Atlanta, GA — and will be sharing updates all along the way!   The project is just getting underway now and we hope to have it finished by November.   Here is the first picture to share…

SpenceProject1

The home was built in the 1980’s and has “great bones” as the saying goes, but it has never been updated, so almost everything has to go.  We’ll be opening up walls, finishing a screen porch, adding a front porch, renovating all the baths and kitchen, installing all new flooring, all new paint…well, the list goes on and on.  Stay tuned for our journey…

Be on the lookout for our photos, tips, trials and tribulations!

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Our most recent project…

June 24, 2015

Hello everyone!  We took some time off blogging in order to complete a renovation on a neglected home we bought last year.  We worked on it for several months — removing outdated, cracked tile flooring throughout the first floor, opening the kitchen to the family room and the dining room to the living room, rehabbing a screen porch, updating some finishes, and doing some additional landscaping — and then sold it to a new family who will enjoy it for years to come!  Here is a picture of a couple updates we did–the new stone surround for the fireplace and the stone island surround in the kitchen. For the flooring we used was a high end laminate that looked great! We received lots of compliments on it.  Further, keeping the same flooring throughout the main level really helped emphasize the new open flow we created by taking down several walls!

The home was staged for sale in these pictures…

Family2 family-2B

It always feels terrific to take a neglected home in a neighborhood and see it transformed into something special for a new family!  And, the community benefits as well!

On to the next project…

 

 

 

 

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Is Living/Building in a Rural Area Right For You?

March 12, 2015

country livingAs a home builder and real estate specialist, I sometimes run across folks who dream of moving out of the city and buying land in the countryside. It always brings to mind the movie Funny Farm (starring Chevy Chase), where a couple decide to move from New York City to a charming Cape Cod on acreage overlooking a picturesque setting in the country. Of course, as movies go, they encounter a series of mishaps and realize their dream was nothing like reality. In fact, I have sold similar properties to clients who toughed it out a couple years and then decided to sell.

All this said, I am in no way against moving to a rural location. I actually live in the country now and many people who are thinking of building or contracting their own home make this choice as well. But there are some things you should consider before making this decision.

First, living in the country often means being isolated. From its very nature, a country lifestyle can be a little solitary. Neighbors, if you have them, are usually spread out. It is not uncommon to go for days without seeing anyone but your family. It’s the perfect situation for someone who is a home-body though.

Second, building in a rural area can pose some challenges. There may not be access to public utilities (especially, water). You may have to factor in the costs of digging a well or installing a propane tank for gas. You may even have to run electricity to your site, which may be expensive. Further, you will likely be located further away from building material suppliers, so getting material deliveries to your site may be more difficult. The supply of subcontractors in the area may be limited as well.

Third, commuting (whether to a job or the store) can be an issue. You will have to get used to living without some of the conveniences you might be accustom to, such as a short trip to shopping or restaurants. And driving long distances to work may not sound that bad at first, but it can get tiring after a while. Telecommuting is possible with many jobs these days, but high speed Internet options are not always available in some rural locations. Fortunately, there are now several companies offering high speed Internet via satellite, but this option is usually more expensive and comes with its own set of issues.

Fourth, if you decide after a few years that country living is not for you, selling may be a challenge. There simply are not as many buyers looking for homes and property far from cities and work.

By now, you must be thinking that I don’t recommend a rural lifestyle. Not so! There are many advantages to buying property in rural locations:

  • land can usually be purchased cheaper if its further out from a major city,
  • the air quality is often better in the country,
  • You can implement some of the new energy systems (solar power, for example) that may not be practical or even allowed in city developments,
  • You usually have more freedom to do what you want with your land (less restrictions),
  • You can create an almost self-sufficient lifestyle.

Deciding to buy property in a rural location and then build your own home is a big decision. It can truly be a dream lifestyle, but be sure to make the decision with your eyes wide open.

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Contracting Your Own Home – Which Jobs to Consider Doing Yourself

March 8, 2015

Home improvement - handywoman sanding wooden floor in workshopIf you are building or contracting a new home yourself for the first time, doing some of the work may sounds appealing. It’s easy to watch the professional work and think, ‘Wow, I could do that myself!’ That’s not always the case, though. The old adage that professionals make any job look easy is often true! Also, keep in mind that you are already saving substantial money by contracting your home yourself, and that you will be spending considerable time in your job as general contractor.

But if you have additional time and an inclination to do a few items along the way, then more power to you! Of course, if you have experience with various construction trades, then by all means go ahead and do them yourself. But if you don’t, be careful. It’s important to end up with a quality product and if you are not experienced doing certain things, then disaster can strike! If you decide to tackle a few projects, at the very least plan to take a quick course on the task. Home Depot and Lowes both offer free clinics and step-by-step guides on their websites on such topics as tile installation and painting. The following is a guide to some of the easier tasks along with some of the jobs you should definitely leave to the professionals!

Jobs to consider doing:

Installing silt fencing: If your jurisdiction requires silt fencing for erosion control (and many do these days), you might consider doing this task yourself. There are certain rules you must follow, so be sure to ask.

Rough stake-out: You can do this yourself as long as you are certain that the lot lines are accurately marked.

Landscaping: Consider installing the landscaping yourself. In fact, you might even do a better job planting since the plants belong to you! You may however, need to hire someone with a tractor to smooth the ground for the final grade.

Clean up: You’ll need to clean the job site along the way after various stages of construction. Often this means having a dumpster delivered to the job site and then filling it up with debris. You will also have the final clean at the end of construction before you move in. This job includes scraping paint off windows, scrubbing bathroom, cleaning floors, etc. It’s harder work than you might imagine, but could be worth the money you will save.

Jobs that require some skills but could be learned:

Painting: Most of us have tackled a painting task somewhere along the way and realize that a quality paint job takes some skill! But with a little practice and patience, you can attempt this job yourself. You might consider hiring a professional to paint the outside if you have a two story home that requires ladders, etc.

Interior Trim: If you’ve had a little experience doing some simple carpentry tasks and you are not planning to install elaborate moldings, then you might consider doing at least some of the trim work yourself. You should feel comfortable using a power miter saw (and own one too!). If you have stairs, you might want to hire that job out.

Cabinets: If you plan to use pre-manufactured cabinets that come in boxes or that have to be put together, then you might consider installing them yourself. This is a tougher job that you might think though. You’ll need to make sure any upper cabinets and installed square and plumb using vice grips to hold things in place. This is really a two person job!

Tile work: If you plan to use fiberglass tub enclosures and do not have a large amount of tile to install then this is another job to consider tackling. You’ll need a tile cutter and perhaps a tile saw (which can be rented for the project). If you have a stall shower that requires a shower pan and a tile floor, you should probably leave this job for the pros. Establishing proper drainage and knowing how to work with the pan materials are musts for this tack.

Jobs to leave for the professionals.

Unless you are skilled and experienced with the following tasks, plan to leave them for the professionals: Foundations, pouring concrete, framing, masonry, roofing, and all the mechanicals (plumbing, HVAC, and electrical) which require licenses to perform. Making certain that the house is built level and square and that it’s safe to inhabit is your main objective!

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Common Problems when Contracting Your Own Home

February 14, 2015

Construction industryContracting your own home is a noble undertaking, and one that requires a good bit of pre-construction planning. It is important to anticipate things that can go wrong in the building process. Mistakes can be very costly to overcome, so becoming aware of some of the common problems that plague home builders, from novices to experts, is in order. Following are some of the major things to watch out for.

Inadequate planning. Don’t jump into the project without a complete and well thought out plan. All your decisions–from design to construction methods to decorating–should be made from the start and there should be nothing left to chance. Since this is likely your first major construction project, it is important to gain as much knowledge as possible about every phase of the process, including the pre-construction tasks such as estimating and time management scheduling. In fact, these planning tasks will set the stage for the overall success of the entire project. Many people focus more on the actual construction processes (things that you should be hiring professionals to handle), rather than developing a thorough plan.

Wrong decisions. Even seasoned professionals make wrong decisions sometimes. Since you are probably new to the building game, you will need to do your homework. Research, research, research should be your mantra. Learn all you can about the products you plan to use and the people who will be doing the work. Many novice home builders make the mistake of using the most expensive materials and products thinking that they are better quality.

But buying expensive materials can make your costs soar, and can even negate the savings you are reaping from being your own contractor. One owner, for example, used a new synthetic-type material for his deck that cost about three times the amount of regular pressure treated deck lumber. His thinking is that it would last longer. In fact, it probably will. But when he needed to sell the house unexpectedly, buyers did not appreciate the extra cost of the material…many even thought it was a cheaper product because it wasn’t “real” wood. He was not able to recoup any of the costs for the upgrade, and in fact it may have even hurt the saleability of the home.

Don’t think that using the cheapest subcontractor, or conversely the most expensive, is the way to go either. Some subcontractors will under bid the job and then try to make up the short fall in extras. This does you no good. Others bid high thinking that you won’t know any better. The key here is to get three bids and get references. Yes, it takes some time and energy, but it will pay off in the end.

Blowing your budget. Having a good estimate and keeping track of your finances are both critical to your success! Cost over-runs are one of the biggest problems builders face. You can ensure your project stays on budget simply by completing a solid estimate and tracking every dollar you spend. This means that you need a good cost accounting system. You don’t have to spend a fortune on software though. You can track things by hand or use a simple software product to keep good records.

If you keep these three things–upfront planning, mindful decision making, and budget constraints–in mind throughout your project, it should flow much more easily and the outcome will definitely be more successful.

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