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when is custom really custom?

April 30th, 2010 by

So once one decides to create a ‘custom-built’ house, that’s when the fun really starts. It’s not easy to learn how to go about getting a house built. Of course, there isn’t really any shortage of information; in fact, the opposite problem exists. There is an enormous pile of uh, ‘information’ out there. The challenge is weeding through all of it and cutting out all the folks that are just trying to sell something that they already have, like “easily customizable house plans, ready to go!”, and “custom-designed homes built by our preferred builder.”

Custom tailoredLaura came up with a great analogy for describing what type of custom house we wanted. Because she hasn’t posted it yet, and because we—for the moment—live in the community property State of California, making the analogy 50% mine, I am going to go ahead and post it first. Hopefully sharing this analogy will not trigger an analimony case. (Hmm, somehow that didn’t sound quite right. Oh well, I’ll get to the bottom of that later.)

Her analogy was to the world of tailoring. In clothing, there is ‘ready to wear’ aka ‘off the rack’, which is what 99.9% of us utilize for 99.9% of our clothing. In the house building world, that equates to picking out a house with your favorite paint color in the lovely just-opened phase II of the subdivision owned by the publicly-held mega real estate developer / builder company. You know those companies; they’re the ones that are quoted in the news every month when the government decides that there either is or is not a continuing housing crisis or boom.

why build? aren’t there enough houses already?

April 26th, 2010 by

The “why build?” question is one that often comes up in semi-polite company, usually delivered in conjunction with a look that says “Aren’t they cute? They think they can actually do this without killing each other.”

Invariably, our potential house building discussion partner suddenly finds that he has to help the hostess vacuum the dog or put the sushi in the oven. I suppose it’s fair that the thought of building a house sends most people running for the (already fully-developed and subdivided) hills. The thought of designing, coordinating, managing, permitting, insuring, funding, financing, acquiring, and being held liable, responsible, inspectable, culpable, and certifiable—for some reason—seems to intimidate most people.

Houses for saleTherefore, in order to find a place to live the aforementioned “most people” generally gravitate to structures where others—anonymous builders and designers—have run the gauntlet described above, and have emerged with an inventory of houses placed into an inventory of subdivisions that conform nicely with other subdivisions approved by a county and governed by a State. Sadly—in my admittedly skewed opinion—what comes out the other side is a clusterclump of simulhouse-clones that are designed and constructed to look as if they are about to encounter the late 1800s. Hence the pseudo-shutters that are nailed—open, of course— to the side of the house, and the oh-so-handy faux hay-loft door perched above the modern three-car garage complete with a genuine reproduction wrought iron rooster wind-vane on its genuine reproduction cupola.

making a commitment

January 22nd, 2010 by

So today we’re really there.  Still saying we might buy a house, but that’s a façade only we believe (and we don’t).  Mostly me.

We wrote a check—and signed our names and the date to the agreement to have them do the study.

So we’ve committed.  To having a design/build firm start working on our “program,” which for some bizarre reason is architect-speak for the plan to build our house.  I have a strong hunch that we’re both about to learn a whole new corporate-speak language, much like “new paradigm” and “facilitate” and “iterative” crept into every conversation at work in the 90’s now we’ll learn why they call it a “program” and probably whatever the modern architect’s words are for floor, ceiling, and airy open space.

To get to this point, we have been through several epiphanies—some of them painful—and a therapist, with me learning to deal with the stress of what’s certain to be about two years of uncertainty, and with Kevin learning how to relax and let me approach this home-building process my own way.  Though he still wants me to read all the books he has collected on how to work with an architect, how to work with a builder, how to work through the way the architect works with the builder and why the builder hates the architect while the architect condescends to the builder.  (Good thing we’ve already let our architect know we have a lot of books.)