Building the Dream House, Cats - Pets, Life Stuff

Feline Access Door

 

The most important beings in any place I’m going to call home are the cat(s) who currently own me. Something is just permanently missing without a cat around. Preferably two. If I can get away with it: three.

While we have lived in the US, we have had a strictly indoor only policy for our felines. We learned the hard way that the Eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains harbor many predators. Cats allowed to roam freely outside will, sooner rather than later, fall prey to owls, coyotes, foxes, or even cougars. Everyone we know has a personal story of learning this the hard way.

New Zealand does not have that problem! It is still very normal for cats to live inside and out. So while Booker and Noob, our 4 year old litter mate rescue kitties, will be staying here in Colorado with my son (and my husband when he has to be here for work), I am very much looking forward to welcoming another pair of litter mates. It will be wonderful. In my stints alone without my family in various rental places overseeing the build I have really really missed my cats. I talk to birds now because of it.

 

 

Our home already has a cat access sculpture outside our entry way. It’s a cool statement on the house as well as a way for any cats in my future to access the top floor where we will live.

And, a couple of weeks ago, I made the builders promise to make me a cat flap in the wall behind the couch. They are going above and beyond. It will match my window joinery and sit straight on the floor like an awning window.  Spoiled felines indeed!

House Blog Series

Building the Dream House

7 Month House Build – General update

We are now mid-February, and approaching 7  months into the Dream House Build. I have not posted regular updates as promised. Maybe I’ll get into it sometime, maybe I won’t. Let’s just say building is stressful. Here are the latest set of pics – there are actually more wires and pipes than this shows, but I didn’t get pics last week.

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Now that I have made all the decisions I knew I had to make, and about a million more, I have entrusted my wonderful Project Manager with the completion and come to Denver to be with my husband until we can move in. Actually, we will probably check in one more time before completion, but it’s not set in stone.

I have lots of other posts to make on more specific build topics, but no promises on how often or when!

The Green Door – Building the Dream

 

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

ROOF – General update on the house

So if you are paying attention, I am building a house. Well, I am not building, my awesome builder Damian Percival is building it for us. They are amazing. The guys building my home are amazing. I cannot even. In true millennial speak, I cannot even.

Today was a major milestone. We had the roof put on and it was beyond emotional for me. Usually, I go around and talk to my amazing carpenters whenever I feel that things are going well, the weather is shit, or good, or just when I feel like connecting with these awesome professionals.

Today, when I saw the roof going on as I drove slowly past, I started crying. Then I walked into the build after they had left and it was so amazing.

A roof, and plywood going up, makes it so … private. So much like the feeling of the home I know it will be.

It was a big day for me.

 

 

 

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The Green Door – Building the Dream

 

 

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

Build update – the finance drama

OK – so now that this story has a happy ending, I can talk about this. Because I think it DOES have a happy ending. Our construction loan papers are winging their way from the bank to our NZ solicitor to prepare for us to sign.

This pretty much means that the bank is happy and our solicitor just has to prepare the mortgage for them and us to sign. Then after we’ve paid our required input into the build, the bank will pay our builder’s invoices as they get presented. Well, we present the invoice, the bank releases the money to us, then we pay. When the build is complete we convert the construction loan to a ‘regular’ mortgage and negotiate our payments and interest rate at that point.

As a life decision, this has been easy for us. Financially, it has not been as easy. And I’ll admit it’s a HUGE decision for us. We gave my in-laws what amounts to a reverse mortgage on the property a few years ago. This meant that we effectively took on a second mortgage since we were paying a mortgage on our home in Colorado at the time.

When we made the decision, we figured we’d need about 500,000 NZD to tear down the existing bach and build a home we’d love on the property. We basically pulled this amount out of our armpit, but we were confident. Now, at the time, beachfront ‘nice’ places at the same beach were never selling for less than one million dollars. We had promised my in-laws a separate unit they could use for their life time. And we notoriously do not have inexpensive tastes.

We have been adamant the whole time that this is where we want to live ‘forever’. I am never happier than when I’m at the beach. The same goes for John, although he is also never happy when not working. So he is not ready to go fulltime beach bum. When we decided to go ahead and build we knew that I’d be spending the bulk of my time at the beach and he would be coming as often as he could. I was probably expecting the ‘often as he could’ to be more than it will be now that we know how much we’re really spending, but it is OK.

Most people who know us know that we have a strong relationship. Building has it’s stresses, but we’re feeling confident. I hope not over confident LOL.

When we met with our chosen builder he didn’t mess around with words. He said about 3k-5k NZD per square meter if you want ‘nice’; up to $15k per square meter if you want architectural.

As our plans, which we absolutely LOVED and were everything we wanted, started coming in, they were coming in at a total living area of approximately 210 square meters, and about 400 square meters including deck. Still we figured about 500-600 K — LOL do the math.  Talk about not wanting to actually check. Neither one of us actually remembers consciously putting our head in the sand, but there you go. Here is pretty much exactly what our builder told us:

  • As a very rough starting point, $1500 m2 is very cheap, $2-2500 m2 is more usual and then anything from $3000 m2 and up is more consistent with bespoke designed houses. Source

We figured we’d have 300-400K NZ after the sale of our house in Colorado. This turned out to be pretty much spot on. Luckily. We knew we’d have to ask a NZ bank for SOME money.

Then the initial estimate came in at 1.2 million. More after this lovely pic of the back of our design.

Our house back

The thing is: this whole time we were watching Grand Designs and Grand Designs Australia religiously. We KNEW, once we woke up and thought about it, that our estimate was ridiculous.

We were never going to go the cheapest materials. We’ve deliberately chosen pretty much ALL no- to low-maintenance building materials. Our cladding is a special aluminium cladding that ‘moves’ with coastal winds, doesn’t need painting, and won’t rust in the coastal climate. We’ve done the same with the roof, windows, and soffits (they’re a thing!). Inside, we have chosen seriously hard wood floors to deal with the inevitable tracking of sand from beach walks. If anything, we should have been amazed it wasn’t MORE expensive. – I’ll comment on why we decided to go ahead with the way for expensive build later or in another post.

In our favor have been the levelness of our section, the relative simple design we’ve fallen in love with, and the genius of our architect. She’s known exactly when another inch of deck would mean more steel beams and all that sort of thing.

So when we went to the bank, we knew we were asking for rather a lot. Luckily, the numbers with regards to total value of beach property in New Zealand, my husband’s average monthly salary, the value of the NZ dollar compared to the US dollar and the fact that on paper we own the section out-right were in our favor. The numbers crunch out right. And the bank’s policy is to encourage NZ’ers planning to move back to NZ permanently. We fit that bill.

Still, the logistics of proving income, proving US tax rate, and valuation of our current property has been hard on the stress levels. I tend to be more prone to stress, so I’ve been the ‘The world is ending’ person at every turn, while my husband has been calmly trying to put up with my hysteria. We’ve submitted Social Security statements, W2’s, letters from my husband’s company, deposited the required deposit amount in the bank, provided estimates, contracts, proof of builder’s insurance and probably promised my gay son’s first born as well.

It has NOT helped that our bank liaison person has been relatively inexperienced when it comes to overseas income. I don’t think she was very experienced in professional communication in general. At one stage, she told us that we HAD to have life insurance. Both of us. Despite the fact that currently I don’t have a personal income. The lawyer in me wants to sue her for unprofessional practices at the very least. Perhaps undue sales pressure – she wanted to sell us the bank’s life insurance. But in the end, we think she’s just not that bright, not malicious.

We got our pre-approval letter and offer of lending about a month ago – subject to professional valuation. Our valuation took its sweet time coming, and I was dying.

But it’s now through, our solicitor is preparing the loan documents for us to sign, and the bank is ‘giving’ us $5000 cash as a ‘thank you’. LOL 5000. I don’t blink an eye for less than 10K these days.

Why we went ahead with it, how we’re paying for it, etc will have to wait. On paper we can afford it, and if that’s good enough for the bank it’s good enough for me. My husband must be feeling the pressure, but he will not be alone in paying for it if things work out the way we hope.

There’s no more NYU tuition coming from us though.

The Green Door – Building the Dream

Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

A Pseudo Dream House update – or watch this space

n case anyone is hankering after a build update
 
GOOD NEWS first: My mother-in-law reports the port-a-potty and work shed have arrived on our property!! This is wonderful news!
 
I’d like to write a new update on the whole financing process and how muddled and obtuse it is. But I’m just waiting for confirmation that the bank is happy with the official and impartial valuation which was completed on Friday until I can breathe again. The valuation is for way more than we are borrowing, so that should be good, right? 
 
I do plan on writing about it – I am not squeamish about talking about money. It always puzzles me that Americans don’t talk about money. It’s a very real national trait. Occasionally they’ll get close, but as a whole, it’s very rude to ask someone how much they paid for something or how much their raise was. In my experience anyway.
 
I will write once I’m not so on edge. I’m just a bit nervous about something, so holding off till I have t-s crossed and i’s dotted. John says I’m worrying for nothing, which I’m very good at. Hopefully I’ll know soon and John will be right and we can celebrate with Leo.
 
Building the Dream House, Life Stuff

Scary and Exciting – The Green Door Project is Go!

I imagine this will become a sort of series. Once I had back to the beach (i.e. NZ) on August 1st, I hope to video document the building of our ‘forever home’.

A few years ago, we bought my husband’s parents’ beach place in anticipation of one day doing something crazy like tearing down the … functional family beach bach* and building a home we could live in ‘forever’. I know it’s weird to put forever in quotation marks, but we’ve called two moves previously our last move, so I am being cautious. We decided to buy it a few years ago while his parents are still healthy. They still get to come whenever they want, and they get a nice little income from our purchase in their retirement. Of course there’s nowhere for ANY one to stay at the moment!

Where the bach once stood, we now have two new rainwater tanks in the ground

We tore the place down about 6 weeks ago. Yes! It’s happening! It’s not a particularly speedy process to build a unique ‘architectural’ home. About 18 months ago we decided on a builder. Our criteria were pretty clear cut:

  • Someone local. The Coromandel might look close to Auckland, but it very much is not. It’s remote, coastal, and has its unique challenges.
  • Someone who would also project manage. I’ve seen enough Grand Designs to know that micromanaging subcontractors as the owner is ridiculous.
  • Someone who didn’t mass produce. No kit set homes or subdivision homes.
  • Someone who could answer an email. Email is so much better when keeping track of questions, replies, promises, and details. And I hate the phone.
One of Damian’s builds.

We’re pretty confident we chose right when we chose Damian for our builder/project manager 18 months ago. At the time he had two projects to finish before he could even think about starting on ours, so the timing sounded like it might be right for us. And it really has felt great. Since we met him he’s been punctual – on the dot – every time we’ve met with him. His previous builds are beautiful. He replies to email. And every recommendation he’s given us since we met with him has been fantastic.

One of the recommendations was Kirsten Castle of Studio 77 who has designed our house for us. Her fees have been reasonable, she understood exactly what we wanted when I gave her our purposefully vague brief. And she’s turning out to be a friend as well.

So, 18 months later it looks like we will be breaking ground next week.

I could go on and on about stuff, but I’ll space this out. What I WILL say is that it’s not cheap!

But we’ve paid our deposit. And the invoice had this nifty pie chart showing us how insignificant that deposit is!

 

 

*Yes, it’s a word. A new New Zealand word for ‘rustic cabin’ at the beach or lake.