Designing a Custom Home – Part 12 – Moving

Let’s face it. Even in the best circumstances, moving is a big job. I’ve never moved cross-country where all of my belongings were loaded onto a truck or pod, and I can’t begin to imagine the concerns and worry about one’s stuff reaching its destination in one piece. Most of my moves have been from one house to another not only in the same town, but in the same subdivision or very close.

This is the move I hope will be my last. Robert and I have built what we believe is our forever home, and since we couldn’t find a few acres away from everyone in our current subdivision, for the first time in my life I’m going to have a new zip code. I’m excited and a little sad at that – I don’t like change. But I do love our new home and am ready to start this phase of our lives.

We did this move in two parts, first moving to my dad’s vacated home while we built, and then moving into our new home. Knowing our lives would be in flux in these temporary living quarters, we packed up things we thought we wouldn’t need for a year. Things like books, dvd’s, pictures, photo albums, home décor, etc., were carefully wrapped and packed along with some kitchen items and a lot of my clothes. Those boxes were labeled with the contents and the predicted room the box needed to go to upon the final move.

It’s quite likely that a lot of these items may not find a place in the new home, but we didn’t want to get rid of anything we might need until we knew for sure. We did, however, divest of a lot of stuff we no longer needed or wanted, or wanted to move.

So Tip #1 is to pare down your belongings.   A pending move is a great time to reassess your life and your belongings. When we moved into our former house, both Robert and I had been voracious readers and had accumulated quite a library. With the advent of e-books, however, we opted to donate many of our actual books, keeping only our favorites or collections. One of the deciding factors? Carrying box after box of heavy books up and down stairs to the shelves.

Tip #2 relates to boxes. You may think that bigger boxes mean less packing, but unless you’re talking bedding or linens, bigger boxes mean broken backs. Stick to smaller, uniform boxes, preferably all the same for easy stacking. In the past we’ve purchased boxes from a local dairy for $0.10 each that were great for moving, but for our past few moves we’ve used Chick-fil-A fry boxes thanks to our friends Steve and Ginger. This time knowing we were leaving stuff packed for a longer time, we also purchased some plastic tubs from Walmart for items like clothing or knitwear to protect them better from any potential threat like bugs or moisture.

Tip #3 is to have a plan. Pick a room and do everything you can in there before moving on to the next one. Make sure you label boxes and tubs appropriately with both contents and the name of the destination room.

Tip #4 is to have a staging area. When you’re overwhelmed by the stack of boxes in every room, creating one spot that contains the chaos helps keep you calmer. Have a staging area at the new house where all the boxes and tubs will be deposited prior to going to specific rooms.

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Tip #5 relates to hiring movers. If you can afford it, then save yourselves the headache of moving heavy furniture and boxes, and save your friends. If you can’t afford to hire professionals, asking friends is fine, but make sure you give them clear direction and don’t work them to the point of exhaustion. Providing pizza and soft drinks is pretty much mandatory on moving day. It might be prudent to find a balance. Since all of your belongings are in manageable boxes, you could move those along with lightweight or light and awkward furniture, plus lamps, etc., and only hire movers for the big stuff. Since you’ll likely be paying by the hour, this can reduce your cost considerably.  (That’s what we did for this move.

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Tip #6 is to make sure you have cleaning supplies at your new home.  Even if you had professional cleaners come in prior to your move, there’s still going to be some dust, a smudge on a window, or some crumbs on the floor left from your open house that you’ll want to clean up.

Tip #7 is to stop buying groceries, at least temporarily.  Especially if you’re moving a long distance, you won’t be taking anything perishable with you.  Buy smaller quantities, and as you pack your pantry, check those expiration dates and toss anything that’s questionable.

Tip #8 is about your four-legged family members.  This move isn’t just stressful on you, but also on your pets.  They’ll adapt quickly, but do your best to limit their trauma.  Even though we will have a fenced in yard, we will take the dogs out on leashes to get them familiar with their surroundings and new home.  And we won’t let them out unsupervised, at least at first.  Keeping an eye on them is one of the ways we show them we love them.  As far as our house cat, we’ll be extra careful to make sure all doors are completely closed and locked so he doesn’t escape and get lost.  We’ve got polished concrete floors and hardwoods throughout, so we also purchased some additional pet beds for multiple rooms to ensure they’ve got a comfy place to call their own.  And just like with kids, there may have been some new toys purchased to ease their transition.

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Tip #9 is to create a home inventory as you unpack.  Maybe you already had one at your old house, but as you purchase new items for the new home or divest of items you no longer need or want, this is the perfect time to create or update your inventory.  In the event of a catastrophe, both you and your insurance agent will be glad you took the time to do this.  Oh, and be sure to upload a copy to a private cloud drive like Evernote or Box so it doesn’t get lost.

Last tip – you don’t have to do it all at once. Enjoy your first night in your new house by having a picnic on the floor. Not every box has to be unpacked and every picture hung the first day. Take some time to get to know your new home and enjoy the ride.

Have you moved recently? What moving tips do you all have?

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Designing a Custom Home – Part 11 – Open House

By the time your home is almost finished, there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation about moving in.  One of the things we’ve realized, though, is that we’ve spent the greater part of the past six months talking about our new home to anyone who’ll listen.  Family, friends, coworkers, people you go to church with – they’ve all (mostly) listened and shared your excitement, along with advice and being someone you could bounce ideas off of to find out if they make sense or are really stupid.  These folks have walked along beside you in this journey, so it’s nice to repay them by letting them see the finished house.

My recommendation is to have the open house before you move in.  The house will be relatively clean, there won’t be unpacked boxes to trip over, and it shows off the building rather than the décor.

Keep it simple.  You’re going to be moving in soon, and no one expects a huge meal.  Have an assortment of simple appetizers set out for people to snack on, and make it easy on your time and your budget.  We are finishing our build in October, so the standard fare of candy corn and peanuts had to make the menu.  We also picked up several packages of mini cupcakes, brownies, and muffins from Sam’s Club, along with a veggie tray and cheese, and our favorite chips and salsa, and crackers and hummus.

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Try to keep the food contained in one area for easy clean up, and be mindful of serving things that might make a mess.

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Remember you haven’t moved in yet, but you are having guests over, so there will be some other items you’ll need to have at the ready.  First off, trash bags.  Skip the dishes and have paper plates, napkins, and plastic ware, which will make for easy clean up.  Next, toilet paper.  Some of your guests will need to use your facilities, which means toilet paper, soap, and towels (a roll of paper towels will suffice) need to stock your loo.  A small trash can in the powder room will be helpful as well.  Check the weather, too. You may need to have your welcome mats set out early for folks to wipe their feet on as they come in.

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Last, remember this is a celebration for you and your family as well.  Don’t get so caught up in hosting duties that you forget to have fun.  Take pictures, talk to everyone, and enjoy yourself in your new home.

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Seattle

In the midst of building a home and teaching at fiber events, I also managed to attend a work conference in Seattle the end of September.  This was my third trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I hope one of these times Robert can come with me.  Last year the conference was actually in Bellevue, across the lake, so I didn’t get to do any sightseeing.  This year, however, our hotel was right downtown in the middle of everything.

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In order to arrive on time for the conference, I flew in on Monday and had Monday evening and Tuesday morning to do a little exploring.

The famous Pike Place Market was just a few blocks away.  It had been 16 years since I was last here.  I love all the flowers . . .

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Fish, anyone?

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And how about a cup of coffee from the very first Starbucks?  A tall caramel macchiato, please.

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In the other direction, I could see the Space Needle from my shuttle. The Space Needle is an iconic part of the Seattle skyline, and it’s got great views during the day and at night. Next time I’ll make the time to go up in it again.

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The rest of my days were spent in the hotel for the conference, which was very good, but during my free time I also managed to find a local yarn shop nearby.   So Much Yarn is part of Pike’s Place Market and was a cute little shop.

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I spent the evenings in my room knitting and enjoying the spectacular view.

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Designing a Custom Home – Part 10 – Financing

So a while back I wrote a post about budgeting for building a custom home, but didn’t really get into the aspect of financing. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re going to need a loan. But what kind of loan? How long should you finance it? What kind of rate should you be looking for?

This is a two-part situation. First is the construction loan. Construction loans typically require a 20% down payment. You’ll make interest only payments on the increasing amounts borrowed month after month. Construction loans typically have higher interest rates than your permanent financing will, and usually are terminated within 12 months.

You’ll want to talk to more than one lender before closing your construction loan. Don’t look only at the interest rate, but the other costs involved. There are closing costs for either type of loan, and those can vary by lender.

Once you have your construction loan, your contractor will submit bills to you for payment. You’ll work directly with a title company who you pay, typically via a draw fee, to write the checks and get all the necessary lien waivers to ensure you’ll have clean title on the property once the home is built. They’ll also be responsible for issuing 1099’s to the contractor and sub-contractors. Draw fees also vary, so you may be able to negotiate with your lender and title company to get so many free draws, and you’ll also want to have your contractor work with you to submit bills just once or twice a month to help keep your costs down.

Once you can pin down your builder for a completion date – they don’t like to commit; ask me how I know, LOL – you’ll want to start shopping for your permanent financing. These will typically be a refinance loan, and you’ll look to lock your rate in when you’re 30-45 days out from completion.

Again, talk to more than one lender. Compare all costs, including the rate, loan origination fee, appraisal fee, etc. Prepaids are your escrowed taxes and insurance, title insurance, and the like, and they should not vary much by lender or title company.

When you’re looking at your interest rate, ask yourself if it makes sense to purchase a lower rate by paying points. Points are essentially prepaid interest, which gives you a lower rate and lower monthly payment. Calculate the break-even point based on the size of your loan and the difference it makes in your annual payment. Paying points generally makes more sense with a higher dollar loan amount and a longer term.

We also learned that different lock-in periods carry different rates. Locking in your rate 45 days out may mean a higher rate than waiting to lock at 30 days.

The amount of your loan makes a difference as well. The more you borrow, the better your rate should be, up to a point. Rates are typically better for a $200,000 loan than a $150,000 loan. Then there’s the term of the loan to consider. A shorter term loan should have a better rate than a longer term loan, but this also means your payments will be higher. But in the long run, you’ll pay much less interest overall.

Your mileage may vary, as the housing market differs across the country. Use the calculators at bankrate.com to calculate your mortgage payment and create an amortization schedule to help you make the best decision for your own situation.

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Dream in Black & White

After my Dream in Color post about paint colors, I thought it would be helpful to have a discussion on black and white as well.  Do you know how many colors are called “white?”  It’s crazy.  And they all have different undertones that play on colors around them, so it’s a pretty critical decision to get just the right shade.

Knowing we had cool tones and blues and greys selected for the walls, I looked for a white on a color card that had those colors adjacent to it.  Whichever white we chose would be the color of our trim and our cabinets so everything will be seamless.

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We wanted a “real” white, not an off-white, and to me, Benjamin Moore Brilliant White fit the bill.

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However, our painter had concerns about it being so bright.  After comparing several shades of white with our other colors and finishings, I agreed upon two additional possibilities.  The color names?  The first was “Super White” and the other one – no kidding – was “White.”  Yep.  White.  Plain, ordinary, boring white.  Guess which one we went with?  Uh, huh.  White.

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Black was a similar story.  Our front door will be painted black and needs to work with the red brick on the exterior and the grey walls on the interior.  We wanted something that was more of a true black, and narrowed it down to Black Satin and Twilight Zone.  This is where names can either be a hindrance or a help.  As much as Robert and I appreciated the joke of our front door being painted so guests could enter the Twilight Zone, Black Satin just looked more right to me.

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Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

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