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Finally, is it Time to Get a Mailbox!?

So three banks and several months later, we are finally going to build our house. We got word today from the bank that we will actually be building a house. It just doesn’t seem real, but Philip assured me that is it REAL this time. After having laid dormant for so long, just waiting and waiting, I even got used to the idea that we might not be building.

This journey has been an emotional rollercoaster. We had gotten our hopes up and then we were crushed and squished. Our patience was running so thin, we even created options just in case we weren’t able to build. Maybe we could change the plans or maybe we should buy a house…..we went so far as to even print out viable options. While very very tempting, none of it seemed right. Without much of a choice, we waited.

Philip called me today during lunch and said he got good news. However, I didn’t jump up and down with joy, I got upset. I blamed my terrible microwaved Lean Cuisine bowl lunch, but really it was because I didn’t know how to react. I was so overjoyed before, it was like I ran out of it. When I could get my words out to Philip, I cried and cried. I just couldn’t believe it!

Now the next step is signing paperwork – I will be much happier once we do that part!

The first big bump in the road (crater maybe?)

When everyone told us building a house was hard, they weren’t kidding. It is hard to make decisions, it is hard to make choices and it is hard to know if this is the right move or not.

Over the last few months, we have been working closely with Sterling Homes to design our custom home. Not only have we changed our mind a few times about details, but we even got rid of the second floor after we were so close to contract.

We have now moved into a phase of securing financing.  Yesterday, we hit our first bump in the road.  We received word from our first bank that the appraisal was received, but unfortunately, it was over $30,000 less than what we requested to complete our project.  The good news was that the appraisal was completed two ways – from a cost approach which was closer (within $15,000 of our actual costs) than the sales approach.  Unfortunately the sales approach is what the bank would go by leaving us with one less option on our list.

But today, we are discussing our options with other lenders and I’m confident that we will be able to secure a loan package for our build.  Our situation is difficult because of several reasons:  1) it is very difficult to find comparable homes for an appraisal where we will be building and 2) the market is extremely depressed.  Unfortunately, there is no difference in a forclosure that sold for half price and the buyer/seller home next door to it — both become comparables for our appraisal and those short sales and foreclosures are killing everyone.  We are no immune to the market.

Why not LEED with a green home?

After some discussion, my husband and I were wondering about LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council. Yes, our “green” home will be Energy Star certified under the Environments for Living program, however, why not go for LEED certification? Both programs are very similar, one just has more intense paperwork and extra point requirements. We asked our builder and he is open to the idea. If all goes well, our house will be first in Loris, SC that is LEED certified. I think we will have to create a display wall just for all these certifications.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council’s website, there are only 15 LEED certified homes in Horry County, all of which are in Myrtle Beach. One is platinum certified by Maritime Builders and the others are by AmeriBuilt Homes in the Southbury neighborhood off Hwy 707. LEED for Homes is relatively new, since it only just started in 2008. LEED certification goes beyond energy efficiency and takes the following into account: indoor air quality, material use, water conservation, and green landscaping – all of which we are already thinking about.

These are just some of the ideas…..For allergies and sickness, we are concerned with indoor air quality, which means an air return in every room. In material use, I’m already thinking about alternatives for the kitchen, such as wheatboard cabinets and bamboo flooring. Water conservation will be handled through rainwater harvesting as well as low-flow showerheads and toilets. Green landscaping will be best suited with drought-tolerant and low maintenance plants, since I don’t have a green thumb.

So our journey begins!

Bucking the Trend on New Homes

We are surprisingly bucking the trend with our new home, as quoted by my husband. As we were putting some finishing touches on our house plan, an article was recently published on Yahoo! Finance called “The 10 Must Have Features in Today’s New Homes.”

It was almost like we wrote this article because everything on the list was everything we were planning to do. And we have not read one news article or magazine regarding the latest home trends.

In addition to this list, we are also not going to have true formal dining room. Our house will be built according to our lifestyle, which is centered around family and friends. We always knew we wanted an open floor plan to encourage interactivity throughout the house, plus utilizing as much storage as possible. We do not want any dead spaces in the house. Plus, my biggest feature in the house was a  mudroom with a large laundry room. I’m tried of tracking dirt throughout the house and I’m tried of my laundry area as a closet.

So, here is our list based on that article, we are doing 9 out of 10 on their list:

1 – Large Kitchen with an Island – I wanted a good size kitchen for functionality, but also an island as a central part of the room. The island will be a different cabinet color and different countertop color then the rest of the kitchen (another new trend).

2 – Energy-Efficient Appliances, Insulation and Windows – This is must-have for our “green” home.

3 – Home Office/Study – We actually debated about this room a lot – we wanted one, then we didn’t want one. Finally, we decided it was necessary for our computer, desk, files and all of my books.

4 – Main-Floor Master Suite – Our house will be two-story and who wants to be 80 years old climbing stairs? Not me!

5 – Outdoor Living Room – This was our Number 1 feature from the very very beginning. Living in South Carolina has its weather benefits and there is nothing like sitting outside, soaking it all in.

6 – Ceiling Fans – We will enjoy fresh air circulating throughout the house. Plus, I love the style that looks like palm leaves.

7 – Master Suite Soaker Tubs – Plus we will have a HUGE shower! Currently, our rental’s shower is very claustrophobic.

8 – Stone and Brick Exteriors – Unless financing works out, we will have mostly vinyl siding, but maybe we will add some stone features.

9 – Community Landscaping – We’re moving to a location with neighbors that have several acres to “play” in the woods which include lots of wooded trails.

10 – Two-Car Garages – It is necessary for us to have a garage for my husband’s truck to fit.

Thoreau is stalking me with Walden

Yes I am an English major and I have never read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. There, I said it. Now you can throw things at me. I have read excerpts, but that doesn’t count. Now is the best time to read it, especially since I think Thoreau is stalking me. For those that are unfamiliar with this American classic, Walden is the journal of Thoreau’s experience living in a one room cabin at Walden’s Pond in Massachusetts from 1845 to 1847.  In Walden, he records his thoughts and encounters with nature and society.

Stalker Case #1 – Last week, my husband and I went on a double-date with old friends. We all ended up at Barnes and Noble after dinner – hey, we’re parents……don’t judge our free time. It was there that I picked up Walden because the cover was amazing and it was only 6 bucks. My husband said, we have that at home, so I didn’t buy it.

Stalker Case #2 – Our church just finished its series called “Simplify” and I was finally getting it at the end. See my previous post called “The House that God will Build.” I am completely enthralled by living a more simple life. I have already made a few trips to Goodwill and stopped buying junk.

Stalker Case #3 – My husband found Walden. Not only was it the first box he opened, but it ended up being a 3rd edition from 1965 that he bought in a second-hand bookstore in New York City BEFORE we started dating. We went to NYC for a journalism conference when I was the college newspaper editor and he was the designer. It was fate.

Stalker Case #4 – Tonight, I’m sitting at Barnes and Noble working on my Green Building classwork, when I look up from my table and notice the decor on the wall. (Yes, see the photo). There it is…..I think I got the message LOUD and CLEAR.


The House That God Will Build

Simplify. A word that is often used, but seldom acted upon. Once a year, most of us will look in our closets and clean out a few items from our past. Pants that are too small (although we are secretly hoping we can fit into them later), sweaters that are just plain ugly and shoes that are outdated. We load up our truck and haul it off to charity. We get a tax receipt, claim it later and believe we did a good deed. But is it really enough? Is that one load going to make a difference? I’ve asked myself this question over and over again.

Now, we’re getting into building a house. We thought we wanted bigger and better and more. We lived in an 1800 square foot house and never enjoyed its space. We’re hoping to have more children and thought we needed more space. We have a lot of stuff, so we thought we needed more storage. We have old furniture, so we thought we needed new furniture. It was becoming more and more and more….and bigger and bigger. But does that mean better?

We have been very patient in waiting for our builder. They were tied up with Extreme Makeover for several weeks of planning, work and post-work. It seemed like it was taking forever because we were ready to say go in November. We’re building a house, it’s 3000 square feet, it’s going to green….blah blah blah. Well, we were wrong.

This period of waiting was actually God-sent, which I admit is hard for even me to believe.

Our church was having a sermon series was called, “Simplify” and after these past several weeks, it all finally hit me. Simplify. We need to rethink our thinking and simplify our lifestyle. This house is our opportunity to do that. This period of waiting really opened our eyes and gaves us time to look, think, pray and plan. My husband’s favorite statement of the sermon series was, “cut the beanstalk” because the beanstalk was the way to get to supposed happiness….riches and luxuries. This supposed happiness also brought worry and problems. Do you want the bigger house that comes with worrying about money? Do you want to live with possessions or do you want to live with provisions from God, the provider?

People always have said, building a house is a going to be tough on your marriage. Even though, we haven’t broken ground, I believe it will be the best thing that will happen to our marriage. Building this house will be building upon our marriage, our beliefs in God and our love for the rest of our lives.

We don’t want a bigger house because there will be more to clean. We don’t want more storage because there will be buying more stuff to fill those spaces.

The things that we do want:
1) Functional /Multi-functional space – not wasted, empty space
2) Rooms to live in – not rooms to close off from the world
3) Reuse and recycled features from salvage yards
4) Opportunity to provide space for someone that needs it
5) Room to grow without losing ourselves in enormous size

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Matthew 6:21

Ready to move forward, oh and this house plan is good.

Our family is ready for our new house.  The EMHE is over! Sunday was our last day at EMHE and we stopped by Willow Sands Farm to drop some things off. [For those that don’t know, Willow Sands Farm is next door to our future home]. Unexpectedly, Peyton was also dropped-off to play with Zoey, so Philip and I were able to volunteer at EMHE most of the day. Peyton was so happy because her and Zoey are basically the same age. They really enjoyed their time together. It will be better spent once we move there. Confirmation that this was the right decision and we are ready. Back to EMHE….it was a very productive day; we were in the home stretch and by then, we were simply helping out where we could and picking up litter/recyclables along the site. We spent quality time with our future neighbors and even met up with EMHE Design Celebrities (sorry, no Ty Pennington). Our friend, Christy, said this was the most fun she has had all week, recycling with us! Another confirmation! We were able to see the final results of the build and really soak in all its beauty. The quality of Sterling Homes’ work is unbeatable, at least to us. The EMHE resembles a barn, but it is in the country and it’s gorgeous!

Front of EMHE

During this time of EMHE, Philip and I were able to think hard about our new house. Philip may have looked at more than 250 house plans in a week and probably emailed about half of those to me with comments. I did look at them, but none hit me until the one he sent today. It was all on one floor, which was what I wanted originally. There were a few changes to it, but nothing complicated. Philip emailed it to our builder today. Hopefully we will hear from them before EMHE comes knocking again.

House Plan Idea