I got an E-mail confirmation from the loan administrator that they had paid the builder. I forwarded the message to him; he responded yesterday that he had received the payment, and also that they had started work on the exterior walls. We planned to drive out after work today.
They have made quite a lot of progress! All of the first-floor exterior walls are up except for the garage, and most of the interior walls are up as well. This really gives us a good feel for the arrangement and flow between rooms. The family room, kitchen and breakfast room is a nice open space, and that’s where we’ll be spending most of our time.
We did note a few areas that need to be corrected; for example, there are a couple of interior pocket doors that they did not frame for. At first we thought the window openings looked overly square, but we did verify on the plan that they are correct. None of the corrections will be hard to make. My wife wrote notes on the framing where changes were needed.
In any case, these are minor issues, and the framing looks terrific. As the project started on June 1, this brings us to the end of Month 1.
I had only a vague idea of what kind of house I wanted, except that it had to have an interior courtyard and passive solar potential. As I mentioned before, our current house is a passive solar design, and I wanted to retain at least some aspects of that. I also wanted a wine cellar My wife has a hobby of working with house plans. We have a program, 3D Home Architect, on our home computer. She locates electronic copies of plans that she likes, and then plays with them, moving walls, windows, or even entire rooms. I would have to say that most of the house designs she has come up with are well beyond our means.
She found a couple of candidate designs that were close to what we wanted, and we picked one to start working with. The basic layout is a U. The front of the house is the base of the U, with the dining room, foyer and study. One leg is the kitchen, breakfast room, laundry and garage. The other contains the bedrooms, with the master bedroom at the back of the house. Immediately behind the foyer is the family room, with the courtyard behind that. There is a partial second story comprised of a loft over the foyer and the two-story family room. The courtyard is enclosed at the back by a covered portico.
We had planned to visit my family in PA the weekend of June 25 & 26. My older sister lives in the house we grew up in, and my brother and other sister live nearby. We decided to stop at the lot on our way north Saturday morning.
When we got to the bridge and past the toll, traffic had pretty much come to a stop. We heard on WTOP that there was a disabled vehicle in the right lane heading east. It took most of a half-hour to get moving again.
One more surprise on the way: when we got to the Chester River bridge they were getting ready to open the draw span. This is the first time in all of our trips to Chestertown that we have ever seen them open the bridge. The span is actually pretty low, so anything much higher than a rowboat can’t get by without it being opened. There was a sport-fishing boat going through, one with the pilot deck up high.
The only change at the lot was that the roof trusses had been delivered. I took a few pictures and we were on our way. We made it to my sister’s in time for lunch.
I E-mailed the builder Wednesday asking how we would request the first draw. He E-mailed back the completed forms along with copies of the permit and the location survey, needed by the bank for the first draw. I printed the forms for us to sign and FAXed them to the bank on Thursday, and E-mailed the other stuff.
The loan administrator called this morning to tell me that she needed a couple of other items — builder’s license and risk insurance — that I thought he had sent for the loan application. She told me she doesn’t have everything in the file, since the loan officer was in a different location. I E-mailed the builder, and as far as I know the bank had everything they needed by mid-afternoon. Now we just have to see how long it takes for them to pay the builder.
The final decision was based on two things: 1) The out-of-town lot would have much better solar potential. We have been solar energy enthusiasts for a long time; our current house is a passive solar design. The general openness of the neighborhood, and the fact that the back of the lot faced almost due South, were both conducive to solar design. 2) I had the realization that the large flat lot would be perfect for a Mediterranean courtyard house, mostly on one level. I’ve been enamored of Mediterranean design in general and interior courtyards in particular through trips to Provence (in southern France), Italy and Argentina. A one-story design would also make sense for us as we got older.
The last time we checked, the in-town lot was still for sale.
We quickly decided to go for it. We made an offer on the lot, with the agent’s advice, and it was accepted. Of course, this was well before the real estate market crashed, so prices were high. Fortunately, loans were also readily available at that time, and we had no trouble lining up a lot loan, with some of our cash as a down payment. We closed on 12 June, 2007. The sellers lived in the house next door, and had owned the lot for over 20 years, since they built their house.
We had a celebration picnic on the lot with four of our closest friends and the sellers. We kept inviting passers-by to stop and have a drink. It was a jolly occasion, and we planned to make it an annual event, but somehow that never happened. We spent the rest of 2007 and the first half of 2008 planning our daughter’s wedding, before we seriously got back to planning our house. We set a time frame of three to four years from the closing date to be moved in. We made regular trips to “visit the lot” in the meantime.