Hurry Up and Wait, Part III

Throughout all the chaos of the previous week, Bill continued to work on the comparison spreadsheet. After Bill would get done with sections, he asked me to go over them in a more detailed format and note any questions we might have. Bill tweaked his formulas several times to see if we could get a true apples to apples comparison. When he thought he had gone as far as he could go on the spreadsheet, he printed it out. We planned to sit down with Jill and Jim Friday (Aug. 16) evening to go over pros and cons and $$$. Honestly, looking at the spreadsheet, I couldn’t really tell if the bottom line figure gave the true picture or not! I was confused even more. 😦

Friday evening after the kids went to bed, the four of us started talking about figures and comparisons. Bill and Jill are “numbers in their head” people. They are both mechanical engineers and have a way of looking at the big picture and cutting to the chance. It appears that Jim and I are more the “break everything down to very detailed line items” type of people. Yes, Jim is an engineer and is an expert at what he does, but his brain matches mine as we like to see detail detail detail to support the big picture. Jill finally said – forget all the line items. She said you already know what you want in this house and you already know what those things will cost because we had already bid those items out from our very detailed spec document. Obviously, the builder did not look at our very detailed spec document and went about pricing our house the way he was used to pricing out a house. Allowances for our items could be changed. Jill said all we needed to look at were the fixed prices the builder quoted (not allowances) – lumber, painting, roofing labor, siding, trim carpentry. Hmmmm, that’s what Bill was saying all along. 😕

Jim got out his scratch pad and started to make notes. We looked at the prices the builder quoted for those fixed items and compared only those with our bids we had received. If the builder’s fixed prices were low enough to make up for the majority of his management fee and we plugged in all of our spec figures in the allowances and still came close to the total of bids we had gotten, maybe it would be worth going with the builder. Jim was not charging us any management fee for being our general contractor. There were fees from his family’s construction company (permits, insurance costs, etc.) and those would be included in our cost.

Jim sent an email to the builder that evening with our questions. We wanted to know the specifics of the painting bid – did it cover all the interior and exterior and staining? We wanted to know if the siding bid was for Hardiboard and if it was prefinished Hardi or unfinished and what material the shakes were? We wanted to know if the trim carpenter’s price included the custom fireplace? We also asked if we were to build the house ourselves, would the builder be interested in subbing out painting, siding, trim carpentry, and roofing for the same price. We decided we would wait to make our final decision of using the builder or subbing it out ourselves until we got answers back. However, I did mention that I had lost faith in the builder because he had not looked at our spec document. He even said in our last meeting that he had never worked with clients with that detailed a spec document. I said I wasn’t sure we would ever get what we actually wanted in our house working with the builder. Jim said that was a good thing to bring up. He thought it would be possible, but he felt we would have to spend hours with the builder going through the whole spec document with him and making sure everything was covered. And, it may even raise the price more. Ugghhh.

On Monday (Aug. 19) Jim got a call from the builder and they discussed all the questions Jim had sent him via email. The builder was not interested in subbing out any of the jobs if we built the house ourselves. That night we talked with Jim and decided that the cost of using the builder wasn’t that great of a deal and we still doubted we would get what we wanted in the end. Besides, we felt the builder didn’t still understand us. He had asked Jim if he should schedule a time for us to meet with Fergusons to pick out all our kitchen and bath stuff. If he had even looked at our spec document he would have known we already had all that spec’d out or already purchased! 😡 Jim said he was fine no matter what we decided. However, if he was going to be general contractor, he wanted to get this whole thing started. We told him we wanted to just sub it all out and that the bank was waiting on a contract. And, that was what we needed to work on next.

Trying to stay positive, the pros of the whole builder versus subbing out ourselves thing were:

  • We found we really did have some good bid prices.
  • We were able to get another good painter in the meantime that ended up being cheaper than the builder (which was our lowest bid).
  • We finally found a roofer. Turned out to be the roofer the builder used.
  • Because of what the builder suggested (his background before housebuilding was a painter), we decided to go with unfinished Hardiboard instead of the LP SmartSide siding. And, we could get the colors we wanted by having our painter paint and caulk the Hardi siding and trim.
  • Last, we knew this way we would get the house we really wanted.

Within a couple of days we were able to get a contract worked up and signed and emailed to the bank. It was a great 65th birthday present for me! Signed and dated on August 22. Sherry at the bank told us that because of the fiasco of the application denial, we had to start a new application and start all over! 😯 I asked her if we were still going to be able to keep the 4% interest rate we had locked in two months ago. She chuckled and said yes. I wasn’t sure what that chuckle meant until later. She said she had all the information and she would plug it back into the computer. We scheduled an appointment to sign all the papers again on Friday, August 23, at 10:00 am. Jim asked that when we were there to ask Sherry when we could start scheduling subs and get construction started.

When we got to the bank Sherry got out our file and we started signing all those papers again. When we got to the Good Faith Estimate page, and we were looking through it, I asked Sherry why there was a $7500 charge for points in the 4% interest section. She said, “Whoops, that’s not suppose to be there. They waived that fee!” Bill and I looked at each other and then Sherry said, “Don’t ask!” Turns out Sherry negotiated that we didn’t have to pay any points to keep the 4% since they had messed up our original loan. Originally, we were suppose to pay 1/2 point to get that rate. Interest rates had gone up since our original application. Apparently, the points went way up!!!

Pros for redoing our loan application were:

  • We got to keep our 4% interest rate on the construction loan and didn’t have to pay any points! Thanks, Sherry, for making that happen!
  • We got the construction complete date changed from March 2014 to August 2014.

Sherry said we really needed to wait until the appraisal was back and approved by the bank before we started construction. She said we would probably close on the loan in 2-3 weeks, but as long as the appraisal came in with the right figures, we could start scheduling our subs. She was going to get all the paperwork completed to order the appraisal that afternoon. Apparently, she did because the appraiser came out to the property one day last week. He called Bill to ask some questions about the pole barn and what improvements he had in it. The appraiser also called Jim Friday about the house plans and had a few questions. Bill asked the appraiser when he thought he might be done and if he saw any problems. He said he didn’t foresee any problems in it appraising for what we need and he thought he’d be done the middle of this week. In addition, our loan has gone to underwriting as Sherry has emailed me a couple of times to answer some questions for them. Apparently, underwriters also don’t like to read spec documents or other documents that we provided with the application as all the information was there. 😉

So, it is our hope that we can finally start construction on our home sometime in mid September!

HallelujahWe are tweaking some of our bids to make sure all the materials are correct on the quotes before we start ordering. Also, on Weds., August 28, Jim sent out emails to a list of our subs saying their prices looked good and for us to continue going forward, they need to sign the contract which was provided in our original bid set we sent out two months ago. Jim was nice and sent each one another copy. Jim decided we would give subs until tomorrow – the day after Labor Day to get back with him. We’ve received about 1/3 of the information back as of today. It’s like pulling teeth. Thank goodness I went back through the bids as our front door quote had the wrong in-swing and we had the wrong color handle sets for the windows. Those have been corrected. But I think I found another mistake on our bathroom window. It is supposed to be an awning window that opens. But, there is no mention of a screen or handle set with that window. So, I’m afraid what was quoted is a stationary window. It’s always something.

Okay let’s move on . . . Here’s a little funny. Bill has worked hard in the pole barn trying to get it organized. But, he’s gotten delayed because he really wanted to paint his cabinets so they all matched in his new workshop. You have to know that Bill had probably more boxes packed and moved from his old pole barn to here than we had for the house! And, they were full boxes and heavy. Bill’s labeling of his boxes and his inventory were . . . how can I put this and not sound so critical? . . . well, they were not how I would label them. And, apparently not how Marty would have labeled them. Before Marty had to return to college, he was helping Bill move those heavy boxes. Marty went to move a large box that was probably over 50 lbs and struggled to lug it over towards Bill and then asked Bill (sarcastically) to read the label. It was labeled “pencils.” 😀

Pencil box

Pencil box

Marty said, “There’s more than pencils in this box!” There may have been a few pencils in the box, but here is what it looked like inside:

Inside the pencil box

Inside the pencil box

Why do I bring this up? Well, because Bill was looking for his heat gun to use in helping him clean some of the cabinets he was going to paint. He couldn’t find the heat gun listed on his inventory or labeled on any of his boxes. Bill opened almost all his boxes looking for that heat gun before he found it. So, Bryan, I knew when you were helping your dad pack in the old pole barn you bet half of your dad’s boxes probably wouldn’t be opened again in 20 years. Here’s proof. He opened almost all of them only 2 weeks after they got here! They aren’t unpacked (yet), but at least they’ve been opened!

Opened boxes

Opened boxes

I asked Bill if he found the heat gun in the “pencil” box. 😆 He didn’t. He probably found it in one of these . . .

Sliding door box

Sliding door box

Misc box

Misc box

Clock box

Clock box

Inside clock box (no clock!)

Inside clock box (no visible clock!)

Here are pics of Bill’s cabinets he’s painted.

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That brings you up to date with what is going on. I hope the next time I post I’ll have pictures of us finally breaking ground for the house!

Hurry Up . . . Wait . . . Hurry Up . . . Wait

One of the great disadvantages of hurry is that it takes such a long time. ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

My goodness, it’s been a long time since I posted. That time has been filled with a lot of hurry up and wait. And, during the wait times, we’ve been quite busy with the family and moving stuff from one storage to another!

Let’s see . . . when I left you we were still waiting for the builder. Waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . He took forever! 😡 Finally, on Wednesday, August 7, Jim text us from Hawaii that he had gotten a call from the builder but it was in the middle of the night (time difference!). Jim said he called him back but got his voice mail. Builder did not call Jim back. Finally we text Jim and asked if we could call the builder and talk with him. Jim said yes.

To be honest with you, I cannot remember if we talked with the builder on Friday, Aug. 9, or Monday, Aug. 12. But, we did get to talk to him first thing one of those mornings. He still really wanted to sit down with Jim and us to discuss everything. We said that was fine, but asked if he could give us a verbal estimate over the phone first. Honestly, we were so tired of waiting. It had been 5 weeks! And, I kept thinking of those grains of sand slowly emptying out of the timer. The builder gave us a price. It was about $15,000 less than our price and that included his management fee. We were definitely interested at that point. We set up a meeting with him and Jim for the afternoon after Jill and Jim returned home from their trip, Tuesday, August 13. We really wanted to get our house started.

The week before our movers called and wanted to know when they could move our stuff from storage down to our pole barn. Bill decided that he would kick things in high gear to get the pole barn insulated and walls up and therefore, he scheduled all of our belongings to be moved on Wednesday, August 14. Marty, the college student, said he would help Bill. They worked some long days, but they got all the walls insulated and interior walls installed. They also got part of the ceiling insulated. The rest will have to wait until a later date. Here are some pics of their progress.

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Our meeting with the builder was scheduled for 5:00 pm on Tuesday. Let me give you a run-down of what that day was like before the meeting. Bill and Marty worked in 90 degree heat in the pole barn and finished the insulation and walls just in time for Bill to shower and head for our meeting. Marty spent the rest of the evening organizing and stacking what was left in the pole barn so we would be ready for the movers the following morning. While Bill was in the pole barn, I was with the grandkids getting them ready for their first day of school the next day. We ended up having to buy a bunch of new school supplies that Jack’s teacher had emailed Jill while they were in Hawaii. Who wants to be out shopping for school supplies the day before school starts? 🙄 We also had to pick up lunch supplies and stop at the library. I got home about a half hour before Bill finished in the barn.  Jim and Jill were delayed getting home from Hawaii Monday evening and didn’t get home until about midnight. Jim got up early on Tuesday and headed for work – probably about 5:30. Jetlagged and with little sleep Jim worked a full day after being gone from work for almost two weeks. Can you imagine how three of the four people felt when the 5:00 pm meeting started on Tuesday?

We all perked up when the builder arrived at Jim’s office. After cordial greetings and a little small talk, the builder explained how he did his cost breakdown. He handed us one copy of the cost breakdown with all the amounts listed on it. The three of us had to shuffle the paper back and forth to look at the prices. We quickly noticed that the majority of the line items were material and/or labor allowances. There were a few fixed prices, but the majority of the items were allowances. Once I figured that out and could get my hands on the sheet, I immediately tried to focus on the items I knew our prices from bidding out. The line item allowance for carpet, tile, and hardwood was half the price of what we had already picked out. I mentally added the extra amount to the builder’s total. I saw that he had a material allowance for light fixtures and ceiling fans. Really? 😕 We had already purchased all our light fixtures and ceiling fans and all were listed on our spec document. I mentally subtracted that allowance. Bill zoomed in on other line items that were his expertise. He noticed that the insulation that was listed wasn’t the type he wanted. There were other things but there was no way to compare apples to apples until after we got home and could pick through this cost breakdown and the fixed quotes he gave us and compare them to our bids. We told the builder we would get back with him with our decision probably by the end of the week. In the back of my head I was thinking maybe we should wait five weeks to get back with him. 👿 But, those grains of sand were dwindling away and our house was not going to get built without making a decision soon!

But, when did we have time to spend on the lengthy process of making up spreadsheets and going through bids one by one, line by line, and making those comparisons? The movers were set to arrive the next day, Wednesday, August 14. Our dear dog Goldie Girl was going downhill and one of us had to be with her almost all the time to help her go up and down the stairs getting to and from outside at all hours of the day and night. And, if that wasn’t enough, both Bill and I received letters in the mail Wednesday stating that our application for credit for our construction loan had been denied! 😯

Talk about stress!


I had reached my limit and was ready to throw my hands up and say forget it all! However, I knew we couldn’t live above Jill and Jim’s garage the rest of our lives. I told Bill maybe we should just sell everything we purchased for the new house, forget about the cabinets Bill built, forget about house plans. Just build a little shack on the property. He just shook his head and said, “Maybe we should!”

Up Next: The “mover” adventures; saying goodbye to Goldie; and deciding if we would just build a shack . . . or not!