Family Picture

Family Picture
Pete, Tina, Theo, and Oscar

Friday, August 26, 2011

The tables have turned... again!

Well, Cadence was supposed to respond to our offer by the 16th, according to the contract that their agent wrote up. We didn't hear back until the 22nd! We were pretty frustrated that they didn't even communicated to us that it was going to take longer to respond. We were left in the dark. BUT it was during that extra waiting time that we realized it would be a very good idea to take our home plans to some other builders and compare their quotes with Cadence's. DUH! We're the ones in power here, we own the plans and can have whomever we want build for us. We have no loyalties. So Cadence responded the 22nd with a price much higher than we anticipated or even thought reasonable. We immediately schedule to meet with the builder himself that evening and talk to him in person rather than through a third party. In the meeting I feel we did a great job explaining ourselves and negotiating. We realized that in the contract where we asked for a certain discounts, the builder's agent had passed on her losses to him (ie, rather than reducing her profit from 6 to 3% of the home price, she put it as more discounts in upgrades, which would be a much bigger blow to the builder than to her, if that makes sense). We explained that to him, and he said, "Now that things are much clearer, I'll reconsider and get back to you tomorrow." Good. It sounded promising, and it sort of was. Well, he took two days to respond, another strike for him. He did meet our original offer, but with the condition that we add an extra 10K of upgrades. What? Nu uh! And we also found out that it would be an extra 4K just to finish the driveway. We countered his offer, of course. We felt he was trying to nickel and dime us! The day before his third counter offer, we met with Pantheon Construction, a company we had met with before find Cadence, but we walked away from them because we were wary of their stipulation of having us take out the construction loan. And we thought we could do without their agent and his fee. Pantheon quoted us a SIGNIFICANTLY lower price than Cadence (even with the agent's fee)! We were excited, but we said we were still waiting to hear back from Cadence's builder. The next day we heard back. He countered too high, again. So we declined and walked away.

We were glad to walk away from a price we were not comfortable with, and we weren't impressed at all, to say nothing of satisfied, with their manner and timing of communicating with us and meeting their deadlines. However, we were bummed to walk away from the wonderful neighborhood, location, and lot size! But - we still had hope because we were able to find the developer's contact info! (The builder's agent wouldn't give us the developer's name or number because it would be a conflict interest for them. So I called someone else and got the needed info immediately, ha ha!) I was able to get ahold of him this afternoon, and he said he would sell us just the lot without making us build with Cadence! And for a price we think is a great deal! If this works out, we're going to have Pantheon build our home. We're meeting with the developer tonight at 8pm!

(Today I also talked to one of my friends' dads because he is a home-builder on the East Coast, and he thinks everything sounds good and legit, which gave us a lot of confidence. We've also talked with Peter's great uncle, who has built 4 custom homes, and he's given us valuable advice as well.)

I've just never heard of anyone getting a floor plan from one party, getting the lot from another party, and having yet ANOTHER party build the actual home. Are we just super picky? Or do we just have strong enough wills to find a way to get what we want? So many times we've almost settled, almost. But then the idea came to me, "Maybe McArthur will sell us just the floor plan?" And then, "Maybe we can just get this lot without having to build with Cadence?" This has been such a process for us, and I'm sure we're not even half way done yet. But we're getting closer, and we're getting excited! Like I said in the last post, everyone we've talked to has somehow helped us get to where we are now. And we are indeed grateful.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Change Is In The Air! And Our House Hunt

Warning: This post is a long one. It's like my journal entry. I figured I'd put it here and refer people who are interested in learning how and why we ended up building a new home out in Erda - so I can save my breath and have the story documented.

Lots of change will be happening in the next few months. In a week Peter starts his Masters program at the U, which he'll be doing part time since he'll still be going to work full time. I've really enjoyed having him home every Friday and Saturday without any homework obligations. Not going to get that again for three more years, but it'll be worth it. Then... in three months we'll have a new baby in our home! Last week I threw up just once. Once - in an entire week. I never ever went that long or even half that long with Theo. I had so much energy; it was awesome!

And THEN in 4 months we should be homeowners! Yeah, we just put in our offer on a new house on Saturday, and if the permit goes through in a timely manner (i.e. 4 weeks), we'll be in by Christmas! But it could take longer, and weather could be a stumbling block, but whatever, it'll all work out. We'll be building a home out in Erda, which is a small town just east of Tooele. It'll be a 25 minute commute to work for Peter, but with little to no construction or traffic delays - which it would be had we decided to move to Lehi. AND our home will be on a half-acre lot! Once we landscape it, there's going to be a little path that runs around the perimeter of the yard for the little ones to ride their bikes on - just like the one Peter's Grandma Ashworth had at her old house. Maybe we'll have some chickens and a garden, don't know. We'll have the space. Some of our neighbors with whole acre lots have horses.

It seems like everything we've done this summer and everyone we've talked to has in some way helped us get a little closer to where we didn't know we wanted to be. The first thing we did was visit a parade of homes at the very beginning of June. We almost didn't go, but SO GLAD we did. We almost didn't visit the last home on our list because we were pooped after being out 5 hours already with an uncooperative toddler who desperately needed a nap. But I felt like we needed to see just one more home, a certain home that seemed to be calling out to me. Peter was not one bit interested. He wanted to go home right then, get something to eat and then take a long nap. It had just been a frustrating day because none of the homes we'd visited from the parade had been that impressive to us, even though they were million-dollar mansions. They just didn't have certain features we were looking for, and we had even agreed that we had wasted $18 and a Saturday. I don't know about Peter, but I didn't know exactly what features we were looking for, but I knew I hadn't found them.

I just wanted to go see this one last home, so I begged. Peter said okay, bless his heart! We walked in the door, I was first with Peter and Theo behind me. I took maybe 4 steps, stopped and turned around to Peter with eyes wide open. "Do you love this house, Peter, like I do?" I asked him. "Yeah, I do," he replied. Ahh?! He does? He's feeling the same way I'm feeling?! "This is it!" I exclaimed. We hadn't even walked past the entry way. It was open yet separate from the main living area, perfect size and location for a piano and sofa. It just felt right. For us. We walked a little further. A door to the basement, perfect! Then the stairs to the upper level, and there was a big window in the stairway with a bench seat and corner bookshelves. A little reading nook. Brilliant use of space! Then the kitchen. The I could imagine myself standing at the island washing the dishes or preparing dinner and looking out the big dining room windows to the backyard, seeing the kids playing. Ah! Everything was in the perfect location! I could go on... And the upstairs, I wouldn't have it any other way. Walk-in closets in every bedroom, with a window in one of them even! And the Master bedroom with the Master Retreat, so cozy! And the study/computer area right next to the stairs, yes! The laundry room had a window and could easily have a sink (cloth diapers is what I have in mind). The walk-in linen closet was heavenly! Then to the basement - a daylight basement, windows completely out of the ground. Walk right in to the family/game area. Two large bedrooms (note: all the bedrooms are large, which we love and prefer over having more, smaller bedrooms). This home is called the Cordova, and it's from McArthur Homes.

At first we were looking anywhere within a 25 minute commute to Peter's work, whether that be North, South, East, whatever. We looked in Bountiful, West Valley, South Jordan, Lehi, etc...

One agent mentioned Tooele, which led me to research the area. I found Stansbury right next to it. So we started looking for existing homes in Stansbury. We went through a lot. But there was always something BIG that was "wrong" with it, to us. Like a beautiful house, but barely any yard. Or a beautiful house and a big yard, but the neighbor's yards looked like they had been neglected for the past decade. Or the price was way too high. Or if the price was low, there were so many improvements and upgrades we'd have to take care of immediately, and with Peter already being so busy with school and work, we knew they wouldn't get done for a long time. Ah! So we decided to "just see" what new home builders have to offer. We always thought building automatically costs a ton more than buying and existing home, but maybe... in this market, we might have a chance. Well, we quickly found out that homebuilders are hurting for business, which is great us! It's a buyer's market, wonderful.

We met with Richmond American (with two different agents, actually), DR Horton, Pantheon. We kept comparing every home to the Cordova, the one we immediately fell in love with. But we hadn't even considered that because the list price from the Parade of Homes was almost 100K over what we wanted to spend. But I had to see it once more! So we went back, and come to find out, the base price was substantially lower. BUT they only build in their certain developments, and the largest lots left in these developments were .17 acres. Booooo!!! And the commute would be 45+ minutes during rush hour. So we asked the owner of McArthur Homes if he would consider building the Cordova for us out in Stansbury Park where they have bigger lots. Nope, too far away for them. I was SO BUMMED! So we decided to check out custom builders, maybe they could build us a home like the Cordova in the location we wanted. We met with a couple independent home contractors, but uh... they just didn't feel right. Don't know why.

By this time we had dropped three real estate agents, one of whom was a pretty sore loser, darn it! She tried to guilt us into keeping her. "I spent all day Friday and half of Saturday house-hunting with you!" I'm sorry, but you weren't listening to us. You didn't represent us like you said you would. We asked you to find us empty lots for sale. You kept pushing us on your agenda. I even gave you some numbers of lot owners to call. You never called. Sorry, we have no loyalties. And we signed no contract. So after talking with some family and friends who had bought homes and/or built custom homes, we decided to go solo, no real-estate agent attached. You know, that one sore-loser agent even tried scaring us into going solo by saying, "I'm scared for your lives. There's just so much legal stuff and you could get sued. You don't know what you're doing." If we do our research and ask questions all the time and talk to trusted friends who have bought a home, I think we'll be ok. And she talked slander about this one company we were looking into but wouldn't say where she go the info. Just like a politician.

We started looking out in Stansbury Park for empty lots that we could buy and then hire a builder to build our home on. So you know, we were pretty set on Stansbury because it was the perfect combination of location, commute, lot size, and neighborhood for us. The back drop was the Great Salt Lake followed by the gorgeous mountains, and the beautiful sunset in the evenings. Mostly young families with comparable income live there, it was a 20 minute, peaceful commute to work. And the lots were a quarter acre on average! A lot of the lots had no 'for sale' sign, which was lame. The ones that did ended up being way out of our price range. Hmm... Well... Hey, how about we go back to those lots and ask the neighbors who owns them! So a couple nights later, we did. We had some success, but Peter got to talking with this one friendly man, and he said, "Hey, have you ever considered Erda? It's more farm country, but there's a great little, new neighborhood being built there with young families, and they're on half-acre lots! It's just 5 minutes down the road." Thank you! We'll definitely check that out.

And that's how we found Erda, and Cadence Homes! We took a little walk down the street with the half-acre lots, and knocked on some doors. We wanted referrals, opinions of Cadence Homes' quality and honesty from random families, families who weren't prepped by Cadence Homes to give a good referral if called upon. They gave us great reviews, especially this one family, whom I think we are going to be good friends with. Jen and Roland, and their almost two-year old, Travis. Jen had done her research. I'd say she's more into researching things than I am. Awesome! She even gave me her number for when we have more questions. She was extremely helpful and really helped us feel comfortable building with Cadence.

The only thing wrong, though, was house. We didn't love any of the ones they offered. I could have settled, but I just couldn't. I explained to the agent how much we love the Cordova and just can't forget about it. She gave me the answer I needed. "We'll build any home you want." What?! No other home-building company offered that (except custom, but...)! She continued, "You can meet with our architect and change one of our plans to be as close to the Cordova as possible." Alright, that sounds good! So we met but it started feeling like it just wasn't going to be the same. Then the thought came to me, "What if McArthur would sell their floor plan of the Cordova to us? Just the plan. And we have Cadence build it? Can't hurt to ask." I swear it was inspiration. I asked, and after making sure we weren't going to resell it or anything, they said YES! A couple thousand dollars later, we had the floor plans in our hands. That was Wednesday. Holy cow. This can't be real. We're getting what we want and where we want it!

So yesterday, Saturday, we submitted our offer. The builder has until Tuesday at 5pm to accept, reject or counter the offer. Pray for us!