Picking a lot

Alright, we’ve decided what neighborhood to live in. Now, where in that neighborhood are we going to build? We were incredibly lucky and got into our neighborhood just as the phase opened up, so we could look at all the options and not point to a lot and say “I wish we could get that one”. A lot of factors went into picking out lot. I’ve lived in a new house on average every three years of my life, so I’ve seen a lot of what’s considered for livability, property value, and ease of resale. While we are hoping to keep this place for the longer term (still not sure how long that will be!), we wanted the best lot we could find. Here are some of the big things we looked at. Street and alley traffic: Will you be on a main street or can you let kids play in the front yard and not worry (excessively) about the traffic flying past them? Will you have to deal with a lot of traffic noise and people watching you cut your grass every Sunday? How easy will it be to back out of the garage? The less traffic immediately around your home the better is always the case, but it’s also nice to be close to the bus stop (and future LRT in our case).Lot size: I’ll admit, this is something we compromised on the moment we decided to build instead of buy. We knew we’d be getting a postage stamp lot no matter what, and it really didn’t play into our decision. Parking: Both for your own vehicles and guests, what parking is available? If you won’t have people over often you probably don’t care if you have much street parking, but we like to entertain, so being close to a corner lot or other spot where the residents aren’t going to take over every inch of the street was important to us.Alley accessibility: Do you have to drive half a block down the alley to get to your garage or is it just a couple hundred feet? Our winters can be pretty nasty, so having the garage to keep frost off the vehicle is awesome, but driving through massive snow banks to get there isn’t. We looked for a spot that would hopefully get enough traffic to pack down the snow but not so much that we’d have a ton of traffic behind us during the morning rush to get off to work. Corner lot: Corner lots have really improved in newer developments – they actually have a back yard now! Also, the side gives a lot of extra parking. And in the world of 6 to 8 feet between eaves having that third wall exposed for windows is a nice bonus. But that comes with the added expense of required “architectural details” on the sides of the home, and a lot more sidewalk to shovel! In older neighborhoods corner lots are also a harder sell. I’m not sure how that has translated to new developments, but I’d rather not take the risk, so they were quickly struck from our list of options. Amenities: Pathways, parks, bus stops, schools, and other neighborhood bonuses are always nice to be close to, but consider what kind of traffic they will generate by your home. If you are on a cul-de-sac by a school, will your street be the turning-around point for parents dropping their kids off? Is that lovely view of a park going to be obscured by soccer-mom vans every night during the summer soccer season? Will that pathway next to your house eliminate privacy in your back yard and create an unexpected theft risk for anything you leave sitting out? Lot direction: Do you want a north, south, east or west facing home? I’ve heard pro’s and con’s for all directions. Consider what rooms you want to get sunlight into, how much the sun will heat the rooms for you in the summer and north winds affect you in the winter? Direction had very little impact on our decision. View: What will you be staring at when you look out the windows, are hanging out in your back yard, or out front? With a detached garage we already have a pretty good idea what the view out back will be – garage – so it was just a question of what’s across the street from us.   In the end, we decided on a lot across from a park and three spots in from the alley entrance. The park has a lot of landscaping so it may be used by kids for a game of tag, but otherwise is just a pretty green space that provides a pretty view with lots of parking. We had considered a pie lot or a lot on a cul-de-sac a bit closer to the entrance to our street, but there are plans to put a school in right by us, so we figured that the cul-de-sac may become a turn-around point. Further down our street there are a bunch of duplexes with single attached garages which we purposely avoided being by. We’ll have (generally larger) homes with double attached garages beside the park, which should reduce the amount of people parking on the street, so, hopefully, the road doesn’t become a single lane in the winter. We ended up in a south-facing lot, so the living room and master bedroom gets lots of sun during the day. I’m really looking forward to curling up on the couch to read and write!

Picking a Neighborhood

One of the hardest parts of buying a house is picking a neighborhood. You want nice neighbors, schools, amenities, short commute, and a home that will appreciate in value all within a set budget. [More]

Why did we pick our builder?

There's a lot of home builders out there. What's special about ours that we decide to purchase their product instead of someone else? This is a question I've been asked by a few people so I figure I should address it. Attention to detail: Our builder still uses framing crews. Our house was framed by one crew over the course of a week. That's right, a week. Our walls were not prefabbed and trucked in, lifted with a crane. It was all done on site. Does this translate to a better build? Not necessarily. Does it make us feel better about the framing and structure? Definitely yes! Jenny and I stopped by on a couple nights during framing and had a chance to talk to the crew. They were friendly, more than willing to pose for pictures (even though we didn't ask for it), and were willing to talk about the process. One got the sense that they like what they do.There were other things too. Back in 2010 and 2011, Jenny and I did the typical show home tours. With every show home, I take a stroll into the basement to take a look at things. Do they tape their ductwork? Are they bending copper or using rubberized line to feed the furnace and hot water heater? Are they including an HRV as part of their standard package? What type of patch panels are they using for their structured cabling? Of our builder's homes we've looked at over the past year had many of these features as a standard. One other builder did, most did not. They didn't say no...right away: Friends and colleagues of mine told me they had a hard time getting what they wanted out of their builder. In some cases, the builder refused to entertain an idea, citing things such as cost. When dealing with Mark and Carla, their answer was that they would look into it. They looked into everything I asked for that wasn't a typical a la carte option and they made it happen. They do this because it becomes an education for them as well. They know that Jenny and I are looking at this home as a base for some sweat equity. Getting them to run structured cabling to each of the bedrooms would cost us $300/room. I could wire the whole house for the cost of a single room, as long as I had a conduit going from the basement up to the attic. They didn't know if this was an option. They looked into it, it turned out to be less than the cost of a single room. Everybody's happy. There were a few round trips with them regarding upgraded electrical in the garage, but at no point was I led to believe that my requests were unreasonable. I truly got a sense from them that their first priority was our satisfaction, and second was how much money they could make for the company. They have a sense of humour: I'll say it right now. Mark's a smartass. In a good way. We developed a quick rapport with Mark and Carla. Signing paperwork is an arduous task at best. We managed to keep it entertaining. Were there a few occasions where Mark was late sending an email I was waiting for? Sure. Did this bother me? No. I got to know the people who work there. They made it easy to form a relationship with them and because of that, you can forgive a few things without getting frustrated. I can't speak for every sales centre with our builder, but our location knows how to connect with their customers.

Getting started

Hey folks. Last year, Jenny and I started looking for a home. Suffice it to say, our 650 sq. ft. condo isn't cutting it any more. We looked at various show homes in various communities in town, as well as looking to buy a 70's-80's era home that could use some renovations. Those of you who know us know that we're not afraid to get our hands dirty. We were leaving our options open. We had looked at neighbourhoods from the deep south to far west end, and come close to buying on a couple occasions. However, life happens and last year just wasn't the right time. One new neighbourhood stood out for us. It's as far south as you can go in the city, but just west of the main road to the rest of the world. We quickly became fans of the fact that green spaces were laid out before homes were built, and that the architectural guidelines help to ensure that the neighbourhood won't look cookie cutter. There are eventual plans to extend the LRT this far south, and a large commercial space. The price was hard to beat too. After touring the various show homes, we had decided on a builder. We liked their floor plans, and the sales people were friendly. We registered our information with them and kept appraised of new developments in the area. It was through one of their sales emails that we heard about a deal they were offering for the month of February - a free garage package. Since we were primarily interested in rear lane detached properties, this piqued our interest. After meeting with Mark, our sales associate, we picked a lot, threw down a deposit, and started on the road to home ownership. We have chosen our floor plan, elevation, and lot. We first got the ball rolling on February 5th and finished consolidation on March 25th. While this is a long period of time to consolidation, this will all get explained and the end result will be worth it. As of March 28th, we had our hole in the ground and the next day, the footings were poured. Here's where we stand right now.