Building your own house

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Feb 16, 2005
Spokane, WA
Something the fiance and I have talked about off and on since we've gotten engaged is buying some land here while living on base, and building our own house. Obviously we couldn't afford to build something huge, but I'm wondering if it's really feasable to start with a smaller place, and build with the intention of adding on once every few years. Is this a realy feasable way to go for someone in my position (as an E4 going to E5 in the military), or maybe not so much?
Doing one round of adding on might not be so bad, but any more than that and I think your house would wind up costing you a bit more than similar houses of the same size, especially if you're adding floors.
Jman said:
Doing one round of adding on might not be so bad, but any more than that and I think your house would wind up costing you a bit more than similar houses of the same size, especially if you're adding floors.

Yeah I've heard that adding floors ain't cheap. I had thought it'd be nice to have a 3 story house, but I just don't know if that's even financially possible for us.
i am building, 10-20 roofs, so the attics have 5' kneewalls and can be converted in to rooms at some point -

- just don't forget the egress
I have a relative that was in the same position - mil pay - but wanted to build a place. They ended up first building the walk out basement, finishing it into a relatively decent living space with a flat roof - similar to a berm home. It actually turned out pretty decent. 5 years or so later they added the main floor. Due to proper planning they were able to use the flat roof, after stripping of the shingle material, as their floor package for the final house. Keep in mind they did much of the work, with the exception of the excavation and concrete foundation, themselves - which made it very cost effective. You can make it happen, it just takes a lot of planning to get it to turn out well.
I work for a home builder here in Dallas Texas. I design the homes, pull the permits, supervise on the jobsite, etc etc. Today I was cutting wood with my chainsaw... Anyway...

Check with whatever government agency oversees the area where you want to build. City? County? Ask the building department about zoning, and what you are allowed to build. Here in Dallas in Single family residential zoning there is a height restriction....

Another thing to consider is if you pull a permit to build a structure, then want to remodel it down the line adding square feet you will have to pull another remodelling permit. Look into permitting and fees in your area.

Other things to look into at the building department... Are you allowed to do the Heat/AC, Electrical, Plumbing, or do you need licensed contractors to do so? How are you going to tap to the city/county sewer and water? Do you need a bonded contractor to do so or will the city do it? Is there Water or sewer available on the property you want to build on? Can you put in a well or a septic system?... What are the cost/fees to hook up to the city sewer/water?

And probably one of the biggest questions is the property you are purchasing a Platted Lot, and if it is not a Platted lot are you allowed to build on it? Here in Dallas the fees from the City and the cost of the survey work to Plat a lot and register it with the county are upwards of $8500 for a 1 acre property, and it takes 30-60 days once submitted to the city for it all to happen...

If you have any specific questions about building I would be more than happy to answer them, considering that I do not know the laws in your area.

The only thing is..... a good add on doesn't look like it's been done.I never thought I would ever say this but,You need Professional Help....Struct.Engnr. or someone local who Knows the real issues.Dollar wise may be better off waiting and laying it out right the first time.Add-ons are great for cash flow issues but you may not like the Choppyness that seems to happen far too often.From the standpoint of a Remodler with 30 plus years...don't rush it ,plan very carefully. PM if you wish.Good Luck with this project.
I've been thinking about this a bit, came up with two other options. You could consider (1) building the largest sq. ft. house you can afford, but only complete the inside work (plumbing, electrical, sheetrock, etc.) of the first floor, and finish the other floors as you can afford it, or (2) build a small house to live in, then as your ship comes sailing in, build larger house on lot and use small house as guest house later on. Of course, you need to know what building restrictions are for that lot.
You and your fiance need to keep in mind what a trying experience building a home is. It is one thing to act as the general and have a crew of subs throughout the project and another thing to be the general and do the work yourself. If you work full time, the house will suffer, and be very delayed, and only the strong will survive. Secondly, housing costs obviously are much different from east to west coast. You being west coast, I'll talk No. Cal, average contractor costs are 150.00/sq. ft. When you start adding trim, stone work, etc. the 150 rule doesn't really apply. That is where you will save money if you do it yourself. We are almost done with our house and without the land cost, our 2016 Sqft house will havecost about 240,000. Also, if you don't need financing you can get away with the add on approach or building the shell as big as you want and only finishing the first floor, but if a lending institution is involved they want a finished house that is sellable if necessary. By the way, 2 years 2 months into the process and still speaking. Good Luck.
My $.02 Wife of Norcal Sam, Teresa
I am not sure if your county/town would allow it - but how about a garage with a studio/apt on top of it. Then when you have the funds later you can just build another structure. I always thought that is the way I would do it when I pick up roots, sell everything here and build something somewhere. Start with a nice big garage and studio space on top, then do the house some time later.

Seems to make sense to me, but I am no expert in building and costs for this kind of thing.
Excellent advice from everyone, but I am going to throw in another option altogether. For your first house, the foreclosure market is worth taking a look at, especially if you are willing to add some sweat equity. The key there is to buy it right, and know what you are getting into as far as the repairs needed. Until 6 months ago I was a general contractor in Spokane. PM me and I can point you to some good electricains, plumbers, drywallers, etc. These guys are top notch. If you are interested in foreclosures or just want to buy, I can direct you a realtor, she and I flipped a foreclosure as a team, and she sold me the house I live in. Also, check out the city of Spokane's building website, or something like that.
Congrats on the upcoming wedding.:cheers:
If you have the skills to do remodeling, consider buying a fixer in an area that should appreciate. Live in it for 2 -3 years and make some upgrades. Sell it and then find another. Do this a few times and you'll be able to build a nice place.

I think the most important thing is to buy something to start building equity. It is unlikely you will lose money.


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