Building that Dream Home Today!

How to Build Your Dream Home

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1. GET REAL ABOUT YOUR BUDGET.
The primary source of conflict and melodrama in the building process is budget. Set your number, and then listen. If you have a reputable builder or contractor, trust him or her to tell you what things cost. And don’t get stuck on the cost-per-square-foot metric. “When a client comes in clutching a printout from Houzz and his estimation of what something costs per square foot, a whole education process needs to begin,” builder Michael Munir of Sharif & Munir says, “and we start with the myth of square-footage computations.” If you are building or remodeling, know what you can afford to spend. Start there, and have your builder and architect walk you through your options and explain how real-time costs are established.

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2. SELECT YOUR TEAM.
In a perfect world, you would have your architect, builder, designer, landscape architect, and lawyer* on board and in place before you’ve even selected the site of your new home. Why do you need the whole team there from the beginning? Each individual will be looking out for your needs from a different vantage point. This is crucial as you choose the property upon which you’re building. Your team will take things like sun orientation, zoning, setbacks, area-coverage restrictions, and height restrictions into consideration while you’re going on and on about how “pretty” the views are. Once you decide on a lot, your team can come together to create detailed plans. On the cost side, it is your builder who will produce and oversee your budget.

*Some people were less enthusiastic about the need for lawyer involvement at any time.

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3. GET REAL ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED.
In an age of Houzz.com and Pinterest, a list of wants versus needs can become very confusing. Those all-steel windows that “everyone” has could cost you $100,000. You might go with aluminum-clad or wood windows to save. The concrete floors that you think are so cool? Perhaps you’ll opt for something a little more user-friendly like porcelain tiles. Your old furniture could be an issue. Consider the immense size of Aunt Edna’s dining-room table or that seven-seater sofa. Art collections need lighting and wall space defined. Your team will work with you to devise a personalized plan that incorporates all of your lifestyle needs ranging from that fridge in the garage to closet space. “We have clients who come in and say, ‘We need 6,000 square feet.’ But they’re in 4,500 square feet now, and there are rooms they’re not using,” Bruce Bernbaum of Bernbaum-Magadini Architects says. “Sometimes they have a gigantic list, but their budget doesn’t allow them to have everything. So if they want a library, office, and dining room, we may have to do some combining — bookcases in the dining room, for example. We try to validate their wants, and show them how it might all work in 4,500 square feet.”

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Outdoor living spaces have become as important as the indoors. Loggias that open to full outdoor kitchens and lounging areas are the new Dallas requirement.

dream_home_6IMPORTANT: Think ahead. When planning your dream house, think five — even 10 — years down the road. How will the plan adapt to your growing children or to your retirement needs? How will it work through every season? the majority of the builders we surveyed emphasized the importance of taking the very long-term view on the spaces.

4. GET REAL ABOUT THE BUDGET AGAIN.
Have we mentioned how important it is to get real about your budget? Because sometimes, even the most business-savvy people lose their minds when it comes to building their dream homes. Don’t play games with your builder. The idea that saying, “our budget is X,” while meanwhile squirreling away Y is not smart. A smaller stated budget will not get you more for the buck. If you have a good builder, he or she will be completely transparent. Builders and architects design to a number; let your team know what your numbers are so they can design to it. And don’t forget to budget for landscape and interior furnishings. “A lot of times, those outdoor spaces cost more than your air-conditioned areas,” builder Bob Thompson of Bob Thompson Homes says.

So figure out your money situation, and be realistic about costs. Most builders have an entry level for pricing, and they can direct you to vendors who will help you stay on budget. Some costs for items like framing or foundation simply are what they are. “The house is going to cost what it costs. If you find a dramatically cheaper bid on a house, then chances are, that guy is leaving something out,” builder Mickey Munir of Sharif & Munir says. 

dream_home_7Repeat after us: you will have change orders. But the more you nail down in the planning stages, the better.

5. GET REAL ABOUT THE TIMELINE.
Nobody loves reality television more than we do, but HGTV has done a disservice when it comes to our expectations about how long it takes to get things done on a construction site. Spoiler alert: Your house is not going to be built in three days. Your backyard will not be done in an afternoon. “People have preconceived ideas about how simple and easy everything will flow. They think, ‘Oh, it’s not difficult.’ But it’s always a process,” landscape architect Glenn Bonick of Bonick Landscaping says.

Bottom line, no matter what you see on Property Brothers, with construction comes delays. If you’re dead set on putting in that basement, you’re going to add time (and money and headaches due to probable problems with soil depending on your neighborhood). If you insist on limestone walls, be mindful that you’re at the mercy of that quarry down in Granbury. If production shuts down for some reason, then there’s nothing to load on the truck to head your way. Even acts of God like weather can put you behind. If you know to expect delays and a few momentary setbacks, your experience will be smoother and saner throughout.

dream_home_8People like to tell their builders that they know a guy who knows a guy who’s a builder, and that guy said it can be done cheaper. Don’t do that. Trust your team and communicate with them accordingly.

6. COMMUNICATE ABOUT EVERYTHING.
You have selected people who are knowledgeable and great listeners. It is up to you to stay engaged and in the loop. Establish communication patterns. Attend team meetings on a regular, predetermined basis. Ask questions. Utilize technology—many builders have special websites or apps that outline the plan and keep track of progress. Text and e-mail your builder as necessary; it’s great for quick decisions and creates a record of your interaction. Insist on transparency. Look at the invoices and keep track of costs. Also, if you’re a person who lives by the credo of William James—“If you can change your mind, you can change your life”—good for you. But in the home-construction realm, that mindset is also going to change your bottom line. “Every time you make a change, you’re going to want to see the new price and how the schedule will change,” builder Mark Danuser of Tatum Brown Custom Homes says. Planning well and carefully is key.

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7. MEET THE PRESS.
Once you and your team have completed a project that has surpassed your every dream and expectation, sing its praises from your stylish lanai. Shout about your new rooftop from your new rooftop. And then invite the editors of D Home over so we can see your lovely and amazing new home. We like to sing and shout, too.

 

Help us here at team dembowski by commenting if you found this article helpful, or if you have a topic that you have questions on and want us to cover. 

 

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Should You Buy A Bigger House?

Should You Buy A Bigger House?

Even though many people are buying less expensive housing these days, you might be very tempted to buy a bigger house. I can understand that. Interest rates are ridiculously low and real estate prices seem to be just bottoming out. I recently wrote a post explaining that most people are far better off buying real estate rather than renting. I believe that with every cell of my body. If that is true, wouldn’t it also be true that owning more real estate (in the form of a larger house) is better than owning less? The argument has merit.

But before you whip out your check book and call Moshe’s Movers, chill out. Even ifyou can af ford the new house, I suggest you pause. While there are a few good reasons to move into larger digs, there are plenty of reasons why you should maintain as small a footprint as possible.

Reasons to Move to a Larger Home

There are only three good reasons to move into a larger home:

1. Current Home Way too Small

One of the worst decisions I ever made was to buy a house that was really affordable but way too small for our family. My wife tried to tell me this before we bought the house. But of course the financial advisor expert in me took over and prevailed. Within a year we all agreed that we better move before one of us ends up on the 5 o’clock news.

That was very expensive because real estate prices had increased over that year and of course we had to pay the commissions and the movers and all that fun stuff. Drag. If you are in a house that doesn’t fit your family and you can afford a bigger house, I suggest you do it. Now is a great time for you to upgrade.

2. Current Home Way too Far

Just like living in a cramped space, living in a bad location can be a downer. If you are moving anyway, why not trade up a little? Again, assuming you can afford the upgrade, go for it. No reason why you shouldn’t.

3. Extra Costs of New Home Are Irrelevant

If you want a bigger home because you want a bigger home and you can easily pay the higher freight, it might be OK to go for it. This can be really tricky however.

One of my friends bought a huge house overlooking the valley when he was at the peak of his career. He spent a ton of money on a huge mansion and was very happy there – for a while.

Eventually he decided that he wanted to change his lifestyle. He realized that if he downsized, he could actually retire early and live very comfortably. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to realize his dream. The house is worth much less now than when he bought it. As a result, he’s stuck with the larger house, the very high upkeep and a lifestyle he’s dying to change.

To summarize, there are only 3 reasons you should buy a bigger home. Notice that I didn’t include buying a larger estate as a way to increase your real estate investments. While I do think it’s generally a good time to invest in property, the best way to do this is by owning rentals in the right market. Rentals provide income. Your residence doesn’t. Buying a bigger house as an investment might work out for you but it’s far riskier than buying good rentals.

Why You Should Not Buy a Bigger Home

1. You Can’t Afford It

Never buy a house you can’t easily afford. With the uncertain financial times we live in, it’s not unheard of to suffer big financial reversals. If heaven forbid you encounter such a situation (such as losing your job), the last thing you want to do is to lose your house too. People underestimate what it really costs to own a home. When you upgrade to a larger house all of the following bills go up substantially:

a. Mortgage Payments (duh)
b. Insurance
c. Taxes
d. Utilities
e. Upkeep
f. Décor and Furnishings (You’ll probably have to buy all new furniture when you move. At the very least, you’ll have to buy more furniture to fill up that castle you just bought).
g. Landscaping and grounds

Even if you think you can afford the new house please confirm it. Take a few minutes and crunch the numbers to be sure.

2. Risk

As I mentioned above, once you commit to real estate – especially if it’s your residence – it’s difficult and expensive to make a change. Consider how your circumstances might change over the years ahead.

Think of my friend who wanted to reinvent his life but couldn’t because he was trapped by the large home he owned and couldn’t sell.

My wife and I bought a pretty nice house in LA when our kids were younger. Before we knew it, 2 of them were in college and out of the house. We really don’t need that big house any more. I’m not saying it was a mistake to buy the house originally (12 years ago) but it would be a mistake for us to buy a bigger house now.

This is true even though it would be easier for us to afford a larger home now that two of the kids are almost done with college. There is no reason for us to buy a larger home so we aren’t doing so. Having a very affordable home gives us lots of freedom and peace of mind.

3. Opportunity Cost

If you tie up lots of money in your residence you incur an opportunity cost. The money you put in as a down payment is money you can’t invest elsewhere. Maybe there are better alternatives that you can’t take advantage of because you haven’t got the scratch. And remember that more of your monthly income goes towards the house payment. That’s money you can’t invest for your retirement. It’s also money you can’t use to travel or have fun doing other things with.

Real estate presents a wonderful opportunity right now. I’m a big fan. If you are thinking of taking advantage of the present circumstances to buy a larger home, it could be a really smart move. Just make sure you do this with your eyes wide open and do it for the right reasons.

Are you thinking of buying a larger home now? Why or why not?

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How to Maintain a Healthy Credit Score

When you're in the market to buy a home, your credit score is very important. Most lenders use this three-digit number (which is created by evaluating factors like how much debt you have, your payment history for things like credit cards and car loans, and the length of your credit history) to determine your credit risk. This number helps lenders predict whether you'll pay back your loans and if you'll pay them on time.

Mortgage borrowers with the best credit ratings generally get lower interest rates. Their monthly mortgage payments are also lower, according to myfico.com, the website for the Fair Issac Corp., which created the most-used credit rating, the FICO score. (Your FICO score can range from 300 to 850; the higher your score, the better. Credit scores tend to be better for people who have credit -- e.g., have credit card accounts -- and pay off their credit

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on time.)

Generally, consumers with ratings in the mid 700s or higher get the best interest rates. (But this depends on the economic climate -- 680 was once considered a good score.)

For example, when we last checked data made available on myfico.com, a person with a better FICO score (760-850) was able to get a monthly mortgage payment for a 30-year fixed mortgage that was about $41 lower than someone who had a credit score of 700-759, according to the website's calculations. That person with the better FICO score would spend $492 less on mortgage payments

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over a year's period than the person with a lower score.

So, if you can increase your credit rating, you could save money over the length of your mortgage. (We all like to save money!) But raising your credit score isn't easy and takes time. (Like getting into shape, or sticking to a diet.) But if you keep to it and are diligent about it, you can increase your credit rating. Here's how:

  • Check your credit report

    Keep tabs on your credit report by getting a free report once a year with freecreditreport.com (be careful of other scam sites). Go over it carefully, and make sure there aren't any errors, such as a payment that was reported late that wasn't, and mentions of accounts that don't belong to you. Report any errors on the provided form.

  • Pay bills on time

    Lenders don't like to see late payments -- even paying bills just a few days after the due date can negatively impact your score. Not paying your bills on time will lower your credit rating. Also, the longer you keep paying your bills on time, the better your credit score will be.

  • Reduce credit card debt

    Work to keep the balances low on your credit cards -- try to keep them well below your credit limits. Pay off as much credit card debt as you can, paying off the cards that are closest to their credit limits first. (Lenders like to see credit activity, but it doesn't look good if it appears that you are stretched to your credit limits.)

  • Don't open/close accounts

    Also, don't open new cards while trying to increase your rating, but don't close old accounts, either. (Both could negatively affect your score.) If you are new to credit, rapidly opening new credit accounts could make you look risky and will also lower your credit age. (Lenders prefer people with stable and lengthy credit histories.)

  • Use your old cards

    If you have any credit cards you haven't used in a while, try using them again. By making charges on the cards that you took out a long time ago, you're improving the age of your credit history and will look like a more reliable borrower.

    Source: trulia.com