Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What a rollercoaster!

This morning we got a call from a "John"... he is the dude that our builder, Jim, just hired to take care of the rest of the foundation, dirt, rock, stone, etc.  This was followed by a call from our builder.  Turns out, the company that was originally hired to do all the foundation, dirt removal an excavation work bid the job - got started (house knocked down, trees, big hole for basement) and then started throwing out new charges that weren't in the bid, including a HUGE fee to remove the fill that was dug up for the basement. 

Jim got angry with him (this guy has worked with Jim for years and years) and told him he shouldn've known about these costs and should've put them in the bid.  Apparently this company said "what do you care, it's not your money?" and assuming that he just goes to us and tells us we have more money to pay. 

Jim is luckily a good guy and didn't want to do that, he got very upset... bid out the jobs to a few other people and went back to the original company trying to get them to complete the job (or so I think he did).  Because that company wouldn't do it without all the new expenses, Jim took the business to another company... that's where John comes in.  He's going to do the rest of the work for us and hopefully it will all be able to absorbed from our original mortgage loan (no above and beyond).  PHEW!

All of this took Jim several weeks to accomplish, which is why we have been in a holding pattern.  John says he's going to start up work this Friday getting the rest of the foundation dug, spreading the dirt and then hopefully we'll find a place to take it without having to pay. 

Now, I say this with caution.  I know enough now not to get my hopes up... if there is someone there on Friday, I will be ecstatic.  If not, I'll know... it's just another day in the process!!!  At least there's a logical explanation for the time lag. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh lordy.

Still no action on Ardmore.  Not sure what happened to "tomorrow, we'll be back in business!!".  Jim says he hasn't gotten his "estimates" back yet.  Dave and I are a little confused as to what estimates he's referring to.  We may be having a meeting again here soon to clear up the delays... it's so frustrating.  Those big piles of dirt are just sitting there taunting me.  I big vacant hole.. feels naked, it needs a dream house on top of it!!!

On top of that.. schools starting soon, I've been promoted... which is a good thing, very appreciative of the opportunity - however, whoa... could the timing be any better to make a step up and have to prove yourself?!  Dave's work is crahhhh-zzeee.  I think he just said he'll be working nonstop all of September.  This outta be fun... don't know how to get it all done!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Well.  Still no action on the house and no news on who is going to take the dirt.  I was so hopeful things were going to start moving again.  So much for "we'll get started again tomorrow!"  Boo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Game on.

A few glasses of wine prepared me for the 9pm meeting with Jim - the builder,  Turns out, it's not too bad... in fact, it's pretty good.  And that's not the wine talking (I think).  Perhaps it's optimism?

Well, regardless, Jim is a maniac - in a good way.  He's hardcore obsessive about building, knows everyone in the business and seriously works like crazy because he loves it.  He never stops talking so our meetings go FOREVER and he calls you every morning at the same time to give you an update.  In fact, Dave would probably say he'd like to talk to him less.  That's not normally the complaint you get when working with a builder!

Basically over the last week, Jim's been visiting contact after contact to work out the basement/foundation issues and find the most economical solution for us.  Seems as though he did it.  It shouldn't cost us much out of pocket, we hope.  So far, we had to pay a little to the engineers to do the plan for the foundation (which they already wrote out verbally, now it has to be drawn and warrantied for 30 years).   The rest we are hoping to minimize and hope to squeeze most of it out of what's already in our loan.  Deep breathe in..... and out.  Let's hope that's the case.

Jim's been to the city and looked in the records to find out that our fill isn't necessarily all from when they built 94, like we had thought.  It's mostly from DTE when they built and a lot if it's actually ashes from coal plants (so it drains well.. which turns out to be good for us).  Of course, that's mixed in with a lot of glass and bottles from prohibition years.  If you aren't familiar with the St. Clair Shores history with prohibition.. our house is on the bay where one of the biggest points of sneaky liquor deliveries came in.  I may actually go over to that dirt pile afterall and see if I can find a few bottles to save for keepsakes, considering that topic seems to keep coming up over and over.  By the way... did you know that in 1920's prohibition, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River carried 75% of the liquor supplied to the United States?  I read about it and it sounds like a movie.. I can't believe all of that really happened.  Prohibition & the Purple Gang

I could detail out it out for you, since we went through a huge pile of estimates, comparisons, drawings and it was over an hour tonight.  I'm guessing you'd rather just know that it's good, that tomorrow there will be activity again.  A lot of the dirt should be gone, if the plan works out like we hope it to and the foundation will be starting to get situated.

So happy that at least we are moving forward again!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

So.. maybe no news is good news?

Nothing yet... but my brain got stuck on The Great Space Coaster so now I'm just amusing myself while I wait.  Maybe we'll get some good g-news tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's gonna be okay. It's gonna be okay. It's gonna be okay...

I just keep telling myself that.  Still waiting on the final estimate for our foundation.  Here's how I have conceptualized the last several days:
  1. Builder gets soil borings (a big thingamabob goes into the ground super deep and pulls out a long tube of ground to see what it's really like down there).
  2. Engineers stare at the soil borings and say "yup, that doesn't look like it'll hold a whole house up."
  3. Engineers whip up money-sucking plan to pound large telephone poles [aka, "piers"] deep into the ground in a bunch of places so that when your house goes on top, your house can't sink, hopefully.
  4. Engineers have to guarantee the foundation, so heck.. let's throw in some more piers (ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-shing).
  5. Builder attempts to convince disgruntled and bewildered us that he'll figure it out, he uses black marker to whip up a fancy plan on top of the first plan and wala ... magic, he says.  Off he goes.
  6. We buy more beer and eat junk food.
  7. We get calls about money.  Dirt.  Money.  Testing dirt. No wait, not testing dirt.  Disposing dirt.  Money.  Oh wait, no, no money.  Spreading dirt and disposing dirt for free.  [I'm just as confused as you are...]
  8. Builder sets up big meeting with engineers, they look at black marked up plan, negotiate.  Shake hands and agree, no telephone poles.. instead.. lots and lots of rocks and concrete.  I know there's fancier name for that stuff, but I don't can't keep up.  It's rocks, concrete and rocks.  Maybe some clay.  Whatever.
  9. Company who dug basement gets info now has to tell us how much it will cost to install all the rocks and concrete... hopefully tomorrow.
  10. If we give it the thumbs up, machines start up again this week.
Clearly, I have a very good handle on this so far, right?  Ha.  If Dave wrote this, you'd all be more informed.  He knows what the thingamabobs, rocks, concrete and telephone polls are really about.  At least one of us does.

And with that, I admit to all of you that told me "just expect the unexpected, there will be setbacks and money."  Yes, you are right.  In week two no less!  I'm still thrilled about building this dream house.  Just hoping I feel the same after the big dollar signs come in tomorrow...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I see dollar signs.

Builder came over today to discuss the foundation "issue".  Sounds like there's a good plan in place.. it's just going to cost us big dollar signs.  We are waiting ot hear how big, we should know tomorrow so they can get back to work on Tuesday.  Time to empty our pockets and hopefully get more out than lint!  We have been expecting this... we were just hoping it would be a non-issue.  Ah well... just going with the flow!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday: Let's hurry up and wait.

Yard is cleared, basements dug.  Now, the foundation <insert spooky music here>.  This has been the nemesis ever since our contemplation to buy this lot. We're nervous.. soil borings are done.  Engineers are making us nervous... probably more money than expected, but all we can do now is wait until draw it up and give us an estimate.  Hopefully we'll know more Sunday!!  Then, fingers crossed things get moving again in week #2!

Were aren't done chopping trees yet!!

It's the end of the week... 2 more trees, gone!  They were in the front yard.  Now, there's one left in the back.  We'll replace them with little trees next spring.  I'm loving the new views!

Next up: The neighbors dream come true... take down that scary big tree!!

Now ya see it...

Now ya don't!!!

This HUGE tree (which I felt a little bad taking down, especially after seeing a cute squirrel family looking at us from a hole.. don't worry.. we told them to leave that night and I'm pretty sure they did)... it's gone!!

That was a HUGE TREE!!!  The neighbors threw a margarita party for themselves to celebrate it's demise.. apparently every high wind, they feared it would come down on them.  So wala, gone!

So, this is for REAL?!?!

After closing on the loan in June and the renters moving out mid-July, we'd been hearing "tomorrow, we'll knock the house down" for a week or so.  Finally, 8/8, the house was knocked down!!  We came over the night before to check it out before it got started. Here are some pictures:

The fire department and EMS used our home for training while it was vacant... this was a "body" left behind after the training.  The builder had to call them to pick it up before we could knock the house down! lol.

Poof!!!  There goes that little white garage!
Little by little.. the were taking bricks off the house.  I went home to work for a while, came back and found this....

And the front looked like this.  There were doing a nice clean job (although it doesn't look clean, but they didn't hit any close neighbors.. which was a very good thing!!)

I took another break, and when I got back... they were done for the day.  That's right, this was all in ONE day!  Pretty cool!!

We'd stare at our property and dream...

While we were out on the boat, we'd see our future house and imagine...

Renters in, game on.

While we had renters, we picked a builder... then an architect and made our plans!

Dave was right, we CAN make this house liveable for renters!

Here's the "before" - in 2009

Wait, what? You knocked down a house? I don't get it...

So.. once upon a time, back in the year 2009, the real estate market was booming and we sold our house for big money....

I don't think you are gonna fall for that one.  Rewind.  First of all, I need a disclaimer.  I'm confused by blogs and I feel like starting off "Dear Diary... " but I see by looking at others, that's not really how it works.  I feel silly writing this all down, but I guess there are people out there who really want to know, and who am I to deny the people?  Right.  Okay, so here it is.  Feel free to fast forward to just look at the pictures (I probably would).

Back to 2009, I wanted a bigger boat.  I 1987ish 40" Sea Ray Express Cruiser (to be exact).  We looked at one, but couldn't fit it in our house at our house on the canal (duh) and we weren't sure if that's really what we wanted.  If you are searching boats on boat, why not just start searching too for houses?  I don't know.. it just happens.  For a few years, we'd been driving by this house on the water.  We'd dreamed of living "on the water" (not just on a canal with access to the water) but that was out of our reach. 

Til one day... this house we'd been noticing off and on for years kept dropping it's price.  It had been vacant for almost 3 years, taxes hadn't been paid, noone was caring for the home but it was on a prime lot.  We figured, why not check it out?  Price seemed reasonable.  What a dump!!  The house was literally sinking.  When you walked in it, you walked on an angle.  It was odd.  Stinky, old, vacant.  Ew.  But we walked out the back door.  SOLD.  [The real story involves a lot of "close your eyes and imagine" games where I'd convince Dave it was not that crazy to buy a house in a market that sucked, where we'd no way in hell sell our house and then build a house when we had never, ever, ever, done such a thing, ever.]  The yard was huge and that was near impossible in St. Clair Shores.  I wanted to take a chance.... which was a big deal in my world.  Not exactly spontaneous money-throwing chance takers, more like frugal scheduled planners. 

Clearly, we took a chance.  threw caution to the wind, yada yada yada.  Stressful "what the HELL did we just do" caution to the wind, I might add.  We made an offer, haggled, accepted.  Dave convinced me that the only this would work is if we rented the house until we sold ours and saved up.  I thought he was nuts, NOBODY is going to live in that icky house!  He was right.  He used his super skillz (yes, I added the z on purpose for effect), and turned that scary place into a liveable one (I helped a little).  We had 2 sets of renters in an 18 month span.  They were both spectacular.  Paid their rent on time, got along with the neighbors - one couple even got married in the back yard and the neighbors threw a goodbye party for them! 

During this time... we put our house on the market.  It wasn't looking good, in fact, it wasn't good.  We'd lay in bed at night and wonder what we got ourselves into.. made back up plans, talked through numbers, until one day.. a year after the house was up, we got an offer.  After a month or so of painful negotiating, we sold.. and walked out of the closing with 100 bucks, give or take.  Awesome, right?  Okay, no, however, I rationalized it well.  We were taking a chance to build our dream house, planned to live there for years and years, hopefully the market would recover.. and I'm stubborn, don't like to give up on that sort of stuff.

Alrighty, so.. during the 2 years of renting, selling, saving, planning, saving, planning, saving, borrowing, and working out this fab deal to live in my in-laws home on the water, with a boathouse and a sprawling basement to hold all our "stuff"".... we can make our dreams a reality!!!  We feel amazingly lucky, I have to say.

On 8/8, we broke ground.  The old house was knocked down.  And away, we.. go!