In March 2010, Nic and Stef bought some land in Pemberton. And in October 2011 they found they were expecting a baby. Now they just have to build a house... and a home!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gimme a break

We have a holiday booked in Mexico for 23 Jan till the 5th of Feb, and we have decided to put off any more offer-making until after a few margaritas. We will come back refreshed, and I won’t have to spend my beach holiday drawing house plans, which is an unexpected plus.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Take 2?

Rallying, we have had a meeting with a local designer (Richard Diamond), who knows this place inside out and laughs heartily at our original choice. That's not a view lot, he says. Nor will it give us a garden. What were the developers thinking, he wonders? With lots this small, there is rarely room for access, and driveways are taking up practically the whole of the front yards. He gives us the rundown on the area, and we are forced to look at alternatives. To me, the obvious move is to go one lot to the left – a bigger lot, with a similar view, flat with no apparent building difficulties. But in a bit of a hollow, perhaps destined to be surrounded by other houses. A starter's lot. A baby lot. To Stef, the obvious move is across the road – a much bigger lot, with a better view. Also flat, but elevated off the road by about 3 metres, which means, again, a whole heck of a lot of blasting to get a driveway up onto the level. A grown up lot, with issues and potential. I feel like a girl courted by two men, who can't make up her mind who to marry. One looks better on paper – bigger (aka bigger), richer (better resale value thanks to the view and size), better looking (nicer view). The other pales in comparison by all logical standards, but by being in that hollow it seems, well, settled in the landscape. It feels natural. Homey. The grown-up logical choice, being up on a pedestal of artifically-placed rock, feels haughty. If they were men my brain would say to go with the bigger lot; my heart with the smaller. And shouldn't we always go where the heart points? But I have promised Stef to go and stand on the larger lot for an hour tomorrow afternoon... perhaps I will grow to love it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh no!

Disaster. The peg marking the corner of the lot has, finally, been found – and it's metres further right than it should be, or at least from where we assumed it would be. Result? Nowhere to put a driveway. Massive blasting costs to bash our way through onto the lot. A sunken garage, with only a two story house on top. Two stories means a larger footprint. A larger footprint means no garden. And no benefit to the view, with houses surrounding us at 3 stories high. My god. The disappointment is palpable. Literally. I taste battery acid. For some reason the worst part is having to revoke my facebook status, tell my parents and people we love that it fell through. The disappointment is hideous. Of course I know they’re disappointed FOR us, not IN us, but it’s still bad. Must be my British upbringing – makes me feel responsible for everything, and a need to apologize.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dreams of a white house...

I have had to fly to Washington DC for work for a week, and have spent the day in a druggy haze of jetlag and lost sleep – lost to being sandwiched between two incredibly fat people – I mean really, really, folds-of-flesh-hanging-over-the-armrest fat (on both sides) – and generally being sat upright in a noisy, windy, dry, soul-less tin-can-in-the-sky. That kind of lost sleep. I reckon I got 3 hours last night, and then had to be functional at 7am local time (4am Vancouver time). Nice. And, just to make things fun, my first meeting was at the White House Conference Centre (the Eisenhower Room), where I had to make a short presentation, unscripted, and without having had a shower. I have survived! Now, napped and lunched and more meetinged and dinnered and worked out, I am back in the hotel bleary eyed again, disbelieving it is still the same day, and thinking... about houses. Called Stef to tell him I miss him etc, and we found we had nearly identically stumbled on the same house plan for the lot. “So I have a T..” “I have an L! But I can see a T!” And the room over the garage should be sunk down about two steps...” “Me too! So with a slightly over-height ceiling!” Eerie. Shame none of these plans yet really work.

Stef, it turns out, spent the day digging in the snow looking for the mysterious surveying pegs, which, after exploration with a metal detector turned up only their own shovels and steel toe boots, seem to be missing. I wonder what we're actually buying if there aren't any survey pegs? Can we make the boundary up? Stef was guided in this misadventure by the 'daughter of Sabre' (Sabre being the property company selling these lots), sister to the guy who lives across the road ('Son of Sabre') and our neighbour-to-be. Lisa Ames, our realtor, was in attendance, rolling her eyes. I say we blow these property lines wide open – we're taking over the whole hill. (Quick, pee on it!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Estimate this

I have decided to work out a budget – a rough one – for how much this will all cost... here goes!

1) Lawyer
• Private Septic or Public Sewer
• Private Well or Public Water
• Electrical Service from Utility Company
• Private Fire Sprinkler or Public Hydrant
• Gas or Oil Service from Utility Company
• Drawings & Specifications Development
• Permits & Special Fees from Building Department
• Site Access and Street Culvert as well as Driveway
• Excavation/Backfill/Grade
• Foundation/Structural Slab-on-grade
• Flat Concrete/Aprons/Patios/Sidewalks
• Frame Lumber/Trusses/Labor
• Decks/Porches/Veranda
• Roofing/Flashing/Ventilation
• Windows/Skylights/Solar tubes
• Siding/Exterior Trim
• Gutters/Downspouts/Storm water
• Fireplace/Stove/Insert
• Plumbing and Trim Fixtures
• Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning
• Electrical and Trim Fixtures
• Exterior Doors & Garage Doors
• Weatherization/Firestuffing/Insulation
• Drywall/Tape/Texture
• Paint Interior/Wallcoverings
• Paint/Stain Exterior
• Cabinets/Counters
• Interior Doors/Trim/Hardware
• Floor Coverings
• Appliances
• Bath Accessories
• Clean-up/Recycle/Landfill
• Landscaping
• Contingency
• Superintendence
• Profit/Overhead
• Sales Tax (if applicable)

Okay, I got as far as copying that list off a helpful internet site, got terrified by its length, and gave up. Uh, well, there's still time. A friend of a friend of a friend did it for $120 / square foot, and the average is $200 / square foot, and an internet site I found said either $260 for high quality or $180 for low quality... so lets say, um, $150 / square foot!! Estimate sorted.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It begins...

Today we bought a piece of land. And on this land, my husband is going to build us a house. He has never built a house before, though he is a builder, and from this day forward I will learn to trust him to do this incredible thing. He will build a house. From scratch. On his own. It will not fall down half way through, or leak, or be condemned. He will not fall victim to multiple catastrophes and on-sight injuries. I hope. No matter what happens I have promised above all to keep a sense of humour. And we shall see what we shall see.

To say we “bought” land might be a bit of an over-statement... today I changed my facebook status to: “I am buying land. Woo hoo! Housewarming party in, um, about two years.” The project of course will be a long haul. But even buying the land is a bit of a long haul. Today we agreed on a price with the seller (a relatively easy process, with only two back and forths, which of course means we begin today with the self recriminations... what if? How low would they have gone?). Now we have 3 weeks to clear all the conditions – a “cooling off” period in which we can decide that the notion is too scary, the land too high up, the cost too prohibitive, the radon leaking from the ground too poisonous or any other such thing. I am, you will find, obsessive, slightly compulsive, and definitely a worry wart, and so I think about these things. Ruminate about them. Lose sleep over them. I am positive – absolutely positive – that at some point months down the line we will realize oooooh, this is the native home of a rare frog and so we can't build a house on our land. Except of course it won't be that – it will be something I haven't thought of. Yet.

But first we must get an accountant, and a lawyer, and wrangle through the paperwork of how, exactly, to buy this land. If we pass the 'cooling off' date with confidence, then we slap down a $15,000 deposit, and wait for April 1 to pay the rest of the cash (all startling $211,000 of it) and 'take possession'. I think this will mean sleeping on it in a tent. If the snow has gone by then.

The land is in a beautiful spot – a smallish building lot, about 7,800 square feet, on a rocky knoll on a road (Greenwood street) that ends in a cul-de-sac. It is a corner lot, with what will be the front door facing east, down the valley towards the mountains. What will be the living room (in my head) faces south and the towering Mount Currey. In winter the sun never rises above this edifice, but peaks out around the side for some 30 minutes in the afternoon, before nipping behind the hill that sits above our local lake. Westward is the back of the house, and what will be the garden. Somewhere across the road you can hear a small waterfall. North is the other road-side face, with a view over the house across the street to yet more mountains. Yesterday, after we put in an offer but before we agreed on a price, we tromped around this land in knee-deep snow, assessing the views, imagining rooms. In the back there is a little cluster of trees in which I can see an outdoor bath – just a bathtub on the lawn, which I'll fill with a hose in summer to sit in the cold water and listen to the birds. Above these trees sits a little knob of rock, on which Stef will build a tiny island of deck for watching the setting sun. I suggested that Stef pee on the snow to mark his (our) territory... so that if the seller backed down, we could say: you have to sell it to us. We peed on it. But we didn't.

Yesterday we also explored a bit of the local surroundings, finding a staircase that led promisingly up the cliff face from town. We followed it up, then along, up and down over rocks, and up again, winding on a magical path through a snowy wood, and popped out, surprisingly, directly in front of “our” lot. It was fate.

When we first decided to buy it, visions of houses danced in my head. Like a kid, I grabbed paper and pen and started to draw dream homes, mapping out the rooms. I know what the perfect house will look like now, though sadly all the rooms are a bit too big, the hallways insanely wide, and the garage too small (it's very difficult to get proportions right). Of course I can't design a house, not for real. I have run out of patience making quilts, let along something that will take 18 months...

Yes, 18 months. That's how long we have, according to the rules that come with our lot. The clock will start ticking in early May, when we break ground. We have bureaucracy to wade through, designs to make, foundations to lay, fights to have, and a dream to build. We shall see what we shall see.