5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Contractor

Success in building a new home is closely related to who you choose to be your contractor. The right builder can make the construction process enjoyable and rewarding, the wrong builder can make it one of the most stressful times in your life. After you purchase house plans for your project consider these five points when looking for a contractor.

  1. Reputation: Word of mouth is one of the best friends to a good builder and is how they find most of their work. Ask friends, family or someone else you can trust if they have had any recent experiences with contractors and who they might recommend to you. Visit subdivisions where new homes are being built and find out which builders are well spoken of. Be alert to any negative feedback, but make sure you consider the source, if the feedback is coming from the competition it may be biased. Check with the local building officials to see if the contractors are known for building to code or cutting corners.
  2. References: If possible make a short list of three different available contractors and then ask for references. Preferably speak to clients whose projects are similar to yours and are completed. Find out whether the contractor was easy to work with, if they were over or under the estimated price and if so the reasons. Make sure you get several references and take the time to follow up, one reference from a friend or family member is usually a warning sign. If the builder is new to the area you may not want to be his first client. house_home_construction
  3. Quality: As with any major purchase, quality is very important. The contracting world is filled with stories of home owners being left with poor quality work that needs major repairs or becomes an insurance nightmare. Ask to physically see their completed work so you can get a first-hand look at the quality and finish. Even economical homes using less expensive materials should be square, solid, and look good. Spending more at the beginning to get good quality work will save you in the long run.
  4. Communication: A good contractor needs to be a good communicator, a contractor that is hard to reach and slow to answer messages during the bidding process will be worse during the build. Pay attention to how the builder responds to questions you might have and whether he takes them seriously or brushes them off. In this day and age the internet is a very important tool in construction, make sure the builder has an email address and checks his emails regularly.
  5. Pricing: When the time comes to review any pricing take time to carefully compare all the bids. The best contractors may take a little longer to come back to you with their final pricing because they are more thorough. Check the allowances for different items in the estimate, some builders will come to you with a lower price to build but when it comes time to choose flooring, lighting, cabinets, or other finishing items you may find the allowance does not allow for the finishing you desire. Far too often the contractor with the lowest estimate ends up costing you more in upgrades of finishes.

These are just a few points to consider when choosing a contractor, the main thing is to take your time and take the decision seriously. Don’t commit yourself to a builder until you have considered all the facts, and don’t let them pressure you into deciding before you are ready. With careful planning and a good set of house plans choosing a contractor can be an enjoyable and educational part of your new home build.

5 Things to Consider When Purchasing Home Plans

Choosing house plans can at times feel like a daunting task, with thousands of choices in floor plans and house styles even the most experienced person may at times feel lost. Here are five things to consider when looking for your next home plans that can help you narrow down your search and find the best design to suit your needs.

1 Budget: It is always good to start with a budget for your project and how much are you able to spend on the construction of your home. Make sure to factor in expenses for site servicing, landscaping, appliances, home furnishings, moving, and all other costs associated with the build of a new home. Check with a few different local contractors to see what the average cost per square foot is to build a home in our area. Make sure you give them an idea of the quality of finishing that you would like to have as the price can vary greatly between low and high end finishes. Not all areas will cost the same to build so ask about the cost of finishing basement areas, main floor areas, second floor areas and garages. Once you have these prices you can use some simple math to find out how many square feet your new home can be.

2 Site: Check with your realtor or local municipality planning department to find out the required setbacks for your property to determine how wide and how deep you can build on your lot. Consider the slope of the lot as well to see what type of home will best suit your property. Find out if you have any easements, covenants or other subdivision or municipal restrictions that will affect the size of the building pocket.

3 Size: Consider your personal needs, how many bedrooms and bathrooms you require, whether or not you need other rooms like a mud room, pantry, storage room, theater room, den or the like. The size of rooms you are accustomed to now and whether these could be bigger or smaller. If you want a garage or carport think of how many cars you want to keep and whether you need workshop space or storage space for bikes, kayaks, or tools. Make a wish list with minimum and maximum room sizes and list which rooms are optional and which are absolutely necessary.

4 Style: Choose an architectural style of home, this is generally a personal preference, however you may want to contemplate some other things in this decision. Find out if your subdivision has a building design scheme that requires a certain architectural style or any specific architectural features. Look at the neighborhood and give thought to what style of home will complement the look of the existing homes, even a nice house can stick out like a sore thumb if it is too unique. Find out what trends are popular with home styles and try to pick a style that is not on its way out, like fashion trends, home styles don’t stay popular forever. Remember your budget when selecting a style of home as certain features and styles are more expensive than others.

5 Plan ahead: It is very important to choose a home plan based on whether or not you plan to stay in the home for just a few years or long term. If you are going to sell the home you will want to make sure you pick a plan that will appeal to the future potential buyer in the neighborhood you are building. Building an expensive home in an area suited to families may leave you with a home you cannot sell. On the other hand if you plan to stay in the home for many years you want a design more specifically suited to your needs.

These are just a few main things to consider when purchasing your next set of home plans. The key is to give it some good thought before you begin your search, this will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by all your choices. With good planning and a good search engine hunting for your next house plan can be fun rather than frustrating.

How To Lower Your Hydro Bill

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Winter has arrived and HouseplanHunters.com wants to help you bundle up and save on your monthly hydro bill.

Weatherproofing your home

During the winter, a lot of energy and money is wasted through heating a home. Large amounts of heat escape, leaving the owner vulnerable to drafts, moistures and pollutants. Weatherproofing not only helps lower or even eliminate unwanted exterior elements from entering a home, but also optimizes energy efficiency and reduce your carbon footprint.

Major Sources for Air Leaks

  • 31% – ceilings, floors and walls
  • 14% – fireplace
  • 10% – windows
  • 15% – ducts
  • 2% – electrical outlets
  • 11% – doors
  • 13% – plumbing entries
  • 4% – fans and vents

Air leakage amounts to 25 – 40% of heat loss in a typical Vancouver home.

Becoming more energy sufficient can be really easy and don’t require major building changes. To lower your hydro bill, just change the way we use energy in general.

Here are some helpful tips to follow:

  • Save up to 35% by upgrading to Energy Star appliances
  • Save up to 75% by switching to energy efficient lighting
  • Save up to 12% by taking shorter showers
  • Save up to 23% by wearing a sweater instead of heating
  • Save up to 14% by air drying laundry
  • Save up to 10% by using cold water for laundry loads

BUT, we can save the planet too…By reducing our appetite for energy we cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1-4 tons a year.

 

Information compiled from

http://www.embersvancouver.com/green-renovations/energy-efficiency/

https://www.bchydro.com/powersmart/be-winterwise/tips.html

Infographic done by www.coniform.com

The Perfect Kitchen For You

Some people see the kitchen as a place to put leftovers and make sandwiches, whereas others see it as the heart of their home. If you’re culinarily inclined, you’ll want to make sure that your kitchen offers everything you need to make your cooking experience a pleasant one.

Outdoor Entertainer

Is firing up the BBQ your favourite thing about summer? Many homes at Houseplanhunters.com have generously-sized decks that can accommodate nearly any size of outdoor grill, but these two show how to take outdoor entertaining to another level:

House No. 320611Plan No. 320611

This modern plan features two patios; one in the front, and one in the back. The back door patio is also adjacent to the kitchen/dining area, making transporting food from indoors a breeze.

House No. 512000PlanNo.512000

 

Not only does this cozy home have a large verandah, it also features an outdoor cook-top built into the chimney!

Gadget Fanatic

When you have a lot of toys, you need a lot of space to store them. These kitchens both include large walk-in pantries:

House No. 141514PlanNo.141514

 

This cute 2 bedroom home features a corner pantry.

House No. 326611PlanNo.326611

An ultra-modern and compact design includes a pantry for all your kitchen goodies.

Private Chef

Whether you prefer to cook in private or just need a bit of a barrier between you and your guests, these partitioned kitchens are for you.

House No. 360401Plan No. 360401

Efficient and compact, a galley kitchen may not have the most counterspace, but it provides a much more private setting for food preparation.

House No. 510230PlanNo.510230

A peninsula counter allows the living area to remain open, but also provides a modicum of separation for protective cooks. This plan also features a skylight directly over the kitchen.

House No. 171211Plan No. 171211

This cute design uses an island counter to separate the kitchen area from the dining area. Island counters also add extra counter space, and with barstools are great for guests to sit at while you prepare snacks or drinks.

Mission Style Houses

Nearly everyone is familiar with “mission-style” architecture, but what exactly does it mean? Where did it come from? What does it look like now? HouseplanHunters.com has a variety of beautiful mission-style houseplans, and this guide will take you through what exactly makes them that way.

A brief history of Mission Revival architecture

The term “mission” comes from the Spanish Catholic missions of the 1700s. Monks and priests came to newly settled Mexico and California with the intention of spreading Catholic influence, teachings, and values to the “new world”, but were at a loss when trying to mimic the baroque architecture that was common in Spain. By using adobe (a type of dried mud construction) and clay tiles to build their missions, they blended a local resource with a classical architecture style that results in the mission-style that we know today. It enjoyed a revival in the 1950s and 1970s, where certain elements of the style were incorporated into modern housing and business architecture. This style is particularly popular in the southwestern United States.

Mission Features

The two biggest tells of a mission-style house are the material and color of the exterior walls and roof. Some houses can be called mission-style simply because they have stucco or adobe-look walls in an appropriate terracotta color or clay roof tiles. However, there is much more to a mission-style home than the walls and roof.

A key hallmark of the style is the inclusion of a central courtyard. While less essential in our current age of air-conditioning, a central courtyard was key in maintaining a cool central area of the home in the hot, arid environments where this style of mission got its start.

Another easily identifiable trait of a mission-style house is the inclusion of architectural features such as gables or even a bell-tower.

HouseplanHunters.com | Mission-Style Plans

Spanish Retreat

Plan No. 327511The Spanish Retreat is a lovely plan with lots of features reminiscent of mission-style houses. While it doesn’t have a central courtyard, it does have a covered outdoor living area and a distinctive bell-tower shaped chimney.

Inviting Adobe

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The Inviting Adobe home relies on its adobe construction, unique roofline and semi-enclosed courtyards to give it a mission-style flair. This easily accessible, single-floor plan is fantastic for families or for entertaining.

Open-Courtyard

Plan No.523360This house plan hits every mark for a traditional “mission-style” home. From the petite bell-tower on the centre of the roof to the completely enclosed central courtyard, this home epitomizes mission comfort and style.

Secondary Suites – A Sweet Addition to your Home

There are all sorts of reasons to add a secondary suite to your home. Renting out a secondary suite (if it’s legal in your area) can be a great way to offset mortgage payments. Some build a second suite to host elderly relatives or kids returning from college, and others prefer to have a guest suite for visitors or to use as a bed and breakfast. Whatever your reasons, HouseplanHunters.com has a variety of suite options that will suit nearly anyone.

Duplex

Perhaps the most extreme form of “secondary suite”, building a duplex combines two full houses into one. If you have a large lot, this can be the best way to go, especially if you’re looking to rent out the other half to people you don’t know. Some great duplex plans that HouseplanHunters offers include:

Cozy DuplexThis modern duplex may be compact, but it’s definitely not small on features. Each unit has a master suite with ensuite, two additional bedrooms, and a covered deck over a single bay garage. The two units are offset slightly, giving a bit of style to the overall design.

DuplexThis simple duplex plan mirrors a great starter home to boost potential income and livability.

Basement Suite

Basement suites are what most people think of when “secondary suites” are mentioned. These semi or fully private living spaces are great for lots that don’t have a lot of extra room, and for homeowners who are okay with a more integrated living experience with whoever inhabits the downstairs suite.

Plan No.141972This beautiful basement suite sits below a lovely house full of features. The basement suite can be entirely separated from the main living area, and has its own entryway.

Detached Cottage

When modifying an existing house, sometimes it’s easiest to simply build a totally new structure for guests or tenants. If your city allows laneway housing, these small cottages might be just the thing for you.

Plan No. 323305This beautiful little cottage makes an excellent guest house or studio. Its small size might discourage a long-term tenant, but it makes a charming place to house guests for a couple of nights.

Plan No. 415189This tiny house takes up just 448 square feet! However, the detached living area and bedroom makes it a good choice for renting out to singles.

Carriage House

Can’t decide between building a garage or renovating the basement into a suite? There’s no need to decide when you build a carriage house. HouseplanHunters.com has some great garages that incorporate suites above the garage area.

 

Plan No. 136254This two-bay garage has a generously-sized single bedroom suite overtop, making it a great option that allows both owner and tenant to keep their cars under cover.

Plan No. 195201This compact carriage house combines a double-garage, a single-bay carport, and a single-bedroom suite! Excellent for maximizing space and livability, it also features a vaulted livingroom ceiling that belies its small size and an area for laundry facilities.

Green Trends in Homebuilding

Like any craft, homebuilding is subject to trends stemming from popular opinions and new technologies. With 2014 coming to a close in the next couple of months, now is a great time to look back on some of the most interesting trends of the year, with a focus on the ecological side of homebuilding.

Passive homebuilding

The term “passive” sounds strange when used in a homebuilding context, but in this case it refers to allowing the design of a home to be dictated by its climate and location. This involves:

  • an airtight building envelope, which promotes excellent insulation and a consistent indoor temperature
  • specialized ventilation systems
  • excellent quality windows and doors to protect the interior of the house from the elements
  • utilizing windows to capture direct sunlight and heat in the winter, but not the summer

For more information on passive homebuilding, please see the Passive Homebuilding Institute of the United State’s very informative website.

Renewable energy

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Installing solar panels, while still far from mainstream, is a growing trend. Not only can the solar energy harvested from your own roof offset your energy bill, but it can also boost the resale value of an existing home. Solar advocate website CostofSolar.com states:

“The exact numbers vary from property to property and installation to installation, but recent research shows an average increase in resale value being $5,911 for each 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar installed. In a state like California, for example, a small 3.1-kilowatt (kW) system can add an average of $18,324 to the value of a medium-sized home.”

New materials

Building materials are always changing, seeking the best blend of cost-effectiveness with function. Some unconventional home building materials include:

  • bamboo and cork wooden flooring
  • carpets woven from corn fibres
  • plant-based polyurethane foam insulation
  • recycled wood/plastic composite lumber

“Cool” roofs

GreenRoofImage by flickr user AmericaU Sustainability

Traditional dark-coloured roofing options such as tar shingles are not the best bet in hot sunny climates, as they add additional heat to an already sweltering situation. Cool roofs can simply be lighter-coloured versions of traditional materials, which reflect the suns rays rather than absorbing them, and help keep your house a little cooler.

A more extreme option is a “green” roof, which incorporates local plant life and can act as a great secondary garden for sun-loving plants if you have an easily accessible roof.

Different Yard Strategies

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Your house may stop at the front door, but your property doesn’t. What you do with the remainder of your lot plays an important part in the overall look of your house. There is more than one way to go about planning your yard, and this article briefly looks at three different strategies.

1. The Traditional Grass Lawn

Most suburban houses boast immaculate green lawns. This staple of North American living is non-negotiable for some, but keeping that lawn perfectly manicured can be a lot of work. Larger plots of grass may require a lot of extra effort to keep maintained.

Consider what type of climate you live in?

Some climates are definitely better suited to growing the beautiful bluegrass you see in commercials than others. If not, consider native types of grasses that are available. Also, be sure to the methods of watering your grass if you are in an area prone to droughts. Additional care, such as mowing, aerating, and fertilizing your lawn can be done by professionals.

2. Grassless Landscaped Yard

A great alternative to grass in a smaller lot is to add stone, gravel, and garden bed features to your lawn. This route involves more initial planning, but can result in easier upkeep. In a small lot with a high fence, a meticulously landscaped grassless yard can almost appear an extension of the home, rather than a distinct outdoor space.

3. Wild Yard

While only really an option in more remote areas, letting your yard stay wild is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of your new home. This requires minimal upkeep, primarily in the form of clearing away underbrush if you live in a forested area and removing hazardous plants such as stinging nettles or poison ivy.

Of course, you can incorporate features from any or all of these three approaches into your own lawn. Make sure you use the natural features of your lot to your advantage, and never discount the effect a great yard can have on making a fantastic home.

How To Buy A Lot

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1. Contact a REALTOR®

Lots can be found all over, sometimes there are existing buildings, sometimes they are listed as “commercial” properties.
Talking to a REALTOR® about what you are looking for in a lot enables them to help you find the type of property that will work best for you.

2. Get your finances in order

If you will be getting a mortgage to purchase this property, now is the time to contact your mortgage broker and fill in a mortgage application. Get a 90 day hold on the credit offered. Secure buying power is key to making sure your lot purchase doesn’t fall through at the last minute.

3. Go see properties

Now that you know your price range, start seeing the properties your REALTOR® finds. If you see something you like, go to the development or land department in your city. Find out:

  • What does the zoning allow for?
  • What is the OCP (Official Community Plan)? Cities and towns will have a plan for 30 years or more into the future. This will help determine potential value.
  • If rezoning is possible. This is important if you’re looking to rezone for long-term investment, and less so if you’re just interested in living on an acreage.

This is also the time to figure out what sorts of amenities the lot has, including utilities like electricity and natural gas.

4. Check comparables

Don’t let one lot win you over and offer the full asking price up front. Check on comparable lots and recently sold lots nearby to help inform you on a fair offer to make.

5. Write an offer

Enter negotiations with the property-owner, by writing an offer using the information you gleaned from checking out comparables.

  • Work out the price, timing, and dates.
  • Determine the subjects (which include a survey of the land, and engineering report, and other things your REALTOR® might suggest.)

6. Come to an agreement

After a few rounds of offers and counter-offers, you and the seller have reached an agreement! You will remove the subjects by having your surveys and engineering reports done, and ultimately you will pay a deposit, usually about 5% of the agreed-upon price of the lot.

7. Select a notary and lawyer

Your REALTOR® will help suggest a notary and lawyer to help finish up the transaction. Register in the land titles office to secure your ownership of the property.

8. Build your house

Congratulations! You now own a lot and can start construction of your dream house or new investment property.

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All information courtesy of Oscar Barrera – www.obsold.com

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