ELM DRIVE – DISSECTING A PROJECT
DRINKING ON THE JOB
During the big dig the GC unearthed these old wine bottles. There will probably be days that I’ll wish they were full…
AND THEN BARFED UP THE FLY…
Ugh… after waiting weeks for the new foundation drawings I finally got them and… they were wrong. I can read drawings and was pretty sure they were wrong; but sent Hubby to meet with the GC for a review. Those two collaborated on the further delays, the other costs involved in making this an ADU, etc. and came back to me with a different proposition. Let’s just build a 3-bedroom house. In a weak moment I caved and agreed.
This isn’t like me. I usually power through and I am known for my interesting multi-family projects. A simple three-bedroom house isn’t really my gig. But the reports of materials costs and delays had me a little panicked. And no one else is building small affordable new houses. And it was easy enough to amend the plans. And I was starting to feel “done” with this even though we hadn’t started.
So, I amended the plans once again and submitted. A full 5 MONTHS after I acquired the property, I was released from permit purgatory and given clearance to build. We broke ground last week; and I happened to show up at the site just as the first shovelful of dirt was being dug.
I SWALLOWED A FLY…
There is a song for children about an old woman who accidentally swallows a fly. As a cure she swallows a spider but then decides that wasn’t a good idea and the slope gets pretty slippery as she tries to undo what she has done.
I’m an old woman who has done the same thing. I designed this project with a room and bathroom that I labeled as a “guest nest”. I had all my drawings done including the engineered foundation; and then I submitted my package to the planning department. It took them about 5 minutes to decide that my “guest nest” was actually an ADU (accessory dwelling unit). No big deal – I had to fill out a little additional paperwork and they approved the plan.
At that point I moved the package to the building department. Upon submission they requested a “sanitary clearance” from the sewer provider. In this case sewer service is provided by the City of Grand Junction. Because there had been a dwelling on the lot previously, I already had a sewer. This would be easy. I went to the City offices and they looked up the planning clearance. Uh-oh. This structure has an ADU and that means you get to pay an additional 72% of the cost of a new sewer tap for the impact on the system. I’d like to point out that this entire structure is less than 1000 square feet and has two bathrooms total. I could build a 2000 square foot house with two bathrooms and not pay any additional fee. But I coughed up the $3650 and even remained pleasant with the staff.
The building department was cool – they said that while I was getting that paper work collected that they would go ahead and review my plans. Remember, I had everything drawn as a “guest nest”. But now I was constructing an ADU. Same building, same floorplan – but an ADU requires a firewall to protect the units from each other. Okay, I have dealt with firewalls on previous projects – a little extra sheetrock – not a big deal. Except for a little clause in the code relating to how they are constructed: shall extend from the Foundation to the underside of the roof sheathing. Uh-oh. My drawings had an engineered foundation that was essentially a rectangle. But one corner of the house was the now ADU and that meant those two inner walls needed foundation under them too. Two lines on the drawings needed to be added. TWO LINES! And I couldn’t add them myself – no. The drawings needed to go back to the engineer to be reviewed and restamped. The same engineer that had taken MONTHS to get me my first set of drawings. I knew what I would hear even before I sent the request: the engineer would need $300 to revise the drawings. The draftsman would need $75 per hour to draw the lines. And, because everyone is incredibly busy, it would take about 10 days to draw those two lines!
While I absorbed this bad news, I also reached out to my lumber company. Their engineer designs the floor assembly and joists. Because we were no longer spanning from one outer wall to the other, we would need a new floor assembly drawn. They don’t charge extra for this when they are selling you the lumber. But because I am now building two smaller floors that changes the materials needed. And because of the delay in starting package prices have increased. So, between the two my new bid was $5000 HIGHER than the previous bid. Oh – and my plumbers said the change to the foundation was going to alter their plan too – but they haven’t provided a number that the change will cost as yet.
I build “affordable housing”. But I’m beginning to wonder if I can afford it…
AND THE PLANS CHANGE…
At that point I dove deeper into the due diligence I had already started. One key item (that I had already suspected) was clarified: the little house had essentially been constructed with no permits and was illegally sharing the water, sewer, and gas taps for the mobile home. It had no taps of its own and the county was essentially unaware that it existed. In addition, it appeared to be built either against or over the property boundary line.
Hubby and the GC wanted the house and shop torn down. I could see how the house was becoming a building permit nightmare; but I wasn’t at all convinced about the shop. I am a Realtor and I see clients searching for shops (even ugly old shops) all the time. After attending the closing and meeting the seller my mind was made up. He told me several neighbors had inquired about buying the parcel with the shop. So I made a new plan.
We would focus on the trailer house lot (Elm Drive) and I would put the little house / big shop parcel (B Road) up for sale. If it sold that was fine. If it didn’t then I’d get back to it later… But a buyer got pretty serious and made an offer that included me paying to knock down the little house. I called my GC and asked for a bid on that work so I could decide whether the offer was worth it. My GC dutifully got me the number; but also made a confession. He had fallen in love with the lot and wanted it for himself. He would build his personal residence there. Hubby and I conferred. We decided we didn’t want to make a profit from him. We would have partnered with him in the first place if we’d known his interest was that high. He was offering cash and a quick close. So we sold it at “break even”. He is going to do something great there and it is just going to improve the value of what we are doing on Elm Drive.
Although we didn’t have any permits for building; we didn’t need a permit to destroy. So in a matter of days the trailer and outbuildings were gone; as was the little house and the outer layer of the shop. It is a naked skeleton awaiting its new clothes.
These parcels were originally for sale, as a package deal, in late summer. I visited the site and submitted a full price offer as did another person. For whatever reason, the attorney handling the estate chose the other offer.
The parcels adjoin each other and had been owned by one individual for many years. There was an older trailer home, a building that housed the laundry and hot water heater that served both properties, a deep shed, a small house, and a large shop. The house and shop were on one parcel and the remainder on another. The parcels were buried in junk, dead cars, weeds, and an old school bus that I really wanted (and immediately dubbed “the magic bus”). In an effort to solve a problem for the estate my offer included a “no clean up” clause. I would deal with whatever they left behind. I also offered to waive my realtor commission. But alas – they didn’t pick me and I moved on to a different project. That was August.
In November the parcels suddenly appeared for sale on the MLS again – and they were asking an additional $60,000 over the previous purchase price. I went to visit the parcels again. The junk was gone (including my beloved Magic Bus) and the weeds had been cut. Other than that, no change. The listing agent said the new owner had discovered that “all the pipes are broken” and that discouraged them from proceeding further with whatever their plans had been.
I made an offer based on that information (nowhere close to the new asking price) and was declined. I offered to use the seller as the bank so they could earn some additional funds via interest. I was declined. The listing agent said the property had not been on the market long enough to consider a lower price. I backed off for a bit.
One December morning I woke up and decided to tweak my numbers to the max and offer one more time. I increased my bid by $10k, waived my commission, offered a quick close “as is”. They accepted.
I had 4 weeks to do my inspections, due diligence and put together a budget and plan.