We've been getting a few questions from people who are curious about our plans. Here are some answers.
Q: Is it a tear-down?
A: No. There has never been a home on the lot that we are purchasing. (We actually looked at a couple of tear-down candidates in our property search, but financing a tear-down and new-home build proved to be even trickier than a new construction loan.)
Q: Why build a new house?
A: We actually went back and forth for a while about whether to purchase an older home and remodel versus the hassle of finding land and building something. We settled on the latter for a couple of reasons. The first was the money equation that I laid out above -- we would have spent a lot of money getting an older home to a place where we wanted it, and the second is that we simply wanted something that was truly ours. We want something that reflects our aesthetics, our century (i.e. not cut-up little spaces, crawl-space "basements", etc.) and our personalities. So, after we got through that debate, it made a lot of sense for us to be patient on a land hunt to get what it was that we truly wanted.
Q: Why do you want to stay downtown? / Wouldn't it be easier to build further out?
A: Of course, it would be easier to build further away from downtown. We know several people (including family members) who have done so and are very, very happy with their decisions. We are also happy for them. But it's not for us.
We do our working/eating/shopping downtown. We like the personality of downtown and cities in general. We like living five minutes from our work. Plus, when I moved back to Salt Lake from New York City to marry Tai there was a deal struck — suburbs definitely were not part of that deal.
Q: There are still lots downtown??
A: Yes, but you have to look hard for them and be prepared for some weird dimensions.
Q: Will it cost you more or less than just purchasing a home in your area?
A: What we're doing will end up costing us more per square foot than just purchasing an older home in the neighborhood. We're ok with that, though, because if we were to purchase an older home in that area, we would likely end up doing expensive remodeling — major appliances, roof, plumbing, electrical, structural, reconfiguring floor plan, new kitchen, etc. — that would drastically add to the cost of a pre-built home.
Q: How will your financing work? / How is it different from a conventional house loan?
A: Financing lot and construction loans was always going to be different a bit trickier than a conventional house loan.
Short answer: it takes more up-front money to build than it does to buy a pre-built house, so we sold our old condo, banked the equity from that place and are using it now to build.
Long answer: Several years ago, we were watching a couple blogs about building modern houses in Salt Lake. Tai corresponded with those authors about the mechanics of the process, including financing. Each author recommended that we have something to bank on when we purchased a lot — to one of the authors, that meant having good equity in your current place; to another author, that meant a greater cash down payment. We did the math on refinancing our condo at the time (the original slc202), and realized that it would be too risky for us. By far the safer option would be to sell the condo, bank the equity and then look around for land. That's how slc202 was born. Since then, of course, we remodeled our current place, which we're planning on staying in throughout the building process. And since then, of course, the world economy has also entered the Great Recession/the Good Depression/Global Economy vs. Banana Peel, and financing has become, ahem, less available than it was when those other blogs were building. More than 18 months later, here we are — finally making good on that goal to build.
It has been immensely gratifying to move forward on this process that we started two years ago. It feels so good to be working toward this goal and seeing it actually happen.