This book is about providing dream home design ideas and making them available for homebuilders, developers, real estate professionals, and individuals who are looking for alternative home plans and house floor plan resources.
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Read an Excerpt
Vhouseplans Book 3
By Richard Vuma Mamba
Partridge AfricaCopyright © 2016 Richard Vuma Mamba
All rights reserved.
Building your dream home has its rewards, but keeping track of all the details can be disorienting. Just as you wouldn't try to build a house without blueprints, you shouldn't rush into a building project without first laying the groundwork. A good set of blueprints describes what you want and how you will get there. Taking the time to plan what you want in your new home and how you will achieve it can save you a lot of money and lots of problems a few years later on.
If you might have looked through any home plans either in magazines or Web sites, you probably have some ideas about your ideal home, but you may be unsure of the best way to make it a reality. Maybe you need help narrowing down the choices, or perhaps you just don't know where to start. This section is a guideline you can follow as you set your project in motion.
Create a Wish List
Your dream home begins with a checklist.
Some people believe in love at first sight. For them, finding the home they've always dreamed about is simple: They believe that they'll recognize the perfect home the moment they see it. Others prefer a more calculated approach. For them, we've created a system of tips and checklists that can be used as a guide for identifying the home that best fits the way you live and your needs.
When you shop at a grocery store, you likely prepare a list beforehand of the items you want to purchase. The reason for this is twofold:
1. The list reminds you of exactly what you need so that you don't forget anything.
2. The list keeps you focused on the necessities so that you don't waste time needlessly wandering around the floors of the supermarket or shop.
We recommend compiling a list and referring to it as you browse for home plans. You probably have a general idea of the features you want to include in your new home. Creating a list can help you refine your choices, so that as you begin searching, you're sure to focus on homes that meet your criteria. Use your completed list as a bookmark or benchmark to make sure you don't misplace it, and keep a pen or pencil handy so that you can jot down notes or even refine the list as you search as you get new ideas.
Create a preliminary budget (establish your home's financial foundation)
In the process of selecting and building your dream home, you'll need to ask yourself a lot of questions. One of the biggest will be "How much home can I afford?" Unfortunately, the answer for many people is "Not as much as you think." Unless, that is, you plan ahead and are willing to trim your expenses in order to achieve your goal of homeownership or your dream home.
Your bank or lending institution will likely be willing to extend you a loan equal to twice your annual income. But remember, banks are not charitable organizations. They're in business to turn a profit, and the way they do that is to loan you as much money as they think you can afford to repay. The more money they loan you, the more they make in interest payments. You certainly aren't obligated to take the full amount your bank is willing to lend. But how do you determine the amount you need without overextending yourself? You create a budget. Your lender will calculate the size of your home loan based on your monthly credits and debits; i.e., your income and expenses. Most loan officers will ask you how much you bring in every month from sources such as your salary, investment income and other monthly income. Next, the lender will subtract the expenses you presently incur or that you may owe as a homeowner. Common expenses include estimated property taxes, homeowners and mortgage insurance, car payments, average credit card debt, and alimony and/or child support payments. Your mortgage payment is then calculated on the amount that's left over. As you can see, the expenses list isn't extensive. Your lender will likely ask you to come up with a figure for "other monthly expenses." However, unless you're extremely cognizant of your spending habits, you'll likely underestimate that amount. That's why it's important to consider every aspect of your daily and monthly spending, so that you're not stuck having to make major lifestyle adjustments after you assume your mortgage. Some of the expenses you list will be the same in your new home as in your current living situation. Other expenses, such as utility payments, taxes and insurance, will change. If you currently rent an apartment, they'll change drastically.
Ideally, the best way to get an accurate assessment of your monthly expenses is to track them. You can purchase an ordinary accountant's ledger at most stationary shops. Use it to keep track of every single cent you spend for one month. It's not as hard as it sounds; it just takes a little discipline. You already have the statements for bills you pay every month, which account for a majority of your monthly expenses. For categories like entertainment, simply remember to keep your receipts for all transactions. Then, at the end of the day, sit down and tally them up.
Finally, don't assume that because you're buying a new home your upkeep expenses will be nil. Your brand-new home will contain brand-new appliances, all of which may require scheduled maintenance checks to keep their warranties in effect. And your startup costs will also be large, from a down payment to landscaping to new home furnishings. Formulating a budget can help insure that you'll have money left over to make your new house a home.
Money saving tips
If the total figure for your monthly expenses seems a little daunting (and remember, at this point it doesn't include your mortgage payment), consider ways to lower it. Here are a few tips you can use:
 Limit the use of your debit card. Conducting transactions with cold, hard cash or even a good oldfashioned check will make you more aware of how much money you spend every day. Sure, debit cards are more convenient, and you can use them just about anywhere, but how often do you remember to record the receipts so that you're keeping track of how much you've spent?
 Make a distinction between your needs and your wants and stick to it!
 Turn off the lights and turn down the heat, you heard your parents say it a hundred times, and the truth is they knew what they were talking about. Why pay for something you're not using?
Select your site
Find a home for your home
Just as important as choosing the home plan you want to build is choosing the land upon which to build it. Which is of greater importance — the space or the place — is ultimately up to you. Some people have their hearts set on a particular design and search for a site to accommodate it. Others fall in love with a piece of ground, usually for its neighborhood location or its spectacular view or other natural amenities, and look for a house that complements it. What's most important is that you carefully scrutinize and research your plot before you buy it. Home plans can be modified. But, often, Mother Nature won't budge without the help of some very large, very expensive machinery.
If you have children, you may want to choose a site within a particularly desirable school area. If you can't stomach a long daily commute, choose a site or a development close to your workplace. Consider the property taxes for different areas. Search for a location with proximity to amenities that enhance your daily or weekend life: parks, lakes and other recreation facilities, as well as cultural opportunities and shopping districts. Or perhaps you're looking for a quiet place in the country where you can get away from it all.
Are you the type of person who can live under the rules imposed by a homeowners association, or are you more of a free spirit? A large parcel of undeveloped, or unimproved, land can be attractive because it offers you almost unlimited freedom to build exactly the home you want and to maintain it in any way you see fit, within the boundaries of the law. However, unimproved lots are so named because they aren't ready to build on. The buyer — that's you — is usually responsible for paying for water and sewer access, as well as access to public utilities such as telephone service, and electricity lines.
Alternatively, you can purchase a land in a subdivision where the seller — usually a real estate developer — pays to prepare the plot for you. Improved plots usually cost more for this very reason. You may find the extra expense worth the trade-off; however, you may also be expected to give up an amount of control over the home site in return.
Many improved subdivisions are governed by homeowners' associations.
Choose your plan (begin with your lifestyle needs)
Finding the perfect plan may be time consuming, but it's key to the success of building a home. If you're not in love with the final product, even if it's only on paper, you won't be committed to seeing it through to reality. You may already have a picture in your mind of what your dream home looks like. It's important, however, to ask yourself a series of questions that can help you choose a plan that works for you. The answers will provide direction for finding the home you need, not just the home you want.
First, ask yourself a series of lifestyle questions. Are you single or married? Do you have small children or will you in the future? If so, will each child require a separate bedroom or will they share rooms? How many bathrooms are necessary to adequately fulfill the day-to-day needs of the family? Do you have parents who may be living with you in the future? Do out-of-town visitors often stay overnight? Do you frequently work at home? How often do you entertain? Do you require separate formal and casual spaces for different occasions? The answers to these questions may indicate the floor plan that best suits the way you live. For example, answers to the first few questions help determine the number of bedrooms and baths you need, perhaps the most important element of a floor plan. If you have elderly parents or frequent overnight guests, you may want to consider a floor plan with a separate guest suite that includes a private bath or private access to a full bath. Answering the question about how often you work at home can determine whether a plan with a designated home office, study or quiet computer space is a smart investment. Answers to questions about how you entertain can help you decide what types of common rooms you'll need. If you enjoy entertaining on a grand scale, you may want a set of formal rooms (formal living and dining rooms or a library, for instance) that provides the space and the proper atmosphere for such occasions.
If your entertaining habits are more casual, you may opt for a large family room adjoining an open kitchen instead. Many people today choose plans that feature a central Great Room, the character of which can change to suit your entertaining mood, from formal to casual.
Next, ask yourself what kinds of activities you enjoy. Are you an indoor or outdoor person? If you prefer spending time inside, choose a plan with features that enhance your leisure time: a fireplace, space for media equipment, a hobby room or a studio, or a gourmet kitchen. If you can't resist the call of the great outdoors, consider a plan with an open porch, a screened porch, a deck, a terrace or some other space that functions as an outdoor living room. Does the plan allow enough lawn area for children to use for outdoor games and sports? If gardening is your passion, consider the benefits of a plan featuring a mudroom near the utility room and a half-bath, for quick and easy cleanup. Or, choose a floor plan that offers multiple outdoor views overlooking the grand landscape or your handiwork in the garden.
Finally, the geographical features of your plot, if you've already purchased one, may determine the home best suited to it. A narrow plot usually calls for a design that rises up instead of spreading out. A sloping plot offers you the chance to build a home with a daylight (walk-out) basement or an inconspicuous, tuck-under garage. For a scenic plot, you may want a design that offers outdoor spaces like decks or porches providing a panoramic view.
Keeping the above factors in mind will help you select the perfect land for your new home.
Save money for your project before you start
How can you save money while you're pondering which home plan to buy? By paying close attention to the designs — both the exteriors and the floor plans. Keep your eyes peeled for these cash-gobbling elements:
 Unnecessary jogs and angles on the exterior will cost you money you might not be willing or able to spend. Complicated rooflines — intended to add "visual interest" — will also add to your bottom line. Homes that aren't saddled with the task of outdoing the Zwanes next door will usually have simplified truss and framing systems, so they'll save you money from the start.
 If you love volume ceilings, look for two-story — or at least consistent — ceilings, rather than staggered heights throughout a floor. To create volume, specify truss systems that create tray ceilings, giving the effect of higher ceilings without requiring higher walls, which drive up your costs.
 Choose a floor plan that uses leftover space smartly.
 Straight-run stairs are easier and cheaper to build than double-backs (U-shaped) or curved stairs.
 Does the plan you're considering allow for plumbing runs to be shared; e.g., are bathrooms situated backto-back? This will save you money up-front and in potential maintenance costs.
Modify your plan Make a pre-drawn plan of your own — for less
At last, you've found the home plan that best meets your family's needs. But are there a few changes you'd like make to the plan to make it truly your dream home? Would the kitchen better accommodate your love for baking or entertaining if it were just a bit bigger, or would the addition of a door between the master suite and the adjacent bedroom make it easier to use that bedroom as a nursery down the road? Perhaps your geographic location necessitates minor changes to conform to local regulations.
Upwards of 75 percent of stock-plan buyers modify their plans in some way. Just remember, like snowflakes, no two dream homes are exactly alike.
Perhaps you've already created a list of changes you'd like made to your home plan. Hiring a designer to personalize your pre-designed plan allows you to capitalize on affordability with specialization, realizing the dream of a perfect new home in the process. For a smaller price than a custom-drawn home, modifications can tailor your home plan into a home that's as good as a custom home.
Find a contractor Look for a good fit
When you're building a new home, you can't just flip open a reference book, run your finger down the alphabetical listings and say, "That's the one. That's who's going to build my house."
Because you're not just looking for a builder, What you need is a new friend, a financial consultant, a guru, a business partner, an efficiency expert and maybe a soul mate — all wrapped up in one person. You need someone who knows the ins and outs of the housing business.
Since you will be asking so much of your builder, it's important to find one in whom you can put your confidence. Scrutinize your potential builders as closely as you would a business partner or a babysitter. Make sure not only that he or she is competent, but also that your personalities click.
Building a home can get intense. You and your builder will enter a relationship that demands large doses of patience and trust. He or she will have to understand your vision and your budget.
On the job, your builder oversees the construction of your home, setting deadlines and coordinating the arrival of materials and labor for every phase of building, from digging the footings to raising the roof. He'll be the project manager for an immense undertaking that's especially sensitive to weather, time and government regulation.
So have patience, expect some delays and, most of all, do your homework.
Get leads from friends and colleagues, especially people apt to give you straight stories about their experiences. Consult people involved in other aspects of home building, too. Loan officers at your bank or building society, real estate lawyers and appraisers, and others who regularly deal with the business of buying and selling houses can offer up names and opinions of builders in your area.
If you have an idea of where you want to build your new house, drive around the neighborhood and check out the homes that are going up. Ask new homeowners or people working on job sites who the major builders are in the area. Most builders specialize in certain neighborhoods. If you know where you want to build, there's no better way of doing research than to drive around and ask questions.
During the list-building process, find out not only which builders are popular, but also what problems have occurred with the not-so-popular builders. Once they get started, most people won't hesitate to go into the minor details of their home-building experience. Smile, nod and when they talk about builders, take note.
Excerpted from Vhouseplans Book 3 by Richard Vuma Mamba. Copyright © 2016 Richard Vuma Mamba. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
House Plan Designs, 9,
Frequently Asked Questions, 193,
List of designs in this volume, 199,