Okay, I misunderstood what Tom, the architect, said. I DO need approval from the city planning commission, and I will be working on that this week. Tom's rough order of magnitude for building the basement and retaining wall was $130,000 -- but he was very cautious. I am going to work with a contractor that he knows and works with, and get an estimate from him. The time period for that is next weekend, so within 14 days I should know if I can buy the property.
02:14:27 PM, Saturday 23 April 2005
The architect is done modifying the plans. There are a couple of things that may or may not be difficult:
1) the dome may be too high for the current zoning area. It's total height, including the garage first floor, is about 33' without a cupola (which I wanted, but oh well), and the zoning allows only 30'
2) a dome is not approved by the city; the city doesn't care, but it cares what your neighbors think...so I have to get approval from the neighbors.
I think that's about it for now. I'm going to look at the modified plans tomorrow. _
01:43:20 PM, Friday 22 April 2005
I still haven't heard anything. A friend of mine pointed out that there is a dome for sale in the area that I'm looking to build one, but they want 1.1 million for the dome and 5 cabins and 2.8 acres of land...it's tempting, but I don't think I could afford that...
04:02:15 PM, Tuesday 19 April 2005
Nothing much is happening right now. A couple of days ago I got an agreement from the architect/engineer, which I signed and sent back with an advance payment to him. Now I'm waiting for him to find out if the city will give us the green or red light.
If it's a green light, I'll plop down the money for the land and hire the geotechnical surveyors right away...otherwise, I'll start searching again.
By the way, I've decided to survey the land myself, with the help of my friends. I think we can figure it out. It'll save around $1,000 and give us an excuse to hike up and down a hillside a lot--and an excuse to go to a nice restaurant with some of the money that I'm saving! _
10:15:20 PM, Wednesday 13 April 2005
Well, my architect (Tom) is a bit amused at my love of dome homes. :) Ah, well, not everybody's willing to live in a giant pimple to save 30% of energy costs and use 30% fewer materials to build a house.
Tom is going to spend a few hours looking into the feasibility of the dome; if it looks good, I will make an offer on the land, and either hire a surveyor or rent some survey equipment and do it myself, which would probably save me $800 or so. The next steps after that are to apply for a loan and hire a geological engineer to check the soil content. And I need to find an excavation/foundation contractor. Heh. Lots of calls to make, if it's possible to build the house.
If it's possible to build on this land, I'll be modifying the plans very slightly, to add a small bathroom upstairs. Once that's done and blueprints are made, I'll either take a picture of them or scan them and post a picture with a direct link or something. Exciting! I should know more by the middle of next week, I think. _
10:23:19 PM, Tuesday 5 April 2005
Well, I found someone to work with. He's an architect AND an engineer, and says that he can give me rough order of magnitude estimates of cost for things like the foundation. I'm meeting him at the small land in Tujunga on Tuesday at 4pm...expect an update on Tuesday evening...I'm very excited.
I think that if he thinks that the land is buildable, I'll go ahead and buy it and get started with the loan process and the planning process. There's quite a bit of initial work that will take three months minimum to get done, most of it involving drawing up plans and getting city approval to build and such. For the loan, I'll need to get estimates for framing the interior walls, for laying the floors, and for roofing, and basement/foundation/retaining wall construction, and for the architect's fees, and whatever else I've forgotten.
03:57:45 PM, Friday 1 April 2005
On a completely different note, I am having problems finding a contractor to work with. I have a card for someone who is an architect and an engineer, and he's apparently very nice, so I am going to call him tonight. Maybe we can get this house thing started? I hope so...
11:50:50 AM, Wednesday 30 March 2005
Hmmmm....perhaps these batteries are very, very special? http://www.buy.com/retail/product.asp?sku=90126801
06:49:57 PM, Tuesday 29 March 2005
Presentation went well, several people asked me intelligent questions afterwards, which means that they were paying attention while I spoke! Woo!
Once I got home, I finally got sleep more than 4 hours at a single go, too, so I'm feeling much better. :) _
11:37:30 PM, Saturday 26 March 2005
I am on travel again. Wheeeeee.....
This time, I'm in Hoboken, NJ, and I forgot my cell phone. Ah, well, at least I brought what is left of my mind with me.
Overnight from Japan to LA; another overnight, the very next night, from LA to Florida. Returned a day and a half later, to spend 4 nights at home with my cats, where I ended up sleeping in over the weekend. Sleeping in like I haven't done since I was 19--I slept until 1pm in the afternoon. This is not good, I guard my sleep hours.
Now I'm falling asleep at about 5pm pst, then waking up around 11pm pst, and going back to sleep at 3-4am pst. Of course, that means that I won't be able to go back to sleep tonight, since 3-4am pst is 6-7am on the east coast. I get to present my research tomorrow (today!) to a group of people who will probably rip me apart.
At least I'll be sleeping through it, right? _
01:42:46 AM, Wednesday 23 March 2005
Well, the pictures from Japan are up now. You can see them (if you want to) by going to the link on the right hand side of this page. There's only one REALLY nice one in there, and I ordered a 20"x30" print of it as an experiment to see if a 5.1Mp camera can do a poster print as large as that. :)
01:45:30 PM, Monday 21 March 2005
Well, I just found out how much it will cost to have the plans modified slightly. To modify the plans, and to have the house situated on the land, will cost $10,500--which is simply amazing to me. I don't believe it. It's $4,500 for the geotechnical report, so that means a minimum of $15,000 for the initial plans. If I had flat land, I could use a preexisting floor plan for $300. Unbelievable.
So, at the moment, to use the original land would cost approximately $178,500: $11,000 for the land, $4,500 for the geotechnical report, probably around $2,500 for the surveyor, another $10,500 for the architect, and then approximately $150,000 for the foundation and retaining walls. All of this so that I can then spend about $80,000 for the house construction and have a 1200sf home! :(
I guess my original idea of building one of these domes up in Napa as a vacation home might not be a bad one. _
09:32:12 PM, Friday 18 March 2005
Whew! I got 4 hours of sleep on the way back from Japan. After arriving and petting the cats for a little while, I put my clothes in the laundry and went in to work. I barely got things at work done before I running back home to switch laundry, have dinner, pack and leave for KSC. It was a 4 hour flight, and I slept for 3 hours of it, so I've now had 7 hours of sleep in the past two nights, and all of my sleep was while sitting in coach plane seats! :(
I'm really looking forward to my hotel room's bed. Tonight at about 7pm EST, I am going to go to sleep and sleep for 11 hours. Yum.
I will try to write up the whole Japan trip this weekend. I organized the 204 photos last night. There's at least one really pretty shot in there. We'll see if there's more than one, but I got one. In two months in Europe in 1996 (remember that, Moss?) I took 12 rolls of 24 shot film and got two pictures that I really liked--so I think that having even one shot that I really like in 204 pictures from Japan is pretty good! :) _
10:38:11 AM, Wednesday 16 March 2005
Wow, so the keyboard got all messed up and everything...sorry about that!
I am safely home and will post all of my 210+ photos when I get back from my business trip...that's right, I just got home today at 10:20am and I am leaving a bit less than 12 hours later to take a redeye out to Florida for work! Ugh...
So I'll be back on Thursday night late...please everybody say hi to my kitties, they are very lonely! _
01:26:58 PM, Tuesday 15 March 2005
in Nara, which is near Kyoto, which is on the big island in Japan...it:s a bit strange, but kinda fun!
Adam and I are having a great time, we went around parts of Tokyo for three days (staying in Shibuya, went to Akihabara, Shibuya (including the red light district, woo! :) ), the Imperial Palace area, and took the shinkansen train to Kyoto. In Kyoto, we:re staying in a traditional ryokan, or Japanese style hostel/bed & breakfast, complete with bamboo mats on the floor and stow-away futon beds.
I:m taking lots of pictures (well over 100 photos already) and am drinking lots of coffee to keep going. I hope you are all having a great week as well! _
10:52:20 PM, Friday 11 March 2005
Well, I haven't purchased any land yet. I'll be thinking about it while I'm in Japan, though. I need to know how much foundations will cost, and then I will start the process. I've got a couple of leads on good contractors now, so I'm guessing that I'll buy land by the end of April.
In the meanwhile...of to Japan! woo! Talk to you in a bit more than a week, _
05:42:26 PM, Friday 4 March 2005
I'm going to go to Japan for a week. I will return on Tuesday the 15th, and I will come home for a few hours and then I'll be heading back to the airport the same day so that I can go to Florida for two days for work. Wheee! I'll be travelling something like 20,000 miles in less than 3 days! Yay!
okay, so I'm a bit delirious, what can I say?
But if there's nothing better when I get back, I'll buy the Sister Elsie property and get the heck started on this project. A quick idea of what has to happen, and how long it will take:
1 week for purchasing the land
6 weeks to do a soil report (engineer)
6-12 weeks to get a foundation/retaining wall plan approved by the city
6-12 more weeks if the city needs the plan re-done (which they likely will, with the recent flooding and "houses falling down the hillsides" problem)
conditional use permit to begin construction
power pole and portapotty set up
? retaining wall construction (contractor)
? basement construction (contractor)
first floor subfloor framed in (me?)
dome construction (me and friend)
first floor interior walls (me?)
second floor subfloor framed in (me?)
second floor interior walls (me?)
plumbing (someone else--I'm not at all interested!)
electrical (partially me, partially contracted)
radiant floor heating (probably contractor)
flooring installation (almost certainly me)
appliances installed (almost certainly me)
final city inspection/move in permit...which I will frame and hang on the wall, I'm not kidding
big party, complete with dom perignon, I think
move in and enjoy _
11:56:54 PM, Tuesday 1 March 2005
I forgot to mention...the Flora Morgan property (I think that's what the street is called) does, in fact, come with its own porsche. Check it out in the photo link!
04:17:53 PM, Monday 28 February 2005
Well, the deadline is fast approaching. I should be buying land by the end of the week, should all go well. I'm considering three different properties, and would like to talk to a contractor before I bid, but if nothing happens this week I'll probably buy the first land that I looked at. There's a link to photos of the land on the sidebar, it's the Sister Elsie property. Basically (and unfortunately) the land is where the two large trees are. I'll have to have the trees cut down to build, darnit. I will hopefully have room to plant some trees after I'm done, but we'll see...the land is very small.
04:16:35 PM, Monday 28 February 2005
On the other hand, it looks to me like I CAN afford a large amount for the land and foundation. To get a good cash flow after building the dome, I would have to sell my current house in Pasadena (which I don't want to do) but it's possible.
My real estate agent knows a contractor and knows of others, so I should have someone who is willing to work with me soon. I looked at a new piece of land today. It's not ideal, but it does have a flat area on it, and it has nice views. The problem is that it has an old foundation already on it. I think that it would cost a good deal of money to have it removed...I don't know, I think I might try to remove it myself. Then it would only cost a few hundred dollars for a couple of dumpsters! :) We'll see...I kind of like the twisty road up to the land, but it would be a pain to bring materials and machinery up to it. My goal right now is to find out how much it will cost to build on the land that I like the most, and go from there.
09:38:29 PM, Thursday 24 February 2005
The one contractor who had returned my calls and gone out to look at properties just got a huge contract with one of the elementary schools. He had started the contracting process before I ever called him, so it's totally fair, but it's so hard to find someone who is willing to actually do work...sheesh.
Well, I'm going to make a list of people to call and start calling them. Maybe I'll ask around as well and see if anyone knows a good person to call.
03:53:51 PM, Thursday 24 February 2005
It's been absolutely incredible around here. The sun finally decided to show itself a bit yesterday afternoon; today is lovely. The last month has been rain, rain, rain, rain...when I was looking at properties, the rain was so thick that the streets couldn't drain quickly enough, and I went through puddles that were quite literally as large as small ponds.
Owning a hillside home seems kind of dangerous now, what with the million dollar houses dropping off the side of hills and all. I think I still want to do this, though, it's just too big of a deal. I've been looking and looking and looking at land and I haven't found anything that's truly worth while other than the first piece of land and the last one that I looked at--assuming that a foundation can be constructed that is safe, anyway. I'm trying to get in contact with the contractor I've spoken to several times, but so far no luck. I'm going to ask his opinion of the last piece of land that I looked at, which is much more attractive, I think, than the land in Tujunga--and then I'll try to buy one of them.
I have to hurry, because I have the ability to go buy a *nice* car (I'm looking at the mercedez hardtop convertible, it's like a beautiful, quiet version of the miata that I drive now) and if I buy the car first, it makes it much harder to buy land and build a house...but I want the car a lot... :)
11:21:35 AM, Thursday 24 February 2005
Of course, the thing is, there's a lot of really difficult-to-build-on land available. I looked at one place this weekend that is absolutely beautiful. I'm going to have to ask my contractor friend how much it would cost to build on a slope like this one, but it has views of wooded hillsides and is close to work. The guy wants $95,000 for 3 plots, but with the recent rains and floods and hillsides in the area collapsing I think I can safely offer half of that and not be laughed out of the room...of course, there's always the quesiton of how safe one would feel in a house like that...
11:41:59 AM, Tuesday 22 February 2005
Well, I've looked at another half-dozen properties and I'm beginning to think that the first little property that I looked at is the best deal for a number of reasons. First, I don't have to get a loan to buy the property, then a construction loan to build the house--I can just buy the land outright. Second, it's got a great view. Third, it's a smaller house, which would be good for the total cost and for making the house be a great place to live in. Finally, it would still be worth more than the cost to build it...just not as much more as I had hoped before. :)
Well, in two weeks I'll have some checks for my home equity line of credit. If the little plot of land hasn't sold yet then I will make an offer on it and, instead of putting a deposit down and having a 30-day escrow, I'll just buy it outright and have the shortest escrow possible.
I'll post pictures of the land soon.
I hope everyone is having a good three-day weekend... _
11:41:44 AM, Monday 21 February 2005
It's a "no-go" on the land that I've been looking at recently. It's an exceptionally nice area, but I think the building would cost a lot of money, my unreasonably low (and very rough) estimate came in at over $550,000--which I think is too much.
I guess my next step is to call a finance person and set up an appointment to find out how much of a house I could afford. Well, I could do that, and I should do that, and I will do that...but I've already found some decent land for sale for a reasonable price. It's out in Tujunga again, and I'm going to go look at it tomorrow after work. The land is supposedly only "slightly sloped" and is in a good neighborhood. If it's large enough then I'll start looking at a dome again, we'll see how it fits on the land.
Too bad, the location of the last place was fantastic... _
08:54:47 PM, Thursday 17 February 2005
The previous owners hired an architect to work with and he came up with this beautiful house that just ... *fits* on the land that it's on.
A dome would be great, and I'm really going to miss the soaring cieling and the open space, but this house is very "Frank Lloyd Wright"-esque, and it's got windows in all the right places, and it's got a drive-in garage, and a master bathroom, and it's the right size, and it's got the right number of bedrooms...etc., etc., etc....so I have to find out how much it will cost to build, but I am going to start the bidding process today, and we'll see what happens. I may not even be able to afford it, but I'll try.
11:32:54 AM, Thursday 17 February 2005
The land includes the whole "flat" pad. I am suddenly very nervous about buying it, building a house here would be such a great thing--but it will be a lot of work and trouble ... I'm going to spend time "situating" the dome on the land and see what it looks like and where the garage will go and what not...wow, I'm not usually this worried, clearly I have to think about this tonight. I'll let you all know if I put a bid in on the land tomorrow.
06:43:37 PM, Wednesday 16 February 2005
I think I've found some land to buy. It's a LOT more expensive, but I figure the other plots were cheap for a reason, right? This one has a small gently sloped pad that will take a larger dome, and has a fairly steep hill behind the pad that will have to be cut into partway and a retaining wall built. The land's asking price is something like 12 times as much as the first piece that I looked at, but it is in an excellent location, and I mean an EXCELLENT location. It's about 2.5 miles from JPL, up in the Glendale hills, and has a view of downtown Glendale.
There's a map here
You can find pictures of the land and the views at my photo site at http://photos.yahoo.com/purfledspruce
There is some question of how much of the flat part of the land is actually part of the property, but assuming that the flat pad is all part of the parcel, I'm going to do it. Woo!
02:48:45 PM, Tuesday 15 February 2005
Well, the land turned out to be very nice..except for the huge power line tower and wires that go over the land and the 1/2 mile, twisty, turny dirt road that leads to the property. Hm... "Jason, would you like to pay money to increase your risk of cancer and also live on land that forces you to buy a gas-guzzling SUV?" "No, no I don't think I'd like to do that."
So I found another piece of land. It's much more expensive (about an order of magnitude, in fact!) but it's in a really nice location. I'll know if it's a buildable plot of land tomorrow, probably. I'll write more then.
10:28:58 AM, Monday 14 February 2005
Well, I've found another piece of land. The original land was 2,800 square feet, this newer plot is in Glendale and it's about 4,000 s.f. It has a nice view, but no paved road to the building site, just a dirt road. The price is reasonable, but of course I don't know how much it will cost to build the foundation on it. The land seems to be much more level and parking could be done on the dirt road, I guess, so I wouldn't need a basement--hopefully a slab foundation will be a lot cheaper, we'll see.
Additionally, the lot right next to it is also available, and is of the same size. I don't want to spend that much on the land, but if the two lots look good, I'll consider purchasing both. Of course, the size of the house is now a question since a larger place would fit. Of course, a larger house would also cost more to build. I might be interested in a 2,000 s.f. home, which will fit easily on one of these two plots.
We'll see how it all goes, my plan is to look at as much info as I can get online tonight, maybe even look at the land (since I can get up there around sunset) and then call my real estate agent tomorrow morning.
01:43:51 PM, Friday 11 February 2005
I have cancelled the purchase of the land. It's just too much money to build the foundation there...let someone else deal with it. I have begun looking for another, better piece of land. There're a couple plots available in Glendale. I don't think I want to live in Glendale, but it would be okay if the land turns out to have a view. It's fairly inexpensive, so I doubt that it's too nice. We'll soon see!
01:12:41 PM, Friday 11 February 2005
Well, I got a further, more detailed estimate on the house's foundation. It's now $150,000 estimated, depending on the soil. I am not sure that I am going to do it. What do you all think?
10:58:12 AM, Friday 11 February 2005
I work as a systems engineer at JPL, which means that I look at the overall system instead of designing "only" a small part of it. This is pretty neat for me, because my St. John's background sort of precluded me from getting really deep into engineering. A lot of "real" engineers dislike systems engineers because they're kind of like managers...they look after cost, to some extent, and they make sure that each of the subsystem engineers have enough information so that when it comes time to build the satellite or spacecraft or rover that all the pieces fit together.
I've been thinking of switching to project management, recently, which is very similar to systems engineering but you're more concerned with the budget and making sure that it gets done on time, as well as hiring the systems engineers and other management duties. I realized last night that I could look at the building of the dome as a project similar to a JPL project, and that I could apply many of the same project management skills to the dome. This should be good practice for what might become my job in a year or two, and might help the house construction be more efficient. I'll be making a preliminary schedule document first, showing myself when each contractor needs to be at the site and what the critical work or permits have to be done first before more work can continue.
For instance, you can't seal the walls until you have a permit to do so; to get the permit, you have to have an inspection; to pass the inspection, you'll have to have all of your utilities roughed in--so those steps are sequential. However, the utitity installations can be done in parallel, the electrician can be pulling wires in one room while the plubmer is plumbing another room. So I think this will be a good introduction to project management for me as well as being a neat-o-rama-rifi-keen place to live. :)_
01:07:52 PM, Thursday 10 February 2005
So, I got news last week that the foundation is going to cost a lot more than I would like it to cost. I had planned on refinancing my current house's home equity line of credit (HELOC) and using that to build the new house, but since the foundation came in at around a hundred grand, I don't have enough equity. Thus, I'll need to get a construction loan. This way, I'll only need to front 5% of the build cost, and the build cost is (I hope) only about 2/5 of the actual cost...that would make my total down payment 2%. Fun!
06:49:11 PM, Wednesday 9 February 2005
Well, Moss has been very kind and has set up a blog for me. Thanks moss!
I am hoping to keep track of a major project in this blog, at least to start out. I have decided to build a house! Of course, I never do things the "normal" way, so I'm building it myself as much as I can. Also, I'm buying a geodesic dome kit house, by the wonderful people at Timberline Geodesics. It is a real house, you can see pictures at http://www.domehome.com/
I've started buying the land, I found a tiny piece of land in Tujunga, California. For those of you who don't know me, I work at JPL, which is in Pasadena, CA. Tujunga is a few miles west of the Lab. The land is on a hillside and will cost quite a bit to build the necessary foundation and retaining walls, and can only fit a small (1200 square feet) dome, but the views should be incredible. I'm planning to have a big glass wall (approximately 25 feet of glass) that views the San Fernando valley west of Tujunga, and the sunset over the San Fernando mountains. Yum. _
06:08:53 PM, Wednesday 9 February 2005
Testing. 1, 2. --The Mgt.
04:38:51 PM, Wednesday 9 February 2005
site & script courtesy of Moss