So….we’re building a house, or two. It started out almost 10 years ago when I bought a property in the Houston Heights with an old duplex and a cottage. It’s actually 2 long, skinny lots that are on the corner with lots of gorgeous old trees.
This summer, we started tossing around the idea of tearing down the houses and building 2 new homes- one to live in & one to sell for a profit. There were several factors that played into our decision, but the timing just felt really right. The economy is booming right along in Houston, interest rates are expected to stay at record lows, the Heights area seems to have really turned a corner with more & more new construction that is pushing out all the of older, run-down properties in the area. So many people, especially young professionals, are wanting to avoid the long commutes from the suburbs and live in town, near all the bars, restaurants, and other nightlife.
I’d originally thought we’d construct two row-house style homes on the lights- they are very popular in the area since that’s the existing shape of the lots. We have alley access on the back of the property & I was envisioning some 3-story New Orleans style homes that are hugely popular inside the loop. We’re in a position now to have my dad build these homes for us & I think it would be really incredible to live in a house we built together.
However….we started talking to people, especially a realtor in the area & he suggested re-platting the two lots to face sideways and have more of a square footprint. Doing it this way, we could go down to 2-stories, which is a much more desirable layout with fewer stairs for people to climb. We’d end up with more yard and a small back-patio area that could be fenced in and much larger than the rectangular yard. Finally, they would be facing Arlington Street and have it as an address.
One of the most fun parts of the process so far has been working with an architect. We went in to meet with him & it was like watching magic as he started drawing out our house. He’d sketch things & we’d see how they layout looked. We’d make suggestions & he’d grab another sheet of paper to see how this arrangement would look or how it would work if we moved things around.
We went driving around the Heights area to see other “side facers” as I called them- homes that were on the corner lots and faced sideways. We started getting ideas of what we liked (porches) and didn’t like (garages in front).
We went back and forth with my dad, the Realtor, and the architect on revising our plans, figuring the exact layout of the kitchen. How big to make each room, which ways doors should swing, where the windows go, how to layout both houses on the property for a site plan. It was fun to watch my dad sketch things out & I started playing with ideas on AutoCAD, seeing if I could make a corner pantry work or if we could move the first floor powder room to the other end of the kitchen.
After several weeks, we came up with a floor plan that I really love! It’s huge and open on the first floor from the living room on one end to the kitchen on the other. It’s got as many windows as we could fit in & high ceilings to make the space look even bigger. There’s an extra-large island in the kitchen as we love our current one so much & think it’s a great place to entertain & make kitchens a wonderful place to cook.
All the bedrooms are a good size, and they all have extra-large closets. The master bedroom is huge, with a fireplace and an enormous master closet & bathroom area. We’ve got room for a big laundry area with cabinets, and even a little reading or exercise nook at the top of the stairs.
The next step was in adding all the details- lights, plumbing, fixtures, outlets, fans, and all those other details. The architect makes a first pass at it, and then I sat down with my dad making lots of changes and adding in everything from electrical floor plugs to more smoke alarms where required. It’s been a fun process & quite the adventure so far. We’ve been working on this since late summer, doing all our financial paperwork to secure the loans, getting the project budgets together, getting our tenants to move out, and so many other steps along the way. We’ve just sold the 2 old buildings off the property & they should be moved to new homes in the next few weeks. We applied with our blueprints to the city last week for our building permit & we are almost through with the very long process of legally re-drawing the lot lines to be more square. Soil tests are done, engineering reports are completed, a new survey was conducted & is waiting to be updated when the lots lines are finally recorded with the county.
I’ve started a website/blog for the houses 27thandArlington.com – mostly as a way to help sell them and I also wanted to be able to document the construction of the project for everybody involved. I’ll be doing more detailed updates over there about the demolition & construction process, but I’ll write about the personal aspects over here. It’s going to be a big part of the first 6 months of 2013 & we’re excited to see what they look like- hopefully by July we can move in and/or have them both sold. It’s required tons of time, energy, and money so far, but I think it’s all going to work out really well & we’re very excited to see where this project takes us- maybe even moving back to the Heights!
GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY: Got out first rejection letter, all small things, and we’re moving forward!