Tuesday, June 25, 2019

River House: Selecting a Builder

"When one has finished building one's house, one suddenly realizes that in the process one has learned something that one really needed to know -- in the worst way -- before one began."
-- Friedrich Nietzsche

There are literally thousands of advice articles on the Internet about how to choose a contractor for your custom home. We followed none of that advice.

TAB Premium Built Home house in Morehead City; courtesy of TAB
Premium Built Homes

Pete and I lived in two houses in Virginia and extensively remodeled both of them. We were very lucky with our contractor, Harold Leff, and worked with him on both houses starting in 1990. It was a sad day in 2017 when he removed the lockbox on the front door of our second house! We appreciated the quality of his team, his eye for detail, his creativeness, and how easy he was to work with. He wasn't going to be the cheapest contractor in town, but you get what you pay for. We wanted to find another Harold when we built our North Carolina home.

We turned the upper half of a two-story sun room into a screen porch over-
looking the treetops; personal collection
And added a foyer to the middle of the house by using the recessed front
porch; personal collection

We chose TAB Premium Built Homes because they were a member of the Southern Living Custom Builder Program. The program is a network of high-quality home builders throughout the south. Builders were selected because of their commitment to great architecture and craftsmanship. We thought this might be the best way to "find another Harold."

I first contacted TAB in 2015 right after I retired and we thought we'd move to New Bern immediately -- before I got the "bright" idea to ease Pete's weekly Albany, New York, to Virginia commute by moving to New York. Andy talked me out of two house plans for very good reasons and taught me how to look at a plan with an eye to cost.

We re-engaged with TAB in 2018 and signed the contract in in early March of 2019. After our first meeting with TAB's team, Pete and I weren't sure who was interviewing who! But once we got through contract negotiations, it's been a good relationship...so far.

Pete and I celebrating being in debt again; personal collection

The contract is a firm-fixed price contract with two areas of unknown costs, which was unusual for TAB. We were unable to get a price quote for site preparation due to the Hurricane Florence recovery efforts. Our contract included only an estimate. Also, our plans would have to be reviewed by a structural engineer to ensure they met or exceeded local building codes. Because we are on a river in hurricane country, there could likely be additional costs.

Next, the hurry-up-and-wait period while permits are pulled and the structural engineer weighs in on changes to meet codes. I have been busy setting up electrical, water, and sewer service to the lot.

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