Part two: AlternativesA continuation of the How's the house coming? saga...
I asked around for a recommendation for a contractor, but there wasn't much positive response. A lot of, "Whatever you do, stay away from this guy." I talked to some contractors but I was not impressed with what I heard.
One day earlier this year the Home Builders Association of New Orleans was hosting an open house. I found a list of homes online and saw that several were on Canal Boulevard not too far from my flooded part of the city. I walked through several homes, most of which were modular.
They didn't look too bad, those modular houses. At one they had the plans for the house right there on the kitchen counter. I looked over the framing and foundation plans and I liked what I saw. They were using 2x6 framing for exterior walls which added strength and insulation value. The modular home building process benefits from factory construction at a faraway location that is not subject to bad weather, locally inflated material costs, shortage of local trades, and other issues that made new home construction so difficult here.
Their standard installation places houses 4 feet off the ground--good but not great. I asked if they could go higher and they said, "Sure!"
I arranged a second meeting with the modular people and we went over some of the options. They gave me a catalogue of floor plans and a list of options. My Darling Wife and I just shopped for the features we wanted as if we were ordering from a menu. Again, we selected a plan with 3 bedrooms, two and half baths with a total of 2,210 square feet of living area. The bare-walls base price was quoted at $269,410, but we were hopeful we could work out a deal.
A day or so later, they gave me their quotation.
I hope you're sitting down.
Because the bottom line price was $409,000.
Again, that's house only. We already own the land.
This price was a little better in that it did include a sidewalk and driveway, appliances and other items the first builder had left off. But the price was still too high. The contractor said going up the additional height was the main culprit. Although the base price included piles and piers to go up 4 feet, the cost to add 6 feet more was an additional $60,000. No way. No way that it could cost that much. No way that we could afford that much. No way that I would spend that much on a new house even if I had it.
Oh sure, there's always room to negotiate. But I also suspected that no matter what cost was agreed upon, the final price would always be higher. I've heard dozens of stories from people who hired contractors to do specific work at a fixed price only to find that it costs more.
Before it was over, I met with several home builders. I've only detailed one of them here, but they all ended with no success. We had just about run out of alternatives.
Part three: Switching gears