Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Change of Plans

Linda and Gary Shaw had a plan: Retire in five years and then buy some land to build their retirement dream home. They just didn't anticipate that part of their plan would happen sooner rather than later.

Sitting in their spacious living room in Beaverbank, Nova Scotia, Linda and Gary laugh when asked what expedited their plans to build before actually retiring. "We weren't even looking for land," recalls Linda. "I was looking at the Sunday ads in the paper when I saw some land for sale in Beaverbank. I said to Gary, 'It says ocean front.'"

"I said to Linda, 'There's no ocean in Beaverbank,'" Gary recalls his response with amusement.

That did not deter the Shaws from taking a drive from their home in Lower Sackville to nearby Beaverbank, a community about 30 kilometres outside Halifax, to take a look at the lot. They fell in love with the acre of towering pines nestled along a ravine leading to an adjacent stream.

Gary called the real estate agent that afternoon and made an offer. "Our offer was accepted that night!" Gary exclaims their disbelief.

Now the proud owners of their dream lot, Gary and Linda still had different timelines on when to build. "My plan was not to build until we retired. But Gary had other plans," jokes Linda.

"Instead of letting it [the land] sit there, I thought we should build," explains Gary. Linda soon agreed and the search was on for their perfect home.

"I wanted something unique. In subdivisions, it's the same house but in different colours," recounts Linda referring to her desire to have a home unlike their previous split level home.

In January 2003, the Shaws came across a Homes and Cottages flyer in their local paper advertising the material package, the Caldwell Cove. "The moment I saw it, I knew that was it," Linda says.

"I always wanted a sunroom and I love windows," says Linda. The vast windows capture the beauty of the forest surrounding the Shaw's home. The home's two porches and two large decks make entertaining a delight. The open concept kitchen and living/dining area is wonderful for family gatherings or relaxing by the cozy fireplace after a meal. The exterior boasts a cottage-feel with its stone facing, abundant windows, and rounded turret.

Making a Plan of Their Own

Gary and Linda soon took the flyer featuring the Caldwell Cove to Debra Perry, Package Home Specialist and Contractor Salesperson at Payzant Home Hardware Building Centre in Lower Sackville, to discuss building their newly found home. Although they loved the design of the plan, Gary and Linda wanted to make some changes to fully make it their own.

From the initial contact with a customer, Debra likes to stress that modifications can be easily made. "It is very easy. If you like the outside but don't like the inside, it can be changed," Debra points out. "If there is a plan someone wants smaller, that can be done." After a plan is chosen, Debra sits down with a customer to listen to what the customer wants and also make suggestions.

With Debra's assistance, Gary and Linda quickly began reworking the plan to make it their dream home. "There were no problems with the changes," says Linda. "She listened to what we wanted."

The modified plans were sent off to the Architectural Solutions Department at Home Hardware's head office in St. Jacobs, Ontario and final drawings were soon completed. An additional three feet was added to the master suite to make room for a Jacuzzi tub and a separate shower. The plan was "flipped" to a mirror image so that the sunroom faces south and the front entrance faces west giving ample sunlight on both sides of the home. The chimney was removed and a propane fireplace added in the living room. The crawl space became a full basement and an exterior basement entrance was added. A skylight enhanced the upstairs bathroom allowing more natural light. The windows were upgraded for heat efficiency.

With final drawings in hand, the Shaws hired local contractor Austin Macrae, owner of J.A. Macrae Construction to begin building their home.

A Plan is Complete

Being in the business for over twenty years, Debra Perry knows first-hand the many benefits that home and cottage packages offer to customers. Cost is usually the number one thing on consumers' minds when looking to purchase a home. Debra points out that the main cost advantage to a home or cottage package is the guaranteed price: "There are no hidden fees. The price isn't going to change."

This advantage far differs from conventional construction jobs (also called stick-build homes) where the price often ends up being far more than the customer anticipated. "With a stick-build home it is only an estimate," Debra explains. "If you run out of something you pay the difference."

Having someone that you trust to guide you throughout the building process can alleviate a lot of unneeded stress. As first-time homebuilders, Gary and Linda were very appreciative of the consistent contact they had with Debra. "We really relied on her," comments Linda.

"I like to work with the customer from beginning to end," Debra adds. "When you work that closely with someone, you know every step of the way what is going on. You build trust. That is what I am here for."

Another benefit with material packages is that the ordering and scheduling of materials is done ahead of time allowing the project to proceed on time. Ordering and scheduling materials can often be headaches for customers building non-package homes. Often production is slowed because material has not shown up to the site on time.

Both Linda and Gary agree that building their home was stress-free and recommend material packages, especially for the first-time builder. "It eliminates all of the headaches," comments Linda.

The Shaws now have the house of their dreams. Sometimes plans are meant to change.