General Cuties Construction Collective
Some desperate, crowd-sourced housing updates based on the values of sharing and figuring it out
While I'm asking for contributions on the Open Collective platform (so you can see where all the donations go), I'll also be able to pay back 100% of the contributions once I sell my second property (more below).
HOW I GOT STARTED
The developer reneged on putting in a sewer system in the 1970s when the properties were zoned. Because of that, it was cost-prohibitive for folks looking to buy the properties throughout the years because most people wanted to build a much larger house than each property (~5,000 feet each) would allow. Because I wanted to build compact, and could split the sewer cost between the two properties, it was still very worth it to move ahead.
While I'm really glad I bought these properties, a lot changed after I purchased them. I had gotten multiple quotes for a sewer, including for $30,000 before I closed, which would be covered by my construction loan. With the pandemic, engineer changes, and the City of Durham making me put in a *commercial sewer* (because the property across the street might be re-zoned one day, so a developer would need tie into my sewer... but why me?!), two years later the sewer actually cost $100,000. I know. You didn't want to talk to me in May 2021- my dark era. That was WITH begging the City engineering department, getting on a City Council agenda, and working with a fabulous contractor who advocated for me along the way.
The two realities of my sewer drama are:
1. With my properties costing $52,000 total, the sewer costing $100,000, and my original owner-builder construction loan being $150,000, I had to increase the loan to $189,000, which is the maximum I could on my income as well as with being an non-licensed builder (aka only one bank would take a chance on me, but not for over $200,000). I started the process with little money to build the damn thing, we have to laugh!
2. Because I'll be able to split the costs of the sewer ($50,000 for each property), it's gross that it's STILL SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to have done this than to buy a home in Durham. Or even other land! It's almost impossible to find a parcel in Durham under $100,000 that's not in a flood plain, doesn't require re-zoning or a frontage fight, and also doesn't require putting in sewer/water/electric access.
HOW I GOT HERE
You can check out pictures of the whole building process under the "Connect" tab up top!
Unlike a traditional mortgage, a construction loan requires the contractor (my single @$$ self!) to get reimbursed for expenses. I earn $56,000 before taxes and buying the properties in 2019 and starting the permitting process took most of my "start up" money. Thankfully, a GENEROUS family friend loaned me $10,000 when I couldn't afford to continue last summer with sky-high lumber costs!
With the construction market at all time highs and tradespeople booked out for months, my expenses were almost always double, triple, or quadruple the cost I had tightly budgeted. While getting multiple quotes and delaying building to find the best deal for licensed work, I couldn't catch a break. I'm beyond happy to pay people well, but realistically have not been able to afford every single major expense being at LEAST double. I was able to compensate greatly by my dad finding the best deals, friends and family donating appliances and supplies, and me furnishing as many construction supplies from Habitat for Humanity ReStores and Facebook Marketplace as possible.
I just passed my spray foam inspection and am thrilled. I decided to spray foam the house years ago to have the sturdiest and most energy-efficient home possible. But even my lowest quote was over double the cost from when I created my budget 3 years ago because of multiple industry factors (including climate change). I'm SO close to finishing my house, but about to spend the last part of my loan just paying for spray foam instead of my final projects. This week, I cashed out a secondary retirement account I have to try to get me closer to the finish line, but still will come up short.
WHY I'M ASKING FOR HELP
In the coming future, we'll be able to build two small homes on the land next door for our friends to also live affordably. Our goal, which we're working out now as a group, is in creative and principled ways, is to keep the chain of investing in each other's homes going. It's truly the most exciting thing to plan, but I need support to get there.
HOW THIS WORKS
- Folks can make one-time contributions and check out the Open Collective updates to see exactly how the money is spent.
- I've asked my close friends who've helped me build to be admins on this account too since they've been so integral to the process and for accountability! All six of us have to approve expenses in order for me to be reimbursed.
- The next step after my finished house is prepping the land next door to be sold at cost (~$80,000= sewer + $26,500 the property cost) to our best friends to also build next to us. I'll be giving contributions back once I sell the property!! Our goal is to get that started as soon as we can, but as I'm *acutely* aware from this past year that we're not able to put a current timeline on when that would be. Thankfully, now that I've done it (and the sewer was a three year process!), we're in a much better place to build more affordably and efficiently the second time around. I've already made every single mistake. It can ONLY get better.
- If there is money left over that I don't need to obtain my Certificate of Occupancy (CO), than it'll be returned ASAP!
VALUES I HOLD
- Cheap: I will do anything for a deal, except bullying. But thank God, Terry has bullied maybe a hundred people into giving me deals. I promise I'm never looking for the best or the flashiest- I'm looking to be energy-efficient, to buy quality second-hand materials as much as possible, and to live within my means (she says while asking people for money to pay for her house because she ran out of money!!!).
- Sharing: After over a year of accepting all types of help and support that would overwhelm even a healthy person, the only way I can continue making this ask is because I believe in the snowball effect. I care DEEPLY about affordable housing. I've been given the gift of being able to live in Durham in a safe and affordable house. Our best friends will be able to as well next door. And before, during, and after that, we are dead-set on doing this differently. Disrupting racist gentrification, inflated and IMAGINARY home values, and individual living... we have huge, deep plans for living our values. May we all invest in ways to live safely, and sleep soundly knowing our neighbors are too. And when they can't? We share.
- Transparency: I love the Open Collective platform because it'll show you how all the money is used! I'll upload all receipts, explain any additional costs, etc. The contributions will be deposited into my construction Truist account (there's no tax implications for you or I for personal gifts) and my friends serving as admins will have to approve all reimbursements. You'll be able to see all transactions, and please let me know if you have any questions or if something is unclear. I'm an open book!
FEARS I HAVE
- That there's more unexpected expenses to come. It's been exhausting.
- That folks think I didn't plan correctly. Well, I sure didn't. I had no idea how many extra expenses there would be, and I've been stressed the whole time that I wouldn't be able to finish because of all the challenges the pandemic and sewer have caused.
- I know housing is most people's most expensive and stressful cost in their life. I don't think I'm special or more entitled to support that others struggling. In Durham, meaningless rent hikes, disgustingly high property values, and pointless evictions harm my neighbors every single day.
Loan amount left as of 4/25/2022: $13,563.13
Retirement account distribution 4/25/2022: $10,119.096
Kylie's contribution May/June: $3,200
Total Available 4/26/2022: $26,882.23
Total (expected) expenses 5/5/2022 to get my Certificate of Occupancy: $40,364
Driveway Curb Cut: $1,999
Spray Foam: $14,000
Dry Wall: $5,000
Kitchen Cabinets: $2,000
Sewer & Water Tap: $3,583
City Impact Fees: $2,052 (Open Space Land: $222, Parks & Rec Facility: $425, Street: $1,405... of course had no ideas this was a thing when I started building)
Trying to raise as of 5/9/2022: $13,481.77
THANKS TO GIVE
Over 50 people have helped me build the house so far- physically and financially. The amount of weekends given up in now ALL seasons this past year is astounding to me.
I've had a series of setbacks through home building. The pandemic making everything harder. A mental/physical health leave from work. Three break ins!! (people love a construction site). Unreal costs. NOT KNOWING HOW TO BUILD A HOUSE. The sewer. Along the way, so many people have listened to me, supported me, cried with me, and encouraged me to not give up.
Terry and Susan have helped in more ways than I'll ever be able to share. Both have sacrificed financially in ways they or I weren't planning to get me out of many tight places these past few years. Terry drives 4.5 hours roundtrip every weekend to help me build. He never lets me run out of headlock screws. He hears me cry all the time. My momma visits often and has helped me do so much. She also hears me cry all the time. I wish tears were worth their weight in gold. I COULD PAY FOR EVERYONE'S HOUSING!
Two dear friends lent me money last summer when I was waiting to be able to afford lumber to frame my house. It literally allowed me to keep going. Others have sponsored windows, floors, lunches- and a lovely friend even paid for all our stolen tools!
In October 2021, one of the hardest months of my life, Tina took a week off work to build my roof. A week later, Pam and Hal camped out for a week and handled horrible projects for me I wasn't able to do because of full-time work and poor health.
Speaking of work, they've made so many concessions to let me build. Not only coming out to put up my beams (cool boss alert!) but let me miss meetings last minute, take Fridays off, and also hear me cry all the time. My co-workers also donated a MONTH of sick leave to me this winter so I could heal and rest. And would you look at that, I'm crying again. Look for a Pedialyte line item in my budget- the happy tears flow as much as the stressed ones.
Katie and Scott, knowing how... hmmm, "financially challenged" we are right now... offered Abbey and I to live in their house rent-free this spring that is helping us in EVERY way. It's been the kindest AND funnest thing. They also took care of Terry when he fell off a ladder, and surprised me with my first vacation in TWO YEARS to see my beloved BTS (and the *nicest* trip I've ever been on to boot!!). I'll never be able to thank them enough for everything they do and who they are.
Since starting last April, Terry and I have only spent probably 6 Saturdays not building. It's been exhausting working a job and building (cue health leave), but I at least signed up for this. And yet, almost every single weekend as well friends and family came out to help. From the beginning my General Cuties Abbey, Erica, Marge, Tina, and Tori often beat me to the build sites almost every weekend. I never thought it would take so long, and yet them and countless other Durham friends (Molly, Kevin, Jimmy, Laura, Kas, Katie, Scott, Ben, Lio, Sal, to name a few!!) and out of town family (Spenser, Hannah, Caleb, Erin, Will, Bekyy, Graham, Sarah, Nalline, Scotty, and more!!) were just willing to jump in and do the weirdest things, week after week. I love you all so much, and here for you times a million.
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Your one-time gift will allow me to finish my house! I own the property next to mine, and by moving into mine we can start preparing to have my bes... Read more
$19,506.76 USD of $13,482 USD raised (145%)
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