Thursday, May 01, 2014

A house : Light at the end of the tunnel or still in an impasse?

In a relationship we always have to compromise. Hubby and I managed to find one on many things even though we come from completely different cultural backgrounds, but there is one thing that has been blocked for the longest time : finding a land to build our future house. There are two main reasons that push us into an impasse on this issue:

Location : Countryside vs suburban
Hubby wanted to live in the countryside, the ideal situation would be to live in a piece of big land, with his neighbor being cows and lambs. That seemed scary to me. I'm not a city girl but I simply couldn't foresee myself living in area surround by no one, especially during winter. What happens if hubby is not around and I'm left with kids, then something bad happened? Beside, living in a countryside means that we have to commute long hours to work, facing traffic jams everyday. I couldn't stand that idea either. What if my kid is sick at school and I have to rush back immediately? And, I hope my children would be able to play with kids in the neighborhood. Eventually I set my limit : no more than 30 minutes travel to work per way; the house has to be surrounded by neighbors. Hubby also set his limits: the land couldn't be less than certain meter squares; it needs to have exposition to the South so that it will have the maximum sunlight; there should be enough space between our house and the neighbors to have some privacy. 

Urban planning restrictions
In France every community has their own set of urban planning rules. For example, in some communities no flat roof is allowed. Hubby wants his house to have a center patio, so most likely the house won't have pitched roof as required by certain communities. We visited several lands, and had to give up because pitched roof was mandatory. Due to this rule we have to exclude a lot of areas, and each time we saw a land that was situated in a new community, we have to check if they accept flat roof / patio. Besides, lands in the city suburban areas have become scarce, the common trends these days are to sell smaller lands, while preserving agriculture lands or natural lands. In rare occasion when we did find one that was big enough, it cost an arm and a leg. 

Over the years, we must have visited over 20 - 30 piece of lands. We did find some that suited our requirements. We felt in love with the very first one we visited, but the whole project was put on hold due to many reasons. We were ready to move to another city for a land that fitted into our budget and requirements, but the community didn't allow a flat roof or center patio. At one point I finally lifted one of my limits, the land situated 45 minutes from my office, and I kind of like the idea of being neighbors with a bunch of cows, while still able to walk my daughter to school. But after verifying with the neighbors, the land was flooded from time to time. Then you have the perfect land but it was situated closed to a highway (too noisy); or close to a high voltage power line (might incur health issues). I was so discouraged that I completely gave up on searching land for years. It didn't help when I heard people buying houses within 1 month of searching, it sounded so easy! Why do we want to build a house instead of buying one then? I know of nobody in Malaysia building their own house. Then I remember, it is hubby's dream of building a house with patio. When it comes to realizing a dream, as a spouse, I could only give my support, I suppose?

Then one day I saw a piece of land close to where we live now, with the size that hubby wanted. He wasn't keen on it as it stretched our budget too far that we simply couldn't afford it. He kept on searching land on his own, and came back to this land. This time he felt that we could probably make it, but I had doubt, so it was on hold again. But then we keep seeing the land, and realized that it might be the right one : I'm 99% happy for the location, he is ok for the size. I'm satisfied as it is located in a new residential area which will be surrounded by houses, he is excited because houses built in the area came with different shape and roof. The only problem is PRICE!

We decided to try it out. We were so disappointed that somebody had put an option on it (reserved the right to buy the land but nothing was signed). We were patient, and managed to put an option on it weeks later. I was elated, so I immediately asked my FIL to draw us a house plan. We went researching on forums on all the construction related issues. I was overwhelmed, hubby was stressed out. Starting from 2013 new houses have to be complied with RT2012, rules that require a green energy installed in the house and good insulation. When the house is built, someone would come to control if the house meets the requirements. With this rule, houses cost around 15% more. We got a quotation from a builder, the masonry work already costed 3 times more than what my BIL had paid. Obviously we are discouraged.

Now the big question : Do we give up the project and go back to square one or we go ahead and reserve the land?


11 comments:

  1. That a tough one. I think that you would need to consider how much the total cost of the building work may be and the time it would take you to pay off that amount or if you could even borrow that much money.

    I know that we originally wanted a small house in the suburbs of Bordeaux, but we had to settle for an apartment unless we wanted to buy a fixer-upper. I have no idea of the going price for the type of land you are looking to buy, but are you sure that your expectations are realistic?

    It seems that living in the countryside is really important to you. Maybe you could settle for a smaller parcel of land? I think that if it really is that important to you and that you could swing it financially and that you would be ok with the amount of debt you would accrue and the time it would take to pay it off, then you should go for it. After all, you have been looking for a parcel of land for years.

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    1. I prefer to live in the suburb, with maximum 30 minutes each way traveling to work. My husband prefers to live in the countryside with a big piece of land. This land locates just 10 minutes from my office, so it suits me well, and the size is acceptable to my husband. I would prefer a smaller land with smaller house but we can't win it all. Now we just need to watch our budget.

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  2. That's a tough one, I agree! Housing is complicated matters in France. Limited land, expensive houses and picky landlords. Ugh.

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    1. A lot of French choose to do some part of the housing work themselves like the flooring, painting...and their house take years to complete. That's something I don't really get used to as in Malaysia you only move into your house when almost everything is completed. I guess labor cost plays a lot here.

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    2. Nowadays some Malaysians are starting to DIY their own houses too. I recently bought an old house, tear it down completely and rebuild it. Very interesting.

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    3. Just curious, does Malaysia impose a lot of urban rules on housing? For example can you use any color for your roof? Do you need to consider insulation? Are you bringing in a team of builders to do the job do you rebuild the house yourself?

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    4. Yes, there are some rules but many houses just go ahead and do whatever they want without applying for the necessary licences/planning permission. They just pay the fine later. Color for the roof is ok but there are restrictions for the type of roof - not many house area (taman) allows flat concrete roof. Insulation, no we do not need to consider that because we are not a cold country. But in some parts, they have requirements for rain water harvesting and solar power to become more green and to save water and electricity. Normally we hire builders to do the job unless the person renovating is a builder himself.

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  3. I think you should go for it if you find that you can stretch your budget since it is not easy to find something that suits the both of you. I often watch the UK tv documentary Grand Designs and find that building your dream house is very inspiring but challenging. Most people end up with cost higher than what they estimated in the first place but since your BIL has built his own house before (I assume from your post), he should be able to advise you on the things to look out for.

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    1. My FIL played a main role in my BIL's house. He coordinated the builders and drew the house plan. Anyway, after years in his house, there are still works to complete the house. Some French choose to do this, they only complete the works when they have the budget. That's something I don't like, I prefer to have everything done before moving in.

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  4. Can you buy the land first and then build your house much later?

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    1. Yes you can. But there is a rule saying that you have to build your house within 4 years. Else, you are facing the risk that one day the land might becomes agriculture land and not for house construction anymore.

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