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New Kit Home building in the city, suburbs and rural areas. Home Owners Associations and Architectural Review Boards and how they affect my home and new home building. Do Historic areas affect my new home design? What if I am in a flood zone, are there home plan issues?
Interviewer: Hello everyone. And welcome to Episode 30 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me in the studio is Steve Tuma, President and Founder of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want exactly as they want across the nation and worldwide since 1993. Steve, how are you my friend?
Steve Tuma: Hey! Another – it’s another good day. We’ve always got interesting projects coming, people building in different parts of the country doing different things, sometimes building in same parts of the country just under different conditions and it’s kind of interesting to see of how you could just see the different challenges and how we are able to help customers work in different locations, different municipalities with different code enforcement, different geographic concerns. It’s kind of fun. It’s a lot of fun.
Interviewer: As I said, you’ve been doing this since 1993, that’s 25 years now. You should about have this down but I’m sure you still run into some unique sort of issues that you have to deal with with your customers.
Steve Tuma: But that’s why we are here. We can get through them.
Steve Tuma: All the issues we’ve got, the knowledge and the experience to sort things out. If for some reason some building department has something, it’s really a curve ball. We’ve been doing it long enough where it’s pretty weird that we get stomped but we are always there to make it happen.
Interviewer: Well, speaking of being thrown curve balls and I thought for this episode, we might talk a bit about unique building sites and get into some of the details of what you should know when you start building a new home project on what might be considered not your normal property or your normal build project. Are you up for that?
Steve Tuma: Yeah. Let’s do it! So what do you have today?
Interviewer: I’ve got a question that sort of has been on my mind for a while because I know a lot of people when they are thinking about building on certain – if you are building in the city or you are in an urban location or in the suburbs, in different environments, it has got to be – you’ve got to be running to difficulties in all of these areas but I would say in a more unique sort of environments, there must be a lot of problems. How do you handle those?
Steve Tuma: Well, it’s not necessarily a problem. There are just different code enforcement situations. So like if you are in a city and then there are county areas, there are suburban areas, generally if it’s an incorporated city, they have a more sophisticated building department.
Steve Tuma: The county areas can be very sophisticated but generally, they are a little more lax than the city right next to them. But it depends on the size. You get in to Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, those are very, very stringent programs. We work in those areas. We can help a customer do it. But let’s just say you were in Chicago building and then you went 60 miles west into DuPage County, some of those – the building departments are stringent but they are a little bit less stringent than the big city. And then say you went 60 miles even farther west than there. You could be in a pure rural area where it’s very, very simple. So it gets into the selective enforcement of each of these different areas and how they choose to enforce it. So, I don’t want to make it sound terrible but we can get through all the building departments. We’ve done it. We’ve worked with all the details. We can make it happen and we’ve worked with some of the strictest ones out there.
So beyond the actual permit application and documentation that you will have to come into to get a permit, there’s also just the actual working in a city. If you are working in an older city, you might have skinnier roads with cars parked on both sides.
Interviewer: Right. Yeah.
Steve Tuma: So sometimes the actual maneuvering around, maybe around the city lot and it’s a 50×100 lot. So sometimes the actual space to work in in a city lot is restricted just because the size of the lot where if you go out into the country and you have half an acre, an acre, 2 acres, 20 acres, there’s just a lot of space to work around and make it happen where we are currently working on a project in Phoenix, Arizona where we’ve got to sit here and do details where pipes come in, where water supply lines, where different utilities come in because it’s such a restricted space. You have to lay out to make sure that there is space for each of these items to go through. So, that’s one of the situations you get in the cities. Generally, the lots are smaller than if you are in a more rural area. But people should live where they want to live and we are able to help them work through the guidelines, the issues with the lot, if it’s a smaller space or larger space and then different details of how we can work through to help them plan so that they get the right permit, the inspections are done properly, and then they end up with a nice house.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well, speaking about enforcement, HOA, Homeowners Associations, let’s talk about that. I mean they can be great. They can be not so great. But how much do they really need to be involved or how much do I need to involve them in my building project?
Steve Tuma: Well, that’s interesting. Homeowners Associations can also be architectural review boards, architectural control boards. It’s the same thing. There are typically in some areas some covenants and restrictions that can go through and say, “Hey, you can do this. You can’t do that.” So if you have an active Homeowners Association that has a recorded set of covenants and restrictions, you are bound to them and you should know about those when you purchase the land. It should be clear in your title what they are.
Now, some of those restrictions could be relatively simple. They might say, “Hey, you have to have an 1800-square foot house minimum and 2-car garage.” Others may say something as simple as you have to keep your lawn cut. And then others can be extremely restrictive to say you can’t have a car in your driveway for than a minute. Your driveway has to be this size. Your house has to be this color. Your house – you got to use these types of materials. Your house has to be reviewed and approved by our architectural committee. And some of them can be very restrictive and very, very controlling.
Now, that’s the extreme. In all the time we’ve been doing this, we’ve only run into one or two that are extremely controlling. Most of them, what they are doing and I think the people see what they are doing, they are trying to maintain a certain quality on the neighborhood. OK? So that you don’t go through and build a nice home and your neighbor builds a nice home and there are ten nice homes around. And then someone shows up and makes their house hot pink with bright green polka dots.
Interviewer: And we’ve seen that, right?
Steve Tuma: It happens. Every once in a while, you see someone out there that’s – it will make the paper. And you see the point. So yeah, you don’t want everyone telling you how to live but on the other side, you don’t want someone doing something that’s going to devalue your neighborhood. So what they want to do is make sure that house are built to a certain standard, make sure the colors are right, make sure it works. Most homeowners associations, they want to know that the house is a certain size. They want to know that they are keeping modulars or different types of homes out. They want to know that there’s a certain quality built. They want to know that colors are uniformed in the area.
So most of them, they are guidelines that you can fit in. I would say 99 of 100 that we get just what the customers want to do. They automatically fit in the guideline. They want a color that matches the neighborhood. They want to use certain materials. Every once in a while, there would be something where they say, “Hey, we have to have a certain amount of brick or a certain color on the house and that has got to get approved.”
But it really hasn’t created an issue for people. Most of them like I say are just there to maintain a certain quality in the neighborhood so that your neighbor doesn’t do something to devalue your home and they want to know that the community is kept to a certain standard, the lawns are kept up, houses are clean so that the value is in. It’s an enjoyable place to live.
Interviewer: I know that part of this next question probably doesn’t have a lot to do with what Landmark does but Landmark I’m sure could be very helpful with this, let’s say I want – I’ve decided to buy a property in a very remote or rural area. Let’s say I want like 10 or 20 acres and there are no utilities on that property at all, no power, no water. How does Landmark help tackle a situation like that?
Steve Tuma: Well, that’s pretty interesting because there are a couple of facets to that answer. So if you have 10 or 20 acres and you’re somewhere where power is going right down the road or is readily available most of the time, they will request that plug in to those utilities. Sometimes you could build off grid where you develop – you get your own power from wind or solar. And other times, there’s kind of a hybrid using a little bit of both. But whatever the situation is, we can help a customer by providing the details formally drawn plans, formally drawn site plans so that if they have to work with a power company, they can say, “Hey, here’s my lot. It’s this size. It’s 20 acres. I’m at this intersection. Here’s my driveway. Here’s my house. How are we going to pull power in?” Of if they are working with their well person, how are they going to – where can they put the well? If they are going to work with a solar person, we can have the plans designed to work so that they can get the best solar design.
So a lot of the utility situation, it isn’t necessarily that we interact with the actual utility company but it’s more that we are giving them the information so that they can interact with the different people to get power to their home or work with alternative power sources to make sure everything is designed properly. So we play a support role in there because it’s nice to have plans that are drawn on a scale. It’s nice to have the house accurately located on the lot. It’s nice to know where the driveway is, different things like that. All those details are very important to make sure that everything is planned right.
Interviewer: It just sounds like Landmark is very good at providing sort of an advisory role. I mean you guys are not just about, “Here, here are your plans, here’s your wood. Good luck.” I mean it sounds like there’s a lot that goes on around any project that you guys take on.
Steve Tuma: Well, that’s exactly it. A lot of people think, “Oh, you sell panelized homes.” Well, that might be the product but the actual service and the development of making sure that panelized home is designed right, it’s built right, it’s planned for the community right, planned for your home right or for your lot is I think more. Just as important to more important because if you just take a house and stick it some place and it doesn’t work right, it’s not energy efficient, it doesn’t look good, you don’t like it, nothing has been accomplished. So the time to plan it will actually make the process of building your home more controlled, you will stay on schedule, and you will be able to keep your budget much, much better.
Steve Tuma: So it’s that work upfront knowing that things are put together right that are important. Let me take a simple thing. This is – you brought up a 10 or 20-acre property. That’s a lot of land.
Steve Tuma: OK? So on something like that, you might have a septic system. You most likely – chances are in a rural area, you would definitely have a septic system. But – so you have to go get a soil report to have your septic system designed properly. You don’t want someone just going out there and saying, “Hey, way back in the back 20, the farthest part, 2 miles off the road, I found the best place for your septic.” And then suddenly your house is in a location you don’t want. We always suggest to people, know where your house is going to be. Stake it out and be there with that person doing the soil test so that they know to take the soil test in an area where you want to be. So you’re not doing a test a thousand feet from where you intend on building. That can really affect your ability to get a permit and also the usability of the septic system.
So it’s details like that that some people may not think of where we are able to point it out to them so that they can then move forward and know that they are not paying for a septic design that’s not even in the right portion of the land.
Interviewer: Yeah. So there’s something I want to run by you because it’s near and dear to my heart. I’m very much into history. Let’s talk about building in historic areas. I love walking through older parts of cities and villages that really care about their heritage and preserving their architecture. But as a builder, what sort of restrictions might I run into when building in historic districts?
Steve Tuma: Well, that’s really interesting. And generally, the historic districts are more on the East Coast but we are running into more and more of them on the West Coast as well as people see the value of having a mixture of old homes and new homes, the different types of people that live there, the different activities, the different communities that can be built.
So the thing with historic districts is some of them can be very restrictive and some of them can be, “Hey, we just want it to much. You got to run it by a historic board.” So they don’t – say you’ve got a bunch of historic kind of – like say in the western states, an old mining community. They don’t want you building a house that looks like a pyramid.
Steve Tuma: They would want you to do something that might be a simplified Victorian or kind of a salt box type of design to do it. Sometimes they get into just general design. You can use modern materials like cement board siding and different things. But they want you to have a design so it blends in. So it’s not a big contrast. Other times, we’ve gone through where they kind of want to dictate if you had a brick, you want to use this type of color, where they want you to kind of blend in almost like where it would be pretty hard to tell the difference.
Now fortunately, all of these historic districts, they understand there are modern day codes. What was built in 1890 or 1920, there are just different materials, there are different safety codes, there are different fire codes, there are different ways of living, why the house will be different. So they are not necessarily going to say, “Hey, you have to build a small house and not of closets in your house.” It’s more a situation where they’re going to want the exterior look to blend in. But either way, whether you’ve got a building department that just wants to go through and have a good representation so it blends in or one that’s stringent, we can help you.
Let me circle back to the homeowners association thing that we spoke about just a little bit earlier. We can develop the plans according to the guidelines of the homeowners association or the historic districts with your design, the details that they need so that you could submit them formally to get your approval. So that’s the neat thing about it. All of this work can be done on paper for their approval. It’s not like you’re building a house and then they says, “Hey, that’s the wrong colored brick.” You got to do something different. So we can put all those details together and get the plans set up so that you can go through and submit to your homeowners association or historic review board.
Now, a lot of people, we’ve run into a couple of them in the Denver area where people are moving back into cities and there’s in-fill lots or houses that are being torn down and they want to keep the community what it is because that’s a lot of the reason people are moving there. It’s a whole different feel in a historic community.
Interviewer: Yeah. And it’s part of why people are even looking in that area. It makes sense. Let’s touch a bit on flood areas and what I might be facing let’s say if I pick up a piece of property and I find out it’s in a flood zone. And I’m sure you guys at Landmark have run into that before. How do you deal with that?
Steve Tuma: It happens a lot. I mean we’ve done a lot of projects in Florida and hurricane zones which it’s more of a storm surge type of situation. But then there’s also just flood zones, a 10-year floods, 50-years floods, different situations like that. So in general, what needs to happen is the building department will typically request a certification from a licensed surveyor or civil engineer that goes through and tells you at what elevation the floor of your home should be.
Now, something which is interesting which a lot of people don’t realize is this will affect your homeowner’s insurance.
Interviewer: I can imagine. Yeah.
Steve Tuma: And in some areas, they will say, “Hey, your finished floor elevation has to be this, call it 100 feet.” But if you go to 102 feet, you might see a big savings in your property insurance because you are outside the range of where you are likely to flood and create big damage. So the flood situations, there’s a variety of situations where it could be rainwater, it could be rising rivers which I guess is kind of the same situation, and it could storm surges from hurricanes or high wind situations.
So those are all situations that we ask the people to check if their land is in that area and then we could design the home to work around it by raising the foundation or coming up with a like a pear and beam foundation system to hold the house above. And just more on these coasts where the hurricanes are more prevalent, a lot of people use the raised up area. You can still have storages or breakaway walls and park your cars underneath there. So we can work with the designs to still get utility out of there. Pretty amazing.
Interviewer: Well, we’ve reached the end of another episode of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. But before we go, Steve, tell us how we can get a hold of you guys over at Landmark Home and Land Company.
Steve Tuma: The best way is to take a look at our website. You can review details and send us a message if you like. It is LHLC.com, just the initials of Landmark Home Land Company, LHLC.com. You can see us on social marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube. You can also call us at 800-830-9788 or you can send me an email at Landmark@LHLC.com. We are very proactive. We are responsive. We answer our phones and we will do everything to take care of you. We enjoy this.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. Well, that about wraps it up. So for Steve Tuma and myself, thank you all so much for listening and we will see you next time on the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show.
Steve Tuma: Have a great day.