Monday, May 16, 2011


It's official; construction loan closed this afternoon.  Let the build begin!

As soon as this rain lets up I'll start working on the home site again - last weekend was a freaking muddy mess.  As soon as I dug a stump or dropped a tree it'd rain.  As soon as it'd stop, it'd rain again.  Regardless I still made great progress.

The next task scheduled is removing the top soil from the home site.  The idea behind this is to expose the subsoil so that drainage and site grading can be done.  Since I lack the experience needed to "shoot" the elevations with a transit, I'll have Rob and Adam come back up to the mountain before I start the grading/leveling.  I plan on having dad up there as well so that he can help as we grade.

I spoke with Tim, our soil guy, and asked about repositioning the house today.  Based on the well/septic permit, the house needs to be turned and moved a bit to achieve the proper solar positioning.  I inquired about moving the septic field to an area that has already been cleared because digging stumps and dropping tree is getting a little old and expensive with fuel prices nearing $4.00/gal.

Tim said we can move the house provided it's not drastic.  He said all we need to do is maintain sufficient slope and distance to the drain field from the home site.  As far as the moving the septic, no dice.  If we move the drain field, we'll have to reapply for the permit.  Tim said to avoid dropping any more trees in the drain field until we've consulted with our septic contractor.  He said they'll often work around the trees that are currently standing.  Not bad news I suppose...

After we've marked the site and our initial grading efforts commence, we'll schedule the well to be drilled.  That's the last unknown, will we have water?  How far will they have to drill?  Is an artisan well in the cards?

Keep your fingers crossed and stayed tuned for video updates also.  I'm anxious to start documenting this build via HD video for prospective passive house owners.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Credit? "Approved." Appraisal? "Approved." Loan? "Approved." Closing? "Seven more days!"

Yes, regardless of what you may think, it takes money to build a house.  Unless you're lucky enough to cover the costs of home construction with the receipts in your wallet, start shopping for a lender.

I started shopping three months ago.  My goal was to find a local financial institution interested in something new, not just standard construction.  This made it a little difficult because passive house construction is far beyond the standard construction concepts US lenders are familiar with.  I felt like I could make it easier for the next passive house homeowner in southwestern VA if I could find a lender that was open to the idea and willing to finance our construction.

To be honest, the rates are great, but the banks don't want to fork out the dough.  There's not a lot of lenders out there willing to finance more than 75% of the construction expenses and there's not a lot of consumers out there that are prepared to fork out 25% of their own money to build a house either.  As I worked through the first loan application, then the second and third, I wasn't sure I was going to find anyone to offer me something I could work with until Adam called.  All he said was, "I think I've found someone, call StellarOne."

I picked up the phone, called a Senior Mortgage Consultant at StellarOne, made the initial inquiry and hung up the phone.  Within a day I had submitted my personal information, the details of our passive house and my application was rolling.  Without a doubt, StellarOne made the application process effortless.

Sure, there's been some challenges and nail biting over the last 30-40 days but the results of our appraisal cooled my nerves.  The appraisal was our the biggest concern and the results were reassuring; the comparable properties listed in the appraisal justified the added 10% cost of building a passive house and even a little extra.

So why not build a passive house, its obviously worth it?

Following the completion of the appraisal, my application was submitted to the underwriting team at StellarOne and conditional loan approval was granted.

From here, the final step was to seek out builders risk insurance.  Five calls to different insurance agents and I'm done.  The best price, the best coverage, and the best customer service; its not that hard.  Now, we sit tight and wait for Monday.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Smooth sailing; I know I said it before but cheers again to StellarOne for making this process as smooth as possible.  After I get permission, I'll be sure to throw the Senior Mortgage Consultants name out there for your reference.