Creating a Sense of Urgency
The house-building saga goes on, and on, and on. In part one I explained why we are suddenly looking for a company to build a house for us. In part two I shared our initial quote, an eye-watering 46 million yen. In part three I showed our latest plans and quote.
Now we are hurtling towards an artificial deadline set by Ichijo Komuten. We stayed in their model house on Sunday night and had an unexpected meeting yesterday afternoon where our guy suddenly made an impassioned speech about how great his company is and how they would like an immediate answer after they give us the detailed quote next month.
I kind of spaced out during his speech, then told him we'd need the quote to make a decision and couldn't promise anything in terms of when we would respond.
He had been doing really well providing excellent service and reeling us in until that point, but I think he really blew it with the clumsy sales pitch (my wife and I are both familiar with sales from her language school) and lost a fair amount of emotional goodwill. I'm going to see him one more time before the quote, so I am planning to ask him to get it as low as possible as that is what we will use to make a decision.
One problem I have is that they seem to have the best off-the-shelf product I've seen so far. I like the idea of getting the most solid house, then possibly upgrading the interior with nice furniture later (the base design is really simple and neutral). This means that there are not really any comparable options.
I guess the question is how good does the house have to be, and how much is the extra worth? For example, if Ichijo is say 90% quality, would it be worth going with another company that was a bit cheaper if their house was 80%? Or considerably cheaper for 70%?
- Our in-laws agreed to pay 1/3 of the cost (tentatively pegged at 14 million for the Ichijo quote). This is one huge step forward, as I would not really have been willing to do it otherwise. This apparently is about 70% of their remaining savings (they will have 6 million left if we build the house, as well as their >200,000 yen a month pension income). We will pay the bills after we move in, and cover any catastrophic expenses (can't imagine any, but my wife said she will take care of them if necessary). This set their mind at ease enough to agree.
- My father-in-law already made a will giving the land and property to my wife. We're going to assume this means it's not necessary to transfer ownership immediately.
- We met up with my brother-in-law (wife's older brother) yesterday. He's fine with whatever we want to do, but suggested we just renovate the existing house and try to expand it. I guess we could take another look at that option for completeness' sake.
- According to Ichijo, the walls and roof won't need maintenance (painting/weatherproofing). They are going to give us all the check/maintenance schedules with the final quote. The roof is actually made of the solar panels.
- We ran into a problem with the 'cliff law'. The property has steep dropoffs on two sides, so there are safety regulations as to where buildings can be built. Our original bungalow plan may no longer be viable as it might be too close to the edge.
- My father-in-law doesn't want to lose too much of the garden/land to the new building. We might be able to move the building to the road side (which also has the advantage of blocking everything off) to save more of the garden and get the house away from the cliff.
- The model house we stayed at on Sunday was a normal two-story home. I hated it. I haven't had stairs in my home for about six years now, and I found them really steep. Also the sound carries horribly from the first to the second floor (it has one of those open spaces above the dining room), and if we're going to have two generations on different time schedules that could be a deal-breaker.
- The fittings (bathroom, etc.) seemed kind of cheap. Ichijo have very limited options (they claim this keeps the prices down) but they did say we could deduct the price of their stuff and choose our own from outside suppliers as long as it was mainly cosmetic and didn't affect the insulation, air-tightness, etc.
- The ceilings in the model house felt low. When we got back to our manshon, I checked and our ceilings are quite a bit higher. We asked our guy and the standard ceiling height for Ichijo is 2.4m. They have an option to raise them to 2.6m (first/ground floor only) for an extra 20,000 yen per tsubo (so an extra million or so for the entire bungalow). I think this might be worth paying.
- For the solar, we are going to look at a 10.5 kw installation (classed as commercial, so we'd get the 21 yen feed-in tariff guaranteed for twenty years, instead of 28 guaranteed for ten) and see how the numbers look.
- Apparently my wife and I might be able to get a joint mortgage (it's slightly iffy as she is self-employed and her income isn't guaranteed), and then we would be able to split the tax deduction (I probably wouldn't be able to use all of the deduction, and maybe not any of it if I leave my job as planned in a few years). We'll have to see if banks will go along with that.
- I am getting seriously tired of this whole process and don't really look forward to starting again with another company, or going the seemingly more complicated route of finding an architect to design a house for us. There is a definitely desire to just decide and get this over with. Of course this is what Ichijo are hoping to tap into with their false deadline.
So that is where we are. We'll hear back about mortgage options and get the final quote next month. I will post again then to get feedback, but what do you think of where we are at the moment? Is there anything else I should ask before we get the final quote? Anything we've missed?