Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tiny Home Project in SE Portland: I have a better budget to work with, now I need community help

The latest information on how much I have managed to pull together and the assistance I am seeking can be read on tinyhomes.com . I will be sharing a lot more regarding this project in the future. Any builders and designers looking to contribute, please contact me at my email address or leave a note below. Seriously, drywall, mud and tape, framing, adding a firewall, siding, installing bathroom or kitchen fixtures.. anything could help!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Vanagon - My Unhealthy Obsession & the Questionable Pricing of an Aircooled Model

I will admit have had wanted a Vanagon Westy for many years now. There. I said it. Even knowing they can be a RPITA.

Once upon a time I was an insane VW watercooled fanatic. Well, car fanatic in general. I STILL have a special place in the car cabaret for anything auto, car discussion related, particularly rare and obscure or under appreciated cars.. as well as ones one can live in, or camp in.. or be a version of a Tiny Home.

A Vanagon is a mixed bag. On one hand, they are a Swiss Army Knife. Packaged VERY cleverly. No vehicle this small (at least available here in the USA) is so well thought out in terms of using every inch of space for sleeping and hanging out.

They are also well finished. German Craftmanship.

The view of the road is something special. Ever since the original Bus they have had this wide view of the the road. Unlike an RV, you can see well on every end. There really is no blind spot to be found.

The stoves work well. The fridge. The pop top is roomy enough for two. The rear seat folds to a decent 2 person bed. The tables are great to eat at after making a meal or playing cards. There is storage galore.

They have a decent handling package with an almost mid engine type feel on the road. Many considered the Vanagon the Porche 911 of mini vans.  They also have a tight turning circle for the type of utilitarian vehicle they are

The romance ends there.

Like the more venerable predessor, the classic VW Bus,  the Vanagon is SLOW. Like as in good luck exceeding 25 MPH up a big grade hill SLOW.
ALL of them. Some just worse than others. The Diesel (recently I found one that bid as high as 9k on eBay with 53k!!) is about the sloewest vehicle that ever entered the American market. under 55 HP from a 1.6 liter motor towing along over 3k lbs. INSANELY - SLOW.

The 1.9 water-cooled motor from 1983-1985 is barely adequate. Having trouble keeping up with modern traffic, but at least within some level of ability to get you there without cussing too much. Same withe 2.1 liter to follow from 1986-1992. VW created a clever ass package with a motor that was simply ASS. You would THINK after 12 years of making the Vanagon VW would have created a better power plant? Right?

The air cooled model is only ever so slightly better than the pathetically slow Diesel. I mean as in over 20 seconds 0-60 instead of 30+ seconds. They both drive 25 mph up a hill.

Here is one on eBay with 40k miles original. On the plus side the facility that obviously bought this looking to flip it for serious cash, did the right things. Change the seals, gas tank,  and anything that a 30 year old barely used vehicle will need to be reasonably reliable.

But lets get real. The bid is currently $11,600 with 5 hours to go. The Vanagon was NEVER a truly reliable vehicle no matter what miles are on it.  ALL of them have issues. Air Cooled as has valve issues, Diesel can barely move, 1.9 & 2,1 liter Wasserboxer head gasket leaking mess of a motor.

Would YOU pay that much for a vehicle that, while it might have a decent amount of repairs over it's ownership, could be bought in well taken care of higher mileage condition, for around 3 grand if you looked hard enough?

At least with a later model that's not air cooled one could look into investing in a Subaru 2.2 liter conversion. Good motor with that great interior and handling...
but the Air-cooled leaves one kind of stuck. Stuck with one of the most painfully slow vehicles ever made. The amount of modifications to put in another water-cooled motor would make it very cost inefficient to consider. So yeah, you are stuck.

I for one have come to the conclusion that a more reliable, and even comfier Toyota RV (ANY year, 20R, 22R, V6) is a better bet with some level of power to move for less $, and perhaps most importantly, a great deal more reliability.  Granted, the cool factor will be at a loss, and it will be less easy to park and maneuver.

$11,600 for a 1980 Air Cooled VW Vanagon????? Get a low mileage V6 Toyota Motorhome in perfect condition. You'll enjoy it more, enjoy camping in it more, and fix it A LOT less! Hell, I just found a V6 with 89k for $6800. Even if it needed a complete engine over haul it would be a much more reliable choice.


I have gotten to the point where, while an RV would be lovely.. I am finding it less stressful to pack up my touring bicycle I built out of a 1993 steel framed Specialized Rock Hopper, sleep in an REI Half Dome Tent I bought on sale for $100 including the Foot Print.... YES..that is much more my speed.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Volkswagen-BusVanagon-WESTFALIA-/261377124174



Friday, December 20, 2013

We are having a little BOY

Early Visit. 9.5 weeks
18 Weeks and a BOY!
Went in for a 2nd ultrasound. Baby was sticking tongue out, kicking, waving. 
Much more REAL than expected. 

I was kind of quiet about my desire to have a little boy. I already have 5 chickens, Dot Dog,
 and my Wife... we are covered for Estrogen in this home. 

It is funny, almost "knew". As soon as the Doctor began showing what was happening inside, I just knew "That's a Dude". A minute after my inside thoughts, the doctor let us know "It's a Boy!".

Now we can plan. I can look out for the Toys I grew up with for us to play with (old Tonka trucks and Fisherprice, that's my Living Vicariously Through choices). I am currently looking for bikes for kids, seeking that trailer for getting around town... researching best bike and baby to kid options.

Stoked. Scared. But, Stoked.


My Recent Commuting and all around Utility Bike: I am a Wald basket Believer.



It began with fenders, some swept back bars and then discovered it needed a  higher rise to the stem (I added an adjustable quill per lower right pic). Decided to go with some fat Bontrager Hard Case 2.0 Tires.  Found a rear rack on a bike someone trashed. Found the Wald basket in a trash bin as well.

Let me just say that I LOVE my front basket. I can hold bins of food, cake, bungee down all kinds of stuff that sometimes was awkward in my rear panniers. Plus, unlike my panniers (which are VERY handy in their own right, situationally), I can leave without remembering to bring them. I can leave the bike without having to bring my Orlieb bags inside a grocery store.

Steel frame classic Bridgestone MB-3, fat tires, fenders, swooped bars, and a Wald BIG basket? Comfy, Tough, Utilitarian, and FTW!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

ADU Loan Option & Electrical Costs

The current situation is that we do not have enough equity in the home to pull funds. The closing costs ate the additional equity.

So I looked into a home equity line of credit. I am allowed as much as 15k. The way I look at it, at 4.5% interest, and a $350 fee to receive this loan... I could avoid cleaning my entire 10 k of personal savings out, or at least pay for the build in it's entirety if it ends up being over 20k.

In the end, it is about $2500 in interest if we pay back in 2 years. To have a rental in the end? Likely worth it.  That DOES mean I will need to have a monthly renter consistently to pull this off, using every dime in rent to pay down the loan. Which does not seem unreachable. If it takes longer, that just means paying more in interest.

My biggest hurdle has been electrical. The bids have been over $5000 (many as much as $6800). We are now exploring a friend or a friend handling the electrical for about $4k, or handling demo of current wiring and another highly recommended local contractor adding the new 200 amp service in the home, sub box, digging, wiring, etc. Leaving me with a $5000-5500 bill.

Seeing I have a strict budget as it is, I might have to go with the friend of a friend from Tualitin (he is still bonded.. important!) for $4500 or less, doing the same work. He requires that I buy the supplies needed and pay him the labor. To save $1000 that could be used for framing an interior, or adding a front shed style porch... it is likely worth picking up the goods and having him do the work, over hiring a local contractor. He is pulling permits on his own/like the local contractor would have, and I appreciate that a lot.

I am waiting to say Yay to the loan until I have confirmed the costs that a main contractor quoted, meeting with a city rep at my home to get the low down on requirements with my architect present, and pulling the permits with that architect once he puts together the site map and engineering.

That's the latest!




Monday, July 22, 2013

Quick Update on the ADU: Home Refinance helping fund the ADU, Water Heater Thoughts.

I have been gathering bids. I think I found my plumber.

The one change I would like to make is sharing the current relatively new gas water heater in our main house with the ADU. I see little reason to put an electric one in the limited space. It would be more efficient to share our 50 gallon tank as well. We are only 2 people, and when/if we have a child... it will still be only 3 people in our home that has 1 bathroom.

Still not sure where the closet will be in the ADU.

I have 3 contractors working out bids. I figure who ever gets to me with a solid # and a start date will be my guy.

Our home was appraised. We are getting a (much) lower interest loan though a Credit Union since we had a bad experience with B of A. So happy that all our hard work making our home spiffy paid off. We were under water since we purchased as the market fell in late 2006.  Our home is 20k above what we paid..

Meaning? I can more effectively finance the ADU. It looks like the 4k I needed to get this rolling will be available.  At 2.75% interest rolled into the loan.. there could not be a more affordable means of getting this done!  It will still be a tight budget (12k, plus 4k.. =16k total to build this 227 square foot home, including permits)... but should be doable.   If worst did come to worst, I got approval for 3k on a 7.9% interest credit card. I will leave that for incidentals if they come up in the build. Then I will need to find a renter ASAP when it is built (hopefully within 3 months!) to pay that back since I really have no discretionary income, just enough to pay my bills. Need the rent money to pay back that loan to avoid big interest costs.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Firmly Decided on a 1 Story, Bizarre City Fee, and The Final 1 Story Layout

I have 3 contractors in the mix working out bids. I will see which one makes sense both from a financial point of view, and from a bigger picture "best ideas, best examples or work, best references" point of view. 

After hammering the heck out of this. I have decided a 1 Story is best. 

The trouble with the 2 story concept is that I will need to most certainly do this thing on credit. The city will likely impose a Land Use Review that would cost upwards $1500+.  They will also double the general scope Permit fee of $550 to over $1000. Adding square feet is not as simple as the one city official at 4th and Hall shared. 

There would also be the the additional 5 grand to add the 2nd Story. The extra materials (windows, flooring, lighting, heating, etc). IT. ADDS. UP. FAST. 

Another thing that helped me make the decision was the fact that even though the 1 story quotes are within my budget, I would not have anything for incidentals. I might need to borrow 2-3 grand if something comes up. Some odd fee from the city, or a plumbing or electrical thing, or there is something we just can't do without for the build.  I don't want to end up deep in debt due to an incidental. 

KISS Principle it BE. 

Speaking in terms of some odd fee from the city.. wait it til you hear THIS one. Sit down for this. It's a entertaining "WTH??"

So, I called the water bureau. One plumbing guy said we might not have even capacity for all the faucets. We added up the chart and it appears I would be off by 2 more than the current waterline could support.  The city said it was a simple $180 piece added to allow more fixtures. That's all I was told about 1 year ago when I investigated the fees. 

This time when I called? The rep told me that I would ALSO be required to sign a form that essentially states that I agree to add a waterline to the ADU if it EVER became legal to sell it, AND I chose to sell it, and DID sell it. $550 Smackers. 
??? 

Okay. So. Let me get this straight... I would be "required" to pay a fee to sign a form stating that if something that is totally not legal right now was to BECOME legal, that I would be willing to send a specific waterline unassociated with my home, before I Sold it. "Pay for something in case something becomes something, even though it may never become something, and I want to do that something if it becomes okay to ever do that something in the first place". Why would I also pay for simply agreeing to something that is not something... (I need to just stop thinking, it is going to brake my mind). 

What?. My brain hurts thinking of this one.  Not only is that a total "WTH??" but the place is 5 feet from my home. 228 square feet. Has absolutely ZERO property line of it's own. The ADU is facing my Alley Way. To top it off, it is also part of our only carport. It is technically connected by the roof to the roof of the car port ! ! !
This will never be a place I can sell. I never want to. Never would. It is just a rental that my aging relatives could also one day live in, or kid while he/she is attending school.  

So I will most certainly do everything I can to get out of this fee that I can't afford really, anyway, and it is not relevant to my build- AT. ALL. 

To end this post. Here is the design my friend came up with. I really like it. For one, it creates a nice kitchen layout with a place for a small fold out table on the East wall.  The bath will be a simple stand up shower, preferably 36" to avoid being too tight to stand in comfortably. I might just have shelves high up and a medicine cabinet for storage. The shared plumbing wall was was lead this design to be. I really wanted to avoid possible freezing pipes. 

We are still debating on where to put a closet. Might just buy something from IKEA in the end, or, allow the person moving in to fill in their own "Vision".  

Any ideas?