Boy, time flies when there is so much going on!! A lot has happened since the last time I posted, but my biggest news today is that…
We have decided on the builder for our new house!
Research – The philosophies behind house building
The process of building our own houses started roughly last summer. My wife has severe allergies towards air particles and chemicals, where her throat swells when she breaths these in. Since lockdown started last spring due to covid, we were expecting symptoms to get better, especially as we weren’t going outside – which is generally where the polluted air is. However, they didn’t. This made us wonder if the general area we were living in was not good, and the air coming into our apartment through vents etc. was not good. This was one reason that lead us to start looking for a new location to move to.
Our research started by studying the general process of purchasing land and building a house here in Japan. Most people only get to do this once, and we wanted to make sure we were well prepared as we made decisions. My wife looked after the majority of the “footwork”, searching for information online. She would share her findings with me in emails throughout the day. We would spend the evenings after I got off work reading through the sites she found and discussing how we would go about building our house.
There are so many things to decide when building a house. And depending on the site you read, we found different people had different opinions and priorities they would share. Sometimes, these opinions would conflict completely with each other. We came to learn, we were going to have to first build our own priorities and philosophies of what we wanted in a house before we started building. Forming and re-evaluating these philosophies is still continuing today, but there were a good few months there where we were laying a general foundation in our minds about how we were going to go about building our house.
More research – House builders
In autumn, Megumi’s Mum moved in with us as she started her next round of chemotherapy. With covid still rampant, we weren’t comfortable visiting model houses and collecting information directly, as many Japanese people would do. Instead, we decided to order pamphlets from different companies online and make a first judgment of them that way.
When asking for information, we would always write down we were looking for a homemaker willing to work with us to make an allergen-free house. Our church bought and renovated a new auditorium a couple of years ago, and my wife’s throat still swells up after being there more than a few hours, due to the “new” smells and fumes the interior emits. We definitely could not afford this with our new home, and so making a house where this doesn’t happen was going to be our highest priority in all our decisions.
We were surprised to find the majority of builders completely ignored our inquiry about allergen-free houses! And any who did respond about it would simply answer they make sure the materials they use meet the standards set out by the government. We were shocked that there were only one or two companies that actually reached back to us, empathetically asking us for more information about our situation before giving us an answer.
While we had requested pamphlets from dozens of companies, only a couple remained as potential builders on our list.
And more research – figuring out the details
Since we only had a couple companies left on our list, it made the next stages of negotiation a bit simpler. But the severity of my wife’s condition meant these companies still had to get creative when figuring out the details. We had to find land, workout a floor plan, include landscaping and facilities, and also add special accommodations to make the house allergen free – all within our budget.
One builder was particularly interested in our business, and went to great lengths to try and make things work for us. To be honest, if it weren’t for all they had done, I’m not sure that we would have signing contracts just yet. However, there was one catch – their quotes were always ¥10,000,000 (100,000 USD) higher than our budget. That was not a compromise we were willing to make, which ultimately lead us to sign contracts with another builder.
The first builder found the perfect block of land for us. It was being sold by the city – not a private landlord or real estate agent – which reduced the cost, fees and paperwork involved. The first builder researched different options to reduce allergens in the home – many of which we shared with our second builder and included in our plans with them.
During this time, my wife continued to research different allergen-free materials and allergen-reducing methods out in the market, and would share that information with the builders, too. We didn’t want to make the house “clinical”, though. So, finding the perfect materials took a bit of time.
Finally, signing contracts
And finally, after 9 months or so since we started, we made up our mind on the land and house builder we would go with and decided to sign contracts. This was such an exciting moment!
To be honest, we weren’t as nervous as we thought we would be. We had come this far after researching so much! We had also shared our thoughts/plans with our parents and got their guidance along the way. We had also been purposefully prayerful in the decisions we made. Both of us were at peace when we signed each contract, knowing this was a decision God had lead us to.
Actually, “stamped”, not “signed”
Now, I say we “signed” contracts. But actually, that’s not what you do in Japan. Here, we “stamp” contracts. Each contract is stamped inside under the date of signing. Then, both parties also stamp the front and backs of the contracts along the tape on the spine. The theory is, if someone had modified any of the pages, they would have broken these stamps to have done that, and the stamps wouldn’t match perfectly. You’ll notice both the city’s stamp, and our stamp, on the land contract we signed below.
We still have a ways to go as we finalize details of the furnishings, and then start thinking about the landscaping of the yard. Since it’s looking like the house won’t be completed before the snow falls, the yard will have to wait until this time next year before they can start working on it. But this gives us plenty of time to dream, as well as live in our new house for a while and see what might work, after seeing the completed exterior of the house.
There are sure to be more updates on the house through this year, but this post was to announce it’s finally happening!