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skierd
skierd Dork
6/2/14 11:16 p.m.

After just over two years in Alaska, I've decided to put down some roots and stay. My wife (who I met on the ferry up here) and I both found really good jobs up here that we both enjoy and pays well, and we love just about everything about living in Alaska to the point where we can't see ourselves moving outside any time soon.

The rental market is overpriced, fed by oil company employees, students, military, etc who only plan to be here a few years. Unfortunately the housing market in Fairbanks is pretty craptacular too, lots of older houses that either need a lot of repairs, cost a LOT to heat in the winter, or more commonly both. We weren't seeing anything worth getting in to 30 years worth of debt in a size that we wanted (2-3 bedrooms, on the electrical grid with indoor plumbing, around 1200-1500 sq ft) that wouldn't cost us upwards of double of what we were already paying for heat and electric.

In March we went to the annual home show in Fairbanks and ran across a small local builder who focused on building extremely energy and water efficient superinsulated houses in a new subdivision located just south of Fairbanks in Ester, AK. (http://sixstarhome.com/index.html) For about what we were looking to pay for an existing home, we could get new construction and have our house spec'd out exactly as we wanted. And get $10,000 back from the state for building an energy efficient house. AND get 0.5% off our interest rate. He had a couple smaller houses built already, and after touring them (see the link above) we were sold on building.

More or less, this is going to be our house: http://sixstarhome.com/dawsonhouse/index.html

1st floor is completely open, only changes are going to be moving the washer/dryer under the stairs and adding a 1/2 bath. The inside box is 18x32 on each floor.

2nd floor, the area over the stairs is going to be a closet.

The layouts on each floor will be reversed when we build due to how the lot is laid out.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
6/2/14 11:33 p.m.

Now that we had a house designed, it was time to go pick a lot. The subdivision has 10 lots, two of which were already built on. They're all a full acre, about 150ft on the road and 300 ft back to the powerline cut diving the front 7 from the back 3 lots. We decided on the scrubbiest lot with what appeared, at first, to have the fewest trees on either side of the road. The front of the lot faces south, so I wanted a few trees as possible blocking what little sun we get in winter and a nice sunny yard in summer. With the angle of the property lines however, we ended up with a nice grove of mature birch and spruce trees.

Here's how it started after the snow melted and the corners were staked.

You can see the angle that the lots go back at in this pic pretty clearly, and how all of those nice big trees stay on our lot.

The other reason we chose this lot is it has a driveway easement to the back lot. Instead of putting a driveway on our lot, we'll share the easement (left side of the pic)

First things first, we had to get rid of all of that scrubby dense willow. Behold, the power of a PotatoPhonePanoramic!

It was nice to finally see what we had to work with.

ryanty22
ryanty22 HalfDork
6/2/14 11:36 p.m.

Thats pretty awesome. whatabouts does a decent sized house with an average sized yard (3/2 on abouts an acre) run around there

ryanty22
ryanty22 HalfDork
6/2/14 11:37 p.m.

Beautiful lot too some of my family is from alaska

skierd
skierd Dork
6/2/14 11:47 p.m.

We're building a 3/1.5 on an acre, 1250 sq ft, in Ester just south of Fairbanks and all in we're looking at $220k. Existing homes in Fairbanks range from $100K less in a bad neighborhood in horrid shape that I wouldn't put my worse enemy in to $150K more, 2-3x the size, and "How the HELL do they afford to heat that!". Average nice homes are $300k+, depending on acreage.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
6/2/14 11:49 p.m.

Today's progress and update: Land clearing is mostly done and will start pouring concrete by the end of the week.

The driveway and parking pad have been roughed in, most of the duff and former forest crap has been scraped down to the top soil, and the foundation digging has started.

More or less having the far end of the house start between those birch trees.

Looking back up at the road

We're probably leaving the willows that are left, hopefully they'll fill out. Otherwise, we'll dozer them too and plant birch trees.

From the driveway, literally paved with GOLD. /ob1 E36 M3.

No really, there's gold in our driveway. Most of it is really really tiny gold dust like the shiny specs on that rock or smaller, but the driveway is made of old tailings from the mining that used to go on in this area 50-100 years ago. There's still mine shafts, test wells, sluice boxes, old steam engines, and even an old dredge within a few miles of the property, and a couple operating mines as well. In fact we're sitting on a fairly big seam of gold... that's 700 ft down and almost impossible to get to without turning this whole valley in to an open pit mine due to the soil. Should anyone decide it's worth going after, we'll have to be bought out. :)

Untill then, we'll enjoy our view

Timeline till completion: Concrete and foundation this week

Should have a roof up by July.

Interior work should be ready by the end of August.

Hoping to move in by the end of September.

I'll have updates as I get them. :)

mndsm
mndsm MegaDork
6/3/14 12:21 a.m.

Dumb question but what's the auto scene like up.there?

Mitchell
Mitchell UltraDork
6/3/14 12:39 a.m.

Congratulations! I really like that floor plan; makes sense for all of the bedrooms to be up top, so that you can theoretically scavenge every little bit of heat that you can get. I wouldn't bet on energy getting any cheaper over time, so energy savings will certainly pay off in the long run.

skierd
skierd SuperDork
6/3/14 12:58 a.m.

The auto scene... varies. It's very GRM friendly, lots of weirdness up here. There's a pair of circle tracks in Fairbanks, one dirt and one paved, and hopefully a drag strip that'll open in a few years if they can get past the last NIMBY holding up the process. There's a second drag strip in Palmer, Ak near Anchorage, about 6 hours away. There's also a couple motocross tracks, including one locally. In winter, it's snowmachine (mobile) central! Cross country racing, vintage racing, trail riding, trapping, etc.

RE: energy efficiency. The new house cost about 1/3 of our existing rental to heat and power, meaning we're going from nearly $700 a month to $250 in winter. All new energy star appliances, LED lights, etc help on the electrical end. 2x6 construction with an additional 6-8" of insulation outside of the studs PLUS a vapor barrier, small windows, an HRV, and lots of roof insulation help keep the heat in or out.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
6/3/14 2:33 a.m.

Congratulations! Building a new house is very satisfying. Do they do basements up there or are you building on a slab?

PeteD
PeteD New Reader
6/3/14 7:51 a.m.
skierd wrote: In fact we're sitting on a fairly big seam of gold... that's 700 ft down and almost impossible to get to without turning this whole valley in to an open pit mine due to the soil. Should anyone decide it's worth going after, we'll have to be bought out. :)

I recommend having your attorney verify that you'll own the mineral rights on that property before you close.

Special Report: U.S. builders hoard mineral rights under new homes

-- Pete

HappyAndy
HappyAndy UltraDork
6/3/14 7:55 a.m.

Isn't there an annual street course Gran Prix in one of the Alaskan cities?

RossD
RossD PowerDork
6/3/14 8:11 a.m.
skierd wrote: The auto scene... varies. It's very GRM friendly, lots of weirdness up here. There's a pair of circle tracks in Fairbanks, one dirt and one paved, and hopefully a drag strip that'll open in a few years if they can get past the last NIMBY holding up the process. There's a second drag strip in Palmer, Ak near Anchorage, about 6 hours away. There's also a couple motocross tracks, including one locally. In winter, it's snowmachine (mobile) central! Cross country racing, vintage racing, trail riding, trapping, etc. RE: energy efficiency. The new house cost about 1/3 of our existing rental to heat and power, meaning we're going from nearly $700 a month to $250 in winter. All new energy star appliances, LED lights, etc help on the electrical end. 2x6 construction with an additional 6-8" of insulation outside of the studs PLUS a vapor barrier, small windows, an HRV, and lots of roof insulation help keep the heat in or out.

Heat Recovery Ventilator? How much exhaust will you have? Or do you expect to bring in fresh air because of the tight construction? What type of heating system are you using?

PHeller
PHeller PowerDork
6/3/14 8:29 a.m.

Did I miss the price of the house or was it not disclosed?

Nevermind, looks like between 165 and 175

Zomby Woof
Zomby Woof PowerDork
6/3/14 8:37 a.m.

Yes, you missed it.

The
The HalfDork
6/3/14 8:45 a.m.

this how they were moving materials last year in the Kenai....awesome friggin place

The
The HalfDork
6/3/14 8:47 a.m.

since i had the photobucket open.......

dculberson
dculberson UltraDork
6/3/14 8:49 a.m.

Interesting it looks like the house is up on small piers - wouldn't it be more efficient to have no air under it?

I love the look of the house and it should be awesome with the high efficiency stuff. Congrats on the huge step.

Zomby Woof
Zomby Woof PowerDork
6/3/14 8:52 a.m.

Do you not heat with wood up there?

Lesley
Lesley PowerDork
6/3/14 9:45 a.m.

Lovely - I'm envious. I've been to Alaska a couple of times and it gets under your skin. Congratulations!

z31maniac
z31maniac UltimaDork
6/3/14 9:58 a.m.
PHeller wrote: Did I miss the price of the house or was it not disclosed? Nevermind, looks like between 165 and 175
skierd wrote: We're building a 3/1.5 on an acre, 1250 sq ft, in Ester just south of Fairbanks and all in we're looking at $220k. Existing homes in Fairbanks range from $100K less in a bad neighborhood in horrid shape that I wouldn't put my worse enemy in to $150K more, 2-3x the size, and "How the HELL do they afford to heat that!". Average nice homes are $300k+, depending on acreage.
mtn
mtn UltimaDork
6/3/14 10:09 a.m.
dculberson wrote: Interesting it looks like the house is up on small piers - wouldn't it be more efficient to have no air under it?

I'd imagine that it wouldn't with the perma frost. I know that when I'm outside all day in the cold, I try to have a piece of cardboard or a milk crate to put my feet on.

PHeller
PHeller PowerDork
6/3/14 10:23 a.m.

I guess I'm curious why a relatively small house is so expensive? My buddy (a member on GRM) had his new house built with 2 car garage, basement, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, built for 154k. Is there a lot of added costs in insulation? Is labor more expensive in Alaska? I'd think it would be cheaper.

BrokenYugo
BrokenYugo UltimaDork
6/3/14 10:32 a.m.

In reply to PHeller:

Economies of scale, everything is trucked/flown in through middle of nowhere Canada in small quantities, they have seven home depots in a state that's significantly larger than texas. Check out booze prices up there if you really want to be shocked.

HappyAndy
HappyAndy UltraDork
6/3/14 10:41 a.m.
HappyAndy wrote: Isn't there an annual street course Gran Prix in one of the Alaskan cities?

The not quite annual Fur Rondy Gran Prix

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