If you've been following our construction project on Folly Beach, that of adding 2 newly constructed homes in the rear yard of an existing home under extensive renovation of its own, you may remember this blog series began with the question: "Could we build a great home, on-site without compromising quality in only 8 weeks? Is that impossible? Could we build two?" That was the challenge we set for ourselves, and we put $500,000 into making it happen with two homes on Folly Beach, funded by South Atlantic Bank. In a project such as this, tightly controlling costs along the way is key. A substantial, but often forgotten, cost in a new-build or major renovation is the yard, and it's right to say that most contracting firms will effectively trash what was previously there. Read on for an example of how an attractive and suitable landscape can be achieved with thoughtful and creative planning in advance.
You can metaphorically throw money at the yard to achieve a great product, but what if you could achieve the same outcome through a few thoughtful decisions? Firstly let us qualify the project with a few facts:
- 1/4 acre in an urban setting near the beach and subject to both poor sandy soils and occasional salt spray.
- 3 homes in total, one a significant renovation elevated 4 feet, and two new builds elevated 8 feet from grade.
- End use as short-term rental, both as 3 individual homes or as a multifamily compound.
- Minimize build costs and regular, ongoing maintenance costs.
FENCING & PRIVACY
I think the most significant change was one of philosophy. At the outset, the initial design divided the area with fencing so that each home had a private yard - a very residential approach. The final design minimized fencing and instead made the pool and deck private to each house and all other areas common with planting for privacy.
Minimizing fencing by using elevated pools and using plants where appropriate as a barrier reduced the total fence run by some 50% without affecting safety and security. This means homes can be rented separately but also together as a compound without any apparent physical barriers.
Our first design retained an existing gunite pool, part of the main home's original layout, that needed significant refurbishment. The size was such that it compromised the use of the remaining space and refurbishment costs were significant, especially given that the bottom drain did not meet current code requirements. It was decided to scrap the pool and rebuild. We then looked at the cost options, comparing costs for (3) gunite pools vs. fiberglass vs. swim pools. The decision was to go for swim pools for the speed of installation. Additionally, as this option allowed for installation above ground, they did not contribute to the lot occupation calculation for Zoning requirements (classed as "temporary spas" in this location). Keeping the pools above ground also better connected them to the elevated decks and also reduced the need for additional protective pool fencing.
GRASS, PAVERS & DECORATIVE GRAVEL
The initial designs included a grass area for common use. Grass does not grow well on sandy soil and would also experience both high traffic and need constant maintenance. And so, as with the pools, we scrapped this idea and instead went for a common area using compacted plantation mix top dressed with decorative gravel, a hard-wearing and stable material requiring only annual maintenance. Brick pavers were scrapped too, in favor of plantation mix except for the base of access steps where traffic is particularly severe and around the pools where bare feet were given decking to walk on. Both are permeable for drainage calculations and preferable to concrete. We also kept the cut-off ends of the 32 piles we drove to elevate the new-build homes. They add a beach flavor to the landscaping and will not rot. Cost = zero.
CAPTURING IDEAL SUNLIGHT
Lighting is always an issue, and functional outdoor lighting can be an expensive installation. Fortunately, the elevation of two decks and proximity of the homes facilitates the use of the house structure to light the yard with the addition of a few solar charged, stand-alone units here and there to illuminate dark corners. Similarly, plantings will be beach-friendly varieties to create a jungle feel. A variety of mid-height and full height palms and bushes will provide privacy and add shade. We will add a timer to existing spigots on each of the houses for temporary watering and in turn, can save on a fully-installed irrigation system. We removed a good number of spindly trees in preparing and grading the site. We chipped these on-site and kept the resultant mound of mulch to spread around once planting is complete. It will then be top dressed with the more expensive bought variety mulch when ready.
MINIMIZING THE FINAL BUILD COST
The build process is emotionally exhausting for most folk and depletes funds as cost overruns, and change order requests add up. A little thought in the planning stage can provide a great looking yard and minimize that final spend.
So in our case what was the total savings that we made?
- Replacing (3) gunite pools for swim pools of the same size - $58,000
- Reducing the need for long fencing runs - $4,500
- Removing stand alone low voltage garden lighting across the site - $2,800
- Replacing permanent irrigation systems with more simple units - $3,200
- Shredding site trees and reusing mulch rather than dumping - $1,800
- Planting (we increased the use of mid-height plants) (-)$2,200
- Substituting plantation mix for hardscape brick pavers - $7,200
- Addition decking round pools (-)$,3100
Total Savings: $74,100, or 5% of the final build costs that no longer needs to be financed.
As this project draws to a close, we have indeed managed to closely control costs by seeking out more efficient building methods, researching options for what exists outside of expensive site-installed pools, and making minimal but cost effective adjustments to the landscape plan. As vacation rental owners ourselves we understand how costs you incur in your overhead, particularly in a new build scenario, can effect your annual income. Our Luxury Simplified Retreats management team can help you understand how you can achieve that increased performance, so why not come and speak with us to learn more?
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
We apply the same expertise in managing your property as we do in managing our own. That means a schedule for routine maintenance, monthly owner statements, and unmistakable attention to detail.