House Talk Episode 11 – Buying the Right Lot to Build a Custom Home

A conversation with Christian Gladu of Gladu Design and The Bungalow Company

You’ve been blessed with the opportunity to walk in there and these people share their story with you. You’re kind of the interpreter. You assimilate this information. You go to the building site. And when you look at the site, you ask: “What are the attributes of the site? How do I take advantage of this? What’s the assimilation? How do I bring their lifestyle into this? And how do I make this not just a pile of parts, but a home?

Karen Malanga: Hi, this is Karen Malanga with another edition of House Talk. And today, I’m humbled to have Christian Gladu here. He has a design company in Bend—actually, two companies in Bend. But the reason I’m humbled is not only is he the author of three books, but he’s been on HTTV and New York Times. And now he’s here for House Talk.

So Christian, as a realtor, I always encounter buyers that just can’t find that right home. And so, they say, “Karen, let’s start looking for some bare land. And we do.

I try and speak with them a little bit about how it goes from bare land to the home of their dreams. And I thought maybe you could describe what that process is like. If I was to bring someone to you with a nice flat lot in downtown Bend, where would you go? How would you take them through the steps?

Christian Gladu: Well, good morning, Karen. Thanks for having me.

Karen: You’re welcome.

Christian: It’s interesting because a lot of clients come to us at a lot of different stages. Sometimes, they come with a piece of land. Sometimes, they have a house they’re taking down, they’ve lived on the property for a while. Or sometimes, they’re just in this investigative process. And that’s actually kind of the ideal.

We could work with a realtor and the client to look at land before they purchase. We can show them the value of the flat lot and what’s entailed if they’re buying in a community with a lot of CCNR’s. We’ve worked the majority of the neighborhoods here in Bend. Now we can kind of lay out the framework for what they’re going to be dealing with in the development of their project.

A lot of times, a lot might look too good to be true.

Karen: We’ve had that. We’ve had that experience.

Christian: And so, kind of working through them what’s included in the lot. Does it have sewer? Does it have water? Does it have power? Is it easily accessible? What are the setbacks? Does it buffer a wildlife zone? Is there a water overlay zone required? There’s a lot of upfront steps that can make a big difference in the overall purchase.

The lot that seemed expensive might be cheap in the long run, and the lot that seems cheap might be embedded with a lot of hidden cost.

Karen: And I also think in Bend, as well, we have a lot of lava underneath the ground. And sometimes, buyers don’t realize that—they love maybe the mountain view and the sloped lot, but I can see lava outcroppings all over the lot. And that would really be something that require a lot of investigation.
And I know you’re an advocate of green building. We also get buyers that say, “Oh, Karen, I want to build a home and I want to have solar, yet I want to be right here in this treed neighborhood.” So I think you’re mentioning of coming to you in the investigative part of the whole process would be really beneficial.

Christian: Yes. I’m going to quote these numbers, but they’re loosely this. We’re working with Earth Advantage here in Bend. I took one of their green building classes. It was a multiple month class. Bruce Sullivan, a –time green building guy, he said that in the first 10% of design, 90% of the energy efficient solutions or ideas are investigated.

Karen: Oh, okay.

Christian: So that’s really important upfront. I mean, you really lay the framework for that. And doing simpe studies, even working with realtor to have them tie up the piece of property for a small investigative period.

Karen: Sure, that whole due diligence period.

Christian: And in that, we can do a solar study. We can also work out with the CCNR’s and understand, “Okay, is there going to be a rub with a bunch of solar panels? What’s planned on the adjacent lots?”

Karen: Yes, that’s so important to know. And I can see how that 90% can happen because if you’re looking for maybe some energy efficiency in your build—which hopefully most people are—it’s going to affect the slope of the roof which can really affect the whole style of the house, how the windows are running, everything. Ad

Christian: We’re working on one in North Realm right now, for example. The lot is super steep.

Karen: Oh, some of those are.

Christian: It’s basically a quarter of a million dollars to get to the foundation level. When you look at that, you’re like, “Okay…” And then, there’s a limitation on the trees you can take down. And this particular client is dealing with wanting to have some solar, but the lot does face north.

Karen: Well, that’s why it’s called North Realm. It faces north.

Christian: So, in an environment like that, I would say—what’s really interesting is solar is a great goal. But we can also make the house super energy efficient if we don’t have good clean access to full active solar. It’s actually much more inexpensive to insulate the house to a super energy efficient position than it is to do the solar.

We would always make the roof solar. We would always grab as much passive solar as we could. But on those lots that honestly prohibit a lot of generation with that, you’re better to build an enhanced wall or a super insulated roof or really great windows. That is sometimes the best use of that money and the best offset to any kind of environmental issues.

Karen: Oh, yeah. I can totally understand that.
So, can you tell us a little bit more about your other company? Let me say that again. Can you tell us a little bit about your other company, The Bungalow Company.

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Christian: Yeah! So, The Bungalow Company, I started up in Washington State in 1996. It was kind of a response. I’ve been working for a big architecture firm. And it was a response to the idea that everything had to be a super expensive custom house. I was living in Seattle at the time, and looking at all the old houses in those neighborhoods. I was looking for a way to replicate that aesthetic with a new modern floor plan.

So, I did a collection of houses—there’s about I think 40 to 50 on our website right now—that are all modeled after this Arts & Crafts Bungalow urban infill. That was really the beginning of my own business and my own career. We’ve done those in almost every state. We’ve done everything from infill in old neighborhoods to full-on 70-unit communities. We’ve done a lot of work here in West Crossing and in the old neighborhoods in Bend as well.

Karen: So you really run the whole gamut between if someone wants that older bungalow feel, not only can they find information about that on The Bungalow Company’s website, but you can also help design anything from an old bungalow like clean & green type architecture all the way up to contemporary.

Christian: Yeah, absolutely.

Karen: I know you’re building or designing some of the more contemporary homes in Saginaw Sunset currently.

Christian: So we really work on, firstly, the idea that design shouldn’t be a luxury. I think that there’s design embedded in things every day whether you’re buying a car or a piece of furniture or art. I feel like it’s a basic human right.

So, when you look at designing or buying or building your first house, there’s no reason why the design shouldn’t be good. Oftentimes, it’s the same pile of materials showing up. It’s really how you decide you’re going to put the whole thing together.

Karen: Yeah. And I think it’s really those details. I think that’s what I appreciate so much about your work, the attention to detail. When we were just talking about some preliminary floor plans for Saginaw Sunset, you said of the window placement, “Where is this window looking?” Everything is so important. I can’t tell you how many times I go into a home, and I think, “Why is that window there? It’s like looking at the next door neighbor’s bathroom. Is that really meant to be viewed?”

So, I think that’s one of your attributes. You really pay attention, and I think you listen well to all your clients.

Christian: Yeah. I mean, it’s not our house. It’s the client’s house. I think that when you’re a young designer, sometimes you’ve got some stuff to work out and some things you want to see done. And after a while, you really realize that, really, the intention is how are the people going to live in this house.

Karen: Yeah, it’s their lifestyle. It’s their life!

Christian: Yeah! You’ve been blessed with the opportunity to walk in there and these people share their story with you. You’re kind of the interpreter. You assimilate this information. You go to the building site. And when you look at the site, you’re like, “What are the attributes of the site? How do I take advantage of this? What’s the assimilation? How do I bring their lifestyle into this? And how do I make this not just a pile of parts, but a home?”

Karen: Yeah, making it a home. Well, Christian, thank you for coming here today. How can people find you?

Christian: Well, you can find us, The Bungalow Company, online at theBungalowCompany.com. Or you can find our custom work at GladuDesign.com.

Karen: Okay, thank you so much.

Christian: Thanks for having me.

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