Monthly Archives

August 2011

Building On An Existing Foundation

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We are often asked if we can build a home on an existing foundation. It really is on a case-by-case basis. Here is why:

Foundations are designed for the home that they were initially designed for. So, if you have a set of plans, and let’s say, for illustration purposes, your home burned down and you want to replace it, we can do that. We often require putting your home plans into our Blue Prints.

If you want to use your foundation for an entirely different home, say even placing a two-story on a one story foundation, we might be able to do that based on the soils in and around your foundation. It’s true that the width of your foundation walls, and the size of the footing may limit us and what we can build on top of the foundation, although it is not entirely impossible to put a two-story home on a rambler or single-story foundation. We charge nothing to come to your lot and inspect, but if it is decided that you can and want to build a home, cost will vary due to the aspect of your project. Significantly more site visits are needed for measurements, inspections etc. Your city or county engineers may require that you hire a geo-tech to give a report on your soils and if they can maintain a larger structure than the original or a required a type of concrete “X-Ray” to see if adequate rebar (steel) is in your foundation. If there was a fire there may be additional hoops to jump through with local counties and cities, as well as insurance companies. Our custom homes packages cost vary, so please feel free to contact us about your particular needs.

Please feel free to contact us about your project!

Home Theater Systems

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Some might think that a home theater needs to be a giant room with a projector and screen and complex sound system. However, a home theater doesn’t need to be that expensive. A large Blu-ray flat screen TV, a high-definition sound system coupled with some construction creativity is all it takes to turn an unused bedroom into your very own movie theater experience that you and your friends are guaranteed to love.

Generally speaking, a home theater system is a combination of electronic components designed to recreate the experience of watching a movie in a theater except that your feet don’t stick to the floor. When you watch a movie on a home theater system, you are more immersed in the experience than when you watch one on an ordinary television.

There are three main differences between just watching TV at home and the movie theater experience that the Home Theater System attempts to recreate:

  • The sound experience. When you go to see a movie in a quality movie theater, you’ll hear the music, sound effects and dialogue all around you. You are more involved in the experience of watching the film.
  • The large size of the movie screen. In a theater, the screen takes up most of your field of view, which makes it very easy to lose yourself in the movie.
  • large, clear picture. The detail at a movie theater is much sharper than what we see on an ordinary television, and the movement is much more fluid.

The basic idea of a home theater is to recreate these three elements with home equipment. Just add popcorn!


Blinds and Window Coverings

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Wood Blinds

Wood blinds offer a warm and inviting look to any decor. Richly stained or painted, wood blinds are the modern alternative to shutters. Wood blinds, like most blinds, come in various different slat widths and each one is appropriate under different circumstances. In general, manufacturers create wood blinds in slat widths ranging from 1” to 3”. 

Pros: Durable; adds a warm look to the room; easier to clean than aluminum; faux wood blinds hold up to weather and temperature changes better than real wood

Cons: more expensive than aluminum; real wood can be affected by humidity and temperature fluctuation

Cellular or Honeycomb

Cellular Shades are made of a solid fabric that stacks like an accordion. These blinds look somewhat like a beehive as they are made up of cells that trap air and make them very energy-efficient. Honeycomb blinds offer great insulation from the elements. The cells inside the honeycomb like structure offer warmth in winter and cool in summer, helping to regulate the environment inside. This can be great for saving on your heating and cooling bills.

Honeycomb blinds are very durable and easy to install adding to their overall appeal. These blinds are aesthetically pleasing and come in a wide range of fabrics, textures and types. They are functional as well and offer great insulation from the heat and cold of outside.

Honeycomb blinds are great for children’s rooms as they are soft, durable and easy to keep clean. Many other types of blinds come with cords that dangle down within the child’s reach; however some types of honeycomb blinds are actually cordless. This makes them perfect for small children as the cord presents a risk to the child if not secured away out of reach. Children can’t do much damage to honeycomb blinds, especially the cordless types that are made from soft fabrics.

Pros: Energy efficient; good insulator; stylish;

Cons: more expensive


Mini blinds can be an affordable way to add privacy to your home. They are lightweight and easy to install. In fact, aluminum blinds are the perfect choice for your home, sleeper van, trailer or motor home.

Pros Cheap; a healthy lifespan;

Cons Cheap; difficult to clean; limited insulating qualities; make your home look like a mobile home


Bamboo blinds have been around for many centuries. Even one Zen teaching uses a metaphor involving the rolling up and letting down of Bamboo blinds to comment on the issue of loss and gain. Today bamboo blinds give an exotic and yet serene feel to any room.

Pros: Exotic and stylish

Cons: easily damaged

Vertical Blinds

When fully drawn the vanes neatly compress, taking up very little room. They can be designed to draw from the centre outwards, and used in a window like a pair of curtains. However, they are most commonly found used in wide expanses of glass or sliding doors; where any other sort of drape would be cumbersome and difficult.


Drapes or curtains are cloth material that typically hangs from some sort of rod. Curtains are hung around showers to keep water off the floor around the shower. Curtains are also hung around windows to keep light from coming in. They can come in many different colors and different types of fabric.

Pros: available in many colors; add elegance to a room; help in insulation

Cons: expensive to have professionally cleaned; cloth deteriorates more quickly than most blind materials; can hold dust and create problems for allergy sufferers

Countertop Selections

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There are lots of options on the market for custom countertops. Here we will focus on some that True Built Home offers:

Granite Counters 

Granite is elegant and durable. The beauty of the stone contributes to the beauty of any kitchen.

For years having granite in your home was considered a luxury exclusive to custom home builders; however in recent years, as the use of granite has become more widespread, the prices have come down, making it available to more builders, home remodelers and home buyers.

Granite installation is a process: the installers come to the site and cut a piece of cardboard in the shape of the counter. They then take the cardboard to the shop where they cut the granite to match. The granite countertop is now returned to the site and installed. As you can imagine, this can take several days or in some cases weeks, especially if you order specialty granite that isn’t kept in stock. The more unique the granite is, the more it increases in cost.

Pros: holds up to heat; comes in almost 3,000 colors; will last a lifetime; new sealers are almost maintenance-free; 2nd highest hardness rating after diamonds; has a high value to home buyers

Cons: expensive, but becoming more affordable; requires some maintenance; knives can become dull if you cut on it; can crack if stressed or improperly installed. Installation takes more time than tile or laminate.

Ceramic Tile 

Ceramic tile is durable and easy to clean. Add to that inexpensive and you’ve got a really good choice for countertops for the average home. Because it’s installed a section at a time, it can be done by most resourceful homeowners.
Pros: takes hot pans; easy to clean; wide range of price, color, texture and design. Installation takes one or two days.
Cons: counter surface is uneven; tiles can easily chip or crack; grout lines become stained; custom-designed tiles are very expensive.

High Definition Laminate

Laminate counters bear trademarks such as Formica, Nevamar, and Wilsonart. They’re made of plastic-coated synthetics with a smooth surface that’s easy to clean. The pieces are cut to size and finished on the ends.
Pros: available in many colors; easy to maintain; durable; inexpensive. Installation can usually be done in one day.
Cons: scratches and chips are almost impossible to repair and the entire counter or section may need to be replaced; seams show; end finishing and front edge choices can be pricey.


A recent addition to True Built Home’s line of countertops is Vetrazzo.  Invented in 1996 in Berkeley, California – back when “green” was just a color,  with over 85% recycled glass content, Vetrazzo allows homeowners, architects, designers, and home builders to exhibit both their style and their respect for the earth and environment. Vetrazzo is made entirely in the US and is composed of more than 85% recycled material, making it one of the most environmentally friendly surface materials on the market. Vetrazzo can be used anywhere natural stone is used; countertops, tabletops, fireplace surrounds and more.

Vetrazzo countertops are installed in the same manner that granite is installed.

Pros: It’s ‘Green’ material; resistant to common household stains

Cons: can be damaged or stained by prolonged exposure to foods with high acidic content

Other popular choices include solid surface, wood and butcher block, and soapstone. If you prefer one of these options, we recommend that you simply get our standard counters and then hire a contractor after the house is completed and install the counters of your choice.

Stick Built vs. Manufactured Home

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The use of movable or mobile homes dates as far back as the late 19th century in the United States, when teams of horses transported homes on wheels to beach front properties along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Mobile homes came into vogue at the end of WWII, as veterans returned home and affordable housing was in short supply. They were often marketed as a practical alternative to renting an apartment. During the baby boom American families trying to find work wherever available, used mobile homes so they could move quickly with job changes.

In 1980, Congress approved changing the term ‘Mobile Home’ to ‘Manufactured Home’. Today, manufactured homes are one of many styles of prefabricated homes built in factories, rather than on site, and then taken to the location where they will be occupied. They are usually transported by tractor-trailers over public roads (see photos).


The popularity of the factory built homes caused complications that the legal system was not prepared to handle. Originally, factory built homes were taxed as vehicles rather than real estate, which resulted in very low property tax rates. Eventually, local governments reclassified them for taxation purposes. In some states, mobile homes have been taxed as personal property if the wheels remain attached, but as real estate if the wheels are taken off.

The developing stigma attached to mobile homes resulted in devaluation of the existing homes in the community. The arrival of these types of homes in an area tended to result in “There goes the neighborhood” alarm (see photo. of course not every mobile home owner lives like this, but would you want to be his neighbor?) All of this led communities to start placing limitations on the size and density of developments.

Also, mobile homes, even those that were well-maintained, tended to depreciate in value over time, much like motor vehicles, rather than appreciate in value, as with site-built homes.

With these changes, rapid depreciation often resulted in the home occupants paying significantly less in property taxes than had been anticipated and budgeted. The ability to move many factory built homes quickly into a relatively small area resulted in strains to the public infrastructure and services of the affected areas, such as inadequate water pressure and sewage disposal, and highway congestion.

However, the tendency of the units of this era to depreciate rapidly in resale value has made using them as collateral for loans much riskier than traditional home loans. Terms are often limited to less than the thirty year term typical of the general home-loan market, and interest rates considerably higher. In other words, home loans often resemble motor vehicle loans more than traditional home mortgages.

Financing and insurance for manufactured homes can be very difficult. Most banks won’t finance a manufactured home purchase because if there is no land included in the loan. There are some companies that specialize in mobile home loans and mobile home financing. They can finance and refinance mobile homes that are in communities.

Newer homes, particularly double-wides, tend to be built to much higher standards than their predecessors and meet the building codes applicable to most areas. As manufactured homes have come to resemble traditional stick-built homes, so have their prices. However, due to the stigma of being called a “mobile” or “manufactured” home, value depreciation continues to be a problem.


Here is a true life experience related by one Washington State Home Builder: A home buyer was planning to put a manufactured home on their land near Yelm, WA. This Manufactured home would have been about 1400 square feet, NO garage, NO permanent foundation The price quote with tax was about $112,000. The Washington Home Builder was able to put them into a home over 1750 square feet, WITH garage and foundation, and also including many amenities that the manufactured home did not include (2×6 exterior walls instead of 2×4; vaulted ceilings, 4/12 pitch roof, etc) for only $107,000. And, the appraisal was much higher than the manufactured homes appraisal, easier to finance and get insurance for, and more value.


In contrast, a stick-frame home will appreciate in value. In fact, a favorite of many investors is purchasing homes for rental property or to build equity with the purpose of selling the home at a later date. Many savvy investors have been able to retire comfortably from selling a home and living from the equity.

The beauty of on-your-lot home builders such as True Built Home is that because of high initial appraisals even before the house is built, a home owner doesn’t have to wait for years to build equity. They can have equity the moment they move in. This is one reason why True Built Home is becoming one of the fastest growing home builders in Washington state.

County Permits

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List of County Permit Websites

This list is designed to help you obtain the permits you will need when we are building your True Built Home.


Black Diamond

Bonney Lake






Des Moines






Federal Way





Maple Valley










Pe Ell


Port Townsend









South Prairie







University Place


Links to County Web Sites offering Builder Permits


Cities in alphabetical order;

Checklist For Obtaining A Construction Loan

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We are often asked what is all need to obtain a construction loan. While every lender is a bit unique, some very general items listed here are pretty standard. If you find someone who is a “hard money lender”, there may be additional items to note. Again, here is a general list of items that most lender require.


  • Personal financial statement {Application}
  • Pay stubs for the previous 30 day period
  • Prior two years tax returns {With W-2’s}
  • Last two months account statements {Checking, savings, stock & bond}
  • Prequalification letter {For long term financing}
  • Self employed borrowers with {Corporations, partnerships, LLC’s, LLP’s}( Business tax returns for the previous two years)( Current balance sheet and profit and loss statement)


  • Authorization to obtain credit information

For a list of our lenders click here. Lenders on our list have already approved us to loans with their institutions. If you have a lender you want to do your construction loan with, let us know and we will do what we can to become approved with them.

Do You Work with VA Loans?

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YES WE DO! We include the financing for the land and home in the same loan. To get highly educated about these types of loans, please contact our VA mortgage loan officer, Blake Hanson. MLS 124591

There are 7 active military bases in Washington State: Fairchild AFB in Spokane, McChord AFB/Fort Lewis near Tacoma, and Navy bases at Whidbey Island, Everett, Bremerton, and Silverdale Washington. In addition, a number of people retiring from the military choose the Pacific Northwest to land. It’s understandable then that a common question that on your lot Home Builders throughout Washington and Oregon hear is “Do you work with VA loans?” The short answer is maybe. To understand this answer it is important to understand that in construction there are actually two loans: the short-term construction loan, and then after construction is complete the loan is converted (in essence refinanced) to a 30-year mortgage.

Some first-time homebuyers are misinformed as to how a VA Loan works. The Veterans Administration does not normally actually provide the money for the loan. What the VA does is guarantee a loan for a veteran of military service.

The VA loan began in 1944 as a way of helping US servicemen coming back from war to get loans to buy home. It provided veterans with a federally guaranteed home with no down payment. This feature was designed to provide housing and assistance for veterans and their families, and the dream of home ownership became a reality for millions of veterans.

In most cases, the VA guarantees loans for vets who meet certain requirements, such as a good credit rating.  Also, it’s important to note that the VA only guarantees the loan if the veteran has the income to handle house payments. A VA loan guarantee is not an automatic benefit.

The loan itself is made by a private lender, such as banks, savings & loan institution, or mortgage companies, and the loan must be for owner occupancy. The guarantee means the lender is protected if you or a later owner fails to repay the loan. The guarantee replaces the protection the lender normally receives (i.e. no PMI) by requiring a down payment allowing you to get better financing terms than you might find otherwise.

But there are several clauses that may make a VA loan difficult in a construction loan. Your best bet would be to check with a lender who does construction loans near you. Please see our  Lender List.

Common Loan Application Requirements

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Following is a list of commonly requested items that your lender may require for your loan application. Please bear in mind that different lenders have different requirements and your lender may have additional or in some cases fewer requirements than these.


Most banks will charge you about $25 to run a credit report.
Account numbers and balances for all bank accounts, credit unions, brokerage accounts and retirement account; plus most recent two months statements on all
accounts (sometimes 6 months may be required)
Copy of Life Insurance policies
Statements of stocks & bonds


Past two years employment history, completes with addresses, dates from-to, positions held and monthly income
Most recent months pay-stubs and past two years W-2 forms
Verification of any other income (Social security, disability, child support, pensions, retirement, etc)
If self employed: past two years personal and business tax returns including all schedules plus a profit and loss statement and balance sheet for the current year.
Rental income: Copy of lease or rental agreement. If not currently rented, what is


Schedule of real estate owned if you own more than three properties
Amount of child support paid and copy of decree of dissolution with order of child support
Bankruptcy and/or adverse credit: Provide copy of discharge and schedule of creditors
Name, Address and phone number of current landlord


Copy of divorce decree
Copy of green card if not a US Citizen
Name and phone number of person in charge of Community Water/Home Owners Assn.

Improve Your Credit

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How to Repair Your Credit

No matter how bad your credit situation is there are always steps you can take to make it better. Everyone’s situation is unique, so what might be the best thing for you right now, may not be the best thing for someone else.

To repair your bad credit, you must find a starting point. The best way to do that is to obtain a copy of your credit reports from the 3 major credit reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus. You will also need to know what your credit scores are. Once you have your reports, you’ll want to make sure all the information is accurate. There are mistakes in about 80% of all credit reports. If you find any accounts that you are unfamiliar with or are reporting incorrectly you should dispute them with the credit bureaus.

Creditors are notorious for reporting erroneous information on your credit reports. So, even if it’s just a small error; that gives you the right to dispute it. It’s important to note that whether the account is actually yours or not makes no difference on their responsibility to verify it. If the account can’t be verified, it must be deleted. The credit bureaus get thousands of disputes each day and many times they don’t do a very careful job of investigating items you’ve disputed. So, it may take a few rounds of letters until the credit bureaus remove the negative information. Be patient and wait at least 30-35 days before sending another round. Do not give up. It may seem like just one or two small errors that they are falsely reporting about you – no big deal, right? Wrong! Just one error can cause your credit scores to suffer immensely and could end up costing you thousands of dollars. This is very serious business. It’s extremely important to make sure everything on your credit reports is being reported correctly.

Another thing you should do is pay off the most recent past due accounts. Be careful making payments on older charged off accounts as paying them could possibly bring your scores down even further which means they can report the negative account for 7 more years.

You will also want to try to get an agreement with the creditor to update it to “paid as agreed” or remove the account BEFORE you pay it. It’s much harder to get it updated or removed after you pay it because you don’t have much leverage.

Another important part of raising your credit scores is to keep your existing balances below 30-40% of your credit limit. You’ll also want to minimize the number of inquiries you make by not applying for credit unless you absolutely must. Use your inquiries wisely and sparingly, as applying for too much credit in a short amount of time can be very damaging to your credit scores.