Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Finding the land

So, while we're all waiting for some photos of the digging, I thought I'd fill you in on how we found our land.

A couple of years ago, Claudia told me about the Huf Haus concept, and how a former colleague of hers had built one for himself. Sort of rang a bell, but couldn't place it. December last year, we happened to drive past a cluster of show houses near Zurich (a place called Kindhausen) and Claudia pointed out the Huf Haus there. "Aha", says I, "I read about these donkey's ago in an inflight magazine. Cool..."

Anyways, one thing led to another, then we, like many people, visited the Huf Haus show-house, walked around cooing, and sat and chatted with a nice lady about the various options. This was a most pleasurable two hours in total, and really the birth of our dream of building our own home. At least a dream with intent.

As we left the show house, bulky catalogue under one arm, I asked the nice lady (Frau Meyer) one last question: "How many people like us actually end up building their own Huf Haus". The answer was a wake up call; she meets about 200 'serious' couples per year, but sells less than 10 houses. "Erm, why do you think that is?" Cos decent land's like hens teeth. And then planning permission (Baubewilligung in German, and a very important word...) takes another year, minimum... people just give up and buy the Swiss equivalent of the Barratt home.


Well, we went through the catalogue, pointing out this house, and that house. Deciding how we'd change the ground plans, adjust the cellar (Keller), lay out the kitchen, and position our garage. In fact we pretty much built our castle way up there in the air. Conclusion was that we wanted the model known as a 3.7.30, which translates as a three axis house (That's the 3.*.** bit), three metres per axis (*.*.30), and lord knows what the 7 means, but it's one of the longer houses (not the longest) with a sticky-out window thingy on one side. Cool, so all we had to do is to find a 3.7.30-shaped piece of land to shove it on.

Soooooooooo, the following weekend we went to visit every available scrap of land west of Zurich. And didn't like one of them. Too industrial; too far out; too far from a train station; too steep; wrong shape for anything but an L-shaped house; nice, but not for an 3.7.30; wrong side of the hill (lack of sun); wrong side of the tracks, if yer see what I mean... yep, the 5% hit rate started to look realistic.

Dejected, we drove back home.

The next weekend, we went to look at everything to the east. But this time we had a conversation that roughly ran like this:

Me: "We have too many preconceptions; we've got to forget the 3.30.7 house and just find the bloody land".

Claudia: "Why?"

Me: "Cos the chances are that the land for us will need a different shaped house anyway".

Claudia: "That's ok, Huf Haus can make any shape we want".

Me: "Exactly, they've got short fat houses, long thin houses, anything. Let's just find a piece of land we like regardless, and then decide what we can put on it."

Claudia: "Fine".

Me: "And forget all the other requirements, or we'll be rejecting land because it has the wrong sort of grass on it".

Well, we saw a few more pieces of land that day, more promising, but not quite there. We cheered up, because it was on that trip that we realised that our new preconceptionless approach to land hunting would pan out in the end. And on the way home (actually to Claudia's folks house for dinner and drinkies) we stopped by one last piece of land; you know the one that yer keep to the end of the day, 'cos it's a lame duck and hardly worth looking at. The piece of land that yer look at only because it's on the way, and well, what the hell, we should have a butchers just in case. Daft really.

And that was that.

No it wasn't, it gets better... read on...

The following morning, Frau Capucho calls the contact number for the land, an agent representing the owners. Well, Herr Meyer agrees to come to our house the same evening to discuss. And later, there he is with a twinkle in his eye, almost unable to contain himself. Strange, but ok. We discuss the land, price, terms and conditions. We informed him that we wanted to build a Huf Haus on the land, if he knew what that was. The twinkle in his eye turned into a laugh out of his mouth. Erm, what gives?

Meyer: "I know, you had a long meeting with my wife two weeks ago, and Capucho's an easy name to remember. We're Huf Haus Switzerland".

It's not often that I'm speechless.

Meyer: "And the couple that I represent for the land sale was going to do the same thing: build a Huf Haus. They ran out of money, and asked me to sell the land for them".


Meyer: "Shame for them, because they got the planning permission and everything. Everything was set to start building... but that's life".


Meyer: "Anyway, I think you need to look at their house plans and see if it's what you want, because a fundamentally different house would need a new Baubewilligung. But if you like the old plans, then it'll save you at least a year and about CHF 50,000".


Meyer: "You'll see it's a three axis house, the 3.9.30..."

We spent another hour or so looking at someone else's plans, discussed the scope for changes that wouldn't involve a reapplication for the Baubewilligung. The planning permission was for a slightly bigger house than we had in mind, but generally in that direction. All in all, it was a good evening for Herr Meyer: he not only flogged us a piece of land, but he also sold us a Huf Haus at the same time. A nice double-whammy for a bloke that makes only about ten commission-earning sales per year.

As he climbed into his Porsche 911, I thought to myself "Land and house; no one gets that lucky".

And I was talking about Claudia and myself.

No comments: