Magazine article Sunset

Sharing the Dream: How Two Couples Combined Forces to Afford a Vacation Home. (Home)

Magazine article Sunset

Sharing the Dream: How Two Couples Combined Forces to Afford a Vacation Home. (Home)

Article excerpt

Many young families dream of owning a vacation home, but few are able to make that a reality. But what if two families teamed up? That's the story here: By pooling their resources, two Portland couples built this 925-square-foot getaway in Washington's SanJuan Islands.

Paul Blanchard was the catalyst. One day about seven years ago--after the telecommunications engineer worked a string of 10- to 12-hour days--Paul decided that if he was going to work that hard, he wanted to put his energy toward something he really enjoyed. Two years later, he and his wife, Henriette, a nurse at Oregon Health & Science University, purchased a small lot on Orcas Island. The lot was reasonably priced because a building moratorium was in place (the local water-treatment facility was over capacity). This didn't trouble the Blanchards, because they didn't intend to build right away.

The plan was accelerated, however, when the topic of building a vacation home arose one evening at a party in Portland. A casual conversation between friends became a formal partnership agreement. Craig Kelley, an affordable-housing developer, and his wife, Sybil, a community-based science educator, bought in to share ownership of the Orcas Island property.

The four decided on a system for harvesting rainwater for household use that fit the couples' interest in green building techniques--and provided a means for getting around the building moratorium. Although they were able to swing the cost of the land (about $30,000 per couple), they had to secure a loan for the construction of a home; they now rent the home to help cover loan payments.

Divide and conquer

They split costs and responsibilities 50/50. Paul tracked down possible contractors, found a rental management company, and now markets the property. Henriette took on furnishing the home, and Craig, who was trained as an architect, vetted contractors, oversaw construction, and did the design work--consulting with the other three throughout the process.

"My intention was to make it a simple box--easy to construct and therefore less expensive," explains Craig. The 18- by 36-foot rectangle incorporates a living-dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bath on the main floor. A loft houses a second bedroom and a den. The walls and roof are stress skin panels (see "Cost-Saving Tips," opposite), foam insulation sandwiched between oriented strand board (OSB). The panels were delivered precut, numbered, and ready to be joined together. "Using the stress skin panels, we were able to frame, sheathe, and insulate the exterior walls and roof in two and a half days," explains Craig. …

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