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The Building Process So Far

by Ryan Schruender Last updated Apr 26, 2017

Building Custom Home North Andover: Mary Schruender.Hey! Here’s the latest update (Part 2) on our Building A Custom Home in North Andover series: mostly planning, paperwork, and red tape!

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? It’s not.

But it’s necessary, and it’s all working toward the end goal: building our own custom home in North Andover!

This is our first update in a long while, so here’s everything we’ve done so far.

The backstory

My wife, Mary, and I started this journey in May 2016 when we first talked about building a house next to our current one.

North Andover Residential Zoning Map.


Our area of North Andover is classified as Residential 4 Zoning, or “R4.”

In order for us to build, the lot had to be 12,500 sq ft. Our lot was a little under: just shy of 10,500 square ft. So we needed to petition the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance.

If your lot fits the zoning requirements you would not have to do this.

Zoning Board of Appeals

Petitioning the Zoning Board of Appeals meant we had to do a number of things. Here are the lessons we learned throughout the ZBA petition process.

Communicate with your neighbors!

We cannot emphasize enough. We made the mistake of not communicating enough.

Hire an Engineer to work up a certified plot plan.

We hired Marchionda & Associates, LP out of Stoneham. They were very responsive and reasonably priced.

Hire an Attorney to represent you at the ZBA meetings.

We hired Brian Vaughan at Smolak and Vaughan in North Andover.  I cannot say enough good things about them!  If it wasn’t for Brian I do not think we would have gotten through this process.

Hire an Architect to create the plans.

We hired Martha MacInnis out of Haverhill.  She was great as well!

Hire a landscape architect.

End of tip.

File Notices with all abutters of our plans to build prior to the first meeting.

There are dates you need to meet in regards to this.   The town and your attorney will help with this.

Our progress

Our first meeting was in June.  It is very rare it takes one meeting to get approval.  In our case we were on the extreme end as we didn’t get approval until December.

But there was a number of reasons for this that we can talk about another day.  Hey the bottom line is we got the approval.

Building Custom Home North Andover: Mary Schruender.

Mary, the day we went to record the ZBA decision.

And then we wait for the snow to melt…but still plenty to do in the meantime.

Our plan was to start digging in mid March so we got to work on the following

  • We finalized the interior details for the house plans with Martha our architect
  • Worked on getting bids from sub contractors, Excavation, foundation, plumbers, electricians, HVAC, etc.
  • Started the initial design for the kitchen
  • Got a HERs rater to start working on the initial items needed for the house to be as energy efficient as possible.

Show me the money

One more important part is to make sure you apply for a construction loan early.  This process can take upwards to a couple of months and the last thing you want is to be delayed because you do not have the money ready.

Your banker should be able to help you on how much you will need.  Also if you are hiring a builder they should be able to help you as well.

Mary and I are acting as our own general contractor to help control some of the costs — do this at your own risk. We have experience in this area. If you don’t, hire a pro.

Spring is building season

Building Custom Homes North Andover: Groundbreaking.

Groundbreaking! Photo taken April 7, 2017.

Once mid-March rolled around we were excited to get going, but mother nature had other plans and the snow came.  So as a result we didn’t put a shovel in the ground until the beginning of April.

So this brings us pretty much up to date.  Look for a couple of other blog posts that go into more detail about putting the plans together for the house and other items.

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