Process of building a new house

This may not be the best NG for this, but I'm sure there are people here who have some ideas on the topic. My wife & I are moving to LA. The housing costs out there have gone up about 25% annually in the last few years and are absolutely insane. We've looked at any number of 50-60 year old 1200 sq' wrecks in "OK" neighborhoods which have not had so much as a coat of paint since the owners bought them right after WWII, with people LINING UP to pay $800,000 for the privilege of gutting them & starting over. Since I want to consider all possible options, I'm thinking about buying a house in tear down condition & rebuilding on the lot. Surprisingly, such houses do appear fairly regularly in desirable neighborhoods, usually 50-80 year old small homes on decent sized lots. Even this isn't cheap, but again I want to cover all the bases. So I'm wondering what exactly the process would be. Say we buy a lot & tear down the existing house, what segment of the building industry would we approach to build our new home? I'm guessing you can do anything from retaining an architect to design a one-off masterpiece (not in our price range) to selecting some builder who has a number of "off the rack" designs suitable for your needs & budget, probably with some customizing possibilities ("trim levels" if we were talking cars). For this latter approach, do you select a "general contractor" who then lines up framing people, drywall, plumbing/electrical etc? Sounds like a nightmare if you don't get someone reliable. Comments from anyone who has some experience with this process in general and especially with doing it in the LA area would be greatly appreciated. We're thinking something in the 2,000 sq' range on a small lot (don't have kids & don't want to have to deal with too much lawn). Also, what's a ballpark figure for typical suburban home construction, per sq foot? Lots of variables, I know but just for an idea with "average level" materials used. At the moment, we're looking at the Century City/Culver City/Palms/Mar Vista areas, to be closer to work. The only thing crazier out there than the housing costs is the commute times! We currently have a nice apartment in the valley (Sherman Oaks) and we like the area but commuting to our jobs in Beverly Hills & Santa Monica is horrendous.
TIA
Dan
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The questions are numerous. Any asbestos? Superfund? Which earthquake zone are you in? I would contact a realtor and find "the worst house in an upscale neighborhood." I think you would be wasting a nice new home in an area of older homes and you will never get your money back. Worse you could loose several hundred thousand dollars. Tear down and haul off, probably 10-20K WAG.... I would try to find a GC, with approved plans. A little modifications, trim as you put it will be no big deal. Since every thing in CA is expensive, especially electricity your not going to want to scrimp on windows, insulation and a/c equipment. An alarm would save you a buck or two with the home owners insurance.
125.00 to 200.00 a square foot not counting the land. Ballpark,
Here in Phoenix we can get houses done for $75-100 a foot not counting the land.
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Why not look at some house plans for sale on the WWW and then hire an architect to 'customize' them to make it more of a custom house?
Dan wrote:

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Architect or builder.

Price it before you say that, since hiring an architect isn't much more than building to a pre-designed plan, assuming similar size and embelishments.

No, you go to a builder. He is the general contractor.

Welcome to the world of home ownership.

Check with local realtors, builders and architechts. My figures here 3,000 miles away won't be accurate.
Jeff
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May I suggest "Keys to Buying and Owning a Home" from Barron's? Barron's is on the web and the paperback is now probably less than $10.
The several builders I speak with in Charleston SC are talking $150 a square foot for a decent house.
An architect specializing in residential work can help a lot with ther various governmental requirements in an urban area. Since you seem to be early in the learning curve, I would not recommed trying to do the design, permiting and construction on your own. If you do, you can count on a full time job. Small builders and architects that one finds doing houses often work together or at least know one another. The best recommendation is the work they do, so you might look around for a house under construction.
Tom Baker
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Thanks for the replies on this, all good suggestions. It's a bit complicated, but I do presently own a house in Ohio which I've lived in for 15 years; my wife is living in our apartment in Sherman Oaks, I am in the process of moving to join her. I agree this can be a real mess, that's why I wanted some input. Still given the cost of housing in the LA area, I also want to be sure I examine all possible approaches. I can tell you that many people DO buy houses out there & bulldoze them; many neighborhoods seem to be having their original samll 60-80 year old working class family houses replaced one by one, I must say often with huge barns which are IMHO hideous monstrosities. I guess an architect was involved in these, but many are nothing to brag about from a style perspective; just BIG, ostentatious mishmashes of periods & styles. Oh well, who ever said taste follows $$$$? ;-) Another approach is to add to a smaller home, as has been alluded to a bear to live with, though I appreciate it's not the same level of risk as a new build. Many of these are single floor ranches with a 2nd floor dormitory tacked on for the kiddies; simply adding additional sleeping boxes is not our need since we have no children. I understand about "bones", many times I'm sure it makes sense, but I have seen houses with advanced termite trouble & other extensive damage on the market for prices one would think don't even pass the straight face test. Yeah, you can fix and add onto anything, but at some point the amount of the original house left to get a spacious home with an esthetically pleasing modern layout out of it has to be pretty small.
Thanks again for the input.
Dan
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