A few years ago, some friends of ours purchased an older home from a widow who no longer could maintain the house and the more than two dozen fruit trees that rested on its sunny, western-facing lot. While the couple's residence was far nicer and newer than the widow's 1960s rambler, they loved the garden and orchard. They also dreamed of building a home from scratch, exactly how they wanted it, with the latest in energy-efficient building materials and appliances. In September 2008, when the economy took its infamous nosedive, the couple began to wonder if they ever would be able to afford a significant remodel, let alone design and build a new home on the site.The assets they had set aside for the project had dwindled considerably, as had the value of the older home they had recently purchased. Given the costs to sell the property, they wondered if they could ever recover the original purchase price. "What I underestimated was how willing the subcontractors had become...
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