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 rece...
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