Friday, October 9, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

I’d like to note that searching for buildable land was not easy. In fact, it’s one of the first times during our homebuilding experience we felt a bit overwhelmed. We were starting from scratch in every sense of the phrase—and we didn’t know who to turn to when we had questions about the lot. Our realtor (as nice and informative as he was) might be biased, the seller would likely say anything to promote the property and we didn’t personally know anyone in the area that built their home.

Just as we were about to leave the site one weekend to head home, we realized who could answer our questions better than anyone else: the next-door neighbor (whose home was for sale). Hopefully he’d tell all—we needed to hear it! This was going to be our biggest purchase to date by far and we didn’t want any regrets. We dropped a note in the mailbox with our phone number and received a call the next week.

Here is what we asked him:
  1. How long have you lived in the area?

  2. Why are you moving?

  3. How tough was it to build your home?

  4. How much fill did you need to bring in?

  5. Did you have a problem installing your septic system?

  6. Please explain the covenants and how they are enforced.

  7. Did you have any problems digging your well?

  8. How deep is your well?

  9. How long did it take to build your home?

  10. Do you like the area/street?

  11. Is the lot we’re interested in listed for more money now than it was six years ago?

  12. Do you have air conditioning? How hot does it get in the summer?

  13. How often does the street get plowed?

  14. Was your architect in or out of state?

Before we contacted the neighbor, we called the zoning chairman and the town selectmen’s office and asked:
  1. When was the land previously bought and sold?

  2. Were there any pre-existing facilities or plants on or close to the property at any point?

  3. Are there any restrictions we should know about?

  4. Is there anymore information I should obtain as a first-time homebuilder?

  5. Did you have a problem installing your septic system?

  6. Are there any height restrictions if we wanted to install a residential windmill?

  7. Is it mandatory that homes have a septic system, or can they have composting toilets?

  8. Why has the land been vacant for so long?

I encourage anyone else in this process to reach out and make contact with everyone you can. We gained priceless information from every person we talked to. And after we talked to our future neighbor, we realized that building a home is complicated—but not impossible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. (We had some who did.) Most people don’t build their home, so respect their opinion, but don’t dwell on it.

When we were certain the lot met all of our requirements, we made an offer. And not too long after, though it felt like a lifetime, we learned that it was accepted!
On our way to living where the blacktop ends.


  1. This is all so exciting. I love that you are writing all this down.

  2. I love the Tim McGraw quote :)

  3. Haha! I didn't know if anyone would catch that reference. ;)