Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Picking the Perfect Spot

When building a home in an unfamiliar area, it’s generally a good idea to rent a place before buying land. This way you get to know the surrounding community firsthand. You’ll stumble across sections you like, sections you don’t like and sections you likely wouldn’t have found save for your new neighbors’ enthusiasm to tell all.

I say renting is “generally” a good idea because it doesn’t work for everyone. Truth be told, it didn’t work for us. Yes, we had a good amount of money saved up from living at home a few years after college—but we weren’t about to waste it on rent. In our minds, we had a good thing going and wanted to save as much money as possible before we started construction.

So how did we decide precisely where to place our home? We visited the area as much as possible ourselves (note: without a realtor). We searched out schools, investigated lots for sale, drove down main streets, wandered into cafes, chatted up locals and biked rural roads. We narrowed our search for the perfect town by what others told us, what our hearts told us—and what our budget told us!

When we signed up with a realtor, we already had a few lots in mind…some we had driven past, and some we’d run across online. Since we currently live out of state, our realtor was an invaluable source in telling us which lots were a rip off, which ones were a good deal, which ones might be unbuildable and which ones had a highway next door.

He also shared the pros and cons of each small town—something we probably wouldn’t have found out until after our move. One town had a “hidden” junk pile (he drove us by it), one had a terrific school district, one had a downtown revitalization planned, etc. Towards the end of our search, we began only looking for lots in a small town.

We told our realtor that we desired a south-facing and sloping lot, so he would better understand our needs. (If built the right way, a south-facing home can provide warming sun in the winter and cooling shade in the summer—making your home work less for a comfortable temperature, and cutting your heating/cooling bills substantially!) Telling him a little bit about our house plans also helped us save time when we visited the area. We didn’t waste the limited time we had (usually just a weekend) driving to lots we knew wouldn’t work with the passive-solar design we had in mind.

Perusing the Internet one day, we ran across the headline, “Million-dollar views.” The listing looked perfect. And it wasn’t a million dollars (Phew!). We tried not to get too excited, called our realtor and never imagined that we were far from “done” settling on a piece of land.


  1. Sweet girl! My eyes literally teared-up as I read your first few posts here. I am so very excited for you two and am planning on living vicariously through you until our day will come. Blessings to you on your journey and thanks for taking us along with you on the ride:-).

  2. Thank you for the blessings! I am so excited to share our experience. Stay tuned...lots to come! :)

  3. Hey! I am so excited for you guys! Keep posting pics of the progress! When do you think the house will be done? Is the wedding going to be close by? Your pictures are so beautiful! In your blog you mentioned school districts - are you hinting about kids in the future!?! AHH! Also, when we lived in New Jersey, my house had radiant heating and my mom loved it! She misses it!! Hope all is well!

  4. We have a proposed end date of March 1!!! I would love to have a fall wedding in New England, so pack yer bags! Oh, and we looked at school districts MOSTLY for resale value. ;)