Building the House, The Woods

Buying the Land of Our Dreams… on a budget

“Finding Our Home Roots”

Deciding to Build


The dream of building our own home started when we had been married for only about one year. I had already owned and sold a fixer upper. It was such an enjoyable experience to make something my own. David, though, always had dreams of having a large piece of property where he could grow plots of tomatoes (and other stuff), just like his grandfather. His childhood life was spent in Hawaii (I know, we all feel so bad for him!), but the family took trips to the mainland to visit his grandparents and those trips were filled with adventures of getting deep down in the dirt and learning how things grow… that little boy was in heaven.

I was quickly sold on the idea of finding a big piece of property. Think of all we could do!!! We couldn’t find anything, though, in our location, that had an existing house that fit the bill. They were either WAAAY out of our price range, didn’t have enough acreage, or were in a terrible location. We were interested in buying land on a budget.

“What if we built our own home?” We wondered? Could we do it? The idea of doing something new was exciting! We punched our criteria into Realtor.com and our minds were blown. Land with trees, land with ponds, open fields, land with existing pole barns… SO many options! We narrowed our search by budget (which eliminated a lot of options), size (we were looking for at least 6 acres) and location (not more than 20 minutes from where we would work).

Looking for Property

Buying land on a budget narrowed out search, but we were able to find several properties we thought we could afford, we started to plan a whirlwind of a weekend trip. We lived ten hours south of the small Midwestern town we planned to build in. So, we had to take it all in at once! By the time we were able to make it up there, though, our very favorite… 6 acres on a wooded lot in the country WITH A POND… was gone!! **Sad faces!** If I’m being honest, we were pretty devastated. But, we plugged back in to good old Realtor.com and found a few more options.

In two days we looked at 4 properties and talked and talked the whole way home.

The first one was too empty… I don’t have a picture. That’s how unimpressed we were. Six acres looked so much smaller than we expected. Just a square of grass. Also, it was on a corner of two roads. Not the retreat we were hoping for.

The second was too close to the highway (Are you catching my three little bears vibe?) … and REALLY overgrown. We had to shout to warn each other about the branches that were about to hit us. *joking* (but kind of not) .

The third was too weird. There were some really wonderful features about this property. It already had a tiny house on it, it had that pond, it even had a little bit of woods. But it also had a road driving right through the middle of it. Swim in the pond and you had an audience from the busy road, go in the house you had to cross the street. Take a walk in the woods? Hope your glutes are feeling good because it’s straight uphill!

The fourth… wasn’t perfect… but it was magical. It’s an oddly shaped property set back behind a neighborhood of older homes. It sat just outside of town and was 9 acres of woods with a stream at the bottom of a stone gorge lining the back of the property. It… well, here… take a look..

We walked one direction and found a little waterfall. We walked the other way and were treated to spectacular views of a gorge with ledges that made it possible to sit on as you dangle your toes into the water. Like I said, magical.

It wasn’t perfect because it’s not in a great school district. It was in an odd shape and since the houses which surround it were older, that could potentially put a cap on how much our new build would be able to cost without pricing out the neighborhood. These are probably the reasons it was in our price range. But we could afford it! WE NEVER thought we could afford nine acres… let alone nine beautiful magical acres of forest so close to work and family….

You already know the end. We bought it! This is the place that will be our home. We find new things everyday that confirm this is the right place to grow our roots. Those imperfections aren’t for nothing, though. In future posts you will see how those things have impacted our home building process.

But right now… here are some nuts and bolts for those of you looking to buy property on a budget. Hope they are helpful!

What To Do To Make Sure You Don’t Regret Your Land Purchase

  • Ask the right questions. Below is the list we sent to our realtor before we made on offer. We researched a lot before we did anything. Knowing the answers to these questions were a great help in making our decision.

Questions to Ask When Buying Land

1. With regard to electrical, water and sewage hookups:
Would the property need to be approved for a Well or County/City water? If on a well, have there been any issues with water quantity or quality?
2. Current zoning?
3. Can we get water and soil samples?
4. Are there any Health or Safety issues related to structures or the property?
5. Is there an available current survey of property lines? Can we get them done, if not available?
6. Can the owners convey Clear Title in the form of a General Warranty Deed as evidenced by an Owner’s Title Insurance Policy?
7. Are there any liens against the property that cannot be cleared up?
8. Do the trees come with the property? (Will all standing timber convey with the sale?)
9. Do the mineral rights convey with the sale?
10. Are there Covenants and Restrictions on the property?
11. Have the property Boundaries been Marked?
12. Does anyone have any permissions to the property? (Hunting, firewood, walk through?)
13. Is there anything you can tell me about the property that you would want to know if you were buying it?
14. Do we have to pay closing cost if there is no mortgage?
(What are the other expenses involved in the purchasing the land other than the cash offer? (Closing costs, deeds, sales tax?))
15. What’s the crime rate in the area?

The reason many of these questions are important is because you don’t want to purchase your land and then find out the owner has the right to clear your wooded lot before you take possession! You also don’t want to find yourself the land owner of a property you are not allowed to build on due to zoning laws! What a nightmare that would be!

  • Go to your perspective property at different times of day and different days of the week.

It’s good to know what kind of neighborhood you’re moving into. Are the neighbors noisy or quiet? Do they have rowdy weekend parties or mostly keep to themselves? Do they take care of their homes and keep up on maintenance, or let things go? We couldn’t do this from 10 hours away… so my gracious parents helped us out. If you are far away from your property, and don’t have family or friends near, you might ask your realtor to go by a few times before your purchase is final.

  • Make sure other utilities and existing infrastructure aren’t going to get in your way.

We had a scare from some of our neighbors after we had already bought our property. There is a nationwide gas line that runs in the very front of our property, and through most of our neighbor’s back yards. One of our older neighbors approached us to say that the reason no one had ever built on our property is because the gas company would not allow for other utilities to be run past the gas line. ON MY GOODNESS our hearts dropped into our stomachs. While this could have been a reality, we called our contractor in a panic and found out it wasn’t… but let this be a cautionary tale of an almost disaster. Make sure to ask because you might not be so lucky!

Hopefully, these things will be helpful to someone. Go forth and find your dream land… whatever your budget!!

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