We Bought Land!

First, like every other blog, we need at least one post to start with “Sorry it’s been so long since our last post!” It just wouldn’t be a blog without it. So here it is. Sorry it’s been so long since our last post. We’ve been busy, and are thrilled to share that we’ve bought the site of our new home!

The search is over. About 3 years ago, we decided it was time to leave our longtime home in Minnesota and try something new. We wanted to live some place different, and work toward our goal of being more self sufficient. A pseudo homesteading lifestyle appeals to us. We want to be connected to the world; we want high speed internet (I need it for work and we just enjoy it), grocery and hardware stores nearby, and the option to go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings. But there are plenty of things we enjoy doing ourselves and would like the space/means to do so. For example, we want to raise our own chickens, and who knows, maybe a few goats or a single cow in the future. We want a shop to work on whatever hair-brained ideas we come up with (and let me assure you, those come in fast and furious). We also want some privacy between us and the neighbors.

About 2 years ago, after another wonderful vacation, we decided Alaska was going to be home for the next stage of our lives, and I began the real estate hunt. Knowing that we were at least a year out from moving at that point, Mama B had no interest in watching a market that could be entirely different when we finally got around to buying. For two years, I checked the MLS listings and Craigslist postings every single day looking for what was new. We originally set out with the goal of finding a reno-able property as we very much enjoyed renovating our previous home, and it would allow us get into a place with less money up front. Land, a house, a view, close to town, internet, and an affordable price. Oh, how naive I was.

4 months ago, we rolled into town in the bus, er, motorhome. More on that in another post, but we own a 40′ x 8′ x 12′ money pit that formerly enjoyed life as a coach bus in sunny Florida carting tourists to and from the Disney parks. The intent is to convert it into a full fledged motorhome and use it to cruise our way through AK with all of the comforts of home. Anyway, once we were in town, we were able to finally go see some of the places I’d been stalking from afar. And boy was that enlightening. After seeing properties up close and personal, we decided that building was the right call for us. Alaskan homes are just so … haphazardly built. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter house in Homer. Odd floor plans are the norm. Building codes either don’t exist up here, or aren’t enforced. Railing-less stairs are very common, for example.

We refocused our search to raw land, hoping to find a 10+ acre parcel, with a view, on the road system, with power nearby, and high speed internet access available. Thankfully Homer has two microwave fixed-wireless internet service providers and a topographical landscape that’s conducive to wireless internet. Nearly every place in the greater Homer area can get high speed internet through one of those two providers. Of course, the parcels closer to the city limits also have their pick of DSL and cable.

Our first offer was on a slightly overpriced parcel at the top of our budget. One of the things pushing it up there was the $30,000+ it would’ve cost just to bring power to the lot. We offered a fair price that factored in this due diligence item that we’d already discovered, and the counter offer was essentially “yeah, we want the asking price.” Needless to say, that property is still on the market.

Our second offer was for the land immediately adjacent to the land of our first offer. It was the same size/shape. It wasn’t on the market but our real estate agent knew the seller and they were interested in entertaining an offer. So we sent one in. Swing, and a miss. It was a fair offer, but when you’re not trying to sell it takes a bit more to entice you. And that was more than we were comfortable putting forth.

Meanwhile, in the midst of talking with different builders in town trying to get a rough idea on what it’ll cost to build here at the end of the road, I learned of some land for sale that wasn’t yet on the market. Saving 8-10% in realtor fees was highly appealing. Plus, we did the FSBO thing back in MN and felt like we could figure out a realtor-free purchase. I made a quick trip out late on a Friday afternoon and walked the land with the seller. It didn’t have a great view, but it had pretty good view potential with some clearing.

You can barely see the water through the trees, past the clearing (where the house will go).
You can barely see the water through the trees about 1/2 way up the photo, past the clearing (where the house will go).

Then came the first hurdle. The proposed Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions were far more restrictive than Mama B and I were comfortable with. Thankfully, the CCRs had not yet been filed with the recording district and they could be easily modified to whatever changes were agreeable to both the sellers and us. Many emails later, we had a verbal agreement on the CCRs and verbal agreement on the price. After a short meeting with a real estate attorney in town, we had a real offer to present.

The first (shallow) test pit used to determine foundation options.
The first (shallow) test pit used to determine foundation options. A thin organic layer, and then silty sand.
Deep test pit for septic system design. Gets more silty the further down you go.
Deep test pit for septic system design. Gets more silty the further down you go.
Some of the dark dense silt from the bottom of the test pit.
Some of the dark dense silt from the bottom of the test pit.

A few weeks, one soils test later, and a large check later, we’re the proud new owners of a parcel of land on the east side of town. We have plenty of work ahead of us to improve the view, and a whole lot more work ahead to build our next home. But we have some land! It was a long time coming, and it’s nice to finally be here. Now we can focus on floor plans over the winter, and get started in early spring!

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