Where are you going to build your dream home? For myself, it was important to locate a site where I could find affordable land near a large city. Luckily for me, I was able to find the perfect spot. An affordable, reasonably sized plot near the beach just a half hour away from one of my favorite cities in the entire world. It was a stroke of luck that I can’t possibly see how others can duplicate but the stars aligned and I now own a small patch of the world and no bank or other can lay claim to it. Here’s how it came together…
I began by listing my priorities out. I will be building solo, so it was important for me to have a large city nearby where I could utilize meetups to balance my building time with social time. I needed to ensure I had access to electricity, water, and sanitation. To cut out engineering costs, I needed a plot that was only mildly sloped and with decent load bearing soil. On my wish list was a view and proximity to a beach.
The optimal location became quite apparent when my brother told me about a geographic anomaly by the name of Point Roberts. A quick half hour drive from downtown Vancouver, BC and just a few hundred feet from its million dollar, overpriced southern suburbs is a small peninsula that crosses south below the 49th parallel that marks the border between Washington state and British Columbia. Home prices below this invisible line are a fraction of the cost of similarly sized homes on the Canadian side, mostly due to a lack of jobs and high schools in the city. Thanks to www.mrmoneymustache.com I had no need for a job and it will be at least 20 years before any future children of mine are in need of a high school education.
My decision became relatively simple at this point as the city of Point Roberts has limited lots available and only 3 realty companies that serve the area. I used their websites to sift through all their available inventory, and after contacting several of the realtors with some minor questions I chose the one that had been the most accessible. I made an offer on my favorite lot and included several “feasibility contingencies” to ensure that I had sufficient time to thoroughly research it before the deal was sealed. Some examples of good feasibility contingencies to include but are absolutely not limited to:
- Zoning – are single family residences even allowed? Up to what size? Is the plot of land big enough to accomodate that size with legal property setbacks?
- Availability and installation cost of utilities – water? electricity? gas? sanitiation (sewer, septic)? internet and/or phone? Waste collection?
- HOA – are there any community dues and/or regulations that would ruin your idea of a perfect home? What if you happen to be a dog lover and the HOA has bylaws that forbid them?
- City / Neighborhood – are you sure this is where you want to live? what are the hospitals, police, schools, and fire fighting facilities like? what are the neighbors like? Spend some time in the city and make absolutely sure you want to live there
- Site characteristics – How is the soil? Is the lot sloped? Is it in a flood plain?
- Building/ Impact Fees – some cities charge ungodly sums of money to discourage people from building new houses in an effort to control population. You will certainly have to pay building permit fees as well as countless others. Know what you are getting yourself into and be prepared to budget for these unavoidable costs.
You will most likely have to lay down some money as earnest deposit to prevent the sellers from bargaining with another party while you are researching all of these items. You may also have to fork over some money for a soils test, property survey, etc. Once you have done enough research to be thoroughly convinced that you know exactly what you are getting into, the local title company will accept your funds, walk you through the signing process, and record the title transfer with the county.