Its almost hard to believe at this point, but I think its finally happening. As of January 26, 2016, we have officially broken ground and started construction of our new house.
These are the earliest pictures I can find of our property, during a walk with Cody in fall of 2014:
A little backstory:
“The plan,” since moving to NC in 2005 and needing somewhere to live, involved owning a “bit” of property in the country. Since were just out of college then, we couldn’t afford much, especially not the “nice” house on a “nice” piece of property that we had in mind for our future selves. Rather than buy a little starter house in town that we would both hate until we could afford to move, we decided to try a different approach to get where we wanted to go. We found some land we liked and could afford, and built our current house ourselves. (I think we hired the well, drywall, and HVAC, everything else Kevin did, and I “helped,” along with help from family). We basically live in what was intended to be the future workshop/garage/outbuilding. Its somewhat small (About 900 sq ft of living space, but with nearly 600 sq ft of garage) and minimally finished, but its also amazingly inexpensive, and we like it better than the ubiquitous single and double wide trailers we see elsewhere (again, notice the substantial garage space). The “live in the barn while you save to build the house” plan is a tried and true strategy for many rural inhabitants, and one we thought would work for us. We liked the trade-offs; much less house at first was just fine by us, there are only two of us anyway, and we get to enjoy our land in the meantime.
As it turns out, the plan worked better than we had hoped; we were able to pay off our mortgage in a few years, and enjoy for a time a glorious debt free lifestyle (see, for example, the 2-month moto trip to Alaska in 2014).
So of course, plans change. I think our original horizon for building our house was 5 years, but we both knew we weren’t really going to make it (well, I naively thought we might at first, but reality quickly set me straight). For reasons I won’t get into here but are probably very silly and irrational, we decided that our first NC property wasn’t the spot we wanted to settle on after all. At the very beginning of 2011, we bought land on the other side of town.
We set about making plans for our future home, and proceeded to get bogged down in design. It turns out home design is difficult to do well. Who knew, right? (Ok, I did). None of the plans we found were really right for the site and what we wanted, and so many were overly large, with lots of wasted space. I’m apparently a residential architecture snob now, as I think so many contemporary home designs are just awful. We also learned that hiring professionals is a gamble. I’m sure there are good ones out there, but we didn’t find them, and losing that bet made for some of our most expensive mistakes thus far in life.
In March 2014, we lost our minds altogether, and bought yet more land, the property right next to the one we’d purchased in 2011. We’d always liked that property even better than than the one we bought in 2011, and couldn’t believe our luck when it came up for sale before we’d committed to building. The delay in the project timeline caused by making another major purchase was easily worth it. We just knew it would make for a better home site, and we were right.
First, however, we had to clear the trees on the new home site, so we could see what we had:
Naturally, we wanted to put the house in a spot where the trees were too young and small to be cut and used as logs. Instead, we turned several acres of young southern yellow pine into mulch in January 2015:
The result finally started to reveal our mountain views (the pics don’t really do it justice, honestly):
By the middle of 2015,we’d finalized the major decisions on our home design. We finally have a plan that (we hope) makes all the right compromises. That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but from a couple of engineers its the highest praise, and we’re really excited about it. By November 2015, the home site looked like the panorama (second pic) above.
I’m not sure why getting a home construction loan took 5 MONTHS to close, but it did. I started applying for the loan in August 2015, and we didn’t close until January 2016. The uncertain, opaque process is not one I ever want to think about again. I’m just glad we finally made it.
Pics from January 2016, just before start if construction:
Start of Construction January 26, 2016!
So of course, after thinking about this project for so long, we decide to start construction during the coldest, wettest part of the year; the exact opposite of what one would ideally do. I’m sure the house will be dried in just in time for the weather to get dry and hot.
Here we go!