It’s been a while since I wrote, even I had to look back at my last post to see where we left off. I want to talk a little bit more about buying land, it’s kind of a critical first step.
Once we had decided to really consider building a home, we had no idea where to start. We had to set a budget for how much we could spend on a lot, but that would depend on what the cost of the house would be, and how much was that?? We started with the rough sq footage we knew we wanted in a house, no less than 2500 but ideally closer to 3000. We called the county to get a breakdown of permitting costs as we had heard that was a huge expense. Permitting costs also include school facility fees, traffic mitigation fees (the largest portion in our county). Total we were looking at $55-60k just for that cost, although we did get some relief when those were lowered @$10k this calendar year to stimulate building.
We needed to look into building costs for the actual structure. We started by reading a lot online, talking to some contractors and friends who are contractors. The numbers were all over the map. They ranged from “we are going to summer in Europe, please have our house done when we get back” to “I’ll swing a hammer myself while we live in a camper”. We are closer to the latter. Costs ranged from @$80-150/sqft. We took a middle of the road figure and ran with it.
We set our budget for a lot at $200k. It was a good number to land where we wanted to be at the end of the total build. It was about how much cash we could come up with without needing a lot loan. A lot loan required @30% down, complicated the closing process, and the process of getting a construction loan, so we avoided financing the land. That’s the biggest thing I’ll say about this process, you are nowhere without some skin in the game. The risks are big for a bank, so they want you to have some serious money out of pocket involved.
Our main priorities were location, close to the freeway for Sean’s work commute. Good schools, from elementary to high school. Close to amenities like shopping and city perks we were used to having. Preferably a neighborhood feel, but still enough distance to be private.
We looked at lots from El dorado hills to Pollock pines overlooking the lake, to shingle springs and Placerville. El dorado hills had primarily smaller sized lots, the land was more expensive, much less flat. Shingle springs had a few, but most were on main roads or laid out poorly. Pollock pines was beautiful, but too far out for us.
We considered things like, how close were utilities, was pg&e already run, were any permit costs already paid, was there a driveway already in, how flat was the lot, did it already have a building pad, was there an HOA that had minimum so footage requirements and additional costs, was there a well or septic already on site, had any tests or planning been done. Little things can add to the cost of your build without even realizing.
I feel like if we got one thing right, it was our lot choice. I absolutely love it. It was the second one we saw and kept coming back to the neighborhood. Checked all of our boxes. It has two wells on site, power to the street, the owner had already had building plans drawn so they’d paid for surveying, septic plans, and building plans that would literally end up saving us $20k+ in the planning phase. I didn’t know the value of those plans at the time we bought, but they’ve served us well.
We contacted the HOA to find out what their restrictions were. They were very slow to respond but had tight covenants in place. When we finally talked to them, they were very lax. They did not require a design review, said “we are all grown ups here and lots are far enough apart to be able to do as you please”. The main purpose of the HOA was to maintain the private roads in the neighborhood and the gates at the entrances. It was just enough without being too much.
We were selling the house that wasn’t at the same time and took a risk moving things to the property before we even closed on it. We had to move a shed and wood pile and had no where for them. We hired a tow company for $150 to pull the 8’x12′ tuff shed onto a flat bed and drive it over. Then we loaded 5 full loads of cut and stacked oak firewood into our utility trailer and piled it there, sounds crazy but 5 cords Rolf wood was too much to leave. The owners weren’t happy, but the sale closed and it never came up again.
We owned land, our first steps in going country still make me laugh.