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Our First Build-On-Your-Lot Experience & Why We’re Already Planning the Next One

Our First Build-On-Your-Lot Experience & Why We’re Already Planning the Next One

If you follow in Instagram or by newsletter you’ve probably seen a few photos that I’ve posted of our current home-building project.  I thought that now that we’re starting to make decent progress, I would tell a little bit of our story; how we got to the Hill Country and to this home-building project, some lessons we've learned so far with building on our lot, and why we're not stopping at this home but are already planning for the next one.  If you're really only here for the pics of how the build-on-your-lot process goes...feel free to scroll ahead!

I guess if we want to go waaay back, it all started when my husband and I met in 2005 (has it really been 12 years??).  We were both working in San Angelo and I just fell in LOVE with Texas.  I was born and raised in Oklahoma so it was a familiar feeling place, but I knew right away that there was just something special about this state (shhh…don’t tell my Okie family!).  Our little group of friends spent a lot of time in the year that we were in that town driving to random steak joints 30 miles away (The Lowake Steak House, which was sooooo worth it by the way), shooting up watermelons and random old pieces of furniture out in the middle of nowhere, taking weekend trips to float the Guadalupe River or heading into San Antonio or Austin for random weekends of fun (hello Cowboys, Pat O’Brien’s, and Maggie Mae’s!).  But, in 2006 it was time to move on and I headed to Florida and my then not-husband to Utah.  To make this long story short, we were married in 2009 and we both knew right away that Texas would be our forever home (did I mention it's where my husband is from?); it was just a matter of figuring out how to make it happen.  It took four years (and a lot of searching, planning, and scheming), but we made our way back in 2013, and all was right in the world again. 😊

Moving...from Virginia back to Texas!

Moving...from Virginia back to Texas!

We arrived in September with our 18 month old daughter and were living in my in-law’s driveway in their RV when we found out we were expecting our son.  We were so grateful for that RV, but the house hunting was on, in full force….those awesome pregnancy hormones were already getting the better of me and all I wanted was a HOME.  After doing our research, we realized that the market was a bit over our budget and that it would actually be cheaper to build a brand new tract home than it would be to buy one!  So, that’s what we did and you can read about that experience here

Excited to be building our first home in Texas!

Excited to be building our first home in Texas!

We built that house with the intention of staying there until we could afford to purchase acreage on which to build our forever home.  But after about three years a lot of things came to light and the stars aligned just right and we were able to purchase our property a bit earlier than expected.  However, purchasing so much sooner than expected meant that we couldn’t quite afford the forever home that was supposed to go on it.  Well, what do you do then???  You build a smaller home on one side, live in it for a few years, then build the forever home on the other side and sell the first…of course!  That’s logical, right?  Ha!  So, after talking this plan over with my husband’s parents, their immediate reaction was “We’ll buy it!”.  WHOA.  That was a crazy relief (knowing we wouldn’t have to worry about putting it on the market later) and it also helped us tremendously with the closing process of the property because they essentially made the down payment for their half of the property up front.  Again…GRATEFUL.  What that also did, was turn our home-building project into OUR home-building project; four adult minds making the decisions rather than two.  That’s a big advantage to have when your parents have as much experience with building homes as my in-laws do, but it also means there’s more opinions on flooring, cabinets, paint colors, where electrical outlets and doors go, etc.  It was tricky at times, but we all survived and I think (hope) we came up with a solution that made everybody happy!

So that brings us to the start of the building process for this home.  We selected a builder that my in-laws have used in the past (because of their reputation and affordable pricing) and literally chose the cheapest floor plan they offer (which is also 500 square feet smaller than our last home).  We then opted to remove all the rock work and board and batten from the exterior of the home and replaced it with more economical Hardie Plank siding.  We opted for no garage and we plan to build a carport instead.  We chose only the basic/included cosmetic finishes for the home (no upgrades!) but did add a few structural things like a side door, extra outlets, ceiling fans, etc.  We did everything we could to reduce the cost of this home and ended up at a price point that will leave us with a monthly payment that is comparable to what we had in our last home.  A big part of that is due to the amount we were required to put down on the property and the fact that my in-laws are paying for their half of the property payment each month.  We couldn’t have done it without them; it’s a family affair, y’all!
 

The house!

The house!

The floor plan, with our changes.

The floor plan, with our changes.

And say "hello" to my sweet, adventurous, always-on-board-with-anything in-laws, you guys!

And say "hello" to my sweet, adventurous, always-on-board-with-anything in-laws, you guys!

We did run into a few road blocks in the pre-construction process (like land clearing contractors who didn’t show up, botched the job, caught our property on fire, and eventually had to be replaced), but we’re finally chugging along at a good pace now, I think. Here’s a bit on how it’s gone so far:

Watching the tractor clear the cedar down the hill...he was in Heaven!

Watching the tractor clear the cedar down the hill...he was in Heaven!

A work in progress.

A work in progress.

The night the clearing contractors left a hot burn pile and the winds kicked up and I sent my husband back to the property because something just didn't feel right.  Yup, there was a brush fire and this is our wonderful Boerne Fire Department taking care of it for us.  If we hadn't gone back out, our entire property would have gone up in flames and our poor neighbors would have been in for a rude awakening!  Lesson learned: always trust your gut!

The night the clearing contractors left a hot burn pile and the winds kicked up and I sent my husband back to the property because something just didn't feel right.  Yup, there was a brush fire and this is our wonderful Boerne Fire Department taking care of it for us.  If we hadn't gone back out, our entire property would have gone up in flames and our poor neighbors would have been in for a rude awakening!  Lesson learned: always trust your gut!

Exploring her new backyard AFTER we fired the first land clearing company and brought in another to finish the job.  So much better, right?!

Exploring her new backyard AFTER we fired the first land clearing company and brought in another to finish the job.  So much better, right?!

Grading/leveling the home site.

Grading/leveling the home site.

Beginning work on the construction driveway base.

Beginning work on the construction driveway base.

Construction driveway and home site leveling complete, but the angle/slope of that drive isn't quite right so guess what?  Bring the contractor back in and it's a do-over.  Not completely, but still a bit of a set-back.

Construction driveway and home site leveling complete, but the angle/slope of that drive isn't quite right so guess what?  Bring the contractor back in and it's a do-over.  Not completely, but still a bit of a set-back.

Under-the-driveway drainage system in place to divert water away from the home.  The slope/angle has been corrected and we are good to go!

Under-the-driveway drainage system in place to divert water away from the home.  The slope/angle has been corrected and we are good to go!

Power pole is in and we have electricity!  Ran power from the neighbor's pole to this new one at the very top of our property and will run underground wire from here to the house.  Underground wiring is more expensive than above ground poles, but part of it was included in the cost of our home so we only paid the difference. 

Power pole is in and we have electricity!  Ran power from the neighbor's pole to this new one at the very top of our property and will run underground wire from here to the house.  Underground wiring is more expensive than above ground poles, but part of it was included in the cost of our home so we only paid the difference. 

Getting ready to drill the water well!

Getting ready to drill the water well!

Drilling complete; now we just need the water storage tank.

Drilling complete; now we just need the water storage tank.

This is what happens when your husband grows anxious waiting for progress from your builder; he starts clearing the OTHER side of your lot (with chain saws and a four-wheel-drive truck to pull out stumps, by the way).  Slow and steady wins the race; or so he says!

This is what happens when your husband grows anxious waiting for progress from your builder; he starts clearing the OTHER side of your lot (with chain saws and a four-wheel-drive truck to pull out stumps, by the way).  Slow and steady wins the race; or so he says!

He also hangs a swing for the kids; such a sweety, right?

He also hangs a swing for the kids; such a sweety, right?

The first sign that our builder was about to get moving...delivery of the porta-potty!

The first sign that our builder was about to get moving...delivery of the porta-potty!

And delivery of the foundation form materials.

And delivery of the foundation form materials.

Forms going up!

Forms going up!

Fill materials delivered.  Fun fact: after these guys used up what they needed for the foundation, they spread the rest up our driveway and ruined the slope/drainage work that our driveway contractor had done.  It also created a very loose top layer on the driveway so now the construction vehicles aren't always able to make it back up to the top without being towed.  Our builder will now have to pay for the driveway contractor to come back out and re-do it...a THIRD time.

Fill materials delivered.  Fun fact: after these guys used up what they needed for the foundation, they spread the rest up our driveway and ruined the slope/drainage work that our driveway contractor had done.  It also created a very loose top layer on the driveway so now the construction vehicles aren't always able to make it back up to the top without being towed.  Our builder will now have to pay for the driveway contractor to come back out and re-do it...a THIRD time.

Pad construction begins.

Pad construction begins.

Plumbing is complete.

Plumbing is complete.

It's concrete pouring day!

It's concrete pouring day!

Foundation is complete.  

Foundation is complete.  

And framing has begun!

And framing has begun!

This has all been a learning experience for us, for sure. Did you know that there are acreage and road frontage requirements for being able to split a lot into two?  Or that it’s nearly impossible to come up with accurate appraisal comps for raw land in unrestricted neighborhoods?  Or that sometimes you just have to use your built-in Option Period to get out of a bad real estate deal?  Yeah, we did that with a property we were under contract on before this one.  And looking at the actual site prep phase of this process, we've learned a lot about the different kinds of septic systems, more than we ever wanted to know about drilling water wells and installing the tank, what it takes to get fiber optic internet to a location such as this....and a whole lot more.  We’ll continue to learn as we go, I’m sure, but we’re just hoping that things continue to go smoothly.  We have a lot to be thankful for in all of this and the daydreams of vegetable gardens, fruit trees, fresh eggs from our chickens, maybe even a dog or two (we’ll see about that one!) and all that space for our kids to roam and explore their little hearts out keeps us focused on the prize. 

Of course, the GRAND PRIZE is that second house that will be built on the other side, which is why we’re actively doing our research to find the right floor plan and builder, even while this home is currently under construction.  We’ll get there…slowly, one step at a time.  In the mean time, we’ll spend our time in this home building chicken coops, a community garden on the center line of the property that we can share with my in-laws when they move in, a walking trail around the property, a playground area for the kids, etc.  We have our work cut out for us but it will be so.worth.it. in the end.

Have you built a house on your own lot before?  If you’re in the Hill Country, which builder did you use?  What sort of things did you learn in the process?  Would you do it again?  And something that’s weighed heavily on my mind, did you feel your kids missed out on anything by not having a neighborhood full of friends to play with?  I have so many questions and would love to hear your thoughts!

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