The Pendulum Swing: Deciding where you want to move (Part 1)

With the appraisal behind us (and apparently approved, since they moved it on to the next stage of underwriter), and our OBGYN confirming that our baby is indeed due three weeks earlier than planned, we turn our eyes with anticipation forward again to the adventure that lies ahead. We will hit the ground running, needing to close as soon as we can on our new property (which has the tricky aspect of the seller living several states away, therefore changing closing dates isn’t easy, but was needed with last minute changes with our house closing dates). As soon as our property closes, we have the excavator in the wings ready to put in the driveway and clear the space for our shop/storage building. We need to have that in place ASAP because we have to move all of our stuff there from our home so the buyers can move in… 15 days after we close! Why did we decide to buy raw land (which put us in this tight position) instead of a house? It came about like a pendulum swing…

When we were first deciding to look at the possibility of moving, I remembered a friend who had recently mentioned that her husband had been looking at land for a good price being sold in North Idaho. I think it was something like 25 acres for $40,000. His thought was to put a double wide mobile home on it, which he had found for sale around $60,000. When I casually threw that out to Tom, he didn’t immediately reject it (which has happened before when I talked about the possibility of moving in the future).  I took that as “go ahead and look into it more”, and started researching in depth. We didn’t need that much land, and prices had risen in the past year or two since he had looked at land. After perusing multiple amazing sounding land listings, we discovered with the help of our realtor that there were reasons they were so cheap  (we saw several properties that were sloped on a mountain for a great price, but they were virtually useless for anything, including space for a yard). We continued down that road, finding prices of land that we were sure could work.

Our next step was to go look at mobile homes. After asking on my fb mommies group (which is an awesome support community), we went to visit a very nice mobile home lot. We looked at their cheapest double wide that had the number of bathroom s and bedrooms we needed, and concluded we could live there. We weren’t thrilled with the lack of character in it(to put it in perspective, when we remodeled our current home we kept the chimney that had been hidden in the wall we tore down and built an island off of it. We like character!), but it was nice and we could start living in it quickly. However, after talking with the salesman, we found out that drilling a well was likely closer to $40K instead of the $10K I had read about. Remember when you are researching online, make sure to talk with real people in the area you are moving to for all things, especially basic things you need, like well drilling and septic installation. I hadn’t gotten around to calling any companies over there yet, so this gave us a pause. Quick calculations revealed that we likely wouldn’t  be able to buy land at the prices we were seeing, and put in a driveway, septic, well, power, and this house. So we changed gears, jumped on the pendulum, and decided to look at properties that had homes already built on it.

Our wonderful realtor changed things on the program she uses to show us available homes or properties, and we started looking for homes on at least a half-acre of land. We had pretty strict guidelines, and only a 20 mile stretch of land, but we were sure houses in that area would be available. Sure enough, there were homes in our price range! But this was a month and a half before our house went on the market (as I’ve mentioned before, we had a lot of projects to finish). Within a few weeks, they were all bought, and the few that remained in our price range remain on the market today (there were reasons they haven’t been bought- several had the railroad tracks running through them or along the border, others were at the top of our budget which needed lots of work and had no shop).

*I should insert an important step that we did before even looking at land or homes. My wonderfully organized husband wrote down all the things we needed to buy a place, and a list of all our wishes. Things like having land was more important to us than having a huge house in town with a tiny yard. As we were in the midst of the pendulum swing, we did seriously consider some homes in town, figuring we could sell in a few years and move onto property. But we always went back to the place where we valued having land and the opportunities that creates even if it means living in a smaller house for the time being. Also, we needed a 3 bedroom/2 bath house, or the possibility of adding to the home or remodeling it to include those rooms. Another non-negotiable item for us was a shop building (or have money left over to build one) as Tom currently works in carpentry. After making the list and praying over the items, we felt confident we had a starting point to begin our search for a new home. It was still wide enough to include both raw land and the possibility of a house on some land, so we felt we had a good range of options to choose from.

Around this time, we heard via a friend that her sister-in-law’s family were selling their home in Idaho. It sounded great, but it was about 30 miles from our farthest distance away from Spokane (we wanted to stay close-ish as Tom had work here, and his family is here). Within a week we went from not even thinking about it because of its location, to talking about the pros and cons, to visiting them at the end of the week and putting in an offer. The price was higher than what we had been told our house would sell for, but not much. So we figured we could just raise our budget. We had gone to our bank and were assured we’d get a small loan that would cover the difference, although that hadn’t been approved yet. They ended up getting a better offer, where the buyer already had the money in hand. It was a great deal, and we were happy for them. I had just started reading the book by Wranglerstar that Tom had requested for Christmas, and they shared their homesteading journey. It included the important tips to not put in an offer before your home sells, not buy too far off grid if you aren’t ready, and not buy a place that is over your budget. It was a God-send at that specific time, and confirmed that it wasn’t the right place for us.

The emotions that correspond with putting in an offer and waiting to hear if it was accepted is as stressful as people say. I was up and down, even though there was a steady factor underneath knowing God was in control whether we got this home or not. But it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement, the possibility of the new place, and the bummer feeling when your offer wasn’t accepted. Yet it was because of this house that we realized we needed to finish our home so we could put it on the market (therefore having the money to back the offer we just put in). It was the kick in the pants that we needed to jump start that. It was also what expanded our viewpoint to other areas outside of the narrow strip we had determined ahead of time. We fell in love with the area where that house was, and called our realtor to again change our search parameters on the computer program to look at homes farther away. It’s true what they say, if you are willing to move outside of your original location area, you might find the place of your dreams.

Did you ever make the choice between buying a home on some land, or buying property and building on it? How did you make the decision?


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