I’m so excited to start sharing more about the design of our home! In some of the past blog posts, I’ve talked about our journey up to this point. It’s been on my “to-do” list for quite some time to start sharing the process of the design. My first step was sharing floor plans and renderings, but they’ve been continuously evolving for about a year now! However, just a few weeks ago, we received our building permit on the most recent set of plans, so…this is it! No more changes on the floor plan and so I think it’s about time to share!
As a bit of a back story, we bought land last Spring with the intention of starting construction in the Fall. This would be right after Connor finished nursing school and had landed a job. I started designing the floor plan shortly after purchasing the land. In my head, I knew what I wanted each individual room to feel like. For example, I know pretty much the exact layout I like in a kitchen and how it connects with a living or dining room. I also have strong preferences about bedrooms and how the furniture is oriented in connection to the doors. Basically, I had all of these individual pieces of a puzzle, but I had to figure out how they would all fit together in a logical way. And they still needed to look good from an exterior and architectural view.
I went through probably 15-20 quick “bubble diagrams” to see the flow in a basic L-shaped floor plan. I narrowed it down to about 5 and then got to work on my computer. There I was drawing things out to scale and eliminating ones that didn’t quite work. Just when I thought I had “the one,” I would find myself awake at night thinking of all the little adjustments that could possibly make it a tiny bit better. I went on like this for several months, tweaking a little bit here and there.
Eventually we started the loan process. Long story short, it all fell apart about two weeks before closing and breaking ground. The bank back-peddled and would no longer finance the project. We scrambled to come up with a back up plan, or get things started with another bank. Our efforts were lost. Winter was approaching and nothing was giving us much hope. We called it quits, until Spring. So in the meantime, I studied the floor plans once more. I started adjusting things again and ultimately landed on a new floor plan. It’s similar to the first, but a bit different in all the best possible ways. It was finally perfect and ready to submit for permitting.
It’s now late spring and we’re working with a new bank to get the financing we need. It’ll have to be a whole separate post about getting financing as a business owner — sheesh. Technically we are very close to closing on the loan. However, what I’ve learned through the process is to not get too excited until you are there signing the closing papers, as anything can happen. I’m still crossing my fingers that things will start soon. There will be so much to share on the construction process as well.
For now, I’m excited to share the final floor plan of our home. Stay tuned and I’ll give you a virtual tour soon!
It’s been a few months since our well was drilled, but this week we got our water quality test results. I figured it was time to give everyone an update!
We weren’t actually planning to drill the well until right before construction began. But after financing fell through with the bank, we decided to keep things moving forward and pay for it ourselves. It was a big investment but having it completed would mean that we could have peace of mind about our water and we’d have all the documents to apply for our building permit.
planning for drilling
Little did we know how scary the process of drilling would be. I mean, we knew, but we didn’t REALLY know how anxiety-ridden we’d be for a solid three days. Our property is an area of a lot of dry wells and low-producing wells (2-4 gallons per minute). There is one neighbor with a decent well (12 gpm) that gave us some hope though. We did a lot of research and preparation before drilling.
We started by studying the well logs in our area, which to be honest, felt about as helpful as closing your eyes and pointing your finger on the map to pick a spot. And with 11 acres, that leaves a lot of space up for grabs. Our land dictated a lot though due to it’s topography. Most of the property has rolling hills, so there’s only one spot that makes sense for us to build. To keep costs low, that meant we would want our well close by to the structure. So we focused on that part of the property for potential well sites.
Our next step was to look into well witching. It’s a pretty interesting subject and there is a lot of skepticism around it — both in understanding how it works as well as the accuracy. We were at a loss on how to pick a drilling location though so we figured we’d give it a shot. In one round, we used metal coat hangers and stripped the rubber coating off. We straightened them out and then bent into L-shapes. The idea is that you walk the land and when the metal rods cross, there is a possibility for water below you. So with orange flags in hand, we marked the spots. And marked. And marked. After a few hours of walking every inch of our flat section of property, we had a lot of flags and no idea how to narrow it down.
I can’t describe the feeling I got the first time the rods started moving. I had no idea what to expect with all of this, but it was fascinating! The rods would start moving towards each other like the feeling of a magnet and then they’d finally cross so far over each other they’d come back and hit me on the shoulders. When Connor walked the same path as me and had the same results, there was no explanation left!
try it again
In round two, we decided to go with heavier rods. We bought a few feet of 1/4″ diameter copper from the hardware store. Our thought was that maybe these rods would be less sensitive due to their weight and help reduce the number of flagged areas. It may have helped a bit, but we still had a lot of possible locations marked.
So then we researched some more. We looked for patterns in the flags, large groupings of marked locations, etc. We eliminated any that didn’t fit within these certain parameters. Unfortunately, every marked flag had the same equal amount of “pull,” so there was no way to tell by strength. However, I read that certain people will not have the ability to get results. So we decided to try it out with a few others!
Each time someone came for a site visit or construction meeting, they laughed at all the flags, so I would have them try it out. Some people, like my dad, got nothing. One of the contractors got some results, but at various levels of pull. I knew he’d be helpful — we walked to all the locations marked with flags and if he got little to no response, I’d eliminate them. If he got a medium to high response, I left the flag. And then we compared between them. We eventually narrowed it down to about 5-6 flags which happened to be all in one general area. It was time to meet with the well driller.
The driller confirmed what Connor and I discussed when we were researching well drilling and analyzing the patterns. The lines of the flag were in a bit of a diagonal row so we thought maybe that was some sort of fracture in the ground that allowed water to flow through it. He helped us narrow our possible locations down to 2-3 flags that were within a few feet of each other. Then we basically picked a spot while crossing our fingers. And boy did I do a little rain dance and send all the good water vibes to that stake in the ground.
Drilling day came and it was hard. It took most of the morning to set up the rigs and get all the equipment prepared. They told me they would call the second they hit water. They also told me their average depth drilled per hour (you pay per foot for the depth of the well) and I was literally calculating it to the minute while I waited for a phone call. By the end of the day, there was no water.
Day two came and I was feeling hopeful. Just before lunch I got a phone call with good news. They hit a fracture at about 340 feet, and there was some water coming out! Only 1 GPM but they were going to take a lunch break then drill a bit further to see if they could get more water. They were hoping they were hitting just the top of the water and that it would start pouring out soon.
Hours passed with no more phone calls. Again, I’m calculating time ticking and how much deeper they must have drilled. I had to go to a meeting at this point so I headed out, but kept my phone on, just waiting for some news. Finally, at the end of the day, it rang. No more water came out from the original fracture, so after drilling much more — to 440 feet, water started gushing out and was calculated at over 60 GPM! I couldn’t believe it. This is an extremely high producing well, not just in our neighborhood, but in general as far as wells go. All I could imagine was that our little hilltop was floating on a lake. Hah! All the anxiety finally melted away.
The next morning they finished up their process and capped it off. We eventually got back up to the property to check it all out. It was getting cold outside and had snowed a few times so as we pulled up to the property we thought there was a large bank of snow. It was sand! You can see in the last photo the sand but most of the larger mounds were covered by the well rigs so I wasn’t really expecting it. As the water blew out of the drill, with it came tons of sand that carved through the land. It’s so soft and Finley is absolutely loving playing in it. If the texture stays good once the weather gets warm again, I think we will be making a sandbox for her!
The next step was getting a four hour pump test done along with water samples for the county to ensure the water is absent of nitrates and bacteria. These water results would allow us to get our building permits if all went well. We decided to do a full water sample test versus just the minimum for a few reasons. Our neighbor’s well tested very high for uranium (which is common areas with granite) and it was recommended they get a reverse osmosis system. Since uranium can be hit and miss, we decided to do the test as well to see if a RO system was something we should plan for. Sure enough, our uranium levels came in high. Everything else was good though and we have that peace of mind!
Next we will be assembling the drawing package with all of our floor plans and submitting those with the well and septic design. I’ll be sharing the plans with you all soon — and guess what — I spent my holiday vacation tweaking them quite a bit since I last shared them on my stories over on Instagram. So it should be a surprise for everyone!
This title is pretty hilarious considering some of the
things we experienced both during our search for land as well as the hardships
we faced after purchasing. We are over the moon about the land that we
purchased and can’t wait to enjoy it every day once our home is built. However,
there have been some major issues throughout the process as well, and having a
bit of extra knowledge could have prevented some of them. But, we live and we
learn so I guess that makes me somewhat qualified to share some insight on the
topic of finding and purchasing property to build on.
OUR SEARCHING PROCESS
We’ve gone through this process (at least partially) two
times now in our lives. The first time we started searching was about five
years ago, when we planned to move my childhood home to some acreage and then
renovate. It never happened, but we searched for land for several months and
had a good idea on what we were looking for. On this second round of searching,
we did many of the same things to find the right lot. We spent every week
scouring the internet for new listings and planning our route. Every weekend we
then drove for hours crossing them off or spending some extra time discussing
the features of our favorite ones. This became much more difficult with a kid
in tow, which meant the number of properties we could look at each week was
very limited unless we had a babysitter. We often drove on our own until we
found some we really liked. At that time we would notify our realtor to get
more information. Doing it this way allowed us to cover a lot of ground but
occasionally we ran into some issues of getting lost and dealing with safety
issues, like when we accidentally trespassed on a lot that Google inaccurately
took us to. Raw land can be tricky to find so you have to be very careful about
how you find it.
Prices were so much different five years ago when we looked
for land — we could easily find 10 acres of raw land for 30-50k. Getting over
the fact that land at this time has doubled if not tripled in price, was a
little hard. But it’s never a good idea to beat yourself up over the “would
have, could have, should haves” as my sweet mom says. So this time around, we
found ourselves expecting and prepared for a much larger price, but our goal of
a minimum of 10 acres was still set in stone. Of course we would have been
happier with more acreage as well, but that typically meant a longer commute to
find something within our budget.
Commute times and general location are always a key factor
in purchasing land (or a home). A good location to us had to fit within the
following guidelines: no more than 40 minutes from downtown (where we work),
good schools (even though we might consider homeschooling, this is still
important in case that doesn’t work out for us), and 10-20 minutes from basic
amenities like grocery shopping, etc. Beyond that, we didn’t have a preference
between north, south, east, or west of our city, so we still had a lot of areas
to choose from. The property we purchased exceeded these expectations by far…
we ended up 30 minutes from downtown, 3 minutes from town with our favorite
stores, and in one of the best ranked school districts. The location still
feels rural and private, with 10 acre parcels all around us as well.
ACREAGE & SHAPE
You may ask why the 10 acres was an important number for us.
We determined pretty quickly that we are not people who enjoy living in
neighborhoods. We like our space, our privacy, and peace and quiet. We want
land that we can do as we please, with no expectations or judgment about when
we choose to mow our lawn, what we choose to do with our land, and no
eavesdropping ears when relaxing in our backyard. We looked at lots with a few
acres, we looked at lots with 5 acres, and neither were enough. Many of these
parcels were awkwardly shapes – long skinny rectangles that once you build on,
you find yourself right next to your neighbors despite all your acreage. This
is true even on larger parcels, and with 10 acres, we still had to look for
something that was a wider rectangle versus a skinny strip of land. You always
have to keep in mind the possibility of new future neighbors building on
undeveloped land around you. It’s the risk you take, so there is a benefit in
having the adjacent properties already being developed so you know who sits
The property we purchased is raw land, which means no water,
sewer, or electrical have been set up. These will all be completed as part of
our construction loan. Not having completed this part of the process, I can’t
speak to too much of it yet. We’ve received estimates on all of them though and
knew what to expect based on previous research of costs, so it came as no
surprise that a large portion of our budget would be set aside for this. One
thing to keep in mind is the further your property is from the road, the higher
some costs will be. Electrical and gas are all priced per linear foot. Our
property is far from the road which provides a lot of privacy, but higher
expenses up front for getting settled in with utilities and a road. Wells and
septic systems will vary in price depending on location. Septic system pricing
all depends on your soil type, and the price of wells depend on how deep you
need to drill (priced per foot), so it’s good to know what other wells are like
in the area you are looking. Some rural areas do have access to city water, but
there can be hefty fees for hooking up to it. It can be nice knowing that you
always have water accessible and no chance of your well drying up in the
future. Costs of land jump dramatically when utilities are already available,
but there is certainly peace of mind in having these ready to go.
USABILITY & MISC. FEATURES
Is the land covered in trees that may require some clearing?
It is flat or steep or somewhere in between? Is it rocky? Is there water,
ponds, wetlands, or streams causing potential flood zones (think of insurance)?
We looked at a variety of land types in our search and were quickly able to
eliminate parcels based on their usability. We found properties as steep as a
mountain, covered in water, or totally inaccessible by road. You also have to
consider their accessibility and use in different seasons. Some roads were
hardly developed and while we made it to the final destination, we had to
consider that during winter, we probably wouldn’t be able to get in or out. The
land we chose was open with minimal trees, some flat areas for easy building,
and some rolling hills which lends itself to a beautiful view. My dream was to
have water nearby, whether a pond or stream or really anything for outdoor play
for our daughter. I was sure we’d never find something within our budget with
this, but we did! Our property has a little stream running through it which was
a huge selling point for us. However, with this amazing feature comes a few
things to consider – the responsibility of maintaining a bridge, safety issues
with having children (thankfully the stream is very far from the majority of
our property), and we will have to provide proper paperwork that our home is not
anywhere near the flood zone in order to eliminate the need for flood
Depending on how you plan to use your land, it’s important
to know what kind of restrictions might be in your area. How many buildings you
can put on each parcel, what kind of buildings (manufactured vs. stick frame),
agricultural restrictions (some places don’t allow roosters and/or limit the
number of animals), and more. As another example, we have CCR’s that say
trailers and motorhomes cannot be parked on the property unless placed within a
shop. We know many people who live in an RV on their property while a home is
being built, so this could be a huge issue for those unless they are prepared
for the expense of building a large enough shop/garage to contain it.
Easements can restrict your property use as well and it’s
important to know if you have easement access or if others have easements
through your property. On our property, we have one of each type.
Unfortunately, what we didn’t know is that in one of these agreements, a
construction agreement was buried into it which would require more than basic
maintenance of the road. The previous owners had agreed to paving or chip
sealing the road by a certain date, failed to do so, and decided not to share
this information with us as we went through the purchasing process. We are now
responsible for completing this.
PROPERTY LINES & ENCROACHMENTS
It’s important to be sure that the property you are
purchasing is surveyed, or to complete one so you know exactly where the
boundary lines are. Looking for encroachments onto your potential property or
items on the property that might encroach on someone else’s property can save
you from some serious headaches down the road. We experienced this in a strange
way as well. While we were under escrow with the property, the neighboring
parcel put in a road that crossed the property lines substantially. It tore up
a large portion of the land, and we didn’t find out until after we signed
closing papers. We paid for a survey right away and was able to prove that the
new road was now encroaching on the land. Unfortunately, we also had to pay to
fix this both in the survey costs as well as labor/equipment costs of removing
the road on our part of the land. These costs could have been disputed in
court, but sometimes you have to pick your battles.
Again, we couldn’t be more thrilled about the land we ultimately chose. I’m happy to be able to learn from our mistakes and share them with you. We are excited to move forward on our dream home and break ground in the near future. I look forward to continuing to share the process and our experiences on this journey. If there’s something in particular you’d like to know about the process, be sure to let me know so I can include them in future posts!
All images in this post are by the talented Jade Averill Photography
Have you heard the news on Instagram? After waiting over five years for the “right” time, our family has finally purchased land as the first step in the journey of building our own home. It’s been a long ride and today I’m finally feeling ready to share more about this part of our lives. I know many people are always curious about the homes of interior designers. I’m often asked to share photos of our home, but quite frankly, I never share this because I’ve never really had a true home of my own. A designer’s nightmare, right?! So today I’m going to share way too many details about our history of “homes” and just why this project means so much for us moving forward.
MY FIRST APARTMENT
I lived with my parents through college. I attended a local community college for three years before transferring to the university. Before moving, my husband and I were married. So as newlyweds, we drove off to our first “home” and rented an apartment while I completed my final year of school. Our small, very brown (brown carpet, brown paneling, brown cabinets!) apartment was our first home together. After about six months, we found ourselves very sick from black mold toxicity and all of our personal belongings and new home gifts from our wedding destroyed. So we started from square one. We were transferred to another apartment for our remaining few months of our lease. After those couple of months were over and I was done with school, we packed up so fast and left town!
POINT YOUR FINGER SOMEWHERE ON A MAP…
We weren’t sure where we wanted to go next. We stayed with my parents for about a month and then I landed a few interviews over on the west coast. For a few days, we dreamed of living on that side of the state. Nothing came of it though, and we sat staring at each other in the hotel room wondering where we were going to live. At the time, going back home to Spokane seemed like the worst possible choice. We wanted change and adventure. We started throwing out names of cities to live in, and I offered up Denver, as one of my best friends and her family lived there and I had visited a few times. Connor agreed, so we went home, packed a suitcase, and off we drove.
MOVING THERE, THEN HERE AGAIN
We made arrangements to live with my friend’s family for a few months so we could explore the city to see if it was right for us, get jobs and find housing. After about four months of living out of a suitcase and a storage unit, we purchased a townhouse and moved in. It was very nice and we felt pretty proud of it. It was in a little suburban neighborhood with nice shopping, good schools, and yet our mortgage was cheaper than any apartment we could have rented there. We lived there for about six months and then it happened…the homesickness kicked in.
We missed our families, the lakes, and holidays together. Despite having incredible jobs and a few friends, we were so lonely. I think it was on Easter, another holiday alone, that we took a bike ride and one of us brought up the conversation neither of us wanted to confess. We started asking ourselves, “what was so bad about Spokane?” And within a ten minute conversation, it was decided upon. We were moving back home. We called our parents right then and it was like a whirlwind of emotions. Excitement to return to Spokane, but total disappointment of leaving our jobs and city life. We moved back home within a month.
NEW PLANS TO BE MADE
We literally had no plan from there. We moved in with Connor’s parents. After a few months, it was time to get jobs and find our own place again. We started renting from my grandma at her vacant house. We thought it would be just a while before we would buy a house and renovate. Shortly after, we found out my childhood home was literally listed for free if someone spent the money to move it off the lot (yes, you CAN move houses!).
We started dreaming! How amazing would it be to buy some land and set my childhood home on it? After moving every few months, it felt like the perfect symbolism of growing roots and finding home. We started planning. We talked to the banks, we drove for hours looking at land every weekend, and I started on the floor plans for phasing out renovations and even a plan for an addition we could add on some day. I spent months working on all of the logistics and then…things changed.
AN OUT-OF-REACH DREAM
The banks were nervous about funding a house move. Connor decided he wanted to go back to school for nursing. I found out I was pregnant with our first child. All at once, the doors closed and this journey had come to an end. We switched gears and started house hunting instead. Nothing seemed to stand out and nothing came close to the dream we had almost created. I didn’t want to put a dime towards a home we weren’t excited about. So we decided to stay at the rental and make it home for a while. We would settle in for a few years.
I started nesting and we painted the house and set up a garden. There was only so much we could do with a rental so instead we invested in some new furniture pieces, curtains, etc. We ended up living there for about two years, which was the longest we had lived anywhere for the last 4-5 years. We had planned on staying longer, at least until Connor was done with school, but then another wrench got thrown in the plan.
My grandma needed to sell the house. At this point, we were knee deep in parenthood, school, and financially just looking to save every penny to prepare for buying a house. My parents decided to buy my grandma’s house in hopes that we could continue to rent from them, but the banks said that wasn’t an option. So then, it was decided that my parents would move to that house, and we would move to their house to rent. A little switcharoo! So in the middle of winter, we were literally swapping places.
We’ve been renting from my parents for the last year and a half and while we are once more close to reaching a two year mark of living in the same place, we also once more prepare for another move. At this point, things are looking up. We’ve been working hard and saving money to acquire that dream of living on acreage. However, with the real estate market being quite insane, it no longer makes sense for us to renovate. Our plans now point to a new construction home, which will hopefully begin after Connor completes school later this summer. My parents recently sold the other house and have moved back into the home we are renting from them, and Connor and I are back to determining our next temporary house while our true home gets built.
Nowhere in my adult life has ever felt like home. I’m turning 28 this year and at this point I’ve never felt the feeling of home since I was 18. We’ve managed to settle in to each place we’ve lived, but it’s never truly been “home.” When we were younger, the constant change felt adventurous. It felt like that was what we should be doing as young adults, newlyweds, etc.
But as we got older, and especially after having our daughter, each move was a heartbreak. It was pulling up her roots again and again, and that’s what made me ache. Although those houses were never my home, they were hers. It was all she knew as home in her life this far. The pain made me work harder and harder. I couldn’t stop and it made me sacrifice just about everything to get to the point of claiming a forever home for us. For her.
Last month, we took the first step toward that home I’ve dreamed of for our family. After a pretty short period of searching for land, we got our dream property. It checks all the boxes on our wish list and more! It feels so surreal that after so many years of waiting, the time has come. The timeline for our construction has yet to be determined, but one step has been taken. And that’s all that matters in this moment.
I can’t wait to share more about the property and our plans for design and construction. But tonight, I just felt the need to share this story. It’s probably way too in depth and most people will care only about the future posts of sharing plans for the home. But I know some of you have been listening to my story. You are curious about what has led up to this new chapter of our lives. And I wanted to share quite honestly that the process of getting to this point has not come easily.
LITTLE STEPS & BIG SACRIFICES
It has never been our ideal situation to live with our parents for periods of time, say “no” to occasions of going out with friends, and certainly not to keep using one of our cars that is literally destroyed from when it was stolen from us, totaled, and then returned. But we’ve happily, and sometimes not so happily, made these sacrifices because they never compared to what we were working toward for our family. I’m so thrilled to put this all behind us now. And I seriously can’t wait to share the process of this journey!
I’d also love to hear from you…
What would you like us to share on our journey? What would you like to learn about the planning, design, or construction process?