As an interior designer, I have always wanted to plan a house from start to finish; certainly for the experience, but also as a test of my accumulated knowledge and skills. Can I build a house that functions perfectly for my family, projects the essence of who we are, and stay within budget? I sort of doubt it, but I’m going to give it a try and I’d love for you to join me along the way.
One thing I will say about me is that I am always willing to get help from others. I have never felt that I am smarter than anyone else or that I don’t need help from anyone. Quite the contrary, I prefer to get other opinions, mull them over and combine those thoughts with mine to determine the best way to go.
So, you are coming into the process at a point where I have purchased a piece of land, I have selected my builder, and am very close to having a plan I like ready for the architect. I will now give you a few more details about the process so far.
Purchasing the Land
First, I live in Florida. I moved here about 10 years ago because I love the outdoors and wanted to spend more time in it! My husband and I have been looking to purchase a piece of property just a little bigger than the postage stamp we currently live on in our gated community. Our back yard is about 10 feet deep from the shrubbery around our house to the jungle behind it. And, in those 10 feet I’ve seen alligators, bobcats, deer, snakes, spiders and scorpions….sooo, I’m not setting foot on it!! Our side yards are a bit narrower than that and we have about 20 feet out front.
After growing up in Ohio where we spent every decent day outdoors, it’s weird not to be able to go outside, thus the interest in a larger piece of land. Well, we looked within a radius of about 10 miles of our current home because my daughter lives across the street from me right now and my son goes to school here so we didn’t want to stray too far.
About 3 years ago, we found a horse community about 10 miles from our home, east of I-75, the large freeway through our area. The entrance is across the street from a National Cemetery which is gorgeous and some of our friends are there and that holds comfort for me.
The community if filled with 5-6 acre parcels with either farmhouses or ranch style homes, some with barns, stables, or guest houses on the property. Most places have three rail fences surrounding and motorized gates for entry. There are long crushed shell driveways, lots of ponds, and horse paths throughout.
Well, we visited this community every week or two in the evenings to watch all the wandering deer or catch the flight of a hawk or an eagle. We brought friends and family there to talk about this quieter style of living and how it might be to live 5 miles from Publix instead of 1! Hahahaha, not really roughing it too much!
During that year and a half we called our realtor and had him take us through every house that went up for sale in the neighborhood so we could get a feel for what type of houses were there and what price range they were in. This was one of my favorites, with 3 bedrooms in the main house and a 1 bedroom apartment over a semi-attached 2 car garage.
Inside, the kitchen was compact but very nicely appointed. What I like best was a painted mural on the walls of fenced pastures, trees and farmhouses. I loved the wood floors and red painted country counter stools. This was kind of setting that made me feel at home!
Then, we noticed a small for sale sign pointing back off the road and we got up the courage to drive down the long shell driveway. At the end, it split in two. To the right was a ranch home with fences and a gated entrance and to the left was an opening to a lot with a circular driveway and two buildings. One looked large like an extra garage and the other was a pump house or something probably for a well pump and all that entails.
We made a phone call to the number on the sign to ask if we could drive onto the property to look around and to ask a few questions. The details were that there had been a house there and the current owners had torn it down to build a new one. However, their builder got ill and they decided to halt the process until he was well. In the meantime, the housing market crashed, this was about 2007- 2008 and the owner’s decide to purchase another home they found at a great price and just sell this property. Apparently it had been for sale for quite some time as we started our search in 2011.
So, we saw the property for the first time in the spring of 2013 and had very strong feeling towards it. The pond on the property was lovely, there were large areas of gently undulating grasses, some of the big trees were live oaks and eucalyptus, along with laurel oaks and a few palms that sprinkle the shade around the space, giving you options for warmth and cool.
My son was enamored with the tree house that was already built there and every time we visited, we would go up inside it to stare at the lovely surroundings. The east side of the property was lined with horse fence and then the community horse path. Beyond that is the back of a home from the next neighborhood with stables of a half dozen horses. I’ve been there when the horses are running and snorting and it’s a beautiful sound and sight!
About 6 months later we got more serious and met the land owner’s at the site to see inside the 30’ x 40’ garage on the property. Although the roof was dirty and the building needed to be painted, inside was a section of shop cabinets, places to hang tools and plenty of room for a tractor, a utility vehicle, and apparently a “man cave” as the boys kept telling me! It has two garage doors, one at each end so you can drive right through and a man door on the back that can’t be seen in this photo.
Well, I’ll bet we drove out to that piece of land – 6.25 acres by the way – a dozen times over the next couple of months trying to decide if we were up to the task of taking care of the land and building a house.
One of the afternoons that we were visiting, an eagle swooped down by us and landed in one of the eucalyptus trees where we were standing. Honestly, I think he sealed the deal. We just HAD to live out here with nature and enjoy all that this neighborhood had to offer. We made an offer (after paying to have the property appraised since we didn’t have any true idea of it’s value) and over a couple of days settled on a price and on December 16, 2013 the property became ours.
So the process of actually finding the property, making sure it fit our needs and gave us that feeling of home took about 3 years. We looked everywhere within our 10 mile radius and visited all sorts of communities and home styles, and we now know this is where we are meant to be. Don’t rush this stage of building your dream house. When you find a place you keep dreaming about and want to spend every moment at, you’ll know you’ve found it!
We put our house on the market and the wait began. We didn’t want to put any more of our cash into the building process until we had sold our current home. In the event we couldn’t sell the house, we could put a “For Sale” sign back up on the property and hopefully recoup our investment. During this time I worked on house plans. You can read more about that in Diary of a Dream House – Part 3: Drawing up House Plans. And, make sure to check out Part 2 which describes how I selected a builder with tips for helping you to do the same. Both new articles are coming soon.