Saturday, April 27, 2013

Problematic Plan B

We received very little news on the property in York County this week, but the piece we did get is good. FIL said the folks selling the land seem more motivated to get the problems fixed and the deal settled. When I posted last, he seemed to believe we needed to kiss the land good-bye (bye, bye - woo, see ya!), but when we met with him today, he was much more optimistic we could still land this land!

Regardless of the slightly positive change in the tide, FIL, hubby, and I went on a little trip to walk the Plan B property in Williamsburg today. Before discussing our experience walking the land, I have to share a quick side-bar about the Williamsburg property.

Begin side-bar:
Since we made the decision to buy a house (even before building was an option), we have wanted to end up in York County. I discussed this in the previous post, but to summarize, I wanted to settle in York County for its central location to both Chris and my work places and the stellar schools.

When we decided to build, we immediately found the piece of land in York County, and I was thrilled. But unfortunately, that excitement made the bad news about the land even harder to take. I told myself we would find something else in York County, but once we saw approximately five pieces and HATED them all, I tried to let go of York County and decided Williamsburg was just as nice. It helped that we found such a beautiful piece of land in the Plan B property.

Once we found our Plan B last weekend, we were anxious to find out more details and check out the actual property lines. So, I looked up the city of Williamsburg's assessment site. I happily typed in the address and wanted. The site quickly retorted: No searches match your criteria. I tried one more time but no dice. Hmmm...

Then, an epiphany: Of course, it isn't listed on the Williamsburg website, but the Williamsburg proper is so small; most of the land up there is actually in James City County.
Note for non-Virginians: Cities in Virginia are not contained within counties; we have cities and counties, but they are independent of each other. To make it even more confusing, we decided to name one of our counties: James City County.

Then, I tried James City County assessment website, but my search came up empty again. I was perplexed - the land couldn't be a city of its own. I panned out on the James City County map and followed a familiar road to where I knew the land was located. Then, I zoomed in.

The land wasn't listed on the Williamsburg or James City County sites because it's in York County! Just barely in York County, with the back of the property sitting on the border of Williamsburg. I have lived in this area for 10 years ago, but I can honestly say I had no idea York County was so expansive. Both properties are in York, but it would probably take 30 minutes to get from one to the other. So, I guess either piece we end up with, we'd be York Countians.

End side-bar.

As for the land walk this morning... it unfortunately did not go well. Husband and I saw the land last weekend, but of course, we have never built a house, and we aren't sure what's good land and what isn't. We knew the property was sloped in areas, but we hoped there was enough level land to build.

This morning, FIL walked up, down, and all around the plot. He measured and estimated. He did lots of math. Then, he laid it on us: We could build here, but we wouldn't have a useable backyard because the land is too sloped to do anything with it. We would have a small front yard and a beautiful deck but no backyard of which to speak.

I thought, "Well then, we're done with this land." There's no way we can't have a useable backyard. Ariel is a 67-pound, certifiably insane mutt, and she needs a yard. Furthermore, once we have kids, I'm sure they would like a yard. And where would a vegetable garden go?!

FIL and Chris continued to discuss it for a few minutes - FIL showed what tricks we could use to get the most out of the front, but it wasn't going to work. I finally spoke up - "I don't want this land if we can't have a backyard." And Chris nodded, "I was thinking the same thing."

So, that's it. The Williamsburg land is out of the running. And I am so thankful we have clear non-negotiables because it made letting go of a beautiful, well-priced piece of land so easy. We have our eye on other Plan B properties, but nothing that struck us the way the Williamsburg piece did. Our hope is that the York County piece (well, the first York County piece) will work out. It is still the most ideal piece for us (especially because it will have a huge yard).

We will just have to keep our fingers crossed. Will you cross yours too (please)?

Positoovely yours,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Setbacks, New Starts, and Plan B

I've just started this blog, and I'm already behind. I'm sorry about that, but I'm telling you I have a great excuse... if there is such a thing.

Originally, I planned on doing an update twice a week and gradually increase my updates as time went on and allowed. At the time, I already had my second post topic in mind - I was going to introduce you to our land. I had taken some quick shots of the property from different angles and even some of Ariel (our dog who we love like a child) trouncing and bouncing around it. Oh, what the heck, I'll post the picture anyway! Here she is:
"I can't wait to have a yard of my own!"
However, before my fingers could hit the keys, I wanted to make sure we had closed on the land, and after some investigation, I learned we hadn't. I decided to delay my post until we closed. But after a couple of weeks, that day still hasn't come. So now, I sit (virtually) before you with a new topic in mind - our first setback.

Start the back story:
When Chris's dad, Willie, who is a general contractor, mentioned building us a house back in February (oh, where has the time gone?), I originally didn't want to do it. I was set against it for a lot of reasons, but the biggest reason was I didn't want to go through the process of finding a parcel of land. Not to mention, we live in Hampton Roads, an incredibly developed megalopolis, that doesn't have a lot of land to offer. I didn't think we'd be able to find something affordable in a city we liked.

However, Willie quickly proved me wrong when he quickly found a 1.1-acre plot in York County.
I was shocked - it was a large piece of land (more than enough for Princess Ariel to enjoy) in York County, which has some of the best schools in Hampton Roads, for an affordable price. Sure, it had some downsides: less-than-desirable neighboring houses and some brush that needed to be cleared. But in the grand scheme of things, I couldn't think of finding a nicer piece of land in our price range. After some soul-searching, dozens of debates with the husband, and several intensive interviews with every one of my parents, I finally sided with Chris, who had been in favor of building since the first suggestion of it. The land in York County was a big motivation for me, but last week, we found out we might need to say goodbye to that land.

Now to the story you've been waiting for:
For the past three weeks, I knew we were hitting some roadblocks in the closing process, but we aren't leading the effort. We made an agreement with the father-in-law (FIL) that he would purchase the land using his equity and build the house, and once completed, he would sell us the house - just as if we were purchasing any other house. The big difference would be we were going to make all the decisions about the building.
So, FIL has been working to close on this land since we made the decision to build at the beginning of March. It's now mid-April, and still, the closing looms because the seller is dragging his feet (weird, right?!). He previously said he thought things would work out, but last week, he had a disheartening conversation with Chris. The seller of the property is being uncooperative, and FIL can't seem to motivate him to get this deal taken care of faster. If we had all the time in the world, it might be OK. But we don't have that kind of time - we're aiming to have this thing built by September - November, at the latest. So, FIL made this suggestion to us: look for a plan B.

After a day of pouting (I didn't want to start the process over again), we did just that. My always-diligent hubby managed to find several other pieces of land scattered across Hampton Roads - some were in our current neck of the woods of Suffolk, some in York County, others in Smithfield (home of the ham), and a couple in Williamsburg.

We looked at the York County properties first. We had decided on York County originally, and we thought it would be best to move forward with that plan still. But the land out there was either smaller, pricier, and/or sketchier than the 1.1-acre lot we wanted.

On Saturday, we drove to Williamsburg, with my mommy in the back seat, to see the land out there. Most of it, we found out, was in a gated community, called Fords Colony, that we couldn't enter (not fancy enough, I suppose). But we did see two pieces that seemed appealing. Both were smaller than the York County land but not by much - not to mention, they were both cheaper and in nicer neighborhoods.

The first one we saw was lovely and in a wooded neighborhood with quiet streets and friendly folks living next door. However, it was on a severe slope. We could have probably make it work, but it would cost us. So we decided it was a no-go.

The second was a little more mysterious. It was listed as for sale on the website, but there wasn't a sign out, yet. This made it difficult to figure out where the property lines were. The land was either on a slope like the other piece, or it included a nice flat section, perfect for house building.
Fortunately,  when we looked at the property lines online, we found out it was the latter.

On Sunday, we looked at Suffolk and Smithfield, but we were still smitten with the Williamsburg land - no matter what we saw. Williamsburg schools are well-respected like York County's, and there is something incredibly beautiful and charming about the area (I'm sure you know what I mean if you'd been there). Also, we would be very close to the interstate. I would have a longer drive to work (to downtown Newport News), but I was starting to think it would be worth it.

When I approached Chris, we knew at once we were on the same page. If the York County land fell through, we wanted this property. We informed FIL, and we should know by the end of the week what will happen.

Either way, I think we'll end up with a great piece of land on which to build our home. I haven't decided which piece is my favorite, so for the time being, I'll just be happy to close on either.

Side note: I'm going to keep my promise for sure this time to update twice a week from now on.

Positoovely yours,

Monday, April 1, 2013


Welcome to my blog! I have been considering starting a blog for a while, but I just haven't pulled the trigger. But now, I have the perfect reason to start blogging - my sanity! Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes could probably tell you writing is my passion. I have been journaling and exploring different genres of writing since I was young, and it has always been relaxing to me. 

So, writing seemed like it would have to take a front seat again in my life when my hubby, Chris, and I decided to build a house this year. Building a house will be an awesome venture, and I am very excited about the prospect of building something uniquely our own.

However, I would be lying if I didn't admit I am bit neurotic and anxious about such rigorous decision-making that will have such a lasting impact on our lives, so I realize I might need a little something special to clear my head in all the madness (and to avoid making my husband nuts in the process). Short of a prescription for Paxil, this fits the bill perfectly.

My hope is that this blog can be an entertaining spot for you to keep up with our house-building antics and a soothing place for me to collect my thoughts. And with any luck, it'll be fun for everyone.

Therefore, welcome to my madness. I hope you like gingers who just might snap.