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Posted by Grant in Blacksburg, VA on 8/1/2008

At this point, my dream house is still just a dream awaiting its creation...

I have bought and paid for the three acres we will be building on. I stepped into a lot of equity on these two lots. The developer had significant personal reasons to get his last two lots in his development sold, and I gave him a very low offer that he was pleased to accept. The tax appraisal on the property is almost twice what I ended up paying!

I used the equity from a previous "fixer-upper" that I flipped to pay for the land. I got lucky on that one... Walmart decided to build a Supercenter across the highway from our property and I was able to subdivide and sell the front acre separately as commercial property.

We will also contribute equity from the house we currently live in. It was an investment property. We bought it off of the courthouse stairs for the minimum bid requirement and walked into about $45,000 worth of equity. We moved into this house while we were renovating our sold "fixer upper." We have since remodeled this house as well, and raised its property appraisal by an additional $30,000. At just under 2,000 sq. ft., we feel really "cramped" in this house when we have visitors.

The three acres we purchased has some well-placed mature hardwoods (hickory, oak, sourwood, and maples) on the rear southern exposure and some very large pine trees on the front northern exposure. To the west is a peak of the Appalachian foothills (3rd highest point in our county), with over 120 acres of public land that is intended for a future arboretum and hiking trails. The lot gently slopes from west to east and from north to south, and then has a 30-foot drop at the rear of the property to a seasonal creek. 

The lots are part of a higher-end covenant-restricted neighborhood with curbs, gutters, streetlights, and all utilities buried underground (but unfortunately no sidewalks). The neighborhood is up on a ridge that is one of the highest areas having municipal water supply. Currently, no neighborhood in the city is higher elevation. The houses built so far include two ~10,000 sq. ft. houses, a few ~7,000 sq. ft. houses, a few 4,000 to 5,000 sq. ft. houses, and only one 2,500 sq. ft. house so far, which is the neighborhood minimum allowed. In addition to my unbuilt lots, there are only four other lots left to be built on in the neighborhood. Like me, several owners bought multiple lots for the single residences.

I intend to build an approximately 4,500 sq. ft. "main" house initially, which by finishing the walkout basement and attic over time, I can complete to about 7,500 sq. ft. I may also add an apartment above the attached garage for an eventual total of about 9,000 sq. ft. I also have plans for an earth sheltered guest house (not visible from the street) on the second lot, if it ever makes sense to build. We want to be able to host the whole family for holidays and reunions. (We have five grown kids, just had our 7th grandchild, and will likely have many more grandkids to come as my wife and I are still in our 40's.) Honestly, the neighborhood is a bit higher-end than I would have selected had the lot not been SOOOO perfect. While all of the adult neighbors I have met are down-to-earth, friendly and nice people (and surprisingly most are roughly our age), my childhood experience of growing up in a similar neighborhood was that the children were more materialistic than their parents. I don't want my grandchildren becoming materialistic like that.

On the southeast corner of the property immediately adjacent to the seasonal creek is a likely ~150-year-old white oak tree that rises 20' into the air before descending in a rainbow-like arc to a few feet from the ground and then shoots skyward again at a 45-degree angle. This tree is believed to be an Indian marker tree. The 30-foot hill behind it is covered with mature 6' and 7' mountain laurel bushes. This tree will be the centerpiece of my shade garden that I intend to plant thickly with ferns, hydrangeas, etc. I intend to build a small pond near the Indian tree and create a waterfall down the 30' hill into the pond. [Note: I will be building my house on the Northwest corner of the property (the other side of the other lot) far away from the likely "sacred" Indian tree site, which I intend to respect.]

The water for the waterfall will either be supplied by a pump from the pond below, and/or perhaps by the water from an open-loop well source, geothermal heat pump for the house above. The neighborhood storm water "dumps" into the middle of my two lots and I intend to capture that high volume of rain water along with gutter rain water in a cistern for landscape-irrigation use. I will create a combination of underground storm pipes and dry creek beds to channel the excess storm water to the waterfall so that it can exit my property via the seasonal creek. 

Above the Indian tree, the middle of the lot has a relatively deep ravine, which I someday intend to turn into two koi and turtle ponds with a moon bridge and waterfall between the two ponds. These will be the center of my ~one acre Japanese garden on that "extra" lot. If I ever build my earth-sheltered guest house, it will open up onto a rear southern deck at the upper mouth of the ravine with the deck overlapping and floating a couple of feet above part of the upper pond. I hope to use a modern Japanese architecture blended with the feel of a Japanese tea house for this future guesthouse.

But alas, such landscaping is part of a 20 year plan for the property and for now, that really is nothing but dreams...




The "cool tree" as my soon to be 6-yr-old granddaughter calls it...

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