Wood and Stone

A site to track our progress as we build our FirstDay Cottage Canadian house kit. Come on in, get a cup of coffee, set a spell and follow along on our journey or join in if you like. Check back for the weekly update (usually by Wednesday when things are going right) to see what we are currently up to!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Let's Begin at the Beginning

Hallo. Welcome to my blog. My name is Sean, and I will be your driver on this trip. Please keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times and wait until we come to a complete stop before deboarding. This may be a bumpy ride, so kudos to those of you who thought to bring your helmets.

I am new to this whole blog scene, so bear with me, or drift away if you prefer, as I get the hang of it. I mean, I have read a fair number, but never felt a need to have one myself. I decided to start this thing so we have someplace to track our progress toward our goal. I have no doubt there will be massive gaps and posts that no one, not even me, will want to read, but consider this. This blog is really just an online notebook for me to keep track of where we are and what we need to do to get where we are going. If you find anything of use or interest, you have hit it big, and should probably cash out your chips and go home for good measure.

What is that goal you ask? My wife, Wendy, and I have a dream to own our own home. Since we have known each other, Wendy and I have often discussed 'how it will be' when we have our own place. Not a rental, or shared housing (we currently live with my father-in-law, which has its own rewards and challenges), but our own place hat we own outright and (only!) have to share with our children.

The dream has evolved over the 10 years we have been together, but the basic framework has remained the same. We want to own a decent sized piece of land, where we will build our house and be able to live for the rest of our lives. We want an ecologically sound home, meaning that it will not take a lot of fuel to heat or cool, among other things. Furthermore, we have no desire to be shackled by a bank or lending institution with a massive loan that we will have to spend the rest of our lives paying off. This means that we will need to use some "Radical Strategies for Home Ownership".

We will discuss all this more as time goes by, but the main reason to get started is that I want to have this online notebook in place and working by the time we close on the piece of property. The whole while we have lived with Wendy's dad, we have been saving our money toward purchasing a chunk of dirt. While Wendy was pregnant with our son Emmet this year, we decided that it was time to start looking at properties. This was in March or so of 2005.

We used the HomePort MLS search from the Albany Times Union website to keep an eye on available properties and as Spring progressed, when we found something of the right size and price, we would pack our daughter Quinn into the car and take off to do a drive by of the property. We spent a lot of time riding around various places in Albany, Schoharie and Rensselaer counties in NY, looking for land posted for sale and trying to figure out where we wanted to live.

As a method of finding a suitable property to purchase, this sucked. Until you have chased across hill and dale to take a look at listed properties, you have no idea how many people are trying to sell swampland. The ones that are not swamp often have some giant blemish or defect that makes them undesirable, if not unusable. On the other hand, we discovered through our travels which areas we liked, which areas we didn't and ultimately decided where we wanted to live (Rensselaer county). Keeping our eyes out for real estate signs kept us busy and introduced us to many realtors we would have no way of locating.

By late June, we were starting to get a bit crisp around the edges after chasing down properties most weekends and often on weeknights after I would finish work. Besides, as Wendy's pregnancy progressed, it got harder for her to ride around for hours in the car and more than once we pulled over on the side of rarely traveled dirt roads for potty breaks next to the car while I hoped for her sake that no one drove by. Finally I decided we should try to get a real estate agent to look for us and weed out the swamps and the unregistered dumps and save our trips for pre-qualified properties.

I called the North Greenbush office of Prudential Manor Homes to find out if they had anyone who specialized in vacant land. The woman I got on the phone, Jan Shields, answered that she was sorry, they didn't, but asked if she could help. I explained what we were looking for, and she offered to do some looking and send us some leads. Her leads included some properties we were interested in, but after drive bys, nothing really fit. We dragged our heels on getting back to her, and out of the blue she called with a property that she thought would match us.

I did a drive through of the road after work that evening, and really liked it. Unfortunately, there was no sign on the property yet, so I had no idea where exactly the property was. Using the tax map ESRI data from the NYS dept of GIS, I was able to locate the property. We met Jan out there to walk around one day, and after stumbling around for a while on a property that had no good maps and no property line or corner markers (through no fault of Jan's), we felt that we liked the property and the location, and the price was right, but we wanted to keep our options open. Besides, we were going on vacation the next week, and didn't want to get involved in that type of thing right before vacation. We decided to 'vacation' on it and take another look at the property upon our return if we felt we were still interested.

Upon returning from our vacation, we received a message from Jan that another couple had put in an offer on the land (fortunately she is in the same office as the Seller's agent) and she had asked the Seller's agent to advise his client to wait before responding in case we wanted to make an offer. We had 3 days to put an offer on the table, and we weren't even sure if we really wanted the property! My parents took a ride up from Warwick to look at the property with us. After they saw it and didn't tell us we were nuts, and we saw it again and found some spots that would definitely be buildable, we decided we would make an offer. We offered the Seller his asking price, in cash.

Next: more info on the property in question and what happened (though I am sure you can guess from the tone here that it all comes out in the wash).