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The Search for Land

When we decided to build our own house, the first thing we needed to decide was where should we build? Our last house was on the east side of Denver which I never particularly liked. I found it hard to get around town and we were on the opposite side of town from the mountains which meant an added 20 minutes drive when we wanted to spend time in the wilderness. Fortunately Amy  agreed so we decided on the west side of Denver. When we sold our house, we found a place to rent on the west side of town. The thought was that if I’m going to be the GC (General Contractor) on the house building project, I didn’t want to have to drive a long distance each time I had to go to the construction site. An added benefit was we got to see what it was like to live on that side of town. That helped us narrow down our potential area to roughly within southern Arvada, Wadsworth Blvd, Alameda, and I-25. Now all we had to do was wait for the perfect piece of land to come on the market.

Most people at this point would get a realtor and see what is out there. I decided not to use a realtor for several reasons. The biggest reason is that I don’t believe the current real estate system is fair. The MLS (Multiple listing Service) is basically held hostage so you can’t list a house unless you have a realtor. And even if you tried to sell your house on your own, no realtor would show your house to their clients unless you agree to pay their ridiculous fee. And the fact that the fee is percentage based is not right. This should be a flat fee. After all, what does a realtor do these days any ways? You can search for homes on the Internet your self. They very clearly state they are not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice on contracts. So what do they do? Don’t get me started.  🙂

Anyway, we set up a couple searches on recolorado.com (the local MLS website) that send us an email when something matches and started looking at building sites. There were a surprising number of lots that would pop up on a regular basis. Sometimes they would look great online. We could look at satellite images, check crime statistics, and get a pretty good idea. But there is no replacement for putting your feet on the ground. One particular lot looked perfect. It was more or less square, a good size (we wanted larger than 7,500 sq ft, 0.17 acres which was the size of our last lot), near a new light rail station and had relatively easy access to highways. But when we went to look at it, there were high-tension power lines right over the top of the property. The idea of living under a huge magnetic field was a deal-breaker. There were other lots that had their own problems. Some were just too narrow which is common in Denver, others were on a sketchy street, and some just didn’t feel right.

Another lot I really liked was a good size and already had water which is a huge plus (see my post on tap fees). The problem was it was in a neighborhood with far too many apartment buildings.  This tends to lead to higher crime rates and lower property values. After about three months of looking, we ended up going back to a lot I had looked at a while before. I had ruled it out because the lot was sloping and I ha always planned on building on a flat lot. But after thinking it over, we realized we could make it work. And there was one special plus to this lot, it has sweeping mountain views. I contacted the listing agent Jim (who is very nice by the way. Although I dislike the the real estate system, I do not dislike all realtors. Jim told us the land was a bank-owned property that had been on the market for a long time. The bank was very interested in selling the property so we came to an agreement and are currently under contract. There is a slight issue with an easement not being recorded with the county, so we’re getting that figured out now (see my post on title insurance). Hopefully we will close shortly and we can move forward. We have already started designing the house to fit on the land and incorporate southern exposure for passive solar, and and western mountain views. Exciting!