The first order of business was finding the land we wanted to put a home on. I had been looking at home in the area for years and years but had never paid much attention to vacant land. Jen and I had to do some serious research. We spent weeks learning about land purchasing and building before we made our initial offer. We researched area locations for permitting rules, school quality, crime, etc. For permitting laws, we focused on allowable construction methods such as modular, stick built, manufactured and panel construction. We read up on the differences of unimproved land versus improved and what the expiration is on permits for sellers who got through the permit process before deciding to sell. We asked around to anyone and everyone for references to a good builder who was licensed and bonded to work in King County and if they took care of permits as well. Even though some builders are willing to hold your hand though the permit process, if you own the land, you are ultimately responsible and will end up doing much of the work.
Once we figured out where we wanted the land, it didn't take us long to find an acceptable parcel. Our offer was on a shy acre of unimproved land on Lake Desire. It was unclear how build-able the land would be but there were homes on either side of it and the terrain wasn't much different across the narrow, rectangular shape lots. The parcel we were interested in had a crushed rock driveway down to the water and an existing dock in need of repair. The parcel itself was an over-grown jungle. I literally couldn't walk through it and I'm an athletic, 6', 200lb man. I was pretty sure there were long lost Native American tribes still living there. There were some construction tape flags hung about the property, so it was clear someone had spent some time and money researching the build-ability There was no way to figure out who though and later this become very unfortunate for us.
Our initial offer was made in December 2005. It was a low ball offer on a parcel that had been for sale a very long time and had at least one offer flip. Our offer was rejected quickly without counter. Disappointed but undeterred, we kept watching the real estate on the surrounding lakes. Toward the end of January, our realtor called and told us the owner of the parcel we bid on would reconsider our offer after another offer had flipped on his property. Actually, the owner reduced the price to 1 dollar below our December offer. Go figure, I saved a buck. We submitted a full price offer and closed in early March 2006. We were now the proud owners of lake front property and some really horrible tax penalties for using 401k's to pull this off.
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