By Amie Martin
You had been dreaming about it for years. Then came the day. You could no longer ignore the tickle of that little bug making its way to your derriere. You broke down, scratched the itch, and started planning. And… like a big, dry campfire log that – after much labor and love – has finally caught… there was no stopping you. You decided to build your own home!
You’ve done hundreds of hour’s worth of homework. You’ve chosen the perfect architectural plan. You’ve researched interior materials and designs ‘til you dropped, and can’t wait to wow the world with the brilliant results that will say you (or your family) in all the perfect ways. There’s just one thing left to decide… where to build?
Ahhhh… and if there was but one, concise, little decision-tree to follow that would ultimately lead all home-builders-to-be to the perfect answer. Life would be much simpler… and that decision-tree would be über popular! While choosing where to build isn’t an exact science, there are a few universal things to research in choosing the right neighborhood for you. For your family. Most importantly, there are few things that could be worse than building the home of your dreams… only to later find you built it in the place of your nightmares. So with that, be convinced that time invested up front with a great decision-making process is a critical, first step to building your own home. (Really. It can’t be ignored.)
Ultimately, the trick to finding the right place to build is to construct your own decision-tree. Ask your own questions (complete with alternatives), then spend as much time as you need making well-thought-out decisions. If executed correctly and meaningfully, you’ll feel confident knowing that once you’ve explored all answers to questions you value, you will have made a sound decision about where to build your beautiful, new home. Then, let the digging begin! Don’t panic if you’ve never done this before. Here are some guidelines to help get the decision-making juices flowing:
Despite individuals and families having varying tastes and values when it comes to a desirable place to plant your mailbox, there are a handful of universal items people should consider when trying to decide where to build. Some of these include: safety (i.e., what is the crime rate of the proposed area?), amenities (i.e., how close will I be to things like food should I need to stock up in short order?), access (i.e., given my method of transportation, how accessible do I need to be to things like: highways, schools, community centers, etc.?) and finally, longevity (i.e., how long do I plan to live in my dream home? Is it a starter home intended as an investment, or one in which I am already dreaming of spoiling the grandkids?). If you’ve answered these very basic questions; or, if these things are at least swirling around your head pretty close to the surface as you develop your decision tree, you should be able to narrow your choices down to a few local neighborhoods or communities and begin your decision-making process.
More specific things to consider, once you’ve determined “the biggies” (mentioned above):
- Culture* of the proposed community. (Are the communities I’m considering inclusive of people with similar value sets as my own?) This question is often the proverbial elephant in the room… and, like the elephant, often overlooked, but should definitely be explored.
- Property/real estate/resale values in the proposed community. (This doesn’t matter quite as much if you’re happy in every other way and you’re positive you’ll live happily ever after in your dream dwelling for fifty years, but) if you think there is even a chance that you might relocate in the next two to twenty years, you’ll want to consider whether or not you’ll recoup any of your hard-earned – and spent – dough!)
- Livability (Can I really see myself living here?). You’ve done all your research. You know all the statistics about your proposed neighborhood, and you’re ready to build. This is going to sound too simple, but… visit. Talk to proposed neighbors (in both populated and rural settings). Eat at the local restaurant with your family. Take in a movie there – or – spend a weekend in a local hotel and don’t leave the community (except maybe to occasionally drive by the dream lot where you may build). If your children will be attending school, make an appointment to talk with the principal or superintendent to learn about the school’s programs, standards for measuring success rate, etc. Ultimately, you’re throwing a lot of your research to the wind here, and giving yourself the opportunity to get a good, old-fashioned gut feeling about your potential community.
And there are indubitably more things to consider, depending on you or your family’s individual preferences and needs. Don’t worry. Once you start asking yourself some of the critical questions; and, once you do some prudent, objective as well as subjective investigation about a few locations you’re considering for your dream locale, you’ll be able to whip out a decision tree that will help you make the very best decision that is right for you or your family. And the best part? You’ll have no regrets. Now. Let the decision-making commence!
*Community Culture, by the EPA is a 293 page PDF document with a wealth of information on communities (warning: it’s 10 MB): http://epa.gov/care/library/community_culture.pdf