I had found the cutest one acre piece of land quite by accident. I think it was about 2001. At the time I was boarding my horse at a small boarding barn right next to High Cliff State Park (with several miles of gently rolling horse trails!). At first I didn’t notice the square piece of fallow land just a short distance away from the barn.
After a couple months I asked the barn owner if that little piece next to their farm was theirs, or if they knew whose it was. She did know a name, but not how to contact them.
A few days later I drove down to the Calumet County courthouse to look through plat map books for a name and contact information to go with that piece of land. It turned out it was the daughter of the couple that previously owned the adjoining horse farm.
At first I sent a letter politely inquiring about buying the piece. I followed it up a few days later with a phone call– that way they’d have time to let it sink in, as opposed to calling them out of the blue. I knew it was a long shot, and of course they said ‘no thanks’. I thanked them for their time anyway, knowing I’d try to contact them again in a few months.
After over a year and politely inquiring with them 3 or 4 times, they finally gave in. I think it was my last letter stating that I would just love to be a steward to their remaining piece of their parents’ farm and how I longed to live in the country. I was very thankful that they did as my marriage was sliding even closer to ‘splitsville’ and I needed a place to move away to.
When the sale of the land went through I went about asking questions of Calumet County about building there. First I had to obtain a Land Use Permit. Then they directed me to the Town of Sherwood for the actual building permit.
Because this piece of land wasn’t in any subdivision it didn’t come with any building covanents. Apart from the setback and height limits (and standard building codes) I was pretty free to design as I pleased. but, I knew at the outset it was going to be pretty small and cottage-like anyway.
As for financing: my soon-to-be-ex agreed to apply for a home equity line of credit on our house in town, and we would figure out splitting the loan later. We got one for $75,000 without much trouble. So the money I obtained to use for this project didn’t come with all the building restrictions of a construction loan. In hindsight that was a major stroke of good fortune.
Not that I was intending to build something “alternative” in a quick and slipshod way. But, if the bank knew we were about to go through a divorce they might have had some serious concerns about my future ability to pay it back. They really didn’t have to worry as I had a fairly secure job as a med tech at a local hospital lab.
Between the time we (soon to be just I) bought the land until the time of breaking ground was about a year. During that time I poured through so many books, magazines, and websites looking at potential house plans. I feel I’m pretty good at mentally turning a floor plan and elevation drawings into a 3D image in my head, so I was able to quickly get a feel for the “workability” of a plan.
A big red accordion-style folder was used to amass all the notes and paperwork I’d be accumulating for the project. I ended up ordering plans from a website for a small (about 1100 sf) cabin type plan. Unless you have a very complex and large house plan I really don’t see why you’d need more than one set of plans. So I turned over my one set to the Town of Sherwood building inspector, along with an extra drawing by a local architect of a full basement for the house (the original plans showed a slab).
Approved! So, on to investigating subcontractors…..