Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Great Land Rush (from Edrianna’s perspective)

The Great Land Rush (from Edrianna’s perspective)
Remember when I mentioned that Jim picked up a Real Estate magazine and I asked him what he was doing? Well the short version of this was that he suggested I begin the land hunt because it was a bit overwhelming for him: too many listings to weed through, too many hours on the phone with the agent, too many hours on the computer. Jim was busy designing our house and researching green systems. Of course we talked about what we wanted before I started hunting and one thing we both agreed on was that we needed an agent.

Kathy, my sister in-law (who owns the cabin we are staying in) mentioned her friends, Mark and Tim, who were using an agent they really loved and maybe we should check her out. I got in touch with Mark and asked about purchasing land near Asheville. He sent me a wonderful email about things to look for and the name of his agent: Georgia Gantt with Keller Williams. We talked several times over the phone while we were still in Florida and she started sending me listings. This was our check list: 10 acres or more, private, southern view, tree covered with no lawn to mow, within 45 minutes of downtown Asheville, quiet (no trains or planes or noisy neighbors); we actually didn’t want to be able to see our neighbors if possible, water on the property (stream or creek), 3000 ft in elevation (or higher), starry sky at night with no light pollution, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

In the RAW
Purchasing “raw” land can be a bit tricky with all the things you need to consider. We needed to make sure the road to the property was accessible so we didn’t have to put thousands of dollars into constructing one and ultimately maintaining it. We also hoped to find something with a road we could actually drive on since we don’t own a 4 wheel drive vehicle. We needed electricity – it costs big bucks to get electricity on your property if it isn’t already there. We also needed water. The standard is to drill a well – more big bucks! Or you can use a spring – a little too risk for us considering all the chemicals that are being dumped on the land. And where would all the sewage go? Into the new septic tank – ka-ching! And if there wasn’t already septic on the property we would have to do a Perk (or perc) Test. Means just like it sounds; you have to make sure the water going into the drain field will percolate into the ground. Trust me, I didn’t know all this stuff in the beginning – Georgia educated us.  

So with all this new knowledge our check list began to grow. I put all the listings she sent into a spread sheet to organize all the properties based on the features we were hoping for. I sent it to Georgia – lucky woman!

Choose Your Horses Wisely
We met Georgia in the afternoon after meeting with Sundance. She told us ahead of time to dress appropriately because we would be looking at land that day. We complied. I knew I liked her the moment we met – she and I have the same hiking boots. We filled out some paperwork then jumped into her Subaru Outback and started exploring properties. Just about every other car in Asheville is a Subaru Outback and we soon found out why: rock, mud, steep slopes, logging roads, winding mountain roads, hairpin turns, downed tree branches, and horse and cow poo – we drove through it all. Thank goodness we didn’t run into any snow, but if we had, Georgia would have gotten us safely through it. The directions to most of the properties were like being on a treasure hunt: right after the second pond (drainage ditch), straight on till you reach the barn at the end of the road (but then what?), take the left fork (oops, the SECOND left fork).
(J) – I wondered if the signs that read Trespassers Will Be Shot were just bluffs or should be taken more seriously.
I should mention, just because it is funny, the first day out I sat in the front seat and Jim was in the back. Every trip after that Jim was in the front.
(J) – I didn’t know our green journey would include me turning GREEN!

Whittling Down The List
So after the first day out we were a bit discouraged. Only one property held some possibilities for us; but still, it only had a few of the features we wanted. It would require us to construct a long road, it was mostly pasture, we could see and hear the neighbors (especially their howling hound); but the views were incredible!

On the second day out we found another piece of property we liked better; but…. I should mention that some of the property we were looking at was pretty far out in the country. We received a personal tour from the woman who owned the property (farm!) She was selling off one of the pastures and wooded areas so she could finally retire from her two 6 day a week, 10 hours a day nursing jobs. We started the tour by walking across a pasture in order to find the trail she referred to as the road – not really. Once we reached the summit the views were absolutely breathtaking. We began imagining where our house would sit but quickly realized that we would need an even longer road than the previous property. She regaled us with stories of life on her farm: picking berries, apple trees, how she lets her horses wander free, her disappointment in her relative planting pines that block her view of the river (would have been nice to see),  the numerous deer she sees on the property, which she names; but are hunted by poachers (a bit scary), how her son wants to be a butcher so he practices on hogs at the bottom of the hill (I know we are in the country but that is a little creepy no matter where you come from), and she explained how she wanted the new owners of her property to agree to let her ashes be placed in the abandoned iron ore mine (after she is dead of course). Yikes!  All kidding aside, she was so charming and a delight to walk and talk with and her property was breathtaking; and we were grateful for her overabundance of honesty. We did actually consider it but because of the cost of putting in a road we ultimately decided to move on.

By day three we honed our filtering system. All we would have to do is approach a property and Jim and I would both say, “Pass.” Georgia was such a trooper. She would quietly turn the car around and nod her head in agreement. We saw one or two properties and then were on our way to the next one. It seemed really interesting, came with photos and really clear directions to the site (why didn’t everybody think of that). The piece that intrigued us most was the photo of a sign that read “Loose Horses” hanging from a gate. We made it to this point with no problem, opened the gate and entered. Holy Cow, it was like entering a multi million dollar estate – beautiful. Yep, loose horses. We followed the directions to the left fork (found it with no problem) and went through the second gate. No road issues so far and we were feeling pretty lucky. After a short drive down a nice gravel road (thank goodness) we came to the site. A beautiful mountain laurel, rhododendron, and tree covered property, with massive rock formations scattered throughout. I kept saying to Jim and Georgia, “Do you hear that?” I heard what sounded like rushing water. We followed a bulldozed trail down a sloping hill and then made our way through the thicket until we reached a creek, about 200’ lower than where we parked the car.
(J) – I knew this because I checked it out on my handy dandy altimeter/compass/barometer/clock I got at L. L. Bean for $34.00 (well worth it).
Wow. We started at 3500 feet (500’ higher than one of our prerequisites). And it’s a creek, not a dried up stream that flows only after it rains, but a real creek, it was even babbling. We actually had to figure out how to cross it, it was that big. I started imagining camp fires, tent sites, roasting marshmallows and dark starry nights. We were both sold! Not completely sure if we were still on the property we decided to head back up to the car. I found an animal trail that made the walk (climb) much easier. This property was now on the top of our list, actually it was the only one on our list. We had a few more to see before the end of the day so Georgia turned her Subaru around once again and we headed out. “Pass, pass!” Nothing measured up. It was time for lunch and discuss our recent discovery; we found the treasure. We were very impressed but not sure we had seen the whole property. Georgia set up a meeting with the seller for the next day. 

                                        Here's Georgia and Edrianna given the seal of approval.

Going from Awesome to Wicked Awesome!
The next day we climbed into the owner’s 4 wheel drive and he drove us over to the other side of the property. We had to pass through 4 relatives properties (we found out they were all heirs to the original owner). The route took us past two pastures, small pond (the raccoons ate all the fish), abandoned cabin, logging road, through the creek (no bridge), through the upper pasture where we were greeted by Angus cows (big cows), across the top ridge, and we finally came to a stop in front of downed trees. We had left the road a good while back. The owner got out and directed us to the place on the property where he had intended to build a home. Holy Cow, what a view! This was the wicked awesome part. Sold again!

This is the view from the western end of the property. The mountain in the background is called little Pisgah.
Big Decision
We thought long and hard about putting our home on the site with the amazing view but eventually decided against it. We chose to preserve it and have something we could hike to and be awed by instead of destroying it by plopping a house in the middle of it. Of course we haven’t bought it yet, but we did decide to make an offer. The other things we were considering were how much we liked the other side for a home site: its closeness to the road in, how close it was to utilities, and the fact that the road was already in place.

This is the main gate to our property. It reminds me of entering a ranch. Just a side note, when we drove here for the first time and I got out of the car to open this gate, I looked down and found a large turkey feather. I see this as a symbol of good luck.

Due Diligence
What the heck does that mean? It means, I accept your offer, give me $100 and you have till April 8th to figure out if you still want the property. For us it meant getting a builder on the site to determine if the site was buildable; hire a surveyor to verify the property lines; pay the county $800 for a Perk Test, locate the drain field for the septic tank, and get a permit for the well, hire a real estate attorney, and wait. 
The site topograghy is a amazing. When we close on the property, I'll have the oportunity to take some more shots of the interior areas. There are gigantic boulder and cliff formations throughout the site.
The entire property has the character of a national park.

There is an abundance of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel

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