Thursday, August 27, 2009

One step closer

Well, I wasn't kidding in my previous post whingeing about my forced transfer to a new city for work and my new commute, plus the severely reduced time at home. It shows here in the blog too; I haven't really dug into the web looking for new castles, the ones I've found have been pretty much by chance, and I haven't been working on designs for the home, either. But, some things are progressing. We are just a short time away from sealing the deal on a modest parcel of land. If all goes well, we might be able to build on it in a couple of years; we've got to finish up this place first and wait for the market to look up a little before we sell so the equity can go into a construction loan. Fingers crossed, hope this goes through.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yet to be named Castle

One of the readers here has been working on a castle-type building for quite some time and has finished it! It looks like a combination of older style stone architecture and some Spanish influences. Quite an impressive building.

The builder has posted pictures and links to his blog over in our Castle Builder's Forums.

Huge congratulations for completing such a project!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On buying land

I got asked about things to watch out for when buying property by an anonymous visitor to the site in a comment section to a post. I was going to reply there, but the reply would've been a little long for just a comment, and my hope is that with a post in the main portion of the blog readers may chip in some comments here so that we all can learn something.

First, if you've got a real estate agent, ask them lots of questions. That's why you're paying them lots of money to broker the deal for you. Make sure that they understand what you want to use the land for and can have a good idea of whether it will meet your needs. Mind you, real estate agents generally aren't engineers, surveyors or lawyers too and often cannot provide specific information about exactly what can and cannot be done with the land, but they should be able to point you in the direction of someone who can answer your questions.

Second, ask yourself whether or not the land is truly where you'd want to live. Do you like the community surrounding it? Do you need lots of night-life and entertainment but are looking for land in a rural area where there is no such thing? If you have/want children, are the schools acceptable to you? Are there services nearby such as hospital, post office, grocery stores, doctor's offices, hardware stores, lumberyards, jobs or any of the scores of other things that you'll need to have access to in order to build your home and stay in the area for as long as you want to? Material transport costs can incur noticeable increases in the total price of building a home. Will you need access to these services regularly and wind up spending inordinate amounts of time spent in the car or dollars on fuel just for daily life? Drive from the land to your job during they busy traffic times and see if you can handle doing that every day. It's not easy to wind up with a house being built somewhere only to realize after a while that there are issues about living there (other than the house itself) that will drive you crazy.

Lastly, the land itself. Some of the concerns we've had are things that must be paid attention to no matter what, and others may be only specific to our area - I'll mention everything I can think of.

One is flooding. Talk to an engineer and/or talk to the town hall and make sure that your land is not part of a flood area. You'll have a hard time or next to impossible time getting loans to build on land that is designated a flood area and if you do build there the insurance costs will be much higher (if you can even get insurance), plus you might get stuck with extra construction costs to deal with the possibility of flooding. Flood area avoidance is imperative in my opinion.

Another is environmental issues. Make sure that your land does not have designated wetlands over a significant portion of it, or over where you might want to build. These wetlands may incur significant expense when it comes to your ability to install a septic system, may prevent you from building where you thought would give you the best view or whatever made you desire to build in a specific area, and could incur extra expenses such as running utilities and driveways to a further location. Wetlands can essentially render your lot useless, impractical or unaffordable for building, so make sure you aren't getting them unbeknownst you you, and make sure that there aren't plans in motion by the town/county to expand them on/onto your property.

Mind you, I'm not against wetland preservation, the land we are looking at has wetlands designated on it, and we will not disturb them. In fact we will be happy to have them and will protect them along with the critters that need them to survive, we would consider it our duty. I just don't want to see someone's dream home plans get smashed after purchase because of incomplete information about the property. If you can buy property with wetlands and successfully build your house with minimal/no additional expense, great! I hope you'll consider keeping those wetlands safe too.

Roads. If there is a road near the property, consider what would happen if they decided to widen it for more traffic and how that would affect you and where you built your house. Where I grew up they widened the road twice; the second time we were forced to move our fence several feet in order to provide proper setback from the road. At our expense. Not to mention we lost that land to the county.

How about if you want to build on a hillside - some places require that a road with a certain grade be made to the house so that emergency vehicles such as a fire truck can get to it. Can you afford such a road? It not, will it affect your insurance premiums? How about availability of a water source nearby for fire vehicles? I've been asked about that when applying for homeowner's insurance, and it does affect premiums. It may not be much, but over a lifetime it can add up.

Talk to an engineer or whoever will check the land and determine where you can build and what type of septic you can install. The engineers will determine what type of foundation you will need, whether or not you can have a basement, what type of septic you can have and a number of other things all based on the type of soil you have and how close to the surface bedrock is. Consider the septic alone; if you buy land without it being checked and discover later on when you start the process for building that the engineers determine you must have an above-ground septic, that could mean up to $20,000 in additional construction costs and materials instead of $5,000-$10,000 for a normal in-ground septic. Not a surprise you want at all.

Is there water available? Is it safe to drink? How much does it cost to have a well drilled? How much to have water trucked in if it is unsuitable for drinking?

If you want high-speed internet, is there DSL or cable at the road or nearby? How much to have it brought to the property? How about electricity? How much to have that brought to the house? Trash pickup? Is it provided municipally? Do you have to hire it out to a trash pickup service or will you need to make trips to the dump yourself? If cable/internet is too far away, can you handle satellite and dial-up?

How about taxes? Can you afford them where you're buying the land? How much will the taxes increase when you put a house on the land?

These are just the things off the top of my head that we have thought of while looking for and beginning the process of buying property. I hope it helps, and I also hope that any readers that have experience or other pertinent information about buying land will chime in and give their $.02 worth.

Oh, and last but not definitely not least: Make sure your other half, if you have one, is %100, uneqivocally on-board with this castle-on-a-piece-of-land idea. No matter how much work you put into it, no matter how beautiful the land, if your partner secretly can't stand it or you ignored their opinions on the subject you'll wind up unhappy one way or the other and wind up paying a price. I believe Mr. Busboom says as much in his castle interview here on the site as well. Sage advice.

Good luck with your purchase!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Burke's Castle burns

I didn't know about this castle, but leaned about it through an NPR article. It was owned by the man who ran Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Article here: Click Slideshow here: Click

Not an owner built castle, but interesting nonetheless.

Rozniks' Castle

Rozniks' Castle

My other half discovered an NPR article that talked about modern castles. It must've been a slow news day - no scandals or other events to cover ad nauseam - to cover a fringe subject like this; but that's one of the reasons why we like NPR, they cover some really oddball interesting things like this. At any rate, one of the castles they mentioned was Rozniks' Castle near Farmington, Wisconsin. A pretty darn large castle from the look of it. It doesn't sound like they put too much work into it themselves (hammer in hand, I mean...), but had most of it built by conventional methods. I thought I'd share it anyway, it looks quite impressive.