I (Brett) have been thinking about different iterations of this project for nearly 10 years now. That was way before I even met Stephanie, much less being in a spot to make such big plans together.
For some reason, I have wanted to build, rather than buy, a house for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s because, as an 8-year-old, I was fascinated with watching and helping out with the gut job and addition my parents did on my childhood home. Maybe it’s because I can be very particular about what I do and don’t like. Maybe I just like new things.
As a result, I’ve been looking through house plans since I was a medical resident. Sometime during residency as well, I was driving home from Chicago after spending a few days with my family during which we did some boating/waterskiing and I decided that I really wanted to live on a lake. I started picturing the houses I was seeing online combined with a lakefront lot and I was sold.
When I finished my residency, Stephanie and I were not yet engaged, so I was more or less acting as a bachelor when I decided to buy a small little cottage on a nice lake with ultimate plans to build a new house on that lot someday.
“Someday” in my mind meant 5 years or so and– since I was a bachelor– I could overlook the fact that there was no dishwasher and the kitchen was smaller than the one in my previous condo, the ceilings were no more than 7 feet high, and there was really only 1 bedroom that barely fit my bed. Oh, and I’m not entirely convinced there was even any insulation in the walls.
The house itself wasn’t much, but I really purchased it for the location and lake. I couldn’t get over these views:
Well, we had a lot of fun on that lake. And I would like to think that a lake home will still be part of our future. But, once we got married and then had a baby, 2 working parents in the healthcare field meant we didn’t have much time to enjoy the lake. Plus, all the shortcomings of the house I previously mentioned were much tougher to ignore as our family expanded.
More importantly, though, that “someday” I had previously been estimating kept fading off toward the horizon. I don’t know exactly what I was thinking when I had my original dreams for that lot, but I wasn’t fully understanding construction financing. Or I was just choosing to ignore it. No bank is going to let you knock down a house without paying off the mortgage first. And the house wasn’t in any condition to allow a remodel, not even a total gut job: the ceilings would have to be raised and the foundation completely redone so it made no sense to keep any of it other than the detached garage.
What that meant in practicality was that we had to completely pay off a house we were going to demolish and then would be left with a pretty expensive piece of land to start over on. Once that reality really sunk in, and our growing family made the house less and less functional, it became clear we needed to look elsewhere.
We briefly entertained the idea of buying another house but didn’t find anything that really fit what we wanted so the search for land began. I’ll try to discuss that elsewhere.