Thursday, July 12, 2007

Finding our perfect land

As mentioned in a previous post, though Molly and I had eventually realized what we really wanted in a new home, it still didn't seem like something that was within reach due to a number of factors. First there's the monetary factor. In order to build a home, one of course needs to own land on which to build the home, and that land costs money. Though the Lord had blessed us immensely with our current house, we didn't really see how paying our current mortgage while also buying a plot of land could possibly work. Second, there's the availability factor. It seemed to me that land was being snapped up by the day (this was during the boom years of the realty market) and that by the time we could afford land, it would all be gone (at least all of it within 50 miles of the Twin Cities).

We also had just moved to Coon Rapids, MN, to be closer to my place of employment, and more importantly to join as parishioners of the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake. This is a whole other story in itself, but suffice it to say, the Church of St. Paul is, in our humble opinion, the most dynamic Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, utterly faithful to the teachings of the Church, and the ideal parish in which to raise children. We were not leaving this parish, and this would take priority over building a house if the two conflicted. We wanted to make sure our priorities were rightly oriented. So, if we were to buy land, it had to be within a reasonable distance of the Church of St. Paul, and preferably not a great deal farther from work so that I didn't significantly increase my commute.

Despite all this, there was an acknowledgment that if the Lord wanted this for our family, our dream of building a home oriented for the family as the "domestic church," and oriented towards fostering virtue and holiness, somehow He would make it happen. We had no interest in building a home for a status symbol, or for lavish living (as if we could afford it), or simply for the sake of building a home. If we were going to build a home, it was going to be specifically because it would truly assist in raising children for the kingdom of heaven, and if this was possible and a worthy goal, the Lord would make it happen. For good measure, through praying a novena we asked St. Joseph, patron saint of homes, to pray for us!

In September of 2006, almost on a whim, and partially out of impatience, I started looking online at available land. I first calculated what I thought we could afford (though I didn't really know what I was doing, in that I thought one bought land with a "mortgage" just like a house) and then set about seeing what was available. I thought that it would be good if we could get at least 1 acre for space for the kids to run around, something a little lacking in our current house. There was not much available in our price range, and the closer to the Twin Cities the lot was, the smaller it got and the more it cost. Over the next few weeks, we drove and looked at lots that were as much as 20-25 miles from Ham Lake, and no where near my place of employment. We were a little dismayed at the possibilities, and what it would mean for family in terms of drive time to visit us, not to mention the drive to church and work.

One thing I am very sure of is that the Lord started giving me lots of ideas of how to make a higher price feasible, and in realizing this, I increased what I thought we could afford. Soon, we found a lot right in Ham Lake, 5 minutes from church, 2.3 acres. We were in love with it! It seemed perfect, a little out of our price range, but we felt we could talk down the owner a little. We made an offer. The offer was rejected, with a counter-offer at the same price (i.e. "pay my price or take a hike"). We actually got into a multiple bidder situation, as someone else was readying an offer and the seller knew he was in a good position. Thank God our offer was rejected! While pondering whether to meet the seller's demands, I asked a few more innocent questions about where the house would go on the lot, and it was discovered that almost 85% of the land was zoned as wetland. Only a small corner of the land was available for building. We rescinded our first offer, and got the heck out of there. Whew!

Still, this was disappointing. To have come so close! The next few weeks were spent trying to find a lot that would replicate what we thought we had, with nothing coming even close. One weekend, Molly was away (a rare event) volunteering on a Twin Cities TEC retreat, and I was going solo with the kids. I decided to take them out looking at a few lots that were somewhat interesting. I planned on visiting four lots, and the first three all royally disappointed. Then I drove to the final lot, actually in Ham Lake, about 5 minutes further from church than the lot we almost bought. I still remember driving up to the lot vividly. I'm a Mechanical Engineer, and a very logical thinker. When all the pieces fall into place, I need no further time for discussion. I took one drive by this lot and immediately pulled over and called our realtor and asked him contact the realtor for the land. This was definitely it, and I wanted to move fast!

To attenuate a long story, after a lot of back and forth with the seller, we signed a purchase agreement. The land is absolutely beautiful! It's 2.6 acres, it's in Ham Lake - 10 minutes from church, and it's right off Lexington Avenue, which is the same thoroughfare on which the company I work for is located (only 5 minutes extra commute, and a lot simpler). God is awesome! We closed on the land in December of 2006.

Here is a satellite image of our land (click the image to view it in larger size):

And here is a link to an updated satellite image in Google maps, with our lot outlined. You can see the houses that have been added since the image above (a couple more homes have been added even since this newer image). The newer image was obviously taken in a different season. Kind of interesting - I didn't think Google updates their satellite images that often.

Pictures of the land from human level will be loaded in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!


WannabeAnglican said...

Thanks be to God for giving you this land!

I could tell a story about how I came onto my wonderful land. In fact, your blog prompts me to think that would be a good thing to do on my blog sometime.

Brendan Koop said...

Thanks for being a part of this blog, I'm definitely interested in getting the perspective of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ!