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In late 2010, we were growing a little restless living on Bull Run Mountain. The property at Bull Run Mountain where we lived, was really nice, but it wasn’t ours. We started to take weekend rides westward, deeper into the mountains to hunt down houses I found for sale online. Perhaps one of those houses we found could be our dream home.
A lot of houses were way up on steep, curvy, and sometimes, very bumpy mountain roads. One of those mountain roads was so steep, we had to lock into 4-wheel drive to get up the hill! We sought out many properties, but there were two that stand out most. The first one was on a road called “Steps to Heaven”. The house was nice looking from the outside and had views of the Shenandoah River from the deck. The most obvious problem with this house was the road.
It was steep enough to have steps on it, where vehicles hopped up the steep slope. I guess it had an appropriate name, but going down this road every day to get to and from work was not our idea of Heaven. There was one other house that really intrigued us. It sat in the middle of 5 acres on the back of a mountain. This house was nice, but it lacked some of the features we wanted and it didn’t have the views that we longed to have. Our vision was to live on a mountain and see mountains.
Beginning in 2011, David and I decided it was time to start going into some of these houses we found and we decided to seek the help of a Realtor. We didn’t just pick the first ad we saw. I’m not sure if you call it luck or if you call it fate, but the Realtor that sold our townhouse had family in the county we wanted to live in. It just so happens that his wife’s cousin was married to a Realtor!
Through the great invention called: FACEBOOK, I was able to stay in touch with our Realtor from Virginia Beach and contacted him about that Realtor cousin of his. He gave my number to him and with a quick phone call, our search for our mountain dream home began.
Within a week’s time, we met with our new agent. We gave him the price range we wanted to be in and a list of criteria for what we were looking for in our dream home. We didn’t want anything extravagant. We wanted simplicity, but under certain specifics, which were as follows:
- 1400+ square feet – based on the comfortable living space of our townhouse in Virginia Beach
- Open floor plan – we wanted to be able to watch football while cooking in the kitchen
- 3 bedrooms
- 2 full bathrooms
- Wood burning fireplace
- PRIVACY! As much land as possible and a good distance from any neighboring house.
Once our new agent knew what we were looking for he took us to see some homes. The housing market was still struggling. There were many homes on the market that cost little to nothing and there were lots of short sales and foreclosure homes, as well. Not only did we look at existing homes, but we looked at building lots as well. Our Realtor had shown us a budget-friendly house plan that met all of the criteria we were looking for in a dream home. We hadn’t even considered the building option, but we were definitely open to the idea. We were willing to look at lots for sale, not even expecting anything to come of it.
In the beginning, most of the building lots we looked at were not exactly where we envisioned our dream home. They were too close to neighbors. We like neighbors, but we didn’t want to bring back to sights of horror that we encountered with our neighbors in Virginia Beach. There was also the proximity factor that needed to be taken into consideration.
David’s commute to work was about to get longer, but we didn’t want it over an hour. This was a little saddening, because we looked at a building lot, in which you could see Skyline Drive from the yard, had a house been built there. The commute would be too rough on David and we didn’t want to make it any tougher than it had to be.
Our Realtor had been taking mental notes on all the things we liked and didn’t like about the properties he showed us. On a whim, he took us to a neighborhood up a mountain, in which we already looked at a house, but this time we were looking at two building lots on the same mountain. The roads leading up to the lots were mostly paved roads. We were already liking what we were seeing. There were two lots up on this mountain for sale.
The first lot was pretty awesome. It was overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. It had lots of trees and the house would have been placed up from the road in the middle of the wooded lot. We were amazed when our Realtor informed us that we could probably build a house for what we were looking to spend!!
REALLY?!?! We can build a house from scratch for the same price?!?!
I believe David’s immediate comment was: “Why didn’t you show us this before now, we could have saved you a lot of time and gas?!?”
I think our Realtor knew at that moment he was reading us like a book.
He then took us to another property for sale on the other side of the mountain. I remember what was about to happen very vividly in my mind. There aren’t too many moments that you remember clearly, but this one sure was one of those moments.
I was riding in the front passenger seat of the Realtor’s truck. The paved road we were on went upward and around a curve then turned to gravel. Just after that was a steep hill that and we went down and curved again. At the bottom of the hill, the road flattened out a bit for about a 1/8th mile. There was an upward hill on the right and wooded downward slope on the left. I had become relaxed at the surroundings when all of a sudden the Realtor took an unexpected swerve to the left. I lost my breath and grabbed the “oh shit handle” inside the truck. I thought we were driving off a cliff!!
I had a sensation as though I was falling. When I opened my eyes, all we could see were peaks and valley and there was an overwhelming feeling of HOME.
We were excited by this second lot, but we were cautiously optimistic. The landscape was pretty steep and our Realtor advised us that it may cost more to build on this lot because of the infrastructure needed to support a home on such a steep grade.
We had seen enough. The Realtor was going to go and get costs for us from a builder and get back in touch with us. We went home that day trying not to get excited about what we just discovered. The thought never even crossed our minds to build a house of our own. We were floored that was even an option. Our Realtor had opened up a HUGE can of worms and man, they were crawling all over us!!
Within a couple of days, our Realtor called back with pricing for a house, with the floor plan he had given us, for each of the two lots we saw. He referred to two lots as the “Wooded Lot” and the “Cliff Lot”. The “Wooded Lot” was the easiest to build on and would be exactly what we wanted. We would have a drive-in garage in the basement of the house. I expected that news by the way he had spoken about it before.
What I didn’t expect is what he had to say about the “Cliff Lot”. Due to the lay of the land, it would not have a garage in the basement of the house like we were hoping for. We would have to build a garage separate from the house for extra money. However, building a house with a full unfinished basement, was still within our price range. Once I got the details, I told our Realtor I would be in touch. David and I had a lot of thinking to do. I hung up the phone and went over the details with David.
The building option was blowing our minds and we sure didn’t have the sense to decide where. It was too large to wrap our head around. We discussed it with each other and decided we needed to go back up to the two lots and explore the lots some by foot. We were having a hard time envisioning where the house would be located and we really needed to just take observations from each lot. We arranged another time to meet with our Realtor. This time we were going to walk the lots and get a better idea of how a home would be built on them.
We started with the “Wooded Lot”. When we looked at the property before, we didn’t get out of the vehicle. Not even a minute after we got out of the Realtor’s truck, David and I began to notice how loud the highway was below. If you looked down, you could see cars, trucks, 18-Wheeler’s and motorcycles barreling down the highway.
We continued to walk the lot a bit and began to get a better understanding of where the house would go. Once we walked up the lot and looked down you could see the highway. Being able to see it magnified the sounds tremendously. We were turned off from this lot but didn’t slam the door shut on the opportunity. We then got back in the truck and continued to the “Cliff Lot”.
When we arrived again there was that overwhelming feeling of home. The highway noise was not as loud at this lot, but the view was captivating. In fact, so captivating that you would lose yourself in it and didn’t even hear the highway after a few minutes. We got out and walked the property a bit. There wasn’t as much hiking involved like the “Wooded Lot” because the house would be built at the top of the lot.
After viewing both lots, David and I wanted more time to soul search the options. The “Wooded Lot” was not an option. It was too loud and being able to see the cars on the highway below made it unbearable. We loved the “Cliff Lot”, and could tolerate the highway noise better, but we couldn’t get over the fact there wouldn’t be a garage of any kind.
How were we supposed to store a lawnmower and a weed eater, not to mention anything else that really should not be kept inside of a house? We then approached this subject with our Realtor. He came back with the perfect solution: a 12×12 outbuilding that would match the house. We also requested to get the deck a little larger as well. Even with these modifications, a house on this lot was still very affordable.
At this point, we decided to meet with the builder. We wanted to hear firsthand how he could turn a cliff into our dream home.