Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Foundation - Check!

The foundation is set! They poured it Thursday, Dec. 16th and took some of the forms down on Saturday. They probably have them all down now. We are hoping that the plumber can make it out and get everything ready for them to pour the basement floor so that they can get that done before Christmas. The cold weather is slowing things up a little, but we are getting closer!

Bernadette stands beside the north side of the house.
She is freezing in case you couldn't tell.

Both girls stand in our "secret room". We decided to put a
storm shelter under the front porch and that is where they
are standing.
This is a view of the basement. Notice the door in the back:
That is where the storm shelter will be.

The view from the northeast corner of the house.

A view from the southeast corner.

This is the inside of our "secret room".

The garage. It is still framed as of this picture.

The south side of our house.

As of now, it looks like they will get started framing after the first of the year, so we are looking forward to that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


When building a house, it is vital to have a good foundation. We were hoping to have ours poured by now, but after driving out today, we discovered that it hasn't been poured yet. It is all framed in and ready to be poured, now we just have to wait for the weather to cooperate.

Additionally, OPPD (Omaha Public Power District) came out and got us ready for power! We're hoping that this location is just temporary, as it seems kind of a weird placement for it, but we'll see what happens.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Meeting the neighbors

While we were out looking at our footings, a guy pulled up and introduced himself. His name was Kevin and he is the neighbor that lives down the shared driveway.

After talking to him for a while we learned that about the neighbors, about the land around us, and a little about the history of our acreage.

Apparently, he first listed it in 2006. He advertised in the local papers and was approached by a guy to look at it. The guy said our acreage wasn't exactly what he was looking for, but offered to buy the spot where Kevin's house is along with our land. For the 10+ acres, he first offered $300,000. While it was tempting, Kevin thought it was a joke. The guy then offered $350,000. Kevin still held firm. The guy offered $400,000, but Kevin thought the guy was just messing with him and said "No deal".

A couple nights later, Kevin was watching the news and was surprised to see the guy on TV, being interviewed and asked what he would do with his lottery winnings. He was one of the guys that split the huge jackpot!

Well after a couple of months, Kevin listed the property with an agent. It was viewed a number of times, and quickly swiped up by a couple. He was a lawyer in Lincoln. She was a nurse in Council Bluffs. They were excited to get started and began to look into building their house. However, over the next few months, they decided to relocate. We're not sure where they moved to as we have heard Minnesota, Omaha, Council Bluffs, Auburn, and various other locations. At any rate, the listed the land. Interestingly enough, the land, which had been a huge draw last time it was on the market, lasted almost a year before we first discovered it. It could have been because on the real estate website it was shown as being 4 miles east of its real location. Then came that day when we found it... and the rest, as they say, is history (which can be read in our blog).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Footings - Check!

We went out today, Wednesday, December 8, over Jeremy's lunch hour. Chris had told us that our footings were poured, so we went to see them. Sure enough it was. In fact, we found the guys who are pouring the foundation setting up their frames. They left for the lunch hour, and we snapped a few pictures.

The footings around the garage

A look at what will soon be our basement

More of their concrete forms

We also met another of our neighbors, the original owner of this property. More on this to come.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Up, up, up...

The two older girls have really been enjoying our trips to the house. Part of their excitement is seeing where their "Castle" is going to be. They have been really looking forward to moving into the dream house. The other reason that they are enjoying our trips are the hills. As we drive up a hill, they both chant "Up, up, up, up..." and then after we have reached the top, the both squeal "Weeeee!" Not quite the little piggy, but it is still a lot of fun.


The footings are dug. We went out and took a look today and it was so exciting. We can't believe it is all happening. They are supposed to pour the footings on Monday, so we are looking forward to that. Here are some pictures we took today:
This is the south side of our house. You can see the footing holes.

The footing for the southeast corner of the house.

Bernadette standing in what will someday be our basement.
A shot from the east side of the hole.

This "hill" marks where our garage will be.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can you dig it!?!

Chris sent us some more pictures tonight. They got the hole dug. They put down some special sheets that keep the ground from freezing. See the pictures below of our new hole. Don't worry, we're not hobbits. Soon enough our hole will grow into a house.

From the northeast corner of our hole facing southwest.

The blanket marks what will be our garage. Our neighbors
houses can be seen in the background.

The front of our house. This is taken from the garage area
facing south.

This is from the northwest corner of the house (standing in the
garage) and facing southeast. Notice the back comes out flat
 for our walkout basement.
Before leaving for the day, this is a picture taken of the view from our front
porch of what we have to look forward to each evening for years to come.

With the digging done, we look forward to them getting the footings ready. After the footings are set, we should find out what our new address will be.

Breaking ground

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, Dec 1, Chris emailed me to let us know that they had broken ground! Our dream is moving closer to becoming a reality!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stake out

Monday morning, Chris called us and asked if we could meet at the land. It was a cold blustery day, but after a little while, we figured out where we wanted to build our house. We put it back 150 feet off the road to help minimize the dust and put it square to the road. We had considered having it angled, but putting it square just seemed like the best place for it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Final Bid

After a little more than a month of calling for bids and trying to find the best deals possible, CL Construction finally got us to where we needed to be. We knew we would have to do without some stuff and there were a few things we'd have to do by ourselves, but we managed to reach our target range. After a quick check with Grant (our construction loan guy) and Taylor (our final mortgage guy) we got the go ahead! Another reason for us to be thankful on the day before Thanksgiving!


Now that the house was sold, we needed a place to stay in the mean time. We hunted around and narrowed our options to 5 places. We scheduled showings for each of the places and spent each noon and evening touring them.

The first place we saw was big, but was in a really rough area and the neighbors seemed a little scary. There were both 2 and 3 bedroom apartments available, but the washers were at the end of the hall. It was not a good fit for our family.

The second place we saw was the biggest. It was a 3 bedroom and had an indoor pool. Unfortunately, it was a long way from Jeremy's work and had no washers in the room. It was also fairly pricey.

The third place we saw was a 2 bedroom apartment with a loft. It was blocks from Jeremy's work and it had in unit washer/dryer. The master bedroom had a huge closet and there was a garage available. We really liked this place and had mostly decided on it. However, we had an appointment that night and one the next day.

That evening we saw one more unit, but after seeing the narrow stairway, the distance from Jeremy's work, and the layout, we decided that we were going to be living in the ones we had seen earlier that day. We canceled the appointment we had for that evening and instead went to sign a lease.

We leased an apartment in the Alena Courts division of Chateau Development where we will live until our dream house is ready. We moved in November 19th and 20th with the help of our family (Thanks guys!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


On October 18th we woke up a little late. We had just returned from a weekend trip to visit Jeremy's parents, celebrate Bernadette's birthday, and meet our new niece. Jeremy had the day off of work since it was Bernadette's 4th birthday. Ann, our Realtor, called us at a little after 8:00 AM to ask if we would be able to have the house ready for a showing that day at 5. We had planned a few fun activities for the birthday girl, so we stayed out until well after 6.

We weren't sure if anyone had been there as the lights were still on and the wasn't a card, but our Realtor confirmed someone had been there. We didn't think much about it at that point. We were used to showings that didn't amount to much.

However, the next day, Ann called us to say that the couple who had been shown our house "love-love-loved it". We were encouraged by the news, but tried not to get our hopes up until Ann told us that their Realtor wanted to meet with us in person to make an offer!

We met their Realtor and found out the situation. The couple, it turns out, was from West Virginia and was moving to Lincoln for the husband to start his career in Soils. They had a young girl and just loved our house for their family. They presented an offer and it was a great deal for both of us. We got over 96% of our asking price, which is great for the market we were selling in. We signed the papers and put up the "Sold" sign.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's ours!

From the north drive facing south. Our land goes to the
second set of trees you can see. 

September flew by and before we knew it, it was the last week. Our closing date was set for September 30th. Closing was at 4 that day, so we dropped off the girls with a sitter (except the baby who was still too young to leave her Mama). We then drove to the title company where we handed them our big check (we needed 20% down). This wasn't the first time at a title company for us, as we had bought our house that we live in now. However, it was a new experience buying land that didn't have the house on it yet.

From the north drive facing east. Most of the trees in this
shot our on our property.
We signed the papers and were out in about 30 minutes. To celebrate, we got some supper, picked up the girls, and then drove out to our new land.

One of our major concerns was mowing the grass out there. It was 5 acres with most of that covered in grass that came up to Jeremy's shoulders the last time we had visited. However, on this day, we were surprised to find that the grass had been mowed, raked, baled, and the bales removed.

We got the girls out and let them run around a little bit. They really enjoyed the wide open space. We told Clare that this is where we are going to build our castle and she wanted to get started right away. Both girls were encouraging us to "get the shovel and start digging" as if we were going to build our house that night. While it was cute, it did express a feeling we all had to get this process moving faster.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Listing Agent

As we tried to sell our house, we realized that we just didn't have the time or resources to advertise like we needed to. We ended up deciding to list with a Realtor with the hopes that we would sell soon enough to start building this fall.

We asked for recommendations of good, high energy Realtors and then we prayed about it. We then let God guide us by putting all the names in a hat and drawing. Just to be sure, each of us (not counting baby Felicity) drew one name out. Kati and the two girls drew the same name out while Jeremy drew a different one. Then just between the two names, we drew one last time, and that was that. God was obviously sending us a message by having us draw the same name 4 of 5 times.

We emailed Ann Francis on September 14th and she responded to us the next day. We met with her and showed her the house. She gave us some recommendations and we got to work.

We added new comforters to the beds, covered the chair in the girls room, rearranging the living room, and various other small tips. We completed these as quickly as we could and then we put the house up for sale with Ann.

The first weekend, we had an open house, but after three couples came through with no real interest, we were a little discouraged. Three weeks later with another open house and only one agent doing a showing left us feeling pretty concerned. Was this another way God was telling us no?

We just kept praying for guidance and hoping that God would let us know what we were supposed to do.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finished Plans

We finally got our finished plans and here is what we ended up with.
It is one of those houses that people ask questions about, but it is perfect for us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Design Time

We knew what we wanted out dream house to look like. There were certain things we really wanted and certain things we didn't. We looked at a number of plans, but nothing looked quite right. When we decided to go with CL Construction, he recommended a drafter that he had worked with before.

We met with Eric one Friday at the end of July. We brought with us printouts of a dozen different house plans. We showed him the style we wanted, the things we liked from one plan or another, and the requirements we had. Eric spent about two weeks drawing up the first draft. After that, we went back and forth a couple of times with him to get it exactly how we wanted it. In the end, we got a design that we were really excited about.

Here are some of the preliminary designs:
This is the front view of our house

This is the upper floor. We did make a few changes to the design. These included moving the master closet mostly into the bonus room and making the door to the bonus room be in the hall. 

This is the main floor. There weren't many changes to the layout of this floor.

This is the basement. We added a window in the upper left side of this so that we might be able to put in another bedroom some day. We also have a bathroom hashed in and the area under the porch excavated as a storm shelter.

The finished plans were in our hands on October 3rd and we were one step closer to our dreams.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Listing our house

As mentioned before, we had to sell our house before we could start construction. We spent a week getting everything ready. Throughout the spring we had painted all the bedrooms, resealed the deck, and upgraded the bathroom fixtures. We polished the house up, packed away our unneeded stuff, and cleaned up the yard. Finally, the first week of August everything was ready.

Two nights before we listed the house, Jeremy had a voice mail from a real estate agent. This agent said that he had a buyer who was wondering if we might want to sell the house. Upon further investigation, we found out that it was actually the previous owner of the house. She had recently divorced and wanted to move back here because it held a lot of good memories for her. Unfortunately, she needed to sell the house she was in right now.

We listed the house FSBO, placing a sign in our yard, putting an ad on Craigslist.org, and putting it on FSBOLincoln.com, and Owners.com. Jeremy also made a website to advertise it and show pictures.

We had a few people contact us and did a few showings. We had a couple of agents bring people through and a couple of people call for information without ever seeing it. We only had about two weeks of this before we had to take a break.

On August 19th, we were blessed with our third daughter. We took a couple weeks off of marketing. When we started it up again, about the first of September, the market had cooled.

We finally decided to bite the bullet and list with an agent.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Making an offer

Within 10 days of meeting with the construction loan officer, we had everything together to get ready to make an offer. We crunched the numbers and with the help of Thane, we were able to get an offer together.

The land had been for sale for over a year, so we were ready for a little negotiation.

We offered them about 85% of their current price expecting them to counter. They did with an offer of about 97%. We knew this meant they didn't have a lot of room to work, so we countered with about 90%. They again countered with about 96%. We finally made our best offer, just under 95%, but they declined. However, before our Realtor could contact us, to let us know they had declined, they called back and made one last ditch effort to make it work - an offer of just over 95%. Being only a couple hundred dollars different from our last offer, we accepted and signed the the papers.

We ended up getting the land for about 91% of the original listing value (they had dropped the listing price a couple of times), so we felt like we got a good deal. We agreed to a September 30 closing date and then handed things over to the title company and our construction loan officer, who set us up with a land loan until we could get a construction loan going.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Another sort of search

We had a few decisions to make:
  1. Who do we use for a builder?
  2. Who do we use for our mortgage?
  3. Who do we use for the construction loan?
  4. Do we just buy the land and wait to build or start right away?
Jeremy used to work next door to a builder, so we contacted him. We also went with a lending company that worked closely with our Realtor's company. We wanted to check the numbers to see if it would be possible to start right away or if we would have to wait.
 Throughout our marriage, one struggle that we have had is that people don't take us seriously. They don't return calls, they set up meetings only to cancel after we are there, they answer phone calls during meetings - in particular, personal calls, and they generally treat us like a couple of kids who don't deserve their respect. After spending almost a month trying to work with this builder and the lender, we were getting very frustrated. We felt that waiting days for voice mail or email to be returned was driving us crazy. We wanted to make an offer on this land before someone else beat us to it, but we needed to know what direction we would go for financing so we could make a proper offer.

Finally, our frustration peaked and Kati vented on her blog. She got numerous suggestions, but most of them pointed to one builder: a friend of Jeremy's from college who had started his own company recently. We contacted CL Construction and after talking to him, we both felt that this was going to be a much better fit for us.

Telling him about the frustrations we had with our previous builder and financing, he recommended that we contact another friend of ours who is a mortgage officer at Mutual of Omaha. We contacted him and he did in 15 minutes over the phone (with a few documents emailed to him) what the other loan officer hadn't been able to do in two weeks. He told us that their mortgage had a feature that allows you to refinance at any time for only $250. This would help us if the interest rates went down again after we close.

He also recommended a friend of ours from church to do the construction loan at Cattle National Bank. After contacting him, we set up a meeting and in a matter of a week, we were approved and had numbers we could work with. We were preapproved for a land loan, for a construction loan, and for a final mortgage and we would be able to start as soon as we sold our house.

Time for an offer!


We contacted Woods Brothers Real Estate here in Lincoln partially because it is right by Jeremy's new work. We asked for an agent that specialized in acreages and could answer the questions we had. We got an email back from them recommending Thane.

Thane met with us and we checked out the land. He helped us to find the borders of the property and pointed out things that we had not thought of. He also worked with us trying to get more information and helped us to learn what we needed to know.

Now the ball was back in our court, trying to decide if this was it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Land Ho!

We had decided to hold off on looking for a while after the last house fell through. We pulled our house off the market and lived through a really rough autumn. Jeremy changed jobs and so now instead of working on the south edge of town, he works on the east side. I guess God knows what He is doing because if either of the other houses had worked out, he would be driving 30 minutes each way. Our new plan was to work on saving up a good down payment for a new place and then we would look again. Jeremy just couldn't help himself and so from time to time he would check for what was available. And then one day this happened:

CHAT TRANSCRIPT (April 19th, 2010)

Jeremy: So I know I'm not supposed to be looking at land right now, but I came across a few listings I'd like to check out.
Kati: Where?
Jeremy: One is 5 acres at 190th and Van Dorn and [blah, blah, blah]
Jeremy: Do you want to make a trip out to see it?

Kati: When would we schedule one for?
Jeremy: How about over lunch? It's just land, so there isn't a house.
Kati: OK. I'll try to get the girls ready. What time?

Jeremy: 11:30?
Kati: OK. We'll see you around then.

We drove out to see this place and a couple of others. It was 9.5 miles from work. Kati and the girls picked me up at work and we drove down the dirt roads. We pulled over the hill, and we both saw it...

We drove near it and then pulled into the drive and saw the trees, the expansive plains, the draw with a small stream - this was a very nice place. We looked at a couple of other lots, but that was our favorite. The next day we emailed the listing agent about covenants and to see if she had any other information about the property.

She replied a couple of days later and after reviewing it, we knew that we liked it. We decided to hire a Realtor to represent us and answer questions we had about wells, septic tanks, and other things that could hold us up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looking for land (Part 2)

Kati in the kitchen
We continued looking for a place to grow our family and in late May 2009, we found another place. This was in a development on the outskirts of Hickman, NE. It was about 10 minutes to work for me. It was a multilevel with 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a big kitchen, a 3 stall garage, and a flex room that would have served as a school room/office until we could finish the basement (room for 2 additional bedrooms). The big issue was that it was in a development on about 1/3 of an acre. We've had some troubles with neighbors and it was right next to two houses, so we weren't sure about that either.

The other half of the front of the house
The front door

 We put in an offer and after a little negotiation, we were able to reach an agreement contingent upon the sale of our current house. We were very excited and began packing right away. Within 10 days we had our house listed and most of our stuff either given away or stored. Things looked good at first: showings three days a week, dozens of people coming through open houses, and people giving good reviews. Unfortunately, this was at the time when the market was weak, people were looking for huge bargains, and nobody was in the hurry that we were.

The girls loved the stairs
After 60 days, our offer on the Hickman house expired. When we asked the seller to extend it, he played hardball, telling us that he would extend our offer, but we had to set a closing date and remove the contingency. Refusing to allow ourselves to get into a bad situation, we had to walk away from this place as well.

This was hard on us as we were really excited for a new chapter in our lives. God always knows best and he was obviously telling us no - so we learned to listen yet again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Looking for land

We've been wanting to move out of the city for a long time. I was born and raised in the country. Kati, despite always living in the city, has many traits that make her a good fit for country life. After we made the decision years ago, we started casually looking for land. In March 2009, we thought we had found it - a little place in the country about a mile north of Denton, NE. It was about 20 minutes drive to where I was working. It was a very cheap house because it had been foreclosed on recently. This place was a 3 + 1 bedroom, 2 bath house on 3 acres. It was a ranch style with a large kitchen and a formal dining room. Though it had its issues (like a leaky patio door, some bad carpet, and no garage), it would have made a great house for our family with a completely unfinished walkout basement just waiting to become extra bedrooms and play areas. We weren't the only ones to see it - in fact while we were seeing the house, another group came through. We put in our offer and it came down to the terms as both ours and another buyer were the same price. Unfortunately, the bank chose to go with another buyer.

I guess it shows that God had other plans for us.