When I started writing this series about my prepping Odyssey of building a home for the future, I had intended to post a chapter each week this summer as the project unfolded, hoping that folks here in T–ville might learn from some of my blunders. I think we have a fine opportunity to learn such things today. But our project has taken a dark turn.
In a word we have abandoned it.
Plan A was to build a house which looked rather normal. But our architect slapped us in the face with reality, showing us what it actually costs to build a home in our county, exceeding our budget by at least 100%. The whole point was to own a home free and clear of any bank’s lecherous hooks snagged into the property via an evil mortgage.
Plan B endeavored to redesign a building that would be within our budget. We explored the possibility of a large metal RV garage with an apartment built inside, and became very excited about it. While Plan B certainly lowered costs into a range that seemed affordable, as I received bids from concrete contractors, metal building suppliers and installers, the cost added up to a point still in excess of our ability to keep it free of banking encumbrances. The rising price of building materials (caused by the need to rebuild Houston, I presume) provided the final nails for the coffin. For example, the cost of plywood in our locale has increased by 25% just since February.
All this while, we kept one eye on the real estate market looking for a property that would meet all of our needs, which included not just having a master gardener’s dream property, but space for our aging relatives to live with us. But the market here in central Arizona is very strong, with retirees from the Phoenix area desiring to get out of the big city and into a climate that is a few degrees cooler. Homes are overpriced right now-- especially homes with a bit of acreage, irrigation, and farm animal privileges.
I’m the dreamer of the family and my wife is the realist. Frankly, she had to point out to me that Plan B was still not viable. And so we began discussing plan C, which we’d held in the back of our minds in a little closet where we wouldn’t have to think about it.
Three years ago we purchased a property in the area. It is more of a ranch compound than a typical house. We made the purchase because home prices had already begun to climb, and this particular property was a steal. We planned to use it as a rental produce to produce another income stream, but we also discussed setting it up as a SHTF location, although it was not ideal. The 2 acre lot has a main house currently seperated into two apartments, along with two ancillary buildings—a studio apartment and an empty building where a small church once met. The property has no water service and when we hired a well driller, we discovered that the water underneath the property is brackish. So, like many people living in rural Arizona we bought a trailer with a water tank, installed a cistern / pump system, and began hauling water to the property.
The property has been a great rental, strengthening our budget nicely in the past two years. In four more years it will have paid for itself.
Plan C allows us to save our fiat and using it to continue improving our property. We shall convert the old church building into an apartment in which my wife and I will live. It really does have a nice feel to it. Then we will construct a new garage/workshop/man cave, along with some covered parking. Finally, we will add solar electric & hot water systems for each building.
I still have some hope of installing a water line. I have been negotiating with the local privately owned water company to extend their water lines a mere 700 feet to our property, but this company is slippery, changing their price three times (higher each time, of course).
We plan to move there next year, at which time we will ask one of our tenants to find a new place. When my wife’s elderly mother needs more care than today, we will have her move into one of the apartments. When she needs full-time care we will re-convert the apartments into the original large house and move in with her. The small studio apartment (shown at right) will be available in case one of our kids, or some other relative needs help. While water will have to be hauled and rationed, we will have more than enough room to help people we love. I hope to build a rainwater capture system for greenhouse gardening in the old horse corral. The soil there is wonderful.
Plan C allowed us to make a significant metal purchase two weeks ago with part of that construction budget--the cheapest silver we have bought yet! We added a few ounces of AU as well.
But overall, I am discouraged that my lifelong dream of building the perfect house to live in cannot yet (and may never) be realized. And I am discouraged that budget constraints have steered us toward a less than ideal location.
And of course I’m discouraged that metals are capped into these tight ranges.
So, what’s new about all that? Most of us never fully realize our dreams.
I simply have to shift my thinking, again. I must remind myself that these low prices for silver and gold allow us to continue stacking. In the present case the rethinking of our project will benefit us greatly in terms of financial preparation. Reducing our cost from 100K all the way down to 20-30K means that more fiat goes into metals, and perhaps into other properties as our cyclical economy turns downward and foreclosure “deals” reappear in the market. We shall be watching homes and properties for sale in the area closely, looking for something that can strengthen our family’s position. In fact, my wife is taking a class today to become a realtor, hopefully to earn some high commissions in the next year while the real estate market is still hot. Overall things are good but it can be difficult to let go of a dream.
And I must remind myself of one of the lesser known facts about living in central Arizona -- the beauty of the land.
Sitting on the porch in the evening, watching the sunset, feeling the temperature drop as cool air drifts down from the mountains, listening to coyotes yipping as they run up and down the dry wash, breathing in the pure dry air as we sleep with the windows open, snuggled under a warm blanket.
Edit: Ooops. I just noticed the ever-lurking presence of Chase Bank marring this sunset pic that I snapped a few weeks ago. I think there is a message in there for me.