Building Home: The Journey Begins + How We Chose Land

This is the first of many home posts as we begin the process of building our home in Leelanau County, Michigan. See how we chose our land and the list of requirements it needed to make the cut.

I have been so excited to start talking about building our home. This summer when we decided to move back and found the land it was during such a whirlwind that only in the last month or so have we had any time to really begin the process of building or gathering inspiration. Nearly every week we head out there to our land. We see how it has changed and how it looks at different times of the year. We even have setup a trail cam to see what kind of wildlife we will be living amongst. So, far there are just some very large and well-fed deer that will be keeping us company.

This project may be one of the biggest we will tackle as a couple to date. Building a home from nothing is a huge job. We have a list a mile long of decisions to make and about a year to complete it all, which sounds like a lot, but in building time it really isn’t.

So, today I wanted to start bringing you guys into this process before we get too far down the path. It will be a huge piece of the blog moving forward and our goal is to have you a part of every step along the way. It is going to be busy especially with being parents and business owners, but we saw in the survey how many of you were excited about this adventure as well as curious about the process yourself. This inspired us to begin talking sooner rather than later about this journey.

This is the first of many home posts as we begin the process of building our home in Leelanau County, Michigan. See how we chose our land and the list of requirements it needed to make the cut.

For our first post, I wanted to talk about how we chose our land. We were lucky to find it quickly and a piece that hit all the marks on our list. There are little to nothing we ended up having to compromise on other than using Propane over Gas for our oven…but that is a very minor detail. If you are thinking of jumping into building a home you have to begin by finding the land you want first and foremost. You can dream up your house over and over again, but if you don’t know where you will build it you cannot know much of anything other than the style of house you will be building.

Now, one disclosure here. My father who is now a pastor, used to be a contractor. I grew up helping my parents reno houses. I remember tearing up carpet tack at about 9 years old. I would go to the homes they were building and help them paint walls and I watched him spend hours designing homes on his drawing table at home. I spent most of my younger years with my dad visiting job sites, listening to Garth Brooks, and sitting in the front seat of his pickup truck with our English Setter, Max as a little girl. My parents favorite story of 5 year old Megan is me standing on a concrete step that had just been ripped off the front of the house by my dad’s crew of guys and asking “Who is going to clean this shit up?” Needless to say, that slowed down the number of job site visits I did with my dad during those impressionable years.

I have always had a dream of my dad designing my home and one day living in a place that would reflect him in some way. The idea of raising our family in a home designed by him is pretty special to me. But this also means we have great counsel along the way with this process. He is going to help us stay on budget (very important for two designers and visual junkies), get our dream home, and to find the right people to work with through this process.

This is the first of many home posts as we begin the process of building our home in Leelanau County, Michigan. See how we chose our land and the list of requirements it needed to make the cut.

All that said, when we mentioned the idea of buying land in Leelanau County we knew we needed his sign off on whatever we purchased. So, we began down the road of finding land with a few key things on our list. It is VERY important to come up with a list of things you want in land. Just like when you buy any real estate know exactly what you are looking for and what the non-negotiables are for you and what is okay to let slip through the cracks. You  also want to make sure to have either the cash ready (especially with land) or a loan in the works with money for a down payment. We did a loan till we could pay it off after the sale of our home in Raleigh…more on that another day though when we talk about our suggestions on financing the building of a home as entrepreneurs. Here is the list we had when we started conversations with our realtor:

  • Have high-speed internet:
    This is VERY important to our life and we couldn’t even consider something that didn’t have great internet available. Now, most places this isn’t a problem, but in Leelanau County internet and cell service is fickle and spotty to say the least so we knew we had to make this a top priority. This was our #1 non-negotiable on our list.
  • The ability to have outbuildings:
    We plan to have a greenhouse, chicken coop, and potentially a guest house on our property. These things will come with time, but we wanted it to be available to us.
  • Close to Traverse City but in Leelanau County:
    School systems were important to us since Hayes and any siblings he has will be going to school here so we wanted to make sure we had great options available to us. Thankfully that isn’t hard in the area here. We also wanted to make sure we were close enough that we wouldn’t be driving a ton.
  • Farming/large garden was possible:
    Not all properties allow you to do large gardens and have chickens. We wanted both. We didn’t care about livestock or horses, but we did want to more or less live off of our land so we needed the land to be zoned to do so.
  • Over 5 acres:
    We want privacy. We don’t mind neighbors we just don’t particularly want to be able to see them while sitting on our back porch. ha. Thankfully most of Leelanau County enjoys their privacy so this wasn’t much of a fight. In fact we decided to tuck our house down in the hill so we couldn’t even see the one neighbor we do have in line of site from our property. Maybe it is our reaction from living in a city, but we wanted to feel remote.
  • A secluded location:
    We basically eliminated any options off of the list located on busy or main roads in the area because we wanted to make sure there was plenty of seclusion. Our dogs love to run and wanted them to be safe. Our property now is located far off the main road by a few miles winding and weaving onto a dirt road where only one other person currently lives. Also, we wanted our house to not be visible from the road either so it felt completely private to us.
  • More fields than woods:
    We wanted trees, but we wanted mostly field. Our goal was to find old farm land that had maybe some old apple trees or fruit already growing untamed on the property. We then wanted a good mix of pines and maple trees to help give us seclusion oh and maybe to do some tapping for maple syrup on those trees!
  • A fairly level lot:
    We wanted to not spend a ton of money on excavation when we built so we wanted to make sure the lot was level enough to make that possible. Some people want walkouts and so on. We weren’t 100% on that idea. We weren’t opposed, but we most wanted to not have to do a large amount of excavation.

It wasn’t a long list, but these were the things that would be our deciding factors on a piece of land. Once we had a list together, we sent it over to our realtor and away we went on finding land. Like I said before, we expected it to take months and potentially even a year. Our realtor told us to find acreage with good internet would be the hardest thing to tackle. So, we hoped it would come along. Sure enough, I found it one evening on Realtor.com a beautiful 10 acres of rolling hills, trees, and piece of Leelanau. We drove to it the next day to see if it was as cool as the internet made us think it was.

This is the first of many home posts as we begin the process of building our home in Leelanau County, Michigan. See how we chose our land and the list of requirements it needed to make the cut.

Upon arrival to the lot, we instantly saw the two-track driveway and felt it was right. The dirt road in we knew would be interesting in the winter and we knew the long curved driveway would create some expenses for us. We also saw that daily tasks like taking the trash out would be a new adventure. But even with all these realizations, we saw instantly what this place could be. It is always funny to me when a place feels right and just like when we found our house in Raleigh, this place felt right but in a whole new way.

That day it was warm, but we strapped Hayes onto us and got the dogs out of the car. We walked up the two-track driveway together. We watched the dogs run wild and look completely at home. Hayes giggled at them and we looked at each other and smiled. It felt like home.

The land had many great locations for a home, but now the process of figuring out details would have to begin.

We contacted our realtor and he started finding everything out. One by one the things on our list got checked. All along I was slightly pessimistic about it all because of our last experience with real estate. Some things are just too good to be true, but then there are some things that are so right that there is no way they aren’t meant to be. This happened to be the latter. A week after walking the property we went under contract and closed only a week before packing our house up in Raleigh and closing on it. It still blows my mind how that all happened.

This is the first of many home posts as we begin the process of building our home in Leelanau County, Michigan. See how we chose our land and the list of requirements it needed to make the cut.

Once we had the land the process of designing the right home for the land began. Our pin boards could be looked at with eyes of reality instead of just dreams and we sat down with my dad to start the process of building the home. So our next home piece will be talking through the inspiration behind our house and the big things on our list. Stayed tuned this journey has only begun friends.

If you have specific questions or things you want us to talk about in this process let us know. Happy to answer them below!

Leave a comment

  1. Megan & Mike

    Cingratulations!! We had plans to build here. But our resources are there. I’m sure it will be exceptional❤

    I love being part of the journey

    Blessings
    W

  2. Just wanted to let you guys know that your content for the past couple of weeks was fantastic. there was not one post that I didn’t love, like omg, this is great, kind of love. Thank you! and loads of luck on your building a house adventure! so inspiring!

  3. Im so excited for you guys! Ive been following along on your adventures since you bought your raleigh home. I think this is going to be another great chapter in the fresh exchange. The land looks beautiful and like there will be so much room for you guys and Hayes and the dogs to run and roam and be free to grow. Looking forward to seeing all the inspo in the next post!

  4. I’m sending the link to this post over to my husband. We’ve started talking about our 3-5 year plan and it includes saving our money, getting out of the city, buying some land near family, and building a home we love. I didn’t take the survey but I was so hoping you would write on this topic! You picked an absolutely beautiful spot. Did you see the 43-Acre winery up there listed on Zillow?! I sent it to Steven and said, “goals!!!!”

  5. i am so excited to read more about the entire process for you guys! one day i hope to have land – but currently am stuck in southern california so i’ll just have to live vicariously through your posts. thank you for sharing, as always!

  6. Congratulations and so looking forward to watching your journey unfold! I grew up on old mission peninsula and although I no longer live in TC, this is definitely making me homesick!

  7. Absolutely cannot wait to see this project come to life. Your home is going to be beautiful and such an incredible place for your little guy (and future littles) to grow up. Can’t wait to follow along with this journey and see what you come up with. ☺️

  8. THis Lot is Stunning! I’m so excited for you guys. I’ve renovated an apartment with my boyfriend (did all with our hands) and it was hard, and we did waaaay underestimated the amount of work and how long things take, but I enjoyed it so much! seeing the results of your work is so rewaring. Can’t wait to see what you guys have in mind! Good Luck!

  9. i am so looking forward to following along with your home build – what an adventure! The plot of land you have chosen is beyond dreamy. congratulations! p.s. hope to see you three soon!

    1. Oh I hope so too! We are trying to see if we can come to NYC this Spring. If so we will have to at least meet for coffee or lunch! But you are always welcome to visit us at our home Will. Anytime!

  10. I know you mention privacy in your home plans, but are you worried at all about water run off with the house at the bottom of a hill?

    1. Great thought and we had the same! We had an excavator look at it and our soil is pretty sandy and he has plans to counter any potential run off. We aren’t at the bottom of the hill more around the middle of it. There is a deeper valley below. That is an awesome thought! Thank you 🙂

  11. congrats! IT sounds like you guys have put a lot of careful thought into this.
    MY husband and i have built 2 homes now. Most recently A MODERN/INDUSTRIAL/SCANDINAVIAN FARMHOUSE STYLE about a year ago up here on OMP. We are getting ready to put it on the market and build again! it’s definitely my “dream” house, but i’ve found that as the seasons pass, our kids grow older, that our needs and wants have changed – more than expected.
    Good luck and looking forward to seeing the progress!!