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One of the coolest things about sharing our story through our blog has been meeting other people who are on the same kind of path as us. I wanted to share some other perspectives on homesteading, home building, and what living a self-sufficient life really looks like.
You can catch up on all of our amazing readers’ stories here.
This week we’re talking with Andy and Stacy Watkins. Like us, they’re creating the life they truly want by building their own home in a somewhat non-traditional way. They understand the importance of being debt-free, of crafting the life you want with your own hands, and in creating a lasting legacy for your kids.
If buying land and building a home of your own is on your bucket list, you can’t miss the advice they have for you at the end of this post. What they have to say is so simple, but also too easy for people to ignore. Know what it is? Keep reading to find out.
1. Tell us a bit about you and your family.
We are Andy and Stacy. We were born and raised in the Greater Cincinnati area. High school sweethearts who have been married for 14 years and together for almost 20, we have a 12-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. We both work in education; Andy works at a University in the IT department, and Stacy works for a non-profit specializing in home pre-school instruction.
2. What led you to purchase the land you chose?
Building a forever home has been a dream of mine (Andy) for almost 5 years now. The ability to build something that suits our needs and settle down. We hate moving. So we are wanting that forever place to call home. A place for our children to grow into the adults we hope they become. A place for them to bring their children to visit and feel at home. That safe haven of togetherness that every family deserves.
We purchased 7 beautiful acres of rolling property in rural southwest Ohio. It has plenty of privacy and is next to some beautiful farmland. We knew we wanted to purchase land and had looked at a few different properties for fun. But we were not serious about buying this year; just talk of how nice it would be.
Then I was alerted by my sister-in-law to some property a friend of hers was selling privately. We drove out that weekend to check it out. It was there we met the current owners who were cutting the grass. I got the full tour of the place and plenty of information on water, sewage, gas, electric. We looked over a covenant that specified the types of building allowed on the property as well as any restrictions. Everything just seemed to fall into place.
We looked at our finances and determined that we could make it work.
Financing was an interesting journey. We met with Farm Credit and were told they would take 15% down on a 15-year fixed loan. But the closing costs were going to be over $4k! We were able to get financed through a bank in our area (Park National Bank). They required 20% down on a 15 year fixed. But the closing costs were right around $1500. We weighed our options and determined that Park National was the best option for us. We basically paid the same amount at closing, but put an additional 5% into the loan and not somebody’s pocket!
3. What kind of house do you want to build and why?
The plan is to build a 1 story pole barn house on a slab foundation. It will be a 40 x 60 (2400 sq. ft.) structure. Pole barn homes are easier to construct. The structure can be built and enclosed before pouring the slab. They are also designed to not require any load-bearing walls. We can build our structure and design the inside custom to meet our needs. If we want to make any changes later on, the possibilities are endless.
This is our forever home and we want a flexible space that can adapt with us as we go through life. We would like an open floor plan to entertain, but have our own retreat to our rooms when we need some time to ourselves. The building will have metal siding and a metal roof that come with a 40-year guarantee. The posts used to build the structure will be laminated columns that carry a 50-year guarantee. We want to build a structure that we do not have to worry about for the duration of our lives. We decided on a slab for the same reasoning.
4. What are the goals you have for you and your family on your land?
Our goals are simple and that is enjoying our time. We are NOT homesteaders, and while we have an appreciation and admiration for homesteading, it isn’t in the cards for us. We both have careers that we enjoy, but they also take up a portion of our time. Now that is not to say that we are not interested in having some chickens or pigs. I would very much like to grow and raise sources of food that we will use at some point. But we still have a ways to go before that becomes a reality.
5. Where are you at in your home-building journey? What tasks are you working on right now?
We are still in the infancy stage. We closed on the land in July, and have cleared some brush and are working on some downed trees.
Also, we are in the process of getting the soil tested for septic. In the county we are in, there was a legal case pending in relation to what type of septic that is permitted for use. So we wanted to see how that played out. It looks like it will work in our favor as the dreaded mound system is not the only option accepted in the county now. This could potentially save us upwards of $20k.
We are also looking at our solutions for running water. The meter will cost roughly $4k and we need to determine our best course of action for digging a trench to bury the line. We have to cross a culvert which has a small creek running through it. The driveway will be approx. 700 feet long. So I have plenty of questions in relation to water pressure, etc. that I need to find answers for.
From there I will meet with the power company and determine what is needed to set up temporary service on the property. If we can get these three items underway, we will then consider selling our home and rolling the equity over to our build. We have a 30-foot travel trailer and have no problem living out of it next summer as we complete our build.
6. Why are you drawn to this kind of lifestyle?
Simplicity and satisfaction. We want a simple home, but the satisfaction of being debt free. We want to do this in a way that eases (and hopefully erases) our debt. Right now the only debt we have is our current home and the land. By doing a lot of this work ourselves it will reduce our expenditures.
It also gives us a chance to know our home from the inside out. We want to look at this journey when we are done and know that not only are we better for it, but that we put the time in and did it our way. We want to look at our home and the property it resides on as our haven. Something we built from the ground up and poured our sweat into.
We not only want this for us but for our children as well. To show them that nothing is impossible if you do your research, plan accordingly, and put in the work to accomplish the goals. Nothing is out of reach.
7. What advice do you have for anyone out there who wants to buy land and build?
Read, read, and read some more. Do your research FIRST. Blogs, books, forums, YouTube. Make sure you know what you are getting into (I still question this myself).
Figure out WHAT it is that you want, then work backward to determine the steps to get there.
One thing I am constantly doing is asking questions. I don’t have the answers. So I find someone who does. Surround yourself with those who know more than you. Do not be afraid to talk to people. That is how we learn! I have met so many wonderful people just by going out of my comfort zone.
Also, do not be afraid to ask “dumb” questions. Many times I have asked something I thought I knew the answer to just because I wanted to confirm it in my mind. What I found is that sometimes I was wrong, and other times I received additional information or advice that I would have otherwise not known.
Remember that this is a journey, not a race. Our goal is to get a structure built that meets our need, but our journey is to create a home that we love. I have to accomplish the goal before I focus on the ultimate destination.
We are just getting started and have a long way to go. I don’t have all the answers, and that is ok. Learning is half the battle, but I know that when it is all said and done we will be better for it and have a place unlike any I could have dreamed of years ago.
8. Any other words of wisdom?
Question everything and do not accept no for an answer. You will hit roadblocks along the way, but it is your attitude and your persistence that will see you through.
Having the right mindset for when things go wrong is key. I have more questions than answers at this point. My goal is to get multiple answers for each question and determine the best path that meets our needs. What do we contract out? What do we build ourselves? Those are the main questions to be determined. But ultimately we will keep our eyes open and cross each bridge as it comes with an open mind and heart.
So many great takeaways from this interview. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!
If you’re new to our homesteading project, click here to learn exactly what went into every part of building our cordwood home from scratch.
And if you’re thinking of starting your own homebuilding journey but don’t know how to start, download this free checklist to see how ready you really are.