Slowly Sipping Coffee

Phase 1 of the Lifestyle Change Begins: We’re Buying Some Land!

This past month has been a whirlwind in regards to our Lifestyle Change and life in general. It’s literally only been about a month or so since Prof. SSC proposed her idea of our revised Hill Country Lifestyle Change to me. Since then we’ve taken a couple of different weekend trips looking at property. We’ve scoured Zillow and google maps street view (if street views actually exist…) and even more so, we’ve begun looking at house plans. Great googly moogly it’s been busy! Who would’ve thought retirement life planning would be so hectic?

Couldn't be said better.

Couldn’t be said better.

During that time though, we’ve figured out what we find important in our property and it’s not what you’d think. Even though we’re looking around lakes, we don’t necessarily find a lake view as important as we thought. We found that we would take more seclusion over a lake view. Yep, seclusion and that feeling of our own space is way more important to us than being right on the water with a killer view. That’s what led us to decide on the lot we think will be a perfect fit for us. It’s almost 3 acres, heavily treed with mature oaks, and we can put a house on it and have it surrounded by big trees. As of last weekend, we’re under contract on it with a closing date early next month. Now the real fun begins!

House Plans Already?

With our Hill Country Lifestyle Change one key aspect we want is a house that is way more functional smaller than our current McMansion. Don’t get me wrong I love a LOT about our current house, but given that it’s almost 4000 sq. ft., it’s about twice as much space as we need. We’re looking to keep our house under 2200 sq. ft., and our current favorite house plan has us right around 2050 sq. ft. We have some minor tweaking to add to it though and have been working out how best to situate it on the lot.

So many oak trees. Also a lot of cedar to clear out...

So many oak trees. Also a lot of cedar to clear out…

We have enough naturally cleared space between the oak trees that we should be able to situate it fairly well without taking out any trees at all. If we have to it’s not the end of the world, because there are already so many on the lot, but we would rather not take any trees out. This will be more of a question for our architect and builder though, as the builder recommended one architect whom he calls a “lot whisperer”. Allegedly he has a great knack for figuring out how best to situate a house on a lot to take advantage of whatever the lot has to offer.

I see hills! Loads of mature oaks like this one all over the lot.

I see hills! Loads of mature oaks like this one all over the lot.

An Architect Already?

Even though we haven’t even closed on the lot yet, Prof. SSC is pretty anxious about home building costs. According to one of the builders we’ve spoken to and doing some research online, $120 per sq./ ft. is about standard in this area for a typical house. Since we want somethings to be between builder grade and high end, we are estimating $130/ sq. ft. for our costs. However, this same architect also has a program that will estimate all the materials for any house and according to a builder that’s worked with him before he’s come within 5% of costs each time he’s used him. This leads us to Prof. SSC wanting to know exactly how much the house will cost so she can update spreadsheets and plans accordingly. Which means we need a mostly finalized house plan sooner than later in her mind.

So many trees!

So many trees!

Even though she’s already tweaked our favorite house plan in her home design app, it’s a long cry from what an architect can do. Since she is so uneasy about this, I’ll be contacting him today and talking about how best to get this figured out so we can plan accordingly financially.

Timing Issues?

Our current spreadsheet calculations have us being able to enact this Lifestyle Change and move out there by 2019 – depending on house cost. You can now see why Prof. SSC is so dang antsy wanting to get everything finalized or at least roughed out cost wise so soon. Another option is to push it back from Summer 2019 to spring 2020. The plus side on this is that I would have some stock options vesting in February – the company switched vesting dates from July to February – woohoo!! Plus, our bonuses (if we get them) come in March, so if it’s only a matter of 6-7 more months to get a significant chunk of change, I’m all for that. Don’t forget, I still like my job, and have fun at it. Sure, that could all change and I get to a “hate it mode” but it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s been almost 3 years now. So if I have to go “less than One More Year” I’m not too worried about it.

Reality Check

When we’ve told this plan to our friends and family, we have had ZERO negative responses. Literally, nothing but support and interest in how we’re going to do it, and even with Prof. SSC’s commute, there has been no pushback. So I want to ask you guys again, “Does this Seem Crazy?!” Are we missing something and our friends and family are just being nice, but as soon as they get in the cars to go home they’re having conversations like, “Can you believe that? There’s no way they’ll pull that off? Why move somewhere so “remote” and create such a big commute AND be gone about 80 days a year? They’re crazy….”

Have we missed something or are we crazy? It seems like everything is falling into place and we haven’t missed anything big that would be a stumbling block. The house cost is our biggest unknown. That and how well Prof. SSC will handle the commute.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and don’t hold back – positives and negatives, especially any negatives.

Next week I’ll roll out some detailed financial simulations and some Monte Carlo runs to show the breakdown of the behind the scenes financials. But for now, it’s just a high level view of FFLC Phase 1.

37 thoughts on “Phase 1 of the Lifestyle Change Begins: We’re Buying Some Land!

  1. Tara

    congrats on moving along in your lifestyle! being that your property is rural, do those home costs include all the requirements of adding electricity from the closest pole, bringing plumbing in from the main line, adding septic, etc.? I’ve never known anyone who has built a home from scratch on a plot of land so I’m curious.

    I am with you on the views vs. privacy. I’d rather not have to have my blinds closed in the evening if I don’t have to!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yep, that’s another reason it started so high relative to the stuff we found online that was saying it is typically closer to $100/sq ft. That includes septic ~10k, stubbing into the water lines ~$5k, electric is onsite already, but tie-in is ~$5k, driveway, etc… A lot to add in when starting from mostly scratch. Fortunately, there’s water so we don’t have to get someone to drill a well and get that whole thing set up. :)

      I agree, I’d rather be able to keep the blinds open all the time than have a great lake view.

      1. FullTimeFinance

        Not sure what your prices are locally but be sure to get estimates and analysis done for the septic and we’ll up front. We have the simplest septic money can buy redone 2 years ago at about 12k. But the grading, soil, and tree roots can jack up he price through the roof on a septic (I’ve heard of 60k skeptics in my area). Same with the well. Depth drives cost. Keep in mind the septic drain field will likely necessitate some tree cleaning. Ours is about 1000 sq feet of space where nothing can be planted. I’m supporting our bedrooms and three baths on that. Skeptics and wells are sized to bedrooms typically.

        1. Mr SSC Post author

          Fortunately, we only have to deal with septic as we can hook up to city water – wiping sweat from forehead. One down and one to go… As level as the lot is, we do have room to put the septic in the clearing in front/side of the house without having to clear that much space. We’re expecting around 10k as that seemed to be the typical cost for our area/neighborhood according to the broker and builder we contacted. We’ll see, hopefully it’s between that and 15k and I’ll be fine with it. Nothing like our septic back in Ky where I grew up. Getting the whole thing dug up, replaced and new drainage rock added was 5k. I guess that was also 20 yrs ago now… So, old… Looking back I don’t know how they got that thing approved because it was draining into nothing but red clay which takes zero water, so, yeah, interesting… Thanks for the tip and fingers crossed it doesn’t break the 15k mark for us. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      It just seems that it’s been “too easy” or moving so fast and there’s been no “you guys need to think about this” sort of talk from anyone. The only thing close to negative is Mrs. SSC’s dad saying the reason he hasn’t been down on the plan is that he sees it as a 5 yr plan, not a 2-3 yr plan. I laughed and told Mrs. SSC “If this turns into a 5 yr plan, we’ll be really set financially for the bridge years. Can you even imagine an extra 2-3 years of savings?” I think that’s why a lot of people keep getting OMY syndrome. Especially at this point in my career, it’s a lot of yearly money to walk away from.

      Except for him thinking it’s going to take longer than 2-3 yrs, that’s been the only negative feedback we’ve gotten. Which led us to think, “What are we missing… This seems like we’re missing something, lol”

      We found out yesterday the home design that we most like is from a blueprint plan company that is crap. The architect has worked with 2 plans that came from them and he basically had to redraw them from scratch because they were unbuildable, lol. So we’ve now found a new favorite plan from a more reputable online company, but yep, we definitely want function over space. I’m also excited to see what we end up with in that regard, lol.

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Yayyy! Yes, life is too short for Houston, y’all. :) Mr. Picky Pincher briefly went to school there and hated Houston so much that he left lol.

    It sounds like you’ll be near our neck of the woods in the new house, so I’d love to do some fun grillouts once y’all are up here. :) We have similar plans to move to the country once we’re closer to FIRE (probably once our future-kids are older or out of the house completely). I think it’s a fantastic idea. Good luck with the build!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yep, we’ll definitely be closer to you guys when we get out there, so a grill out/hang out sounds good. We’ll have done about 7 years here if we get out by 2020, so hopefully we can keep it to 6 yrs in Hosuton before we leave. I love our current neighborhood, and school situation because we can walk to mutliple playgrounds, we can walk the kids to school, we can walk to 1 pool and bike to the other, and our grocery store is less than 5 minutes away. It just sucks ass when you get outside of our little community bubble, and have to deal with all the traffic and other godawfulness associated with Houston. However, even our little corner of paradise is getting built up so quickly just north of us, traffic has started getting really congested even in our area at peak traffic times now. While it’s driving home prices up somewhat, I’d take lower home value and less traffic/people over what it’s turning into. Sigh… Houston…

    1. Mr. SSC

      Haha, yep when I saw that sign I laughed and thought, “This will be perfect for a blog post!”
      While it does have some downsides, it is definitely pretty cheap to live here and help get to FI quicker. :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks, and thanks for the link to the book. Mrs. SSC also ahs one called tiny home building so she can scour it for atypical ideas for storage and functionality when you don’t have a lot of space. The planning and building should be pretty exciting, hopefully everyone doesn’t get too much of it. :)

  3. Fervent Finance

    Congrats! If you have talked it over with your family and everyone is happy, I say it sounds like a good idea to me. How far outside of Houston is the land? Can’t wait to hear more.

    1. Mr. SSC

      The property is about 3 hrs and 15 minutes outside of Houston. Evreyone seems tob e on board with it, which just seemed odd, but maybe it is more of a solid plan than we’re giving it credit. :) I think it seems like we haven’t thought it all through well because it’s moving so fast. In reality we’ve been thinking about “a plan” just like this for the last 3-4 years, it has just involved a different state we would move to. So I guess it has been vetted fairly well, except for the long commute part for Mrs. SSC.

  4. Brian

    Congrats! I love the thought of designing a home from the ground up. Doesn’t sound too crazy to me. Any thoughts on testing the plan? The living arrangements, just to see how they work out before taking the plunge?

    1. Mr. SSC

      I’m excited about it for sure! We don’t really have any way to test it prior to jumping in with both feet. I looked into long term rentals out there and found 1 – but they don’t allow dogs. San Antonio might be the enxt best option to try and test the drive and setup, but if we were doing it when the kids were in school, then we’d have to enroll them into school A, and then 3-6 months later, move back to Houston and enroll them into our local school. When we looked into it, it seemed like it would be really difficult to do a test run with this living situation.

      So, we’ll just move forward and if the cmmute doesn’t work out we’ll revert back to the “live off of our investements like we originally planned” plan. At least by then we’ll be at or past our FI number, so the extra income from Mrs. SSC working is just a nice safety net/buffer when we dip our toe into the new less work Lifestyle Change.

  5. Ms. Montana

    I love home designs. Mr Mt took some electrical classes just in case we ever want to build. We have our hands busy here with projects, but building a place from scratch would be fun (and a little stressful!)

    1. Mr. SSC

      It’s been a nice change of pace looking at house plans versus stalking small town real estate all across the U.S. :) Yeah, I think it will be stressful at times but it is really exciting. It’s also amazing/disappointing how cookie cutter and oversized a lot of the house designs I’ve seen are. It’s actually really hard trying to find a 4BR with space for a study for Mrs. SSC under 2200 sq ft. It’s like, “Come on guys, this can’t be that hard to design”, because we’ve found some we really like. Most in that range are upwards of 2500 sq ft or closer to 3000 and we’re like, “but we don’t want that much house to clean. Especially if there’s no basement that’s adding a lot of square footage to the layout.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Land in Colorado near a ski resort is definitely higher on my list for next places to go in Phase 2 of the Lifestyle Change. Were thinking once we hit the empty nest phase we can have more freedom to look into those options. :)

  6. Miss Mazuma

    Awesome news – congrats!! I love all the trees and the privacy of it. It is so nice to hear that everyone you have told has been supportive. I feel like there is a lot of negative feedback when you change things up in a drastic way – people don’t always understand it and react strangely – so I love to hear when people see the positive! I can’t wait to follow along on this journey – 2019 or BUST!!

  7. Mr. SSC

    We were expecting more resistance to be honest, so it was refreshing but then also shocking how little negative feedback that we got.

    I’m with the 2019 or Bust motto! Hopefully it can happen then, but again, if it means only 6 more months to roll it around to March, then I may be tempted to do that. There will be a lot of money left on the table when I do leave, and at least this way I could get one more bonus round, hopefully. :)

  8. Jason

    I don’t think y’all are crazy. I mean you have already adjusted the plan somewhat in the past and you are redoing things depending on what you want your lifestyle to be. If it means you push that back for a year or so I don’t think of that as a big issue. Particularly b/c that chunk of change you can use to defray an overages that will come from a new house and unfortunately there will be overages most likely.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I’m expecting with the best of plans there will be overages because- construction.

      Hopefully they’ll be nothing crazy though. It just seems like it’s too easy so far and there should be more pushback or questioning but we are fairly far along on this FIRE sort of journey so maybe that’s helped.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      We’re pretty excited about finding it especially the secluded part in a neighborhood. Thanks for the well wishes!

  9. RMR

    For 7 years total, I commuted daily about 60 miles each way. It was just over one hour door-to-door. It was an absolute killer and a huge source of stress. Not to mention the amount of resentment I harbored to my husband. Don’t underestimate the commute factor. I initially naively thought it would be doable. Good luck on your decision but I’ll say that the commute issue is very very difficult to factor in advance.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      My current commute is 30 miles each way, but I get to drive in early traffic (5:30am) and leave early too. It’s not bad at all now just 35 min and 50 minutes but in easy traffic. For the first 1.5 yrs I had prime time rush hr driving the same commute and it was horrid and took over an hr door to door both ways… A lot of stress, energy drain and at times made me thinking switching jobs might not have been worth it. She hasn’t dealt with that type of commute yet so I keep trying to tell her it can suck really badly.

      She replies with, it’s only twice a week so it can’t be that bad and I’m sure some weeks might suck but it will be worth it. I’m hoping it isn’t dreadful for her. Hope your bad commute is over for good!

  10. Mrs. Groovy

    Congratulations on the land purchase. No, you are not crazy! Sometimes when things are right, they are easy. I’ll be watching your journey for inspiration as we hope to buy land and build too.

    Have you discussed how payments are to be made as you’re building? I recall hearing Dave Ramsey say that you pay in stages as you move along, I believe half up front for a particular milestone, and then the rest when that particular milestone is completed. It’s a way to protect yourself from shelling out too much without results.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks! I’m excited for you guys when you find land and start building too. We don’t have any time that we have to build by so we probably won’t start building until next year at the earliest. To that, we’ve only briefly talked with one local builder but haven’t heard back from any of the others. So, I have no clue how the payments will go. Our plan is to have it paid off by the time it is complete, but beyond that, no idea about the schedule.

      I’m all on board with payments being made as we move along and would walk if a builder wanted it all upfront. That just seems to violate the first rule of working with any contractor, never pay it all upfront. 😀

  11. Mrs. BITA

    Congratulations! All those trees, the kids are going to have such a good time playing there! And to top it all you are going to have a house built to spec!

    As far as things you may not have thought of go, there doesn’t seem to be much. Here is the best I could come up with:

    1. How are are all the kids friends going to be? Will they have a social life locally or are all their friends going to be a drive away?
    2. Similar question for any classes you want them to be enrolled in – how much time will you have to spend commuting to get them to/from a class?
    3. What is internet connectivity going to be like out there? Will be subject to a monopoly and therefore to whatever costs they choose to levy?

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Thanks, I’m pretty excited about the home building aspect too! I think the kids will love getting to be free range on the back lot and we can build a treehouse or fort or who knows what. Like our broker said, “Look, that lots so treed, you can probably do whatever you want back there and noone’s gonna know, lol. Don’t worry there won’t be any breaking bad or moonshine side hustles going on bwahahaha. Still, I’m excited as hell to have that space, trees, sound of wind thru the trees, yeeaahhh….

      Haven’t checked the internet monopoly status yet. Reminds me of Maggie complaining about Fairbanks internet monopoly. Things I’ll be checking after hitting “reply”. :) Actually, we have 2. Time warner and someone else and then about 5 wireless companies. Like i found out in my current neighborhood, just because they say there are two doesn’t mean they’re in your neighborhood. Comcast services half of our neighborhood but not in our area so we’re left with ATT or a local company, period… In Houston, the 4th largest city in the US. Ugh…
      The kids will probably be pretty friend limited, but there is a family of 4 with 2-3 kids our kids age almost right across the street. Hopefully they’ll still be there in 2 years, lol. Otherwise, there are 3 big neighborhoods surrounding ours, so they are all within a 5-10 minute drive, or less. The whole south side is pretty compact and filled with neighborhoods so everything is within about 5-10 min. New Braunfels is only 15 minutes away. :)
      The school is within 5 minutes of the lot for elementary, middle school is about 15 and highschool is about 20-25 because it’s around the other side of the lake. I don’t know where the sports get played, but holy hell, the elementary school looked about as nice as the highschool I went to, so maybe around there?

      As of now, that’s about all we’ve found out. I’m sure we’ll learn more in the upcoming year or two though. :)

  12. Amber tree

    Great progress.

    When you are ok with the commute and the days alone with the kids, than it can work.

    I love my kids; When my wife is gone for work or fun for a few days, I am so happy for her to be back: kids can be a pain in the neck, can drain energy and in the evening, you are home alone, nowhere to go. Sometimes that drives me crazy.

    It is positive that you start to see the value a lake view has for you compared to other needs. Figuring out things like this avoids costly mistakes

  13. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    That land is gorgeous!!! I don’t think you’re crazy at all – I think you’re rather intelligent. :-) That being said, I will warn you that when we moved out to our 7+ acre lot from the cities, it wasn’t long at all before we wanted more land. Now we’re looking for a minimum of 20 acres. If you love your 3 acres, you may want to consider looking at some bigger land and avoiding a potential extra move. But that’s just us. Also, not sure if they have them down there but have you looked into SIPS homes?

    We have a friend who is building one up here for a LOT cheaper than traditional stick built. We went to the home show with him to check out a SIPS model there and Rick loved how they were built. Very sturdy. Here’s a link I find when I googled SIPS homes texas: …… Might be a way to cut down on building costs. The SIPS company that our friend is using has tons of awesome home designs.

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