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May 14, 2014

Finding the Lot

The Empty Lot
“You found a lot for sale?  How did you manage that?!?”
This is pretty much the first thing someone says to us when we tell them about the house we are building.

This is our story, below the fold


If you know Portland real estate, you’ll know that lots for sale in the inner city neighborhoods are hard to come by.  Non-existent, practically.

What lots do exist are not for sale. 
A robust market of developers and builders spend each day tracking what is out there, trying to get ahold of it.  A homeowner who can’t devote themselves to the task full time had better be lucky to have a chance.

We got lucky.

When the dream of building our own home started to seem like something within the realm of possibility, we thought we could pick our favorite neighborhoods and choose from a variety of suitable lots.  Umm, think again.

We switched tactics, and started looking for tear-downs (decrepit houses not worth saving), but this wasn’t promising either.  The same market of developers and builders were all over those too.  There were tear-downs available, sure, but at quality-house prices.  Hard to start with such a large initial expense and have new construction costs pencil out. 

Then one evening, we headed over to a friend’s house after work.  Lisa remembered a house a couple blocks away that was on the market.  She went over to take a look.  And it was very fortunate indeed that she did. 

Because across the street a sign had just gone up on one of those elusive empty lots.

She came running back, and told me to go look.  Then we went back to look together.  The next morning (Saturday) found us huddled over a table with our realtor drafting an offer.  By Monday the lot was off the market and we were in negotiations. 

A two day window was all anyone had.  We could have easily have never even known.

The salient bits of the tale in brief:
  • We were not alone in our offer for the lot.  As discussed, the market tracks these things closely and there were plenty of interested parties bidding. 
  • The Owners wanted to sell the house on the adjacent lot at the same time.  This meant that suddenly, if we got the property, we had to quickly sell our current house and move.
  • The property owners chose to sell to us because we were the only actual family bidding, and we planned to hold on to the property, not develop-and-flip it.  And that mattered to them.  (If you read this, THANK YOU!)
And that is how we came to own an empty lot, and also live right next door to it.

If any of you are looking to find a lot for yourselves: May the Force be with you.

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