Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative

The Homestead

Homestead Homework: Challenge #3 – Utilities and Everything Else


Okay, so this is sort of a bummer post. After much going around and around and talking with too many people to even recall, it’s looking like we may not be able to build our homestead in the spot we had planned. Super sad face, I know. Let me break it down for you.

Basically, even if the spot itself is buildable (luckily, we had not yet invested in the geotechnical soil boring for the exact reasons I’m going to outline) there are too many obstacles that are either cost prohibitive or potentially a waste of money for it to be worth it. As Andrew said, if we had silly money like LeBron James there would be no question, we would build there without hesitation. But when the cost of just getting the site buildable (with proper access, utilities, etc.) is a huge chunk of our budget, before we even break ground on the house itself, we have to draw the line.

These are the hurdles we’ve been trying to clear for the past few weeks. It’s all quite circular in a way.


First, we’ve been trying to determine whether we need to tie into an existing sewer line, which is about 1,000 ft. away from our building spot. We originally thought we would just have a septic system. However, because our property is low-lying it might not be allowed by the county. And if it IS allowed, it would have to be a special system (read: expensive) designed for low-lying areas. And the process to get approved for a septic system costs about $600 without a guaranteed outcome that you would be allowed. So it’s a gamble. You could pay the $600 for them to tell you, “no, you can’t.” What. A. Racket.

But we still haven’t been able to get any clear answers on 1.) would be required to tie into the sewer line or 2.) would we be able to have a septic system.  We can’t get answers because we are required to have a survey done of where we are planning on building. Which we haven’t done yet. Why spend money on a survey if we can’t build there because we can’t afford to tie into the sewer system, or aren’t allowed a septic system? Do you see where this is going?

After a lot of back and forth with the county Health Department and the Medina County Sanitary Engineers we finally decided, okay, let’s just get the survey done and go from there.

Which leads us back to another issue. So, I wrote about zoning in my last post. We thought we were in the clear with just requesting a variance on our frontage, but after Andrew’s initial meeting with the surveying company, there is not only the 174 feet of frontage along the road, but that width has to extend a certain distance back from the road. Which we don’t have. We could ask for another variance, on that as well. But the surveyor brought up the issue of the driveway again and the bridge and that because we are dealing with a waterway we would have to get the Army Corp. of Engineers involved. We may not even be allowed to build a bridge in the end. Also, based on his initial assessment, if we are required to tie into the sewer line, his opinion was that it would be extremely cost-prohibitive to do so.

It seems like, ultimately, we would have to fork over a bunch of cash just to determine that we can’t afford to build where we want. *sigh*

As for the other utilities, electric and cable – no issues. But running the water line to our site would be really expensive, as would gas. So we were looking into drilling a well, which in principle, I really like the idea of. But in reality, it’s a gamble. You could dig two wells 40 ft. from one another and one could be great and the other terrible. And digging a well isn’t exactly cheap, but it would have been cheaper than tying into water at the street 1400 ft. away. Since we were building on a pond, we were looking into geothermal rather than gas and using a pond loop, which would have been great but still more cost-effective in the long-run than running gas. We weren’t really super psyched with the idea of cooking with electric, but we were looking into other options like propane or conduction. But between all of this AND the sewer/septic issues and the access issues, it all adds up.

We met with a builder a few weeks ago and his advice was to do our homework for this exact reason. You don’t want to get your heart set on or invest a lot of money into a property that isn’t going to work with your budget.

So this is where we’re at. I think Andrew and I are still coming to terms with this turn of events. But we’ve been entertaining other routes:

  • the most obvious, find another location to build
  • buy a pre-existing home and renovate it to suit or needs
  • save more money and build on our original spot in a few years
  • renovate a house with the intention of selling and building our home later in life

To be honest, renovating a house sounds mighty appealing to me at the moment, but that could just be the frustration talking.

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1 comment

  1. eydene - March 1, 2015 3:26 pm

    We prayed about our decision. It took us 6 years before we could nuild. Come to Twxas and look at the area we built. Dont rush into something I know you both will make the best decision for your family.


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