So it was time to see how the real world matched up with our expectations. After checking things out online for a while, we planned a weekend to look at things in person. We decided to check out vacant land on our own, since we didn’t need to set up appointments and the like, but decided to use a realtor we’ve used in the past to look at houses.
We looked at half a dozen pieces of property, and the first few were okay, but their exposure to views and to the sun wasn’t great – they faced primarily to the east. Fine for early risers I suppose, but we wanted mountain sunsets if we could get them. Though photos gave a decent sense of what the actual building envelopes looked like, they didn’t give a great sense of long views, which were pretty important to us.
Then we found a lot in Mesa Cortina that clicked with us. It was a half acre in size, with a gentle slope to the south, and huge views to the south, from Peak 1 to Keystone. To the west was Buffalo Mountain.
It was mostly open, though there were a few trees along the road and near the back of the lot. It didn’t take much walking around before we could imagine ourselves drinking coffee while watching the sunrise light up the mountains, or cocktails on the patio watching the sun go down over Buffalo. Not to mention the fact that it was cheaper than the east-facing Cortina lots we looked at. We weren’t sold quite yet, but it was a really promising start. What was more, the lot was on municipal sewer and water.
The next day we saw half a dozen homes in our potential price range to see how they looked in real life. One was actually immediately behind the lot we liked. But each place we looked at had some significant problems. For example, though the house behind the lot we liked enjoyed big views, the major axis of the house was turned perpendicular to the views, so you only saw little snippets of them through the front windows. It also had a basement bedroom that could only be accessed through a laundry room. And it was listed for $125,000 more than we wanted to spend.
Another house was well more than we wanted to spend — about $300,000 more — but it had amazing views of the Gore Range. It was also a nice size. But it was built in the late 80s and hardly anything had been done to it since then. So it sported 1980s appliances and finishes, and in a lot of places it looked like 1980s paint. The sellers had left a contractor’s estimate of what it would take to fix all of the issues in the house, and it totalled about $300,000 worth of work. And it wasn’t all cosmetic either – major boiler repairs were one of the more prominent line items.
We looked at a couple of houses in the Blue River area, and we were struck by how much snow was still on the ground. The Mesa Cortina lots were snow-free the same weekend, but houses in Blue River were still surrounded by three or four feet of snow, particularly if they were in the shade. And nothing really lured us in around that area; some of the places had solid views of Quandary and the like, but the places we looked at all had somewhat occluded views and were a long way from Breckenridge. We checked out a couple more vacant lots before we passed back through Breckenridge, but nothing had the views of the Cortina lot we liked.
On the whole, we had expected the already-built houses in the area to offer more competition to the idea of building our own place. But after lining up the options and the numbers, the major issues each house in our price range presented made building seem like a better and better choice, especially since we weren’t under any sort of time pressure.
It was time to walk the prospective lot with Shaun, our architect and builder.