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How We Bought Land That Wasn’t For Sale

The Power of Asking

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I'm Katelyn James Alsop, a photographer, educator and momma who believes any photographer can have a profitable AND purposeful business.

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PLEASE NOTE: If you don’t want to read all of this story… we understand. We’ve included a video and cliff notes version at the end!! So, it all started with a Zillow search. One evening during our nightly routine of laying in bed and looking for land together on our phones, we found what we thought was going to be the DREAM LOT! It was incredibly cheap and it was in the most perfect area. We had a lot of “wants” for this property. We wanted it to be close to Short Pump. Short Pump is civilization. There is EVERY store known to man located in Short Pump… even an Apple store! We didn’t want to be so far out that we couldn’t run to the store quickly. That was #1 on our list.

We also wanted to find land that was CLEARED instead of wooded. My dream has always been to live in a wide open field with a pretty view just like where I grew up! My parents live on 10 acres in the middle of nowhere and I honestly love it. I didn’t love that it took 50 minutes to get to true civilization but living in the country was awesome!! So, because of my childhood experience of living in an open field, we hoped for several acres not only because it would give us some breathing room but it would also allow us to have freedom to have workshops and never EVER worry about parking!! We also needed Comcast to already have lines run on the street so that we know that we can pay to have hard wired internet…. which is VERY hard to find in the country!

So, back to that night when we saw this dream land for sale! We went to go see it bright and early one Saturday morning in December and as soon as we turned on the street, I grabbed Michael’s arm and said “Oh my gosh! This is it! I LOVE THIS AREA!!!”. We arrived at the end of the street where there were 15 acres for sale and it was literally EVERYTHING we had hoped for… even down to the comcast boxes! We got so excited and we wanted to contact a realtor so that we could walk the whole property. This is when it gets sad. This road ended with a cul-de-sac and a beautiful wide open field but that wide open field at the end of the street wasn’t the property that was for sale. If you look at the GIS system, the lines of the property that was for sale was a little sliver of field on the left that led back to 15 acres of wooded land with 75% of it in the flood zone. We tried everything we could think of to make the front sliver of this land work. You can see my photoshopped plot ideas below. The restrictions from the property line and the flood zone left us with minimal house options that would be RIGHT on the road. It was heartbreaking because even though this land wasn’t open and gorgeous, it was still in the RIGHT area with internet options and some potential! :

See… I tried! It just wasn’t possible! Yikes!

closing on the land_8179

 

The land at the end of the street that we first fell in love with wasn’t for sale and so we decided to make a low offer on the 15 acres with the flood zone just to see. However, right before we made an offer, our realtor said “You know, you could always just ASK the owner of this property that you LOVE if they would ever consider selling!”. Well, this land was PERFECT and acres of land outside of Short Pump are in high demand so 1. We knew it would be too expensive and 2. If that owner wanted to SELL his land, it would be on the market. So why even bother, right? Well Michael and I went home that night and googled our little hearts out. We found the owner of the land and we decided to take a risk of rejection so we crafted a letter!

We knew that the couple who owned the land lived right beside the property that we were in love with and so we decided to make the letter personal because after all, if there was ANY chance of making this happen, they would probably want to know who their neighbors would be! So, we told them our story and we included a little picture of the three of us. Then, we placed the letter in the mail box without using the US Postal service and evidently, that is illegal. So that was our first strike against us. We left the letter with close to ZERO hope that we would ever hear from them. A day passed and Michael’s phone rang. I stood beside him in our foyer as I listened to a sweet, elderly man’s voice say that he had been thinking about breaking off 7 acres and selling it and we were the first to ask at the right time!! By this point, I was jumping up and down and trying not to let my excitement translate through the phone too much!!!

We immediately called our parents and told them the news… “THEY ARE GOING TO SELL US THE LAND THAT WASN’T FOR SALE!!!”. Well, that excitement continued until we realized just how amazing this property was and how expensive it could possibly be. We prayed about it and then we waited for the offer. I remember it perfectly. It was Valentine’s day weekend in February of 2014. We pulled in the driveway like we always did and Michael got the mail. He threw away the junk mail and then I heard him say ‘Katelyn! Come here!”. We had received a formal letter from Mr. & Mrs. Rich with the price. We opened it and we couldn’t believe what we saw!!! We could afford it!!!! It was a miracle!!!! I cried, called Buddy and Jill, called our parents and we celebrated the fact that we were officially buying LAND THAT WASN’T FOR SALE!!!!!

Now, the most amazing part of the story isn’t that we bought land that wasn’t for sale, it is that we bought it from the sweetest couple. Mr. & Mrs. Rich are our grandparent’s age and since we did all of this without a realtor, we met with them at their home multiple times and they even hosted a neighborhood Christmas dinner and we were the guests of honor!!! Can you believe that?! I could cry just thinking about it. Not only did we find our dream lot, we found the sweetest neighbors too!!!

We had to go through SIX MONTHS of hoops with the county to get the land rezoned and divided. One of my favorite memories was attending the local Planning Commission meeting where they voted on our rezoning. When it went through, we celebrated with what I assume was Mr. & Mrs. Rich’s first “selfie”! :):):) We closed in August and we’ve been playing ball with Bokeh on our land in the evenings ever since!!! Now isn’t that a STORY?! It makes me cry just thinking about it! God had his hand in this from the very beginning! We’re going to live on 7 acres in the country… just minutes from Short Pump… with hard wired internet …. and a view… and we have the sweetest neighbors! We are so thankful!!!

If you want to take a peek of what it looks like, here’s some fun drone footage from our good friend & amazing videographer Tyler Herrinton!!!! Ps. Don’t miss Bokeh Boy at the end… he evidently doesn’t like drones. Also, if you want to follow our house journey, you can follow along on the “Home Made for Hosting” Instagram account HERE! 

 

The Alsop’s Land! from The Herrintons on Vimeo.

 

The house will eventually sit to the right of where Michael is walking here…. closing on the land_8174

Most of the acreage is cleared but we have a buffer of trees behind us with an open grove area… that I’m SURE will be full of mosquitos in the summer!! Yikes!

closing on the land_8176closing on the land_8178 closing on the land_8173closing on the land_8175

If you can’t tell… Bokeh loves wide open spaces!!

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Our little creek!!

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CLIFF NOTES VERSION:
– We dreamed of land
– We thought we found land
– The land we loved wasn’t actually for sale
– We were brave and put a letter in a stranger’s mailbox asking to buy the land that wasn’t for sale!
(Found out this was illegal!)
– We prayed… a lot.
– The owners offered us the land! WHAT?!
– We could actually afford it!
– We had it rezoned!
– We bought it in AUGUST! And I still can’t believe it!!
**The full version is much more exciting!**

We’re Building Again, Read The Story Why HERE!

If you want to see pictures of our current home, click Here!

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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