We have been looking at some property located in some rather soggy land, and some of that property is more than a little soggy itself. That presents a lot of rather unique problems, especially in hurricane country, but it can mostly be summed up in a single word.
When water comes in with a storm surge, it can mean a LOT of water. In some places, Katrina’s storm surge was in the 25-30 foot range, completely wiping out everything in its path. In most areas, it wasn’t that high…but still was considerably higher than the standard elevation of most waterfront homes of about 8-10 feet. According to second hand information we obtained, the area we were looking at requires that homes be elevated 13 feet above the natural grade.
That’s a long ways up when you are building a house. It is a long ways up if you are hoisting a mobile home up as well. In addition, there is no “work around” that requirement. Katrina cost too much, in property, in people, and in crushing the coastal infrastructure, and the county isn’t flexing on that requirement. I can’t say that I blame them either.
The only way we could “get around” that requirement while we built appropriately is to live in the travel trailer and understanding that every time a storm comes into the Gulf of Mexico, we’ll have to start preparing to hitch up our house and move it out of harm’s way. It isn’t convenient, but it may be far more practical than it sounds.
Building on land that wet comes with a long list of problems, especially when its land that does not have access to things like city sewer and water. We have to have a water source for potable water, and we have to have a way of disposing of our black and gray water. Our current information indicates that most of the lots we’ve looked at just do not have enough land to legally install any of the current septic systems on them.
That might not be as disastrous as it sounds. Septic systems, especially aerating ones, are not cheap anyhow. Using a storage tank and hiring a company to pump out the tank regularly might be a fairly cost effective solution for a couple, whereas for a family…it could be incredibly expensive between more toilet flushes, more showers, and plenty of loads of laundry.
So why would we consider land that has such a problem anyhow?
It’s simple. We would consider it for the same reason people have always considered land prone to flooding as an appropriate purchase and home site…land that floods is cheap. The trade off is that you have to be prepared to handle the water, one way or another. Insurance is more expensive and may have strict requirements about what is and isn’t covered too. Certificates of occupancy will require that the rules are followed to the letter…or you can’t get utilities and you can’t move in.
We aren’t jumping into anything. We have to have a heart-to-heart with the seller yet, as well as long visit with the county to see whether or not what we want to do will be allowed. We need to know what the requirements will be, and whether we think we can agree to them economically.
So what is our rather nebulous plan?
We would continue living in our travel trailer, but would build a storage shed, workshop, and screened patio/carport that would allow us to entertain without bugs and rain interfering. By having the ends of the “patio” where we can drive the van in, it gives us a place where we can unload/load the van out of the weather, as well as work on the vehicle if necessary. (The same is true of the boat.) Large, lightweight panels could be swung open to allow the vehicle to pass through. As an alternative, we may consider the pole-and-tarp temporary “garages”, some of which are available with mesh panels for ventilation.
This would buy us the time to find a suitable plan, hopefully see the economy recover so we can afford to build, and become our home. We could move our goods currently in a storage unit to the storage shed, and the workshop would allow us to have the space to manage tools and projects, as well as store supplies as we begin building.
It’s made us think about a lot of things, including whether or not we want to commit to remaining here on the Gulf Coast, as well as how close-to-the-water we want to be. I am somewhat infatuated with the water these days, whereas GM is not so much so. I try to forget about alligators…he reminds me. I am craving real estate to call home, even if it’s marshy on half of it, prone to flooding with each tropical storm and hurricane, and infested with snakes and mosquitoes. He is more cautious about long term commitment to the property. My contention is that if it is cheap enough…we can buy it and use it as a semi-long term location for the travel trailer, even if we end up relocating later. (RV park rent @$200 per month plus utilities=$2400 per year to use someone else’s land. Lot purchased for $5K…we break even at 25 months, and it’s not cost anymore than a parking space rent, you might say.) Now that does leave out some issues like taxes, insurance, and even the pump out on the septic tank…sewer is usually gratis in an RV park, so we do need to check on prices for the pump out, what the taxes would be, how much the insurance would be, and see about arranging for the travel trailer to be towed out of harm’s way in the event of a hurricane.
There are a lot of things to think about, and sometimes I have to remind myself how much I despise the heat and humidity of a coastal summer. Do I want to be committed to staying here long term?
Maybe a day of fishing out in da bayou will help me think it over, right?