The sequence of events that added up to Sheila and I owning our cabin and land would be nearly impossible to reproduce; therefore the question, “How were you guys able to find that land?” would require a long, convoluted answer. The short answer is something like this:
- Mountain land values went down after the 2013 floods; our site wasn’t affected but did drop in price a few hundred thousand dollars.
- Sheila was able to convince me to get off my butt and look at the land when she first saw it listed; I had a proclivity to not tease myself with such visits in case I happened to really like a location that would inevitably be too expensive. But we went.
- The listing of the land / cabin had terrible photos, which only benefitted us. From the listing, it looked like there was a rotten cabin nestled on a steep, ugly lot of mountain dirt.
- Someone had the land under contract when we first saw it and had contracted to build a 3,000 + sq. foot home. For whatever reason… they backed out, but did leave the septic and well they installed. Once they broke their contract, the land went back on the market for $35,000 less than originally listed.
- The home prices in Lafayette, where Sheila owned her home, skyrocketed.
- I happened to be at my parents’ home in Connecticut when our offer was being considered. They helped out in many ways and encouraged us to go for it. No matter how old you get, when Mom and Dad are on your side it’s a great help!
- The rental we are in now (as we plan our home build) is owned by a friend of ours. The previous tenant, also a friend, offered a vacancy when she suddenly decided to move in with a gent who owned a home in the Pacific northwest and moved out. Perfect timing.
There’s more to it, boring stuff like easements, financial shenanigans, mineral rights and occupancy standards, but in the end, we now own a humble little cabin on 5 acres of mountain land in Boulder, Colorado. In a few years, we’ll build a permanent home and keep the cabin as our little guesthouse (or as it legally has to be designated in Boulder County, a “playhouse”).
The reality of having land in Boulder still hasn’t sunk in. It’s worth noting that the typical narrative of ownership in Boulder is a far cry from our story. For one, we both come from modest, middle class families — a lot of Boulder carves out their place here with silver spoons (silver excavators?). As Boulder gets more and more expensive, the prospect of actually settling down in this amazing city seems impossible at times. A small, beat-up home in Boulder goes for around $650,000 these days — even being house-poor is a privilege.
We still have a long road to go… it won’t be cheap to plunk a house down in the mountains. There were many years of hard work and luck and we know this is just the beginning of a longer journey. But if I could send a quick snapshot of my life right now to my 20 year old self, the younger me would take a sip of Mountain Dew, nod with approval and get back to playing Final Fantasy III.
There’s so much to love about our little place in the world. It’s fantastic for the dogs — they have plenty of land to roam free. We have terrific views, especially of Sugarloaf Mountain and the tastefully named James Peak. There are old mines on our land and quite a bit of history in the hills. The scrappy cabin has good bones. Our land borders a secluded parcel of National Forest and there’s even a mountain to climb right in our backyard, Arkansas Mountain. And most exciting to me, I’ve begun to build trails to run and bike on. We can’t wait to have friends come up and visit — it’s only about 15 minutes from downtown Boulder.
Before there were established roads, the land claims here went by their mine names. Ours happens to be Cloud City, a fantastically nerdy Star Wars reference (it’s where Lando governed over the tibanna gas mines on Bespin, obviously). In the coming months, I plan to write about our adventures on this blog, so stay tuned for the Cloud City Chronicles. It’s an exciting time for us and we hope to show that sometimes a dream deferred doesn’t explode, it gets dragged into existence over years of perseverance.