9 Things We Kept in Mind While Finding Land to Build the Tiny Dice House On

9 Things We Kept in Mind While Finding Land to Build the Tiny Dice House On

Before we had entered the Airbnb OMG! Fund contest, we had closed on a several acre wooded property in Greenville, SC. 

Our initial plans were to build a custom home as well as a modern treehouse that we and our friends and family could enjoy but also list on Airbnb when we weren't using it. While a lot of those plans have changed now, we're glad that we're able to still use this beautiful wooded property to develop the Tiny Dice House on instead.  

At the time we found this property, we were newbies to being land and property owners and were also buying during the crazy real estate market frenzy. Needless to say, we definitely learned a lot throughout the several month process!

For context, here’s a quick summary of our timeline of events below:

  1. Found listing on Zillow (FSBO) after several months of searching

  2. Had our agent visit the property and FaceTime us

  3. Made an offer 

  4. Negotiations

  5. Seller accepted offer

  6. Earnest money deposit

  7. Inspection/due diligence period

  8. Appraisal

  9. Negotiated a few more things in a new contract

  10. Owner made some repairs, completed subdivision with new survey & plat map

  11. Escrow/closing

Here are the nine things we kept in mind while finding the land that the Tiny Dice House will be built on:

1. Think long term and be flexible.

Our initial plans for this property was to build a custom single family home, but boy did those plans change 😅. Luckily, we were flexible enough to accommodate for such changes and consciously chose a property that could be used for multiple purposes such as building a Tiny Dice House… 

2. Don’t compromise on location. 

There's definitely truth to the saying that the three most important things in real estate are: location, location, location. Arguably there were many other plots of land that had more acreage for a very affordable price, but of course, they were all much farther from town, in a bad neighborhood, near high tension power lines obstructing views, etc. 

We passed on many such properties that otherwise fit our other criteria but were just not in a super desirable location. At the end of the day, the one thing you can’t change about your property is the location. Crappy properties in a highly desirable location will still appreciate faster than a great property in an undesirable location.

3. Be patient, but be ready to pounce. 

The hardest part of the process was waiting and waiting for the right property, browsing and passing on thousands of listings, and trying sooo hard to be patient rather than making an impulsive purchase. 

Like an adept predator, you patiently stalk your prey until the right one and the perfect moment comes along to make your move.

The key for us was to be prepared with everything else (i.e. finances, on the ground agent, knowing your must-haves, etc.) so that we were ready to pounce on the opportunity the moment we saw our dream property come up.

We didn't want to come across a listing we loved and not be ready to act decisively and quickly. As the saying goes, "You snooze, you lose."

4. Act like a private investigator during due diligence.

In another life, I might have made for a good private investigator, but for now, I’ll stick to doing very detailed due diligence on our real estate investments… 

Before we even made an offer that was accepted, I was tapping into the many publicly available resources offered by Google, Mapright (an awesome tool) and the county GIS map to verify different aspects of the property. We were also doing all of this remotely from across the country so it definitely made things more interesting.

After our offer was accepted, we had two weeks to do due diligence (this can vary depending on the type of offer you made and negotiated with the seller). 

Anything that initially seemed a little suspicious but weren't major red flags/deal breakers for us to make an offer at first were researched more thoroughly (i.e. timeline of the property, price history, ownership, etc.). Note: any discrepancies regarding clear ownership of the property should also come up during the title search/insurance process.

During this time, we also did a home inspection since there was an existing home on the property. We called the county and looked up more county databases to see what we could find to verify what we already knew or to discover new things that hadn't been disclosed (i.e. property boundaries, neighbors, building permits, septic plans, survey maps, easements, etc.).

We were working with a real estate agent who helped provide some of these details, but at the end of the day, we wanted to be extra proactive and do research on our own as well to ensure we covered all of our bases.

Not all sellers will be explicit about all the facts up front, so one of the benefits of reading between the fine lines was us learning that the existing home on the property was actually a renovated manufactured home built many decades ago. This changed some of the follow-up negotiations, which worked to our benefit.

5. Know what the seller is motivated by.

We were purchasing this property during a time when everyone was trying to do the same thing so it was a hot sellers market. This meant that we had to make a compelling offer that could beat out the competition. Luckily for us, this was a FSBO listing (i.e. less competition in general) and the seller specifically needed a longer lease back term because they were waiting for their new home to be ready. This was not an issue at all for us so our offer included a very generous lease back period at a below market monthly rental rate, which was very enticing for the seller.

Other sellers might be motivated by a quick sale, someone who can waive contingencies, inspections, or of course, an all cash offer. Knowing what the seller is motivated by can be key to reaching an offer that both parties feel like are win-win.

6. Know what you can and cannot do on the property beforehand.

This comes down to three main buckets:

  • What you can do legally due to zoning, HOAs, & covenants:
Get copies of any HOA, covenants and restrictions documents and confirm what the zoning of the property allows you to build.
  • What you can do geographically due to the topography of the land:
Visiting the property in person during the due diligence period gave us a much better idea of the topography. Often a property looks flat in pictures but has a noticeable slope in real life. Even looking at a topographic map, areas with a 4ft slope every couple of yards didn’t seem that big of a deal until stepping foot on the property. 
  • What you can do due to the available utilities on the land:
Our land runs on a septic but has access to public water and electricity which is great and allowed us more flexibility in what we could do on the property.

7. Visit the property during the daytime and nighttime and under different weather conditions if possible.

During these visits, we tried to get a feel for what the neighborhood and neighbors are like. Some general observations we wanted to make were:

  1. Is it a very private property? 
  2. How much of your neighbors can you see from your lot?
  3. Is it easy to find/access?
  4. Is it very noisy? Busy streets? Are there lots of kids around, retirees, families, etc.?
  5. Is it well-lit or very dark at night? 

8. Be prepared for anything we might've missed.

Even if we did the best due diligence in the world, we knew that there could still be issues that come up after we've closed on the property. We were prepared for that scenario in case it happened and had a reserve fund set aside to fix any issues that unexpectedly came up.

This is probably just common knowledge for any home/property owner, but there will always be unexpected expenses that you didn't initially plan for!

9. Would we actually want to live here?

This might not be the place that we actually build our forever home, but we could definitely imagine ourselves living or renting an Airbnb here for some time which was a good sign that it checked off all the requirements we had.


We'll be sharing more about our learnings and progress as we go along so be sure to follow us on social and subscribe below!

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