Trying to Build a House on a Lot With No Street

I own a vacant parcel of land in East Nashville that I am attempting to make “buildable.” It was included in a deal that I purchased last year. The seller had a two bedroom cottage on one lot that received the majority of attention, and almost as an afterthought, the listing agent mentioned that the adjacent parcel was also included in the sale. At first glance, the house appeared to simply have an extra large side and back yard, so I’m not certain that all potential buyers realized that there were two separate lots. The listing received plenty of interest from buyers, eliciting nine offers in about 36 hours. I wrote about my reasoning for paying $15,000 over the list price, and one of the reasons was for the potential use of the vacant lot. Before making our “highest and best offer,” I called the fine folks of the Metro Nashville Government to see if the unused lot could be built upon. I was hoping for a simple answer. Now, over a year later, it has become quite clear that the answer is anything but simple.

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The difficulty with this lot, and probably the reason that no house exists on it, is due to a large “wet weather conveyance” (aka a creek) that runs right through it. The creek varies between widths of 20-25 feet across and runs the full length of the parcel. It is large enough that the road stops on both sides of it, creating two dead ends, and one lot with basically no road frontage.

Although dry most of the year, this creek carries quite a bit of stormwater that runs off of Ellington Parkway and the surrounding neighborhood during the rainy seasons. The first step in seeing if this lot would be buildable was to file a “Community Water Determination Request.” Essentially, Metro Water Services storm water division had to assess the water quality and decide if this channel was a stream or not, which would impact the widths of the overlaying easement. In short, if there were fish and crawdads playing in the water, the easements would be larger, and there would be no building envelope available.

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A Hot Spring for Real Estate Investing

As spring 2015 nears it’s merge into summer, it feels like the right time to begin discussing the recent events of real estate investing. I apologize, dear reader, for my recent absence from writing on The Urban Investor site. Due to the increased priority of a new musical project, I won’t be churning out the articles quite as frequently as the “grand opening” of the site. However, real estate discussion is too fun to stay away from for too long, so indeed there will be periodic posts.

ubanThe Nashville, TN market is remarkably on fire right now. According to one report ranking The Top Single-Family Housing Markets it is third in the United States, trailing only Denver, Colorado and San Antonio, Texas. But it isn’t only single-family homes that are garnering attention. Music City is teeming with new developments including condos, apartments, hotels, office space, retail and commercial projects. I wrote about my concerns for a potential housing bubble, and I still have those concerns. However, the demand for Nashville property has shown no signs of slowing down in 2015. In fact, there has only been increased demand since 2014, adding more fuel to the fire.

From an active investor’s perspective, it is a wild and exciting environment. I compare the real estate market to the food chain. Hovering around the top are multitudes of hungry home-seekers. They are waiting for new listings of quality houses they can devour. Some are buyers and some are renters. They want to live in Nashville, and they are having a hard time finding the house they want for the price they want. According to CNN, about 82 people are moving to Nashville every day. These folks are growing increasingly frustrated with the limited inventory of rentals and homes for sale. As their searches drag on, they tend to lessen their demands from their initial checklist of what they were looking for. Often they settle for a house that is either smaller, uglier, or not in the location that was originally desired. Or else they elect to pay more.

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