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Thread: Property and Land Questions

  1. #1
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    Default Property and Land Questions

    Hello and thank you all for taking time supporting this thread and community by answering questions. I'm not here to ask very general questions. I've looked at a lot of threads on here and it has answered most of those. Such as the drive through Canada and their rules, yearly utilities, if you would all do it again and the changes AK has gone through within the last 20 years. I don't think tv shows portray the real life there and I didn't base my expectations off that. For a little about me, I own a business here in mainland and will be selling it to fund my relocation. Best thing I can do is get land and build a home, which is really hard to do here in Portland, OR, the real estate here is just through the roof. And renting here or there is about the same. I am seeking a more wholesome and fulfilling lifestlye with less people in general around. Less chasing paychecks and the competition of over half a million people in a city. I have a lot of big ideas for my property and what I would like to have on it.
    I am interested in moving to Fairbanks or that general area. I have looked at surrounding lots of land 30 mins to an hour out of town, such as North Pole, SW near Denali and to the North around Goldstream area. What area would be best and for what reasons?

    My experience with building here in OR, is foundation is about 12" and basements aren't a problem. I have researched the permafrost zones there and I'm not entirely sure how the foundation is supposed to work. I also plan on bringing a water pump and water heater and was curious how far down do I have to go to hit water? I also would really like to have a basement/root cellar but I read that flooding can be an issue. So does anyone have any building advice and how to proceed? Know anyone there who can provide a quoted cost of concrete as well for foundation?
    My best friend and I will both be making this move and plan on visiting 2015 summer to buy our land and find a dry cabin to move there. Then the 2016 spring we will move up and hopefully have the foundation ready to begin, so we can begin our framing, etc. We know and expect our first year or two there to be our most expensive.
    Also, a lot of the land we looked at said that electricity was available. Is it pretty expensive to have it run out to our land? When we build our house, we plan on keeping is simple at first, but pre-run the electrical and plumbing for expansions later.
    My research so far of Fairbanks is that it has a lot more modern amenities than I originally thought and that my Verizon service will work up there. We're not looking to live a fully on the grid life, but like to have the options and want to be close enough to town to seek social and modern enjoyment. We plan on bringing some solar panels as well.
    Another question of mine, is there anything we should bring along with our move that is harder to find there or less accessible? I saw there was a Lowes in town so that is pretty nice.
    Overall we are both handy men and can do most of this work ourselves but could really use a connection prior to our move to get a more accurate insight of what to be prepare and organized for. I'm sorry this is so much to read but thank you for taking the time and for any advice you can provide.
    Cheers!
    May you always find shade and water.

  2. #2
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    As I've said on other threads, the best advice is to come up and rent for a year or two while looking for land and understanding what issues a lot may have during different seasons. I'd say of all the land available for sale, only a small percentage of it will allow for a good straightforward build. Most lots have issues with water during different seasons and no matter how good of a deal a lot may seem to be, you can end up with a lot that is unbuildable, or dealing with the water will cost way more than what you saved on the lot. No amount of positive attitude will make a marginal lot good and time spent finding good land is time very well spent. In general, good buildable lots sell quickly. Talk to builders to understand issues and visit any perspective lot during the winter and especially breakup. The more remote a lot is, the more expensive it is to build on due to transportation costs for materials, tools and if you need to run utilities.

    Water issues aren't just whether you'll have to deal with flooding, if you're in a remote area you'll need a well and septic system. Septic systems require soil that can drain properly and many locations have issues with ground water for wells. North pole has issues with the ground water being contaminated by the refinery.

    As far as foundations, it depends on the frost line. In Anchorage foundation footings are required to be four feet deep, farther North, farther down. Here's a shot of the foundation for the house we're having built in Anchorage during construction.



    Here's the foundation after they back filled. It has a walkout basement.

    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

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    Our land is west of Wasilla. The well cost us $40 per foot to drill. We hit water at 151 and the water filled the well to 93. Water testing showed iron and arsenic that we'll have to treat for. Water test was $160.

    Power is to the edge of the property. MEA charged $23.23 per foot to run power cable from the nearest pole to our meter base. We paid that up front instead of making payments. I bought the parts for the meter base at Brown's ($476.48) & HD (treated plywood and posts) and a neighbor/friend helped me put it together.

    We had a perc. test done and found water pretty close to the surface. We had a soil eng. company plan our septic system and the cost est. a couple of years ago was right at $10K to have the septic system put in. No basement for us.

    Good luck.

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    Thank you very much for the realism, information and pictures, that's definitely what I needed. I have more to think on and add to my notes. Upon my visit I will make sure I talk to some builders regarding buildable land and what to look for.
    May you always find shade and water.

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    Thank you for the cost numbers, that really helps a lot. Exactly what I was looking for.
    May you always find shade and water.

  6. #6
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    As far as cost, 150' is on the shallow side for wells. Some go down to over 400'. They just drilled our well this weekend and I haven't heard how deep they went. The closest neighbors well is at 230' so hopefully the driller hit the same aquifer. There are some wells in neighborhood that are in the mid 300's. Since our lot is sloped the walk out basement worked for us to get the main floor elevated to take advantage of our views and work with the way our lot is configured. I don't think I'd go with a basement on a flat lot as there is always the risk of flooding.

    One thing to note on the Fairbanks area is that homes are heated with heating oil which costs roughly double what natural gas costs. So heating a home in Fairbanks will cost you more than double what heating a home in the Mat-su, Anchorage or Kenai Peninsula due to fuel oil, and the winters are much colder.

    Suitable land is a relative term. If you're building a cabin on pilings, get water from a stream, use an outhouse and heat with wood most land will be suitable. Building a conventional home and or shop with utilities you need to be much more selective. One thing I've learned over the decade plus I've been looking at land in Alaska to build on is that there are no deals, and good land is worth every penny. Lets say in the area you're looking lots of a given size are going for $100,000, and you come across a lot that looks like a steal at $50,000. I can almost guarantee it will cost you at least $100,000 to deal with whatever issues the "bargain" lot has, if it's possible at all but that land will still be worth just $50,000 and whatever value the home you build on it is.
    Those that are successful in Alaska are those who are flexible, and allow the reality of life in Alaska to shape their dreams, vs. trying to force their dreams on the reality of Alaska.

    If you have a tenuous grasp of reality, Alaska is not for you.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul H View Post
    As far as cost, 150' is on the shallow side for wells. Some go down to over 400'. They just drilled our well this weekend and I haven't heard how deep they went. The closest neighbors well is at 230' so hopefully the driller hit the same aquifer. There are some wells in neighborhood that are in the mid 300's.
    I'm about 25 miles east of Fairbanks and about 600' above sea level, and neighbors who have wells typically have them in the 70' deep range. I'm on a water tank, which is working out much, much, much better than I thought it would, and the water quality is far better than what comes out of local wells. With two of us in the house plus 20 dogs, we go through about 1000 gallons/month, typical bill is in the $90 range.

    Another area to consider is Haystack, NE of Fairbanks. It has a remote feel but isn't far from town, and is adjacent to the Whites with trails running out of the subdivision into the mountains. Also, what Paul said about "suitable" land, although you should be able to get into a parcel up here for a lot less than it costs down in south central.
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