Property survey and retaining wall construction countdown

Good morning, readers. It’s been almost six months of aggressive saving leading up to this, and today is the day. Or rather, Wednesday is the day. Work is due to start on the retaining wall this week.

When we last left you, we signed the agreement with Kerr and Kerr Landscaping and paid a deposit for them to start work in the spring. After that, we had nothing new to report because we spent the last six months saving every last penny to pay for this project. Without going into specifics about our income, I can tell you it was a long six months of thinking “do I REALLY need this?” before every purchase I’ve made. I have a list of things I actually need to buy or would like to buy as soon as I free up some cash again.

Dan and I each saved up our half of the money for the project. We briefly considered taking out a small loan for a portion of the cost, but we settled on buckling down and saving it all up front so we wouldn’t have yet another monthly payment for something. Our research on loans only went as far as playing with loan calculators on bank websites, so I don’t know what the real interest cost would have been, but even at a very small amount, the monthly payments would stretch out for at least a year. We’ve been depriving ourselves of all the niceties in life since November, and it didn’t sound appealing to keep doing it for another year.

As of last month, I reached my saving goal. This is assuming the final cost of the project resembles the estimate we received, so it may cost us a bit more than we planned. Let’s all cross our fingers that they don’t unearth a body or a significant archaeological find under our driveway.

We also had an extra cost as part of the preparation for wall construction – a survey to accurately mark our property line. This came up during the estimate we received from Helmutz in the fall, where the nice fellow who came out to look at the wall asked if we had a survey showing the property line. Nope. He put the fear of lawsuits and court battles with neighbours into me, and I decided we would be getting the property line marked.

In the fall, I contacted a company in Cambridge that does property surveys to get an estimate. They told me $700 – $900 to mark one side of the property. Eek. Not all four sides. Nothing documented on paper to last me until the end of time. Some stakes in the ground and peace of mind. Dan didn’t love this one. He firmly decided against it, and said we would take the risk. Nope, absolutely not. You might not know me personally, readers, but I am not a risk taker. I told Dan I would pay the full cost of the survey, because I want to do this project right, and I don’t want anyone questioning the placement of a very expensive wall of concrete. Two weeks ago, I got back in touch with the survey company to have them come and mark the property line.

Two men arrived at our front door at the crack of 8am on Monday morning last week to hunt for property markers. We were asleep. When I got out of bed a short while later to walk a dog, I introduced myself and told them to do their thing. They said they didn’t need anything from me, so I went about my day. When I came back from my walk, they were around the corner from the house, walking paces from a marker on the neighbours yard. It all looked very high-tech. When Dan and I were leaving for work an hour later, they were in their truck so I went over to let them know we were on our way out. The guy said that was fine, and then sheepishly asked if we had a copy of the property survey, because they were having a hard time finding the markers. Why no, good sir. That is what I am paying you to do. I left them to it and headed out for the day.

When Dan got home from work, he didn’t see any marks or stakes or anything on the driveway. No note or messages about what was done. The one thing he did see was an X, marked in pencil, about two feet away from the side door, and easily 4 feet in from the edge of the existing wall. A visual:
X, marking a very confusing spot for us
I could tell you that we thought nothing of this and that we had a pleasant evening. That would be a lie. We had big ol’ fight about this, because it lead to thoughts like “what if our driveway is 4 feet narrower than we thought?”, and “let’s just pretend we don’t know and build the wall in the same spot anyway”. I read through all of our home purchase documents, including the teeny tiny print on the title insurance documents. We didn’t have a fun night.

The next day I called the survey company to ask what was up. The office guy confirmed that the crew couldn’t find the markers for the property line, but he was on the case now using whatever sophisticated maps he had at the office. And the X? It means nothing. It was a marker for some reference point. Way to cause an epic fight, sir. The next day the crew came back while we were out at work, and the driveway was marked with stakes and florescent orange flags. Ahhhhhhh. Peace of mind.

DSC05254

They placed the first marker right at the sidewalk, on the other side of the old hydro pole:

DSC05247

And for good measure they did one smack dab in the retaining wall itself, knowing full well that it would be ripped out when the construction starts:

DSC05246

And they carried the stakes right through to the backyard, to give the landscapers a reference once the driveway stakes are gone:

The final tally from the survey company was $1017, tax included. My contact at their office said the crew spent more time looking for the markers than I would be charged for, so I’m grateful he kept the cost close to his original estimate.

My next battle is getting a hold of someone at the parking exemption office at the City of Cambridge to tell them when we’ll be parking on the street. I originally left a message saying today was the start date, but we’ve been delayed a few days due to weather. I think that’s the last thing on my to do list other than pay all my hard earned money to the lovely landscapers who are doing the work. It’s happening, and it will be over soon.

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About joeyandjanice

Two crazy kids trying to make sense of the jumble surrounding making the jump from renting to owning our first home. Join us here as we stumble towards the biggest purchase of our lives.
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