The first property we purchased was on Mussey Grade Road, on the west side of Ramona.  The road carves through a narrow canyon on its way to the San Vincente Reservoir, where the road dead-ends.  The road used to go all the way to Lakeside, but when the reservoir was built, it flooded out the end of the road.

            The lot was flat on the bottom, with a possible building site.  A narrow road ran up the side of the canyon to a second flat site.  For our purposes, we wanted to build on the second site, with its views down the canyon, but a large boulder occupied part of the site.



            Jim and JC met with Art, grading contractor.  An illegal cut and fill was done on the bottom of the lot.  You can’t put a septic field in a fill area.  Art doesn’t know where the county will want the septic field placed.  The percolation test update will determine the building site.  Art suggested dynamiting the boulder and putting the house where the boulder was, if the septic field at the bottom of the lot was ok.

            Home Depot has a building plans book, or we can borrow some from Accudraft.  Jeff Brumfield, loan agent:  The drafter can be paid out o fthe loan, but he needs the plans to close the loan.  The loan requires 50% down, usually out of pocket.  Can the contractor build it into his costs?

            House specifications:  fluorescent lights in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room.  Master bedroom 13 X 15 minimum.  No garage; 1350 square feet living space.  Living room in front; kitchen and dining room in back.


Budget 106k – 111k


Wish list: Vacant land, new house

Must have:

3 bedrooms

2 baths

“great room” (living room, dining room, kitchen)

take advantage of view

ceiling fans in all rooms


Nice but not necessary:

4th bedroom

laundry room off kitchen

fireplace in living room

big front porch


Wish list house <200k, already built

At least ½ acre lot, isolated

Nice view

3 bedrooms

commutable location

open floor plan

big kitchen

no pool

stucco exterior

move-in condition: fresh paint and carpet

fireproof roof

central heating and air

up on a hill


Nice but not necessary:

2+ acre lot

great view

west end of town

4th bedroom for computer

fruit trees

patios and porches


low water landscaping

ceiling fans

laundry room


            We met with a blaster to look at the boulder.  “Kid Dynamite” looked at the rock and said, “no problem, where do you want it?”  When I asked for clarification, he told me he would launch the rock to whatever part of the lot we wanted.



            New Dimension Homes site inspection was rained out.  CB to reschedule.  Spoke with JC.  The previous septic layout is with the seller’s agent – JC will take it to Art.

            Last perc done in 1985.  Appears as if the house would be on the top of the hill, and the leach lines would be in the middle.  There used to be a well on the property.  From the title company, a water line running through the middle of the lot to a property on top of the hill has no easement.  JC suggests selling them one.


We originally contacted another builder, who gave us the information that the cost to build was the same as buying an existing home.  This builder was extremely busy, and our calls went unreturned.  We finally asked JC to recommend another builder, and we chose Andy from New Dimension Homes.



            Art says the fire department won’t approve the driveway.  Cancel escrow.  Advise the seller of the lack of an easement for the water line, illegal cut and fill, and the inability to conform the driveway to the fire department’s regulations.

            Existing septic layout - $40k (house at top of hill).  New layout – $25k (house mid-hill, septic at the bottom).

            Perc update must include plan to put septic at bottom of hill and house on middle pad.  If this is not acceptable, the price must be reduced by $40k.

            Friday, 9:30 AM and Saturday, 2 PM, appointments with JC to look at houses and vacant land.


Surprisingly, to us, the major player on whether a site is suitable for building is the fire department.  If the driveway grade exceeds a certain value, it must be paved.  It must be a certain width, and at one point, widen enough to allow two engines with equipment bays open to pass.  It must have a turnaround large enough for a fire engine to return down the driveway front first.  The property we were considering failed to meet these requirements without a lot of additional expense.  We never reached the point of debating whether a septic field would be allowed in the fill area.  Reluctantly, we cancelled escrow.


Apartment H-6


Our house sold, so we moved into an apartment in Ramona.  It was a two-bedroom unit and adequate for our needs.  The complex had a pool, so during the heat of summer, we could go swimming. Our neighbors were friendly and quiet.  It was not an unpleasant lifestyle.