Long story, short: We tried to do similar and gave up before buying land.
I grew up in the Champlain Islands and my parents still live there. I wanted to have my first birthing experience in my home state, so after seven years abroad, I returned home; with my husband (Japanese citizen). Since having my first kid in Vermont was set in stone, we thought we would try to make our life there.
Ultimately, many factors drove us back to the warm embrace of Japan, but I will try to stick to those that will apply to you.
Eribeth Ballanfield wrote: Any experiences with financing a non-traditional structure as a primary residence? We don't have a huge pile of cash sitting around, so there would be a need for some financing. But, we are pretty debt averse and looking to keep this number as small as possible.
Financing and not wanting debt were the biggest contributing factors to our giving up.
Credit scores are bull shit and all the banks(that we talked to) cared about. So I had been out of the US for seven years, so no credit activity for seven years. My perfect credit score all the years before that meant nothing. We were told, even with my "rich" parents cosigning, that we had to build our credit score for at least a year before we could be considered for a loan. So get your free, yearly credit report and start building your score if you are looking for a loan.
A credit union I wouldn't recommend: NEFCU
They are kind of posh...I'll leave it at that.
A credit union I would recommend: VESCU
They were the most willing to work with us, gave us advice about raising our credit score and what they needed to approve us. They give nontraditional loans.
Eribeth Ballanfield wrote: Structures that are winterized that also are not too much house, fit our budget, and come with a reasonable amount of land (2-3+ acres) are hard to come by.
Anything we found on the market that fit our, looking back, unrealistic expectations, was way out of our price range. Anything in our price range was too far in the boonies or needed major repairs. Since we were more interested in land (we wanted at least ten acres) than house, I used Landwatch
as my primary searching tool. Smaller lots are listed on there also. You can fiddle with the search options and only return results with buildings. There were many lots when we were looking that had septic already and no building.
Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:
Any subcontractor recommendations (foundation/water/engineering, specifically)?
Not sure if they work in your area, but two recommendations from the islands:
They do solar and general electric. My husband worked for them for a time. They do top notch work and take care of and respect their customers.
They did foundation work on my parent's house and septic repairs, and my parents would recommend them. Haven't worked with them personally.
Eribeth Ballanfield wrote:
We have also been considering an on-wheels-tiny option, which has it's own legal issues. I know around here you can get away with *a lot* if you don't bug the neighbors, but we're also looking to be reasonably in the law and environmentally responsible.
Yeah, it only takes one person to start a fuss, and if it's illegal, you're done.
North Hero, where my parents are, is ridiculously strict. I've heard of town official following trucks with sheds on them to make sure the owner has a permit for their shed and payed the fees.
Alburgh, the town next door, however is a free for all, do what you want, nobody cares.
Front Porch Forum
is pretty popular in Vermont as a town email newsletter type thing. You can sign up with the address of the property you are looking to buy and read the back logs to find what people complain about.
If you searched north hero's you would find such gems as "who is the person inconsiderate enough to mow their lawn so that the grass blows onto the road and not clean it up?!" and "How dare a nonprofit supporting the arts buy a barn and restore it into an art gallery and event space next to us! It will be too loud and too much more traffic!"
Anyway, I was able to have a very positive birthing experience (highly recommend UVM and the midwife team there), and now we are living happily in Japan again. Vermont just wasn't for us. Hope you find what you are looking for!
Happy to answer other questions you might have!