Our Journey to Building A Barndominum

Wow, I can’t believe we are finally here!!!

Construction is underway for our barndominium and I am beside myself with excitement for our family.

Let me start from the beginning with how we got here and what we are planning to do.

The Backstory:

Last year, I was 8 months pregnant with our son, Carson, when we decided to sell what we thought was the home we would raise a family in.

A few different opportunities aligned perfectly to allow us to make the decision to sell our home when most families would think having your first child was overwhelming enough.

One thing about Jay and I is that we love to take on what makes sense when it comes to real estate investing. Even if the timing isn’t what we expected. It definitely always seems to happen in the midst of other projects. But, we trust our gut and plan carefully on the front end to have the ability to jump on opportunities when they present themselves.

To plan and prepare is to be an intelligent investor.

Erica Mintu

Our conversations look different & it’s one of the many things that I love about my husband and my relationship. Building our empire together is not a dream. It is something we do every day within our careers, family, and faith.

It’s not uncommon to casually bring up over coffee or on a car ride together that, “oh, I saw something interesting…*Brief details shared, *Questions, usually from me…, & then a “let’s make an offer”. It’s nerve-wracking & exciting all at the same time.

Making moves is something we don’t have to contemplate too long or hard on. I mean that quite literally & figuratively.

So enough of that part of our background, onto setting the scene for what was going on last year.

Selling A Home at 8 Months Pregnant

We were in our “dream subdivision” at the time. It took quite a while to find something in there but we brought about an off-market deal that was a win-win for the sellers & us.

This subdivision had pretty much everything you could dream of when it comes to raising a family, the landscaping, gorgeous homes, larger lots, & what we felt was the best overall environment to raise children in. It has its own subdivision swim team for example…yeah, what a fun addition for summer family fun!

Our eyes lit up at the house that not only would be perfect in our eyes to raise kids in but also give us a HUGE renovation project to make our own. Bringing this early 2000’s home to our personal tastes was so much fun and honestly, we weren’t finished with our plan for projects when we sold it. We had basically been working on renovating it from the moment we purchased it.

I’m talking from the outside to the inside. We revamped everything outdoors with the landscaping, pool area, entertaining spaces, & trimmed trees.

Simultaneously, we were trying to complete a 6-8 week timeframe of rapid renovations within from the ceilings to the floors in the majority of the rooms.

Within the interior of the home, we took out walls, painted, redid the entire master bathroom, replaced flooring, added some incredible beams in the master bedroom and living room, created 2 office spaces for us to work from home, blew out a wall in the garage, & I designed a gorgeous closet for myself that was small but mighty!

That reminds me, I need to do a blog post series just of those individual renovations. It was a really fun time & we had nothing but excitement to move in there just as we are feeling again now.

As I mentioned, just as opportunities presented themselves to offer on this home, the flip side of the coin showed itself and we chose to list it on the market only 11 months later. We had merely lived in it for 9 months total.

One thing was true, it was a great house to start a family in. Though we didn’t get to raise any children in it. I did in fact enjoy sitting by the pool as I was pregnant. Walking through & planning a nursery down the hall that didn’t come to fruition in that home. Plus, cuddled up on the couch with a wood-burning fire roaring in the fireplace through the winter when I was incredibly sick during my 1st trimester.

A little prior we had submitted an offer on some unrestricted land in a neighboring area.

Laughing at the idea of wanting to badly to get out of subdivision with such a stringent Homeowners Association, we now longed for land.

We were thrilled at the thought now of no restrictions other than what the specific county would allow. Not to be dramatic but to not have to ask permission to cut a tree, remove a dangerous pond, or have too many flower pots outside was really now a sense of freedom (though the actual subdivision was and still is great).

Quick Side Story:

I’ll never forget on CHRISTMAS DAY, getting a notification on our cameras of someone trespassing on our property & walking around the premises. Thoroughly looking around our back yard, into the parked vehicles outside, and inspecting our fences & gates. Furious and scared of who this person was and what were they doing at our home…we later found out it was the HOA president who took his morning walk on Christmas to stroll our property and scare the living daylights out of us. We even had to ask friends to please go by and check out our home on a holiday. Nope, just the HOA upset because I had a temporary greenhouse situation for my palm trees that I surrounded the pool with. Unbelievable. Personally, we had lived in a few different subdivisions as a couple & simply put had not had any sort of interactions as we did with that HOA.

Moving into a Rental

As we neared our closing date, it was time to move into a rental home while we got things rolling on our land we were under contract to purchase to build our “dream home”. The rental was a brand new construction home. No one had even taken a shower in it yet. It was such an answered prayer to find something in a good proximity to work and that had nothing to alarm us with only 4 weeks or less for the arrival of our son. Our landlords right now are the sweetest people & have been nothing but wonderful & gracious to our family.

Now the land at this time was approximately 6 acres but had 4 adjacent lots that were all larger parcels but with time, we would have neighbors close enough that we would have to drive by and only had partial privacy in the back of our lot.

After we closed on that “subdivision house” and moved in the rental…things fell apart with our land due to permitting and seller requirements to get it to become buildable immediately.

When most people would have been upset or felt like they missed the mark somehow, we understood this was #MintuBe.

The rental was more than accommodating & again, brand new. We had everything we didn’t have room for in storage. Actually, multiple storage rooms. Our son was about to arrive any day. It was all a line of blessings so we couldn’t be mad that the land didn’t work out.

Honestly, I’m so glad my husband and I had done our due diligence to pursue asking the right questions to build when the other land owners had not begun their process. Our questions brought to light quite a few major hurdles that allowed us to remove ourselves from what could have been years of an ugly situation for permitting and codes to build. Plus, if we couldn’t build what we wanted in the general & what should be attainable timeline we were shooting for, we knew with all of our resources in our respective industries that we could and would find something better to make it all make sense.

All we needed was more time.

The First Fall Through

That’s exactly how the story continues.

Time went on.

4 weeks later, we had our amazing son, Carson.

We continued to look at existing properties that were full renovations, land with tear-down homes on them, other empty lots, and possible “dream homes” at the max budget to not have to do much work to them for what we wanted to raise a family in. Truly, we entertained anything & everything that was actually worth looking at for our family.

Offers went out.

Offers were rejected.

A Diamond on the Multiple Listing Service

We kept on course and persisted in looking, creating opportunities, and eventually…one night, Jay showed me something on the MLS (realtor exclusive database for homes within various markets they are part of) that caught both of our eyes.

The next day, we went to see it, and sure enough.

Showing on the Land

I said,

“THIS IS PERFECT! It is everything I could have ever dreamed of. Please don’t take me back here until we know this is a viable option for our family. Do what you need to do and let me know how I can help.”

That’s it.


That’s how easy it was for us to know when we saw the land that we own now.

Jay contacted our friend who was the listing agent on the parcel before we drove off the property.

So the story goes on…

Back-to-Back Heartache

3 months & 3 separate offers later.

We FINALLY got the land after some unique negotiations and a quarter of the year wondering what and why the heck was happening.

We kept looking during that time and doing our best to bring the offer we knew made sense for us. Pressed was a feeling when you have a newborn & all of these memories make you nostalgic to create them in something that’s your own.

It’s very hard to do that wondering where and when you could find that property. We knew the lease was only a year long and the brand new construction home was only temporary but also…not ours.

Offer # 1

Ultimately, after Offer #1, the land went under contract with someone else.

It had been on the market for ~60 days & no offers until we brought something to the table. Then, voila! Bidding war commence.

Sounds strange but I can assure you, this happens more often than you can imagine with real estate.

We missed out with Strike #1.

Swung but didn’t connect. Brought the numbers we had the ability to do for all the amount of work to still make this lot buildable.

Offer # 2

In our earnest attempts to still have a shot (& knowing the listing agent, personally), we kindly asked if ANYTHING were to change at all with the circumstances of that current accepted offer, for our family to please be the backup and contact us immediately.

Here it comes…a month later, Jay received some correspondence right around Halloween that things seemed rocky with the contract & to prep another offer just to have something on the table before it fell through.

Of course, within 10 minutes time, we updated the timeline, kept the same conditions, & had our Offer #2 in the agent’s inbox.


We didn’t hear anything back on this offer that we were asked to bring back to the table for consideration.

We missed out with Strike #2.

Swung but didn’t connect.

Confused but still surprisingly positive that God’s plan was greater and better than our consumed sense of urgency during these months.

We expressed & reiterated, how much we appreciated our second chance at it & for the consideration to write another offer. As we said the first time, should anything catch wind of changing, for the listing agent to please let us know & in a moment’s time, we would resubmit another offer.

Are you seeing the trend here?

In the interim, this should come as no surprise, we kept looking to no avail.

We had only submitted a few other offers and both of us felt like we needed to hold our bar at what we wanted and not get desperate to make something work that honestly wasn’t right.

Thanksgiving 2021

The full beauty of Fall was upon us & we had just packed up our family, Dozer & Max included, to head up to Kentucky to meet my family in Lexington for Thanksgiving at an AirBnB!

Excited to see our cousins from Seattle, cousins in Lexington, and my immediate family from Bardstown & Pikeville, we were ready for the Filipino feast & quality family time.

I was helping with digging out dishes in the cabinets to find enough to start our food prep while Jay was outside helping the guys get the turkey set up with the deep fryer…when Jay came back in to share that he received a call while outside that I’d be interested in.

It was our friend (the listing agent) sharing that he was fairly certain it was happening. The current deal still hadn’t closed after approximately 2 months and the intention of the current buyer was to turn the place into a wedding venue but they had just heard the word it wasn’t getting approved.

Hey Batter Batter, SWING!

Here we go, bases loaded & turkey was basted.

I’ll never forget that I told Jay to ask for a Black Friday Deal & GET THIS LAND UNDER CONTRACT!

Offer # 3

Jay stepped aside to get the 3rd Offer submitted with a longer timeline for response in consideration of the holiday. We said a prayer and continued not to think anything more of it while we were with family.

But……..when we got back to our personal accommodations of a hotel just down the road from where our family was staying, we were living in the “what ifs” and talking about maybe, just maybe, this IS our shot at getting this land. We strategized on the logistics of if the offer actually did get accepted and what we needed to do promptly when arriving back in Tennesse to work fast in our due diligence period.

What Matters Most is Family

The next morning, we joined our family for breakfast back at the AirBnB and then planned to hit the road back home to Knoxville.

Looking back, it means even more now because of the timing of being surrounded by family and the joy of being able to share our only child with them. To create memories. To hug them after such grief we all experienced. It just was a great trip.

Last year’s Thanksgiving was incredibly special.

My sister and I had both had two healthy pregnancies, our Carson and my newest niece had joined the family, we had some of our most cherished family members all together, & we were able to remember and honor our cousin (who was basically a brother to me & my sister) who had passed away too young to his battle with cancer. Fly high TROC! We love you!!

In Escrow On a 26+ Acre Farm

When we got back to Tennessee, we got the news!



What Now?!

As we prepared for our due diligence period with the land, we acted quickly and did what we needed to do to get things moving & ensure our plans would hold up.

To be honest, this was a lot of moving parts and I was still suffering from postpartum depression. Jay took over 100% of it until we were ready to close on the land.

The time it took to work through the items we needed to feel good about the land and secure our construction loan was longer than we thought but at freakin’ last…We closed on it & it still doesn’t feel real.

Constructing the Combes Compound

SOOOO much work has already gone into the infrastructure of setting things up the way we want them and the money spent is difficult to stomach when we still don’t have a home ready to move into. But that’s part of the process! So don’t lose hope, people.

Building from the ground up isn’t for the faint of heart. Especially, when you’re doing all of it primarily yourself.

We’ve widened the road, brought in fill dirt, tonssss of gravel, began the process to add utilities, broke ground officially for the build site of the barndo, built an actual barn in 2 days, cleared trees, created winding side-by-side trails around the entire property, brought in animal feeders for all the wildlife, bought 2 tractors, sold 1 tractor because we underestimated the size and time it would take to cut the grass on 26+ acres, another new mower, and filled in SO MANY HOLES and dips in the land to make it less bumpy when mowing and generally moving across it. Ain’t nobody got time for curled ankles or a slipped disc. Plus, also went through extensive permitting to get to where we are as of now.

Where We Are Today

Today, we are at the point of framing and preparing for the electrical and plumbing rough-ins.

Now that we own the land, our ideas are all written down & discussed. Sure, they change still weekly as we walk through what’s been constructed and continue to mull over how to modify since you have to learn to roll with unexpected life curveballs. This is anywhere from having another baby to material costs inflating, doors not being in the proper positions, and seeing unused space that is going to be walled off.

Phases are certainly set in place and timelines we’ve learned, simply need to remain flexible.

It’s fun and exhilarating for us to take on such a project.

Handling the Stress of a Mess

I get asked quite often how we do this. How does our marriage and work life not suffer from the sheer amount of “projects” we have running at one time? How am I managing with a wild 13-month-old, 6 months pregnant, and running my own branch?

For others, it seems like a circus.

But for Jay and I, this is us.

It’s a life of as many blessings and entrepreneurial endeavors as we can cram into our calendars and opportunities for our family. We aren’t just building a compound. We are modeling our future for the most important investment of our lives…our family.

Plus, when you’re passionate about something, it can get stressful but it’s a rush and a weird way of how we function well within our household.

No need to fast forward.

Pregnant Again and Building

Currently, that’s me in the photo above!

I’m 6 months pregnant & we are building a barndominium/barndo for our land to live in for a few years before breaking ground on the full dream home.

This process is ever evolving and with that being said, it feels like a weekly discussion now of what we should do or not do. What do we need to spend money on now vs. later? What changes to make as we adapt our ever-changing timeline as the cost of this build keeps increasing?

Just this week, Jay and I had to talk through some serious discussion at dinner about us needing to stay in here longer for it to make sense.

Eventually, this will be an ancillary building on the land for family, guests, the kids to enjoy, and house our gym, vehicles, theater room, etc. For now, it’s indeed been a whirlwind but it’s also been my major favorite design project thus far!

Two Kids & 3 Houses in a Year & a Half

We drafted these plans for the barndominium when we didn’t know we were going to be having another child so close to welcoming Carson into our lives. Our little girl and son will be 16 months apart. So right now, it feels like we are racing to keep things efficient to be able to move in ASAP.

Though, to answer yet another question that many are asking, it will NOT be in time for her to be born yet.

I can’t wait to continue to share our journey to our dream home. The first step in the process to get there is this barndo and we are loving every minute of creating it.

What’s Coming Up Next: What You Need to Know Before Building a Barndominium

If you’re wanting to know the details of what steps to take to get to this point of a new construction build, stay tuned for my next blog post! I’ll take a deep dive into what specific steps it takes to get started building a barndo. At least all that advice that I can share up until this point in our personal construction.