Who knew that inspections would be the easy part?
A geologist/engineer looked over the cave, and although we didn’t go to the expense of a full structural analysis or core samples, the structure showed absolutely no signs of problems. Based on historical track records for other cave structures similar to our own, we would have to stay here for a few thousand years before we have to worry about collapse. The geologist explained maintenance to us, and showed us how to watch the cave mouth where the rock is vulnerable to weather. When rocks erode near this edge, we can expect months, if not years, of warning signs, and deal with it accordingly.
In addition, a month of testing revealed that radon levels inside the cave were well within safe margins. No radon vents here.
Water testing on the cistern spring revealed sparkling, clean water. If we ever want to drink this water, it should require little to no treatment.
Surveys showed our boundaries right where they were supposed to be. There were no problems with the cave running under four other properties. All properties were deeded accordingly. Whereas normal property deeds give an owner rights to their land extending all of the way to the core of the earth, the four properties above the back of the cave are deeded with surface rights only.
Since the price on the property was so close to the value of our previous home and we had a lot of equity, we expected financing to be a breeze. We were so wrong! Banks don’t see any value in a cave, even a very large one that has a proven history in its commercial ventures. Although the property as it stood assessed for the full purchase price, the banks still considered its value as no more than three acres in Festus, or around a quarter of our purchase price. We worked with dozens of banks. Three of them went so far as verbal confirmation of our loans. We sold our house, retaining a rental agreement with the developer who bought it, and had a sizeable down payment ready for closing, with money left over for construction. Three days before closing, the last bank fell through when the final officer in the process refused to sign off.
Our contract on the property expired. We forfeited our earnest money. Devastated, we looked for other adventures. After several days of discussion, we decided we would move to Belize, where our research showed us we would be able to find beautiful property at prices we could afford to buy outright. In addition, just a two-hour flight from either Houston or Miami, we would be in a good position to meet with most of our clients easily. We sold most of our personal belongings, traded in our car for a more reliable one with four-wheel drive, and put some things in storage.
After making most of our preparations to move, the seller for the cave called us back. If we were willing to provide a 50% down payment, he would finance the rest. Although that would leave us no money for construction, we took the leap of faith and closed several days later.