J and I officially began the search for our dream property in February. I had been unofficially searching for two years prior to that and could pretty much tell you where and when every potential farm property in our price range had come on and off the market. Big, beautiful farms in our area are not hard to come by…if you have a million dollars…for a down payment.
We visited several homes and a few open houses, but didn’t see anything we were really excited about. I started scouring the whole Eastern end of the state on Google Earth for properties that might work for us and even sent letters to a few home owners expressing our interest in their property and asking if they were interested in selling. Weird and stalker-ish? Maybe. Stubborn and determined? Yes. As a side note, it is downright creepy how much you can find out about people and their property using the internet.
After 4 months of fruitless home searching, and no responses from the homeowners I was stalking via satellite, we added land to our search to see if we could afford to build a modest home on a big chunk of land and stay in our budget. A 5.61 acre parcel of land popped up in our MLS feed for a decent price but the listing was ominously devoid of information. It was pretty much blank except for the acreage (which turned out to be 2 acres less than the actual acreage, score!) and a disclaimer that said “PROPERTY TO BE SOLD AS IS.”
I pulled up the satellite image. The property was huge, wooded, backed up to vast acres of protected open space and ran next to some power lines. That might deter some people, but if you’re looking to ride a horse off a property, power lines and conservation land can make for a nice little trail network. I pulled up the zoning map from the town website and tried to determine where the property lines fell and it seemed to me from looking at the map and the satellite image that there was a house on the property.
We set up a time to walk the property and lo and behold, when we got there, there was a log cabin at the end of a dirt driveway, looking very abandoned and completely overgrown with all manner of vines, poison ivy and saplings. Our realtor called the listing agent to see if he had any information about the house. The listing agent assured us that there was no house on the property despite the fact that we were standing in the kitchen.
Our first impression of the non-existent house was we should tear it down and use the existing poured concrete foundation to rebuild as it was in perfect condition. However, the more we looked around, the more we realized how good the bones of the house really were. It needed a lot of work, but it didn’t need a wrecking ball. Our realtor assured us that there had to be some serious issues with the property as it had been on the market for a VERY long time and at such a low price. He encouraged us to make sure we did our due diligence.
I spent the next day talking to pretty much every person in town hall. Boy, did everyone have a story about this place. And every department had a mile of red tape wrapped around their very large file for this property. Planning department… the property is zoned as 7 seven separate parcels. Assessors department…the parcels are each assessed individually for taxes, holy tax bill. Tax collectors office…there are 10’s of thousands of back taxes owed and several liens on the property. Board of Health…they had a huge file of proposed septic plans but absolutely nothing on an existing septic system. Conservation commission…oy… lots of wetlands, lots of endangered turtles or damselflys or some other small critter, and 10’s of thousands of dollars of fines against the property for illegal fill dumped within the wetland buffer zone.
In a nutshell, the property changed hands through several developers over 10+ years who got pretty far with making a subdivision on paper, but because of resistance from neighbors and the issues with conservation land, they never got anywhere in the real world. So the property sat in the care of what appears to have been renters/tenants that would have made a frat house look tame.
Not to be deterred, I said, “No problem, we can totally tackle this!” and went to the bank across the street to secure financing.
Can I just take a moment and say how AWESOME my patient and trusting husband is for supporting me going through with this craziness? Because, well, this is crazy. Did you see the nice house in the last post that he basically rebuilt from the ground up? He was willing to leave that and take a HUGE gamble on a property that could come down around our ears because, guess what…I want a farm! J, you are A-mazing and I love you.
I want to get to the juicy stuff of what is happening now that we have the property, so suffice it to say…after a month, 3 offers and a stressful few days of putting our house on the market with no guarantee of where we would be living, the owners FINALLY accepted our last offer on the crazy, scary, exciting, non-existent cabin.
I leave you with the very raw “before” pictures of what we have to work with at our new home.
Isn’t it FANTASTIC?! Sadly, I didn’t get any before pictures of the barn that was filled top to bottom and side to side with trash and beer bottles before the demo crew made quick work of it. Next post…the to do list.