An Unexpected Adventure: The Extended Version

I know, I know, I kind of dropped a little bomb in the middle of the “Hey I’m going to buy some vacant land and build a garage on it” party yesterday. I have to start by thanking all of you for the support, laughs, words of encouragement, and– specifically Laura from Door Step Home— for calling this my Unexpected Adventure instead of my Have You Lost Your Ever-Loving Mind moment.

Which, by the way, my barometer regarding whether or not I have indeed lost my mind is if I can hear my dad’s head thunk on the desk from one state away when he reads this website. So when I texted him a pic of the house and said “thinking of buying this at an auction tonight” and he was all “BUY IT NOW” I knew I was in the clear as far as sanity-checks go.

How I Ended Up With A House (Probably)

If you’ve been following this site and some of my adventures for a while you know that I spent the last two years pouring a lot of my heart, effort, time, sweat, blood, and youth— oh my God, the gray hairs– into the Memorial House. It was supposed to be the home I would live in forever, and when that changed almost eight months ago, I have to be honest, I felt a little adrift. And exhausted. Not from the physical work, which is something that grounds and centers me, but from the emotional part of finding and creating a place for myself. That might not be something that resonates with everyone, but since I did a lot of bouncing around when I was a kid, the concept of “home” has become an important part of my sense of stability as an adult. (How’s that for a little random Wednesday morning amateur psychiatry? You all thought I was a one-trick-pony with the house-building stuff, but no… I do insightful revelations regarding childhood too.)

The truth is, at the beginning I just didn’t think I had it in me to find a new house that was supposed to be home, and I considered– and spent a lot of time looking at property– for something to flip (like this) so I could continue doing the work I love and have a house to live in without the commitment.

When I just couldn’t find a house to flip that fit the bill, I started to think a little less temporary. I wasn’t ready for the whole house-building thing again, but something smaller? I could do that. So I started on plans for the Hillside Cottage because I didn’t believe I was going to find just the right thing, and I’m not one to sit around and wait for “perfect” to fall in my lap when I can build it with my own two hands.

So here was a lesson for me… finding just the right land to build my future house on is just as difficult as designing a home itself. And right now, where I’m looking and for what I wanted, there weren’t a lot of options. I went so far as to track down a guy who owned a huge parcel of farm land that wasn’t for sale and tried to negotiate a 5-10 acre lot off of it from him. It was going to be expensive, and a little risky since I was only planning to build a glorified garage on the property which–while awesome–isn’t great for resale.

I started to think that if I really wanted property, maybe I should consider buying something with a crap foreclosure house on it for cheap and bulldoze the place if necessary to build my cottage. Not that I could ever bring myself to bulldoze a house (clearly, since the last time I literally built a house around a house) but still, it got me thinking. It also got me to change the settings on my real-estate search to include single-family homes on large lots.

And that’s what brought me to this house yesterday.

It popped up on my search and was vaguely on the way home from where I was looking for land, and I’ve always said I wanted to rehab an old brick farmhouse. I almost didn’t go… I mean, mentally I’m prepping to build an 800 square foot loft to live in for the next three years, what the hell am I going to do with 3000 square feet of 150 year old farm house?

I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this: For the first time since leaving Memorial (and maybe even before that, since selling my first house) I feel like I’ve found something with the potential to turn into my home. I wasn’t actively looking for it– I’d decided it wasn’t going to come around and I’d just have to build the damn thing from the ground up, if that’s what I wanted– and then, there it was.

So it was random, yes, but really when you look at the whole story, not quite as crazy as it sounds.

Enough Blabbering About Your Feelings, What About The House?

What is a little crazy is that I basically put an offer in on a house that–other than a short stalker-ish session peeping in the windows–I’d never seen the inside of.

You might think I’m a bit of a house-buying daredevil, but here’s the truth. I made a little agreement with myself that the highest bid I would place is what I would be willing to pay for just the land and the barns, without the house even on the property. And the purchase price (including the house) ended up being about 50% less than what I would have paid for the same number of acres of vacant land from the farmer I met with earlier in the day.

I mean, it would have been fun to do a walk-through of the house and spend a few weeks agonizing over the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I of purchasing it, but the nice thing about the auction was that it crammed 21 days of stress into a 3 hour time period.

So, I walked into that house for the first time today with the expectation that it was worth nothing to me, and I would bulldoze the damn thing if necessary and still be happy with the property and barn.

And I know the outstanding question on everyone’s mind right now is, “Is that the rumble of a bulldozer engine I hear in the distance?” The answer is, I don’t know yet. Until I’ve got confirmation on the water and heat working properly, all bets are off.

But, do you see this?

It’s essentially a three car garage plus workspace with a loft up above. It’s got gaping holes in the walls, yes, but I could easily tear this structure down (or even just down to the studs) build the Hillside cottage right on this foundation if necessary, and I’d still be ahead of if I’d bought completely vacant land.

So yes, I bought a house. But really what I bought was property that happens to have a house on it, and the semantics really do make a better case for my sanity. If all goes well I’ll be able to share pictures of the inside of the house (and barns), along with the final determination about the bulldozer by the end of the week.

Also, I totally need a name for this place, and I’m running on less than five hours of sleep, so if anyone is feeling particularly brilliant, drop me some name suggestions in the comments. The most clever thing I can come up with at the moment is the Sidetrack House– referencing both my extra-short attention span which landed me the house in the first place, and the fact that it will be a front row seat to witnessing the Train Wreck of AWESOME for the next couple of years. (You’ll have to search that reference out of yesterdays comments, but it’s well worth the laugh.)

57 Responses

    1. Pete! Sometimes I’m a little behind on the times but I had no idea one of the dadand guys and Emily from one of my fav DIY blogs were an item. I love it! You guys are awesome.

  1. Seriously, good for you for being flexible about this. It sounds like you got a great deal by being open to changing your shopping approach.

    I for one am really looking forward to seeing how this all unfolds in blog-time. So much style and potential in this property.

    Good luck!

  2. How about “The House of Unexpected Adven-Hey look at that new saw.”
    I’ll admit, it is a little wordy. I’ll keep working on it.

  3. To be honest… you can finally just call it “Home.” But since I know you’re actually looking for a more fun name – I really like the idea of calling it “Sidetrack House.” Thanks to, there’s also always “Serendipity House” “Switch House” or “Infinity House” (when you consider the number of plots of land and houses you looked for and also the endless possibilities you can do with it). OK now go take a nap! Can’t wait to see more pics! 🙂

  4. When I first read about the house yesterday I had to come back to it because I thought, ” you just woke up, you’re on your phone…. This isn’t really happening.” so I am thrilled to learn that it is happening and I hope that the house is salvageable and you keep it, because I’ve always wanted a house like that. So if nothing else, keep it so we can vicariously live through you! More than we already do. 🙂 the lands pretty great too.

    As for names, destiny house (it’s cheesy, I know) Farm house? Project house? House of freaking awesome…ok might be time to evaluate more sleep on my end. At either rate, congrats!

  5. I’m leaning towards T.O.A. House, but I also kind of like Redemption House, since this is your opportunity to prove how bad ass you claim to be.

  6. Congrats on finding ‘home’ – I completely understand the emotional toll of finding that right piece of property. It looks like you’ve made a great decision and have a few options built-in.

    The house looks fantastic – from the pictures, the brickwork looks great, especially the corbeled brick arches over the windows. The second story window dormers are also a nice detail – you just don’t see quality details like that in new homes much these days. Unless the house has no floors or is completely beyond structural repair, it would be a shame to tear it down.

    1. Let’s be honest… no possible way I could tear this place down without dying a little inside. But I’m trying to keep a clear head, just in case something is seriously wrong with it!

  7. Sidetrack has the additional benefit of being the name of a fantastic bar. Of course this means you run the risk of me and B walking into your house and trying to order beers.

  8. Love it…I think this could be a spectacular HOME, not just a house. Reminds me a bit of a house Sarah Richardson rehabbed on her show a few years back and it turned out terrific….those windows, that porch…I’d feel at home there two…donkeys in the front yard…you did good.

  9. I kept checking last night for updates – you must have been up very late! Sounds like you got a great deal on it. Its just an Awesome Brick Farmhouse. It will make a grat HOME so please don’t consider tearing it down (the garage is probably even salvagable). Get some sleep, take a breath and it’ll come together. You can figure out something with water and heat. There are lots of HVAC options out there!! And even if you have to drill a new well or something, you’d have to do that for a new house anyway. And ignore James – He’s just a guy who doesn’t get it!

    1. So, the only problem with no HVAC is it’s one of those pesky little details a bank wont let you get a conventional loan on a house without… and there are some crazy stipulations to purchasing at an auction, so that’s where my big concern is right now. If I can get the loan, I can definitely fix the problem!.

      Also LOVING the Awesome Brick Farmhouse idea!

  10. Well, I think it was destiny or something…. kinda like when they tell you, if you quit looking for the perfect match – he’ll appear when you least expect it. I think this place makes a lot of sense for what you want to do. I too, will love to see the inside – but for myself, after living in old farmhouses for over 20 years, I am loving living in a brand new condo!

    1. Hey, I like a good condo myself so I don’t blame you for that! I do feel like there was a little touch of destiny in finding this place… if I hadn’t already looked at other houses, or if I hadn’t put together the hillside plans and been out looking for property, I never would have found this one!

  11. In the spirit of the cheesy 70s Commodore song – She’s a Brick…HOUSE! Yes, I remember disctinctly realizing what that song was really about when I was little older than when I first played it over and over on my mom’s cabinet stereo.

    1. I really feel like “The Brick House” is growing on me. Except I’m going to say it like I’m singing that song every. single. time. lol

  12. I totally vote for Serendipity House. Or Serendipity Farm.

    Looks awesome. And I’m totally jealous.

  13. I was thinking of Adventure house too. It really is a new adventure. In my experience, unexpected and unplanned events that happen almost always turn out better than what I can dream up. Thanks for sharing yours!

    1. It’s so true Debbie – and I also believe you have to be open to the unexpected or you’ll miss out on those great experiences. I’m doing my best to be!

  14. Sounds like you got a great deal! Land is so expensive at least around here it is so I think you made the right move. Good luck on your financing! I’ll be crossing my fingers. Building the hillside cottage on that existing foundation is a very interesting idea if it comes down to it.

    I like “The Brick House” or “The Brick Farmhouse” because that is exactly what it is. Any new reader wouldn’t need to search around for an explanation. I’m sure you’ll eventually need names for the other barns/buildings so don’t make it too complicated.

  15. I”m not sure it’s your house. Frankly, I’m pretty sure it’s -my- house!

    LOVE it, love it, love it, love it! That porch is killer and those windows are grand! 150 years ago craftsmanship was so much better than it is today so if you haven’t seen any gaping cracks in the brick facade yet, chances are it’s three times as solid as your modern brick shoebox ranch and won’t blow over for the next 150 years.

  16. Oh what a fun ride! I totally can’t wait to see what else you get yourself into. Can you tell us anything else? Any of the town history or a previous owner? I’m having a hard time getting creative here, lol!

  17. Thanks for the shout out (turns red). I specialize in “have you lost your ever loving…” er, unexpected adventures–yeah, that’s it. It’s all in how you market them! I eagerly await the inside tour!

  18. I totally understand about pulling up to a place and feeling like you just came home. My fiance and I just bought a house and knew the first time we pulled in the drive way we were going to buy it. We pulled in on a whim and ended up contacting the listing agent and telling him we were planning to make an offer even though we had never seen the inside (other than peeking through the windows).

    I like the name “The Brick House”. I like even more how much I say it in that deep 70’s sing-song voice every time I say it. That’ll never get old!

  19. I’m sorry, The Brick House is too perfect. Those lines are too easy to tweak and make your own:
    She knows she’s built and knows how to please becomes
    She knows she builds and knows how to please

    Regardless of the name, congrats. It looks like a beautiful space to call home.

  20. Hi Kit

    If the house doesn’t last, then name the place. It is from the civil was era and use an easy name like Tara, which was the name used for the mansion in Gone With the Wind. Wuthering Heights was the name of a yorkshire manor on the moors. I am still thinking. The house is magnificent. Mamie

  21. How about The New Leaf House (for turning over a new leaf)? Or the Bric-a-Brac House? The origin of bric-a-brac is from the 1830–40s middle French and literally means “at random, without rhyme or reason”… Common usage of this phrase is defined as “miscellaneous [small] articles collected for their antiquarian, sentimental, decorative, or other interest.” I thought this kind of describes the farm in a nutshell — miscellaneous buildings on land that you found at random. It’s also a play on the word “brick”. Maybe I’d better stop here. I don’t want to seem like I am twisting your arm 🙂

  22. Love the new digs. It’s just what I would fall for (but in a warmer climate).

    How about “Kismet House”?

  23. I’ve never commented before, but this is great! Congratulations on your home! It’s just the kind of place I would like to find, even though we’re a few years away from buying.

  24. Kit – Wow! The new farmhouse is awesome, just beautiful! I hope everything checks out and you can get settled in without discovering any major issues. Of course, just about anything can be fixed and this puts you well ahead of schedule! Best of luck on the final details and congratulations!

  25. And you can bring the donkeys home!!! I love the house – here’s hoping you can rehab it. Either way, so glad you followed your gut!

  26. This so reminds me of my favorite movie Under the Tuscan Sun when Diane Lane leaves a tour bus she is on to see a house that is for sale, and buys it on the spot. How awesome that you are doing it in real life! Turns out good for her, after major renovating btw…

    Your house is freaking-amazing-perfect. It has great character just from the pictures–can’t wait to see the inside!

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