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.)