farm hunters

Farm Hunters: The Conclusion

I feel like I got everyone’s hopes up with promises of an endless search for the perfect farm. So I feel mildly bad, from a blogging POV, to write this post.

We are officially under contract on the city house I wrote about before!

It’s pending inspection, obviously, so nothing is set in stone, but we’re really happy about it, and feeling good about the inspection.

So now, a very important question: do you want renovation blogging? I’m not talking about anything more than once a week, probably, as I have not a ton of interest in being That House Blogger, but it’s about to become an important and time-consuming part of my life. It might do me some good to vent via blog.

Let me know!

farm hunters

Farm Hunters: Would You Buy or Rent This Property? Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote about my cousin and his potential investment in a horse property. He wanted to know if it was a good horse property, and in particular whether it was realistic to lease out the barn + pasture to a horse owner in the area.

Here’s what I told him.

– At 1.32 acres, and only .75 acres fenced in, it’s extremely small as a horse property. The pasture would always be a dry lot, and manure removal would be constant. Soil remediation would be necessary on a semi-regular basis.
– If he were to find someone to lease the barn, he’d have to write up a fairly strong contract and I’d help him work on that, but it would have to include things like who’s calling the vet, what their obligations are as owners/lessors, who’s responsible for what maintenance, and he’d probably have to provide a space for trailer parking.
– I ballparked a guess at $100/month per horse for the lease, based on what I knew of the area and what he was offering. I gave him the information for the tack shop, where he could both advertise the space and get good local market advice.
– In short, he’d have to be really careful at screening whoever he got, if he could get anyone interested. I explained to him in the strongest possible terms that horse people are crazy, and that he’d have to be prepared for that. He’s a longtime landlord, but I said to him, no, think way crazier.
– I also told him that I was far from an expert, but he’d have to seriously explore changing or increasing his homeowner’s and/or liability insurance with all possible contingencies covered.
– That said, I DO think he’d find someone to lease it.

In conclusion, however: I don’t think the time, expense, and worry would be worth it unless everything worked out perfectly, and, well, horses. No such thing as working out perfectly. I advised him against leasing the barn and pasture out on a longterm basis.

However, here’s what I think has real potential: I think this could be a really ideal rehab or short-term situation. If he made the right contacts at the tack store (and actually I’d be happy to do that for him, as it’s an awesome tack store with good people) he could be in a great place to provide a space for someone whose horse needed 3 months of inexpensive stall rest, or limited turnout, or someone who was in a bad place and loved their horse but needed a place to put them for a month or two.

The absolute least hassle solution is simply to maintain the barn, pasture, and fence. Use the barn as storage – and as a real estate guy, he’s always got a ton of extra stuff that’s going in and out of new apartments – and spend some real quality time remediating the pasture, planting good grass to revitalize the turf. Keep it looking sharp, and yeah, down the road, someone probably would buy it as a horse property.

How do you think I did? Agree, disagree?

farm hunters

Farm Hunters: Would You Buy or Rent This Property? Part One

Not for me – sorry! Our own house/farm search is continuing apace, and I hope to have an update soon. In the meantime, I present to you this quandary.

I have a cousin who has an extraordinary head for business. He’s been pursuing various lines of moneymaking since we were kids. He works incredibly hard at his very lucrative day job, and in his spare time is always looking for investments. Lately, he’s been doing a lot of real estate. I think he’s up to four or five rental properties. He does the work himself to make them nice and he’s a really thorough landlord.

Last week, he called me for my opinion on a property he’s looking at purchasing – for himself, this time. It’s a foreclosure in a semi-rural area but still quite close to the Boston metropolitan area. The house is huge and gorgeous, but what he called me for my opinion on is the horse potential of the property. He has zero interest in horses himself – well, at this point in his life he does, anyway. When we were kids we totally had a plan to adopt a black mustang stallion named Midnight and keep it behind my house and have adventures together. But I digress.

What he was wondering was whether it would make sense to lease out the barn and pasture to someone who wanted to keep their own horses there. So, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll set up the situation as he described it to me, and as I’ve researched it on my own, and I’ll ask you what you would choose. Tomorrow, I’ll write up what I advised him.

The basics: The entire property, house + barn + pasture, is 1.32 acres. Approximately .75 acres of that is fenced with high-quality board fencing that has been well-maintained. The 2 stall barn (visible in this picture) was built in 2008 and has an overhang, hay loft, tack/grain room area. There is electricity and running cold water in the barn, which opens to the pasture. The previous owners kept two horses on the property.
The surroundings: The lot is on a slight incline, but nothing too dramatic. Most of the pasture is flattish. Soil quality appears to be pretty decent, with good drainage. The lot is a corner one on a larger, but not too busy, road. The town itself is VERY horsey; one of the better tack shops for 50 miles is within 10 minutes, and there are multiple state parks and conservation areas with extensive trail systems in the town itself, with quite a bit more accessible just a little further away.
There is significant land across the street, and it connects to the trail systems of one of the largest parks. However, there is an open question of whether there are any right-of-way paths through that land, or whether it is private and posted against trespassing. 
So, with all of that in mind: would you lease the barn + pasture for your own horses, for self-care board? Would you buy this property someday as a horse owner? What would you recommend he do if he were to buy this property?
farm hunters

Farm Hunters: On Hiatus

Sort of. Kind of. I’m still scanning property listings, but alongside properties with horse potential we’ve been looking at just houses for less $$$ and within walking distance of a downtown.

On Sunday, we went back for a third viewing at a house that we’ve both fallen a little bit in love with. We’re still cautiously investigating all of our options, but this is feeling really good.

So that, for the first time, is the actual house we’re looking at.
The basics: 4 bed, 2 bath 1928 Dutch Colonial. 2700 square feet on 0.5 acres (double lot). City water, city septic. Primarily oil heat powering a steam radiator system, but confusingly also has baseboard electric and a gas stove (the heating kind) in one room. Attached 2 car garage.
The budget (1 being bottom, 5 being top): Let’s say a 2.5. The house by itself is a 2, but when we run the numbers on necessary renovations it moves to a 2.5.
The pros: Exceptionally well-maintained, large kitchen, tons of space, huge living room, office space for me, man-cave space for the fiance, sun-room (on the right), sleeping porch. Gorgeous exposed original custom maple throughout – including hardwood floors in perfect condition under the current carpet. Nice but not spectacular neighborhood with an excellent location for both commutes, and 8 minutes from the barn (not that I timed it…). School system is somewhat meh but that is not really a concern for me.
Overall, the biggest pro is how right it felt the first time we walked into it. Fiance and I haven’t agreed wholeheartedly on a house yet, and after 45 minutes in this space we were in love. 
The cons: Taxes are the highest of any property we’ve looked at. The city it’s in is on a definite upswing but it’s too early to tell how far that will go: will it become a trendy young professional city, or will it level off as the half-industrial city it currently is? Will property values really rebound?
The size will make it expensive to heat through the winter, though it has a ton of room for energy audit improvements. 
Biggest cons: it needs a not-inconsiderable amount of rewiring to remove old knob & tube, and two new bathrooms. They are livable, but not terribly functional. Both are 75% gut jobs. It needs a few thousand dollars in energy audit improvements as well, though I would probably do that on any house we buy.
The intangibles: It just feels right. I can’t explain it more than that.
Stay tuned, I guess!
farm hunters

Farm Hunters: Updates

Just to clarify my process going forward: I’m writing my property profiles based on the on-paper information I have before we look at these places in person. I’ll do updates once we actually see the properties. With that in mind, I have two updates!

Property #1

We went and saw the house, and it was exactly as gorgeous in person as promised. Absolutely gorgeous. Droolworthy. The kitchen…! Surprisingly, for 2,500 square feet, it felt small, though. The bedrooms were tiny. The downstairs rooms were chopped up oddly. 
Then we walked the property. The lot was in an L shape around the neighbor’s lot, and their back yard was RIGHT on top of this property’s. The barn had been recently redone, but clearly they hadn’t graded the base appropriately: the dirt floor was packed weirdly, and one wall had already lifted up with several inches of daylight showing and a swathe of ice where water had leaked in. It was spacious and pretty-looking from the outside, but would require work to make livable for a horse, which was unexpected.
The agent was pretty convinced that we could in fact buy extra land behind the house, but with the property already edging toward the high side of our budget, the condition of the barn, and the overall location of the house RIGHT on a very busy road and right on top of the neighbors, we passed on it.
Property #2

The good news first: we liked the house much, much more than we thought we would. For all that the overall square footage was smaller than the first house, it felt more spacious & open. Windows were all new, and all of the rooms were in overall nice shape, except for some truly hideous wallpaper. (Whyyyyy, people?!)
The outbuildings were all in surprisingly usable shape! There was a 20×20 insulated barn with a concrete slab that had clearly been used in the not-too-distant past for chickens, but thankfully did not smell of it.

Also, possibly kennels? A little unclear.
Second outbuilding was in tough shape but probably usable for hay storage. Third outbuilding was in better shape but weirdly done on the inside – but definitely usable for equipment storage.
The lot was six acres total, which, if everything was perfect, would be enough. Here’s where I’m still not sure. If the property lines were drawn one way, behind the barn and across a small creek was an open space of at least an acre that just needed a little work to fence it in. So, say, a dry lot off the barn.
If the property line was in fact closer, along the line of the creek, then the land went straight up a decently steep hill. Not impossibly steep, but not exactly level and/or gently rolling either. Oh, and entirely, thickly wooded.
Plus, there’s that creek. Everything was under 12″ of snow, and I tried to do some stomping around but was unsuccessful in my investigations. Was it a trickle or mostly a thin marshy area? Did it run up the banks in the spring? Was the land around it boggy, or was it pretty good land with simply a creek running through?
In short: there’s still a lot of potential there, but there was no way of gauging the land in the winter, which is something I’ve been afraid of since the beginning of the process. 
The other drawback: we timed it, and it’s a solid 15 minutes to the highway for the fiance, who then has a 45 minute commute. When all is said and done, that may have been the biggest drawback. It just wasn’t quite right.
We’ve been looking at other houses, too, without land, city houses at a far lower price point. I did wonder whether that was something people would be interested in hearing about, too, or just the potential farms? Honestly it’s about the only exciting thing going on in my life right now, unless you want to hear all about the exciting time I spent on the couch crocheting and catching up on Orphan Black…
farm hunters

Farm Hunters: Property #2

Again, stock photo of the house (though I tried to find something approximating the style of the actual house), and some obscured details, but here we go!

Property #2 

The basics: 3 bed, 1.5 bath, 1908 farmhouse with quite a few renovations but not 100% done, 1850 square feet with 6 acres, garage, two outbuildings/farm buildings (not clear from pictures whether they’re barns or storage buildings). Water unknown, oil + baseboard heat, wood stove. Zoned appropriately for agriculture, not in a flood zone.

The budget (1 being bottom, 5 being top): Let’s say 3. Decent price, and it’s been on the market long enough that we can get it for an even better price.

The pros: 6 acres should be plenty of land, assuming it’s all usable, and it backs up to hundreds of acres of land that might be rideable. I like that it has outbuildings. The interior is nice but not so nice that I’d feel guilty about doing anything – plenty of room for personal touches. It’s across the street from a large pond that freezes in the winter and is big enough for canoeing in the summer, though we’d have to go through a neighbor’s yard for it.

School district, taxes, relative location (just off a paved road) all check out and are good though not spectacular. Rooms are decent sized and it has those three bedrooms – a definite must.

It has a garage and large 3 season porch, new roof, new siding, and has some measure of curb appeal and charm.

The cons: It’s a little far from the highway for the fiance’s commute. Land might not be level/entirely usable. Outbuildings would require some work to be usable for anything but storage. I like but don’t love the house, and the kitchen in particular gives me pain – so very, very 80s/early 90s, and not a ton of space.

The maybes: Might be too close to neighbors for my comfort. It’s also been on the market long enough that I wonder if something is lurking in inspection.

We’re going to look at it this afternoon, cross your fingers!

farm hunters · someday farm

Farm Hunters: Property #1

First in an occasional series! I’ll obscure some things and use stock photos for the houses, but will try to faithfully represent what’s going into the decision making process

Property #1

The basics: 4 bed, 2.5 bath 1904 farmhouse renovated top to bottom, 2,500 square feet with 1.25 acres, new 20×40 barn on the property. Public water, septic, oil heat + wood stove.

The budget (1 being bottom, 5 being top): 3.5 – on the expensive end but well within our maximum (which is way less than the bank’s maximum)

The pros: Every single interior of this house is to die for. It looks like it came off the screen of HGTV. Droolworthy kitchen (and I do not say that lightly), ridiculous bathroom, spacious master suite, walk in closets, you name it.

The 20×40 barn is new, in excellent shape, and has never been used for horses. The acreage is behind the house and could probably fence in 1 full acre of pasture. It’s zoned appropriately for agriculture, and the lot is of sufficient size. Land is open, relatively level, and backs up to open land.

Not that this is a concern for me right now, really, but the school district is outstanding – one of the best in the county. The location is definitely closer to town than many other places and would keep my commute to a minimum.

The cons: It’s definitely as small as a horse property could possibly be. There’s no chance of rolling grass pasture here; at best, I’d plant hardy grass and basically create a dry lot.

The house itself is right up against the neighbors on both sides, and is on a busy road close to a busy intersection, set maybe 50′-75′ back.

Having the house done to the nines is maybe not so much a good thing? It’s actually done more or less to my taste, but there’s no room for me to put my stamp anywhere, unless I take out something in perfectly good condition.

The maybes: The realtor is figuring out whether it’s possible to purchase additional acreage out back. If anything could be added or purchased for a reasonable price, this jumps way up. Need soil analysis, and some fencing cost estimates, as well as a lot more in-depth thinking about how I want to keep horses going forward, which applies to all properties, basically!