Sunday, March 1, 2009

Independence Days- week 13 and other news

What a week!  Things have been flying around here!  Trips to the bank, working 6 days straight and then today, out to look at a house.  Whew!  No wonder I'm tired tonight.  It has been a challenging week in my Independence Days- but here's the run down.
1. Plant something- Not this week but I have 30 little broccoli seedlings in the basement and a few of my hot peppers have begun to sprout.  I plan to start my tomatoes next weekend so I hope my peppers finish sprouting so I can move the heating cable to the new flats.
2. Harvest something- Only a few leaves of lettuce from the container in the basement.
3. Preserve something- Nope.
4. Store something- No to this one as well. We kind of stopped buying anything until we know if housing is going to change.
5. Manage reserves- Ate mostly from stores.  Only made a trip to the store for milk, eggs and booze (We did need to celebrate after securing a loan!)
6. Cook something new- No, again.  Another boring week.  With so much going on I haven't been in the mood to try something new.  We've been sticking to old standbys.
7. Prep something- other than house hunting, nope.
8. Reduce waste- just the usual.
9. Learn a new skill- No to this one as well.
10. Work on community food security- Um, not so much
11. Regenerate what is lost- Hmm. Not sure.  
12. Behavior change- Well, things have been flying around here so the procrastination certainly isn't a problem, at least for me.  I was a bit cranky with V when I thought he was procrastinating about making appointments with the banks.

House hunting update:
V walking uphill through the meadow.  Pole building at the top, house beyond that at the crest of the hill.
From the bottom of the meadow looking north to the riding arena.
When it thaws it will be quite squishy here.

Well, we spent a while looking at the acreage this afternoon.  The land is beautiful.  A bit of it will likely be much too wet to be really useful as it is the confluence of several drainage areas from neighboring farm fields.  But there is plenty of high ground although the entire property is rather hillier than I had hoped.  
The barn is lovely.  A 3 stall 'hobby barn' with a hay loft.  The pole building is just that:  big and blue with a concrete floor.  It isn't well insulated but it does have heat.
The house, however, has 'issues'.   We spent quite a lot of time hashing it over after we got home and have decided that we are going to make an offer- but at about $50,000 less than their asking price.  The realtor said they were pretty motivated to sell (the house has been sitting vacant for about 8 months).  There is no way we will agree to the selling price- there are too many problems that need fixed and if we end up paying too much for the house we won't be able to afford any repairs (figuring finances with mortgage on the full asking price we would be pushing it to stay in the black on just my salary.)  What issues are we arguing?  Here are a few:

There is only 2-3 inches of insulation in the attic (that should be a crime in Iowa!)
Very little weatherization has been done (crappy storm windows and only 1 of the 4 exterior doors has a storm door).
There are drainage issues (no gutters or downspouts!) and the basement leaks a little.
The breather stack on the septic is nearly rusted through and would need replaced.
There are several broken windows and numerous screens that will need repaired.
There is rotted wood on some of the window sills.
There is a huge crack in the chimney (at least in the plaster covering it- we're not sure if it's structural or not).
They were evidently doing some repainting but now there are missing switch plates and outlet covers and there is some exposed wiring.
There are significant erosion problems with the driveway.
The basement will need almost totally remodeled for domestic use.  The basement had been converted into a veterinary clinic so the space has been chopped up into lots of little exam and procedure rooms- and there are more plumbing fixtures and lighting than anyone would need. 
Even though they list a refrigerator, there isn't one there- not that's an issue, we were planning to take ours with us anyway, but we're thinking of offering to overlook the missing fridge if they throw in the Cub Cadet riding mower in the garage ;)
This isn't even the entire list- we have an entire page of problems that we found.

So, do you think the list is extensive enough to knock off a bunch of money?  We are willing to go a bit higher than we're offering (we're not going to tell them that, though)  but not too much.  Fortunately, we're in a good position.  We're not out anything if they refuse to play along.  We will still have this house and I can garden with Roger.  They are the ones stuck with a house that isn't selling. I guess we'll see how motivated they really are...

Oh, and the riding arena is probably out for a garden space.  It does have some weeds growing there, but it is sand over a crushed limestone base.  We would have to bring in several truckloads of topsoil and rely on raised beds.  I'm just not sure where else I would put a garden the arena is on the largest flat space on the property excepting the house.  And there are definitely deer out there.  There is deer poo all over and the shrubs in front of the house have been nibbled down to sticks.  Of course, having the house and land vacant for so long left it wide open.

We'll see how this week unfolds... Should be interesting.


  1. You hold all the cards in this one! You would be nuts to give whatever they are asking. How far away is this property from your job, schools etc?

  2. with a list like that I think it's a great idea to knock so much off of the price and of course being willing to go higher is always a must that's part of bargaining. No pics of the barn :(. I wondered what kind of base the arena would have. The deer will get a little more scarce if you moved in but you'd still definetely want a fence. What does the property look like behind the building and barn?? Is it still flat enough there that you might use the area for a garden and only have to fence three sides? The basement leaking may be an expensive that one. Good luck with the offer and making a decision!

  3. Kris- Both the older children would go to the same schools- I11 will be going to junior high next year and it is the same one. J14 would stay in the same high school. Only K8 would change elementary schools, although we could keep him where he is if we were willing to transport him, otherwise, we would be far enough out that the school district would bus them. (you have to live over 2 miles from your school to be eligible for busing- that's why J14 walks a mile to and from school.
    The farthest north city bus route turn around just over a mile from this place so I could drive the mile or so down to that area (a developing business area just off the interstate), find a parking place and ride the bus to work. Or, V could drop me off at the bus stop and pick me up when I get home. I'm used to walking but not along a busy state highway at rush hour- I'm not that brave/dumb!
    This property is about 2 miles outside the city limits on a major state highway, in fact, the difference in the acreage from the advertised amount and the assessed amount for taxes is due to the highway right of way. The property line runs down the center of the highway! Of course, you can't DO anything with that property so it's a moot point.

  4. JLB- the house, barn and pole building are on the top of the hill. There is a bit of flat space behind the barn that has been fenced for the horses that they kept and there is a gate that leads into the meadow. The entire property is fenced (and electrified!) I thought about the barn yard but it looked like it had been pretty compacted and there was still quite a bit of horse manure lying about. I think they finally moved their horses off the property last fall. Right outside the barn yard (the side toward the arena) is a pretty steep hill but near the bottom is the rise where the arena has been placed. The meadow has a fairly gentle slope for the most part but I'd still probably need to do beds to prevent erosion.
    Supposedly the basement only leaks when there is a lot of rain. Of course, the fact that there are no gutters or downspouts to lead the water away amazes me, and the fact that the garage (not attached but quite near the house) also runs all the water off it's roof right next to the side of the house. It seems to me that a bit of rainwater abatement would have been a good thing. I'm really surprised that it has never been done before.

  5. I think all the "not this week" in the Independence Days report that you mentioned is entirely cancelled out by the HUGE house hunt progress!
    Absolutely right to knock off the amount off the asking price - it sounds like the land/house has amazing possibilities, but the current owners haven't made them reality yet, and you shouldn't pay the full price when there is so much structural work to be done. I like the sound of the place though, because the essentials that can't really be changed (land, location, etc) are in place and the things that need serious attention can be handled/updated/fixed. It really is a lot to be done. Do you know how the current owners organized the space (garden placement, driveway, etc)? That might also give insight into some of the "hidden" issues that might be lurking.

  6. The house was built in 1951. The current owners have only been there for about 10 years. They did the basement conversion (their vet business moved and merged with another about a year and a half ago) and then a few years ago put in the riding arena. I wonder if that was the original garden space for all the previous owners. I couldn't see a garden plot- or anything I would classify as one anywhere else. They don't seem like the gardening types. At least they did have the entire house re-wired, probably to meet the electrical demands of the clinic.
    In short, much of the layout has been that way for many years.

  7. I think with a list like that, you NEED to ask for that much off. Not to mention, some of those items are safety concerns! THe property looks lovely - with a LOT of potential. We asked for a ridiculous amount off of our property when we brought it and in fact, our agent even advised us against making an offer so low, but it worked and they only countered $1500 higher than our extremely low offer. GO FOR IT!

  8. Maybe you could put raised beds in the arena?? Yes, you'd still have to bring in soil, but not as much and you could mix it with local dirt from somewhere on the property. If you started with somewhat shorter boxes, you could raise them over time as you had compost/manure/whatever to add to them.

    The seller must realize that the cost to do basic, necessary repairs is going to seriously cut into any offer they'd get. And that assumes that someone, such as yourselves, are even willing to work that hard to fix it!

  9. As someone trying to sell two houses, I can tell you they were listed at the TOP of the price range. Houses (unfortunately) are no longer the "investment" the realtor association has tried to sell in the past and even if they lose money on this deal, they probably want it gone (it is a huge PITA to take care of multiple, vacant properties). Definitely go low and ask for anything you want (cub cadet included!) If they haven't had bites (and 8 months I can tell you the interest has waned), they will consider your offer! The one thing I would throw in there is actually price out the repairs (you may find you need to go even lower).

    I actually think the extra electrical outlets and water will be a great bonus! Our basement only has one spigot and two outlets and i have to use extension cords to reach areas where I start seeds and raise chicks!

  10. I think you are completely justified in lowering your offer price. That is quite an extensive list. Good luck! Hope it all works out for you.

  11. Wow, how exciting! Good luck with your offer and let us know how it goes.

  12. Kris- most of the things on our main list are more annoying than dangerous- although the exposed wiring is a bit concerning. But I'm glad to hear that making a ridiculously low offer worked for someone.
    Lisa- If this works out we will probably end up doing raised beds in the arena. I do have some concerns that with all the sand and gravel base that it will dry out too much in the heat of the summer.
    Gina- thanks for the tip about adding up how much it will cost. I'm planning to add room for labor as well as just materials. I agree that extra outlets and plumbing isn't bad. In fact I'm hoping for a 'summer kitchen' in the basement. But 3 or 4 sinks outside the bathroom is a bit much. Most of the excess electrical is in lighting- each little exam room has lights. If this happens we plan to dismantle rather than demolish and recycle or repurpose as much as we can.
    Sara- we're hoping you're right. While the realtor wasn't 'open' with us, we gathered that everyone else that has looked at the house expected it to be 'move-in ready'. It isn't.
    egoose- You guys already know more than our parents. It's funny, all the other times we were looking at property we were all over letting our parents know. This time, for some reason, we're playing it close to the chest. Who knows.


Glad you stopped in. I would love to hear from you.