We are looking pretty closely at a house about 20 minutes from the borough DH’s new job will likely be (we get the final word on that next week). It’s just outside a town of 400. Far as I can tell it’s not zoned at all. The property is about 1.5 acres, 1/4 clear and 3/4 unkept forest. Not a big homestead but about 8x what I have now, should suit us for a while. Low property taxes, low selling price. It’s on a steep slope but the clear part is a gentler slope. There are several nice sheds, a carport, built in garage. Across the street and down the hill to the south is a small river. Up the hill to north and west is more forest owned by a neighbor a ways away then farm fields where it levels out, to the east next door is one house, looks like it’s an older couple and their grown daughter. Just past them is a small church. Half a mile away is a church we might want to attend.
The house was built in 1925, looks pretty updated and not in bad shape, good windows and decent insulation, should suit our needs well after some light cosmetic work (same stuff we did to this house when we got it). The windows are in a great situation for passive solar (big ones to south, few small ones north, etc). I guess we’d inspect it closely ourselves (foundation and roof would be my main inquiries), get an offer in, and get a professional inspection after that. Not sure if that’s in addition to an FHA inspection or what, we had a conventional loan on the house we have now so I haven’t dealt with that.
The listing says well/spring water, need to look into that, make sure the system is working and clean. It’s oil heat, everyone has that there, I’m not familiar with that I do know it’s more costly than gas. I’d love to add a woodstove if it was possible. I can’t even tell who I’d need to get a permit from. If it's installed right my insurance is good with wood heat.
It’s owned by individuals, not a bank. They dropped the price every couple months, it’s been listed since Feb. Our loan guy suggests an FHA. We own our current house, but according to the calculations (and our budget) we can carry both mortgages until ours sells.
For now we just want a place to live, a personal vegetable garden and maybe some berries, 5 chickens, and private space for the kids to play.
How’s the property sound? What should I look out for? How should I go about evaluating a well? Coming from a crowded place where you ignore neighbors besides a quick good morning, how should I build relationships with them there?
I would also look closely at how well it is insulated, since that can have a big impact on how much oil (or wood) you are burning. The well can be tested for a range of things usually through a private company or an extension service. I would also explore the age of the pump that brings the water up from the well. They can be pretty expensive and do break down over time.
Wood stoves are very efficient these days. However I would look closely at the chimney system as older houses often have chimneys that do not meet current code and the chimney can be more expensive to replace than a good wood stove (learned that one the hard way!)
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I've lived in the country for over 30 years. You will love it. I also heat with wood, got a Jotul stove that I love. I also had solar electric installed a couple of years ago and now I actually get a check FROM the electric company every month. And, there are tax credits to help with the original cost. And, I've also got solar thermal in one room. So, I've got solar with wood back-up, with electric heat back-up. Triple redundancy.
Lauren's insulation suggestion is a good one. That makes a huge difference.
And, meeting your neighbors in the country in sweet. Start waving at them from your car to start and ask the current owners what they suggest.
It would be very cool if you have a spring. That is good water. Well can be too. Check the depth of the well. That will be most important in case the water table drops because of drought. What has been the historical production of the well? How many gallons per minute does the well produce? How many other wells are around yours, how many people dipping in the same aquifer as you? Have the quality of the water tested.
Here is a list of Useful Property Questions. HTH
We got to go see it, DH thinks it need more work than we might have time to do, and isn't fond of stairs (it's 3 stories+attic, the first where you enter is basically an unfinished basement). I couldn't get a good feel for the land because it was overgrown when we visited, but the place where the forest and clearing met felt just awesome, with these huge boulders and a firepit there. More of the land is cleared that I thought, or would be if they'd ever mowed this year! There's a lovely sunroom and balcony, and a big finished attic with enough headroom for my kids to go up and play in it, and the attic stairs go up from a bedroom that could be theirs. The kitchen is spacious. The house is mainly in good shape but could use fresh everything. Doesn't seem to leak, it has settling but might be ok. Needs a new kitchen floor, all new carpet or flooring everywhere really, all new bathroom especially tub/shower, and finishing in the basement since it's an entryway and could have a guest room or something. I say we can do plenty of that in a month and affordably so if our home sells fast we can still do it, and I would love to customize a place. But we're looking for other options around the area too. I want to go back and have them mow before I look again, and measure some rooms and think seriously about any renovations it would take.
PA has great solar incentives but we'll wait til we build somewhere we'll stay many many years to do that. The well went dry one time but there is a spring too and we could collect rainwater also, I'm thinking I'd like redundancy in water supply and appropriate filtering and storage. Not sure about adding a woodstove where there never was one I will look into it more.
Edit: also we decided to rent until our house sells then buy something. We got someone to give us a 4 month lease so we can do that. Stuck in town in an apt where we can't even keep our dog with us, but it should smooth the transition out there and take the pressure off.
Oh! and there's a tile floored room off the dining room that would make an amazing pantry! Tiny for any other kind of room but omg put shelves in and it's the best pantry ever. DH thinks it's a little office but he is wrong!
You know, this makes a lot of sense. You have time now to find the perfect place. I know I was always falling for fixer uppers and it's significant that your DH took a pause on the amount of work. Now, you have time to check out the area more and see what else is out there. Sounds like you've got some options in terms of being able to fix a place up as well as put some money into it so you're in a really great place.
We used to joke at the magazine about articles that we liked the sound of, but that really didn't work. We called it Seduction of Potential. I am a sucker for potential. Doesn't sound like you LOVE it enough, though, but you know so much more. Keep us posted.
School districts make a huge difference in price out there. We homeschool so I can't decide whether it's better to take advantage of low prices as we don't need the schools, or get something with more resale value due to proximity to schools.
My husband kind of shot down the original house I talked about. He is out in PA now and found another one, higher price but still in our possible range. In a small town, area looks suburban with few houses in sight, 2.5 acres, very nice house no work needed unless to customize, city water and sewer, electric heat, old stovepipe where it used to have a wood stove in basement so maybe a place to put a new one through to code. Mostly clear land, gently sloped down to the east-northeast. Not as private as I'd like but there's a lot to love about it too. I could do quite a bit with that much land to start off with. Some neighbors have chicken coops so I'll bet zoning/ordinances are no problem in this little town. It began turn of the century as a mining town, the company manager had this house built for his family, it's one of 3 largish ones on this hill (manager, doctor, and mayor had them). Everything else around is small and pulls the house value down (and into our range).