Thinking of restoring old farmhouse: questions! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 05-26-2008, 06:03 PM - Thread Starter
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Dh and I are thinking about purchasing a 7 acre parcel with an old farmhouse on it. The farmhouse is not currently inhabitable (well, maybe it could be inhabited by tougher folks than us, lol); at minimum it needs a new roof, probably new siding, ideally new plumbing and wiring. It has only one bathroom and I'm not sure it works. The kitchen has only a sink and an old electric range (again, not sure whether it works). We would like to bring in an expert to tell us whether the house is restorable. If it is salvageable, I'm wondering where we would live in the meanwhile. Our budget won't allow us to purchase this property without selling our current house. Dh mentioned the possibility of renting a mobile home and living in that while the farmhouse is restored. Anybody have an idea of what this involves, what it costs, etc.? Other options? What other questions should we be asking at this point? I'm so ignorant of farm life, house restoration, etc. but we are feeling called to a simpler, more agrarian life and want to start somewhere. Thanks!
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#2 of 8 Old 05-26-2008, 06:18 PM
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Ok having been there, done that, and brought in the excavator and knocked it down....

Just some thoughts: How is the septic & well, does the house have lead paint, you will have to have someone check into the structure of the house and see if it can be salvaged, do you like the layout enough to keep it, does it have any historical value, cost to demo if you go that route, what have you or have you not done on a house - meaning how much can you really do yourself, do you have kids or planning to soon, I know many people who have done this while living in a barn or camper or mobile home or tent or all of the above and its doable but very stressful.

Keep in mind it can be cheaper (and easier) to demo and start over. Cheaper then even land because (assuming) you already have a driveway, electricity, cleared land, septic & well.
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#3 of 8 Old 05-26-2008, 09:46 PM
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I am an architect who specializes in historic renovation and have also survived my own old house renovation (or two). I would urge you to have a professional take a look and see what is involved; preferably an architect with historic experience and not a contractor who may be interested in the job and not be exactly unbiased. Having said that and not trying to rain on your parade, you should know it is very expensive to rehab. Most of my clients underbudget by nearly 100%. No kidding. But there is nothing like a great old farmhouse and they are getting hard to come by.

lucyem had some great questions. A couple I would add: Are you commuting to your jobs? I live on a large farm and until ds was born I commuted to the city. It is a drain on time and resources that most people new to the country underestimate.
Are you planning on getting a tractor? If not, who will bushog your 7 acres? This is also quite expensive and time consuming.
It is a GREAT lifestyle and well worth the time and money if it is a dream you and dh have both been longing for. Just be prepared for life to be more complicated for a time before it gets "simpler".
Good Luck!!!!
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#4 of 8 Old 05-26-2008, 10:55 PM
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Doing it now. Everything everyone else has already said, especially the underbudgeting part. I don't hear from your post why the house is appealing to you, or the land. Something should really be working there because if you start to rehab, it will become your life. No kidding. For a long time.

Now, we actually love this work, and our place was a diamond in the rough. We bought low (could've been lower if we had waited), and we would see a return if and when we sell. But we probably won't and our family is happy where we are. Country road, good school, a bit of land, large house to work on-it all works for us. We do most ourselves, big jobs with the contractor, electrician, etc.

Good luck.
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#5 of 8 Old 05-27-2008, 09:50 AM
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Just thought I'd share our situation with you - I grew up in homes with all mod-cons, very luxurious - but parents weren't happy....we are living in an unrennovated house at the moment - our kitchen consists of a small sink, some 1950's style cupboards a small bench and we have a new oven/cooktop. No dishwasher. We brought in a sideboard near some power points to put the microwave and an electric kettle on. Eventually the kitchen will be fully rennovated but have survived with this just fine for 9 years - as all rennovations put on hold with sick children and at the time I was too tired to organise.

This home only has one bathroom - it has the old style bath with a shower over the bath - a small sink and the toilet in the same room (not a separate room). We have put in an antique marble washstand so we have a cupboard and some nice curtains. My husband ripped up the lino and polished the floorboards to make it look better.

Other than that we put our money into buying rental properties so that I was able to stay at home with the kids and we are very happy. I know we get used to having lots of facilities/appliances - but you may surprise yourself.

We moved into this home as I needed support from my parents in law who live next door - with my daughter a baby who screamed 24/7 - but if you'd have told me that 9 years later we'd still be there I would have not believed it. Life is good and I don't mind not having dishwashers, ensuites etc.

Relating my experience to your question - I'd say if you are being called to this home it would be quite easy to do the basics (roof, replumb etc) before you move in and do the rest while you are living there.

You may be able to do some of the work yourself??? It might save some money. Or you may find that you are happy with some things being different to what you've had previously.

Good luck - and do what works for you - don't worry about what others think.
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#6 of 8 Old 05-27-2008, 10:19 AM
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I am re-reading my post, thinking I sounded maybe a bit negative? I was exhausted last night-sorry.

I wanted to mention the biggest plus of renovating and doing very, very small scale farming/farm animals. It's about the kids. Our children see us creating the home we want as a family. We all talk about our dreams, big and small, and we all get used to modifying as well! But we're making something together as a family, and that's worth a lot.
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#7 of 8 Old 05-27-2008, 11:58 AM
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We lived & renovated a home from the early 1900 era. I can tell you that we miss our old home EVERY day. It was ALOT of work but the beauty & unique qualities of that home or something I long for every day while I am now living in my cookie cutter subdivision. Think about this; building a home is ALOT of work, moving a mobile home onto your site is ALOT of work (yeah I know they act like it isn't but it is. I'm not sure where you are looking to buy but I would definitly keep climate in mind. I live in S. Louisiana. As long as there is a window available for a window unit we'll be okay. The winters here very very rarely get below 50 degrees so all we have to do is throw a extra blanket on the bed to survive but our summers can get into the hundreds. However if I was living somewhere where the temps stayed below freezing during the winter I would definitly be thinking twice about dealing with a home without heat of some kind. I will also tell you until we lived in the house we are currently in we went years with one bathroom & never had issues.

wife to an amazing man and mom to my 5 amazing children sd (16), sd (13), d (5), son (2), & caboose d born 11/15/09 and two goats but they don't have anything for that
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#8 of 8 Old 05-27-2008, 10:09 PM
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I think I agree with pretty much everything every previous poster has said.

We're "updating" a hundred-something old brick farmhouse and enjoying 10 acres of land. Our situation was that we knew we wanted to raise livestock and live on a small farm, but we also knew we needed to work off-farm to make the money we need for our life circumstances...and eventually the right farm came up for sale, at the right time, and we took the plunge. We definitely have spent more than we'd have thought...luckily, the well and septic are good. But we had to tear down to studs and start over upstairs, and replace a lot of windows. We still have a roof, a bathroom, a chimney and woodstove, and additional plumbing work to do--just to have it up to basics. There's wood refinishing to do throughout the house, and a lot of painting. Plus, we're working on the farm part, which meant installing fencing around all 10 acres of pasture, baling half the acreage last summer, cleaning up junk piles and hauling to the dump, buying an old tractor, tilling up two large garden plots, and adding livestock. We're hoping to plant an orchard this fall.

So yes, it has become much more complicated on its way to simpler. Stuff just adds up. Of course, we could take things much slower--and who knows, maybe in another year we'll have just a couple major projects left--but we aren't the youngest people around and we wanted to fast-track our way to the slow lane.

So, think about that. Consider all sides of what you want to do with the place. Figure out pricing on the farm stuff as well as the house stuff. Or, could you wait and just fix the house before starting the ag side? How patient are you? How much risk and stress are you willing to take on? Everyone has their own right way. And plenty of people don't find it, end up frustrated, and give up before they have a chance to succeed.
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