The Story of Purchasing our Dream Property
Hi Everyone! I’m excited to share this blog post with you. This post details the story of finding the place we now call the Sunshine Farm. At the end I also include tips for searching for and buying a farm property. Would love to hear your thoughts!
On December 16th, 2016 my husband, Chris, and I, along with our pup and two cats, moved into a little cape-cod on 12 1/2 acres in Upstate New York. In this post I want to share that story with all of you. Whether you are hoping to find your own place, or simply interested in following our journey, thank you for stopping by!
In 2016 I was dealing with a lot of health issues (digestion, muscle pain, headaches, lethargy, the list goes on). It seemed like every day I had a new symptom and for a while I was living in anxiety, feeling like I was dying. You might be wondering why that has anything to do with us buying a small farm… it seems completely unrelated! Around this time I began feeling like life is too short to wait for your dreams to come true. As a child and growing up I always dreamed of owning horses. I used to sketch pictures of my dream house, and it always included a barn with horses in the back. As a young adult it’s easy to feel like you have to achieve A, B, and C before you really live and enjoy life. As I began experiencing a multitude of health symptoms and debilitating anxiety, I decided why not live it out now? It took a little while for Chris to come on board, understandably, since we had only lived in our first house for less than a year, and we hadn’t exactly hit the jackpot. Despite his concerns, he allowed me to dream and we began looking at properties.
At first we began casually searching online. At this point it was still a dream and wasn’t completely realistic. We continued to save well, and watched different properties pop up on the market. At first our budget was pretty small, and the only places coming up were either total fixers or were in less-than-ideal areas. The first place we went to see was in one of my favorite areas of Greater Rochester, and was completely horse ready! However, the house needed a lot of work! It was barely livable, and we didn’t necessarily have the budget to take on tons of renovations. We went back and forth, debating it for a while, and ultimately decided to pass on it (you can see this first place in the photos below). I knew nothing similar would come on the market in that area within our budget, but it just wasn’t the right time for us to be moving into a house that wasn’t completely livable.
We continued looking online, sending our realtor properties that we wanted to see in person. One weekend we went to see two properties in another beautiful area outside of Rochester. Chris and I both fell in love with the first property we saw that day: an old, huge farmhouse on 9 acres of land. The house also needed a fair amount of work, but was livable, and we loved the charm and history of it. There were two old barns, but neither were ready for horses. We thought we could put up a run-in shelter and make a pasture or two, and we would be all set. Of course at this time we had no clue how much work (and $$) a project like that would truly be. Anyways, we went to see the second property and couldn’t get the first one out of our heads. The next weekend we scheduled a time to see the big farmhouse a second time, this time accompanied by family. After the second visit, we just felt a little uneasy, and again decided to let it pass. A week later we still couldn’t get it out of our minds, so we boldly decided to make a low offer, knowing the listing price was out of budget. To our surprise the offer was fully accepted! At that point we thought we would be moving into an old farmhouse with lots of charm, trying to figure out what to do with all four bedrooms, and 3400 sq. ft. However, if you read the first sentence of this post, you know the story doesn’t end there.
Encountering Road Blocks
As we were progressing through the home-buying process, it was determined that the place we were all set to buy was actually a short sale, meaning the homeowners legally couldn’t sell the house at the price they had agreed to. This is not something we were anticipating at all! Typically, the owner has to disclose that information to you BEFORE you see a house, and definitely before accepting any sort of offer. What that meant for us, was that the bank had to approve the offer price, which after months of waiting, they did not do. Unfortunately, the little house we were selling (shown below) sold instantly and we only had a month before the sale closed, so we were running out of time to find a property to start our dream.
One Door Closes…
I remember calling my mom the day we heard the bank did not accept our offer. Of course I was upset, but she reminded me to stay positive and trust something else would come along. I believe it was that very day that Chris and I went to see a little cape cod on 12 1/2 acres (sound familiar?). The property had been on the market for months, but was first listed way out of our budget. Over time it had been gradually reduced, and now was just above what we were able to spend. We loved the layout of the house; the downstairs was one big open space for kitchen, living, and dining, in addition to an office, laundry room, and full bathroom, and upstairs were three bedrooms, including a big master bedroom and a renovated bathroom. Most importantly, there was a 5-stall barn, around 9 acres of fenced in pasture for horses, and even a few acres of trails. We walked the property, enjoying the trails, scenery, and peaceful atmosphere. We envisioned our life there, caring for horses, taking walks with our pup, and spending time together outside. After that first visit, Chris and I looked at each other and said “let’s do it.” Below I’ve included all of the photos of the house and property from the original listing.
As I mentioned earlier, this property was still a bit above what we could spend at the time, so we had to craft our offer in a way that made it possible for us. This meant asking for seller’s concessions, meaning we asked for the seller to pay part of the closing costs, which required less cash on our end to close on the house. In New York State, you have to pay a year’s worth of taxes (in NY property taxes are A LOT) and closing costs, all on top of the down payment required to secure a mortgage. It may seem like you have plenty to cover a down payment, but the other expenses quickly add up. Fortunately, the seller accepted the concessions we asked for and we were able to move forward. Hooray! Despite all the excitement of getting ready to move into our new home, I remember feeling quite a bit of anxiety throughout the whole process, since the first go around was so disappointing. It wasn’t until we closed that it all felt real. There were still some bumps along the way, but at the end of the day we were able to move into the little cape-cod that we fell in love with during our first visit.
Of course with all of the delays and changes we encountered throughout the entire searching and buying process, we didn’t end up moving in until the middle of December, despite beginning our search in the summer of 2016. Being in the middle of winter, the day we ended up moving in came just after a mild snow storm; poor Chris spent hours that day shoveling our driveway. Have you seen our driveway?! It’s super long for those who haven’t! Within only a couple of days we had everything moved into the house, although we did spend the first week or so sleeping on a mattress on the floor while we waited for our new IKEA furniture to arrive. Those first few days we began unpacking and decorating the house. I can be incredibly inpatient, so wanting to decorate immediately, I’m pretty positive I unpacked the decorations first and the more important stuff last.
Our First Year at the Farm
Interior Decor (this will be changing as we renovate each space!)
Adding in the Animals
While at first we didn’t have any horses or other farm animals, in the spring and summer of 2017 we quickly added to our farm. Read the story of how we added each animal one by one on the page, How We Got Started. You can also see and read about all of the animals on our page, Meet the Animals.
Thank you for taking the time to read the story of how we found our property! If anyone has any of their own stories to share, we would love to hear them! You can read some of my tips for searching and buying below:
Tips for Searching for and Buying a Farm Property
- Find a Realtor Who Understands Rural/Farm Properties. This can help you find the best properties on the market, even before they are officially “for sale.” A knowledgeable realtor will help you understand fair market value, highlight potential concerns, and ultimately be an excellent resource for you on this journey of finding a farm property.
- Make sure you can handle the commute! Try driving around the areas you are looking and see how long it takes you to get to important places at different times of the day (rush hour, morning, afternoon, etc.) Consider key places like work, schools, the grocery store, farm supply store, hospital, and others that may be important to you!
- Look closely at and understand all aspects of the land you are looking at. Ask yourself key questions: how is the drainage? What is the soil like? How well does the grass grow? Are the pastures safe for horses and other animals? Is there somewhere flat to ride a horse? How difficult will it be getting around in the winter? (e.g., slope and length of driveway, distance to barn) The property we picked has some drainage issues because of the area we live in (lots of wetlands); however, it is highly unlikely that you will find something perfect! It is important that you know what to expect, that way you won’t have regrets later.
- Give yourself some wiggle room in terms of acreage. This is something that is almost impossible to add later! (unless you’re extremely lucky and a lot of land opens up on the market at a later time right next to your property) In our area you can technically have farm animals, horses, and livestock if you have at least 5 acres. 5 acres can fill up really quick, especially if you have horses or other large farm animals that need a lot of space. For us, we knew we wanted to add animals to our farm over the years, so we made sure to find a place with a good amount of acreage. You also want to make sure you can reasonably maintain all the land you have: so it’s a balance between enough and not too much.
- Lastly, but most importantly, be patient! Since we bought our place in December of 2016, I have seen very few horse/farm properties become available on the market. While we aren’t looking at all anymore, it reminds me how few are available in our area. It can take a long time to find a place suitable for your dreams and your family. Be patient, and trust that something will come along, just like it did for us!