Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Little Women Farmhouse

I'm fairly sure everyone else refers to our farmhouse as the "Rooster on the Barn Farmhouse." But I'm referring to it as the Little Women Farmhouse. The outbuildings were originally what drew me to our farmhouse (there are eight of them!). I didn't particularly care for the exterior of our farmhouse, though I loved that it was white with black shutters. The interior was smaller than I hoped for, but I loved that much of the original character remained. In the end, however, I realized the house was perfect for our family. Before we bought the farm, it was always in the same family. There was originally a log cabin on the property, and the farmhouse was built in 1931. The previous owner, Joseph Buchtman, moved to the farm in the 1970s with his wife and five of their seven children (two were grown already). I figured if a couple and five children could live in this home, certainly we could! Plus, the front of this home is an addition, so they lived in the home for several years when it was even smaller!

The barn is my absolute favorite kind of barn... white with a round roof! If you look at the first picture, you can see that the previous owners put a rooster design in the shingles! It's a unique feature to the farm. The garage and workshop are connected. The workshop was on the property first, and then the three car garage was added on. The workshop was built in 1925 and the barn was built in 1935, with the lean-to being a 1983 addition. The barn is the perfect size for our small hobby farm. The workshop is an amazing answer to prayer, and I am excited that Ben will have this space as he is a gifted handyman. The three car garage is a special bonus as it wasn't a need for us, but it sure will be nice to have! Also, speaking of bonuses... the paved driveway is incredible!

I knew when we had a farm that I really wanted to raise chickens. A couple months ago, Ben and I were looking at chicken coops online, and he was discussing perhaps building it then while he had the time. We are glad he didn't, because this house came with a chicken coop and a small chick starter house next door! I love the chippy white paint on the building and the farm door. The poultry building was built in 1920, so it predates the farmhouse!

There is a small utility shed, and this is the newest outbuilding on the property, built in 1985. Beside it is a grapevine.

The wood shed and corn crib is the oldest building on the property. It was built in 1910. We may turn this into a playhouse for the girls :)

And here is the building that sold me on the house: the summer kitchen. I find summer kitchens fascinating because of their history. They were built on old properties so that women could cook in the summer without overheating their house (back in the days of no air conditioner). This summer kitchen hasn't been used as one in its recent years... it was used as more of a shed, though it did have two freezers. I am planning to use this building as a homeschool room for the girls. It is directly behind the house. It will be nice to have a space just for our schooling, and I feel very thankful that the Lord blessed us with this little space. We need to do a little work to it before it is ready, but it should be ready by fall! And yes, this will be called Little Women Schoolhouse :)

There are so many trees on this property! Ben counted 82!! We will take some down, but I love that there are an abundance of mature trees. There are also shrubs, flowers, fruit trees, a grape vine, and raspberry bushes. What a joy to buy an old property in the spring and watch as everything buds and blooms!

When you walk inside the house, there is a small entryway and then the laundry room. The bathroom is also right off the entryway. This bathroom is the only one in the house. This is very typical of old farmhouses, and we expected to find a house with just one bathroom, but we do hope by time our four daughters are teenagers that we will be able to add a second bathroom :)

The kitchen is the next room. It is dated but in good shape and thankfully fairly neutral. I plan to paint the cabinets white and buy new hardware, but for now, that will be the extent of the renovations. We would like to do a bigger renovation down the road, but we want to live in the house for a while to get a good idea of how we want to best use the space. When we first bought the space, I really wanted to add on at some point, but after being in it several times, I'd really like to use the space we have. It's a bit "cozy" by American standards, but it's actually plenty of space for all of our needs. We are refinishing the hardwood floors throughout the house, though, which is why we haven't moved in yet, so this kitchen will have pretty new (old) floors soon!

There is an old wood stove in the kitchen. I love the character of it and am glad they left it. I really wanted a wood stove! We think we will move it to the other side of the chimney at some point so that it sits in the living room and not the kitchen, but for now, here it sits.

The living room and dining room are off the kitchen. We are refinishing the hardwood floors in this space too. 

The master bedroom is off the living room, and by "master," I mean a small bedroom with a small closet and no attached bathroom. Hello, old farmhouse :) 

The beautiful wooden stairs are off the dining room (and check out the huge picture window with a serene view of the backyard). Some day, I'd really love to open up the staircase and add a banister, but I have to convince my husband of that still ;) 

Upstairs, there is a big front landing room. Because it's so large, we will use it as a bedroom for two of the girls. Thankfully there are hardwood floors under these ugly laminate peal and stick floors. The closets were built in by the previous owner, and they are a great hideaway for the girls. 

I really love the old doors and trim.

This is a small bedroom that we will use as a playroom for now and possibly renovate into a bathroom down the road.

The other bedroom upstairs is a good size, and we will put the other two girls in here.

Since closing, we have been over to the property every day, and we feel increasingly thankful to the Lord for providing us with this home. It really is perfect for us. 

We had a sleepover the night that we closed on it, and it was a lot of fun! (Except Violet didn't sleep well.) We look forward to making many more memories in this house!

There are some "wish list" items I didn't get, but there are far more that I did get! Check out this list! All praise to God!

✅ Old white 2-story farmhouse
✅ Old barn
✅ 5 acres
✅ Chicken coop
✅ Workshop
✅ Old trim/doors
✅ On a quiet backroad
✅ Wood-burning stove
✅ 3- Bedroom
✅ Homeschool room
✅ Fruit trees, grapevines, flower garden
✅ Original Hardwood floors
✅ Kitchen sink window

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Finding a Farmhouse (Part 4)

(Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)

The Old Character Farmhouse
I was sitting on the floor in the playroom, feeling bummed about The Big Brick Hile Farmhouse not working out, so I did my daily ritual of pulling up the Zillow app on my phone. My search had a very narrow filter, so I often went days without having any new listings (people don't like to sell their farmhouses, ya'll!). A new house was at the top of my list, though, so I was excited! I saw the house was listed in the same town as where we currently live with Ben's parents, and so I did a little search and realized the house was just two miles away! It wasn't the town we had originally wanted to live in, and in fact, we had never considered living in this particular town, but we certainly weren't opposed to it. I flipped through the pictures and felt let down. The house was at the top of our price range and it really didn't seem like anything amazing. The property was 5 acres, so I liked that. But the house was small. I wasn't impressed, but I read the description and saw the word summer kitchen, and was intrigued. Summer kitchens just scream, "I'm an old farmhouse!" to me, and I love them and always thought it'd be fun to have one. But still, it just didn't seem like a house that would be worth spending the top of our price range for, so I didn't feel hopeful. When I woke Ben up from his nap, though, I said, "Hey, if you want to live right by your parents, there was a new farmhouse listed right down the road." I said it in a sarcastic tone and he was still half asleep, so he didn't respond and we went on with our day. A couple hours later he looked at the house and was like, "Well, we should at least go look at it, right?" And I said, "Sure, why not?" So we contacted our real estate agent. We went and looked at it the next day, and as was becoming typical, there were several other families looking as well. It's a seller's market! We went home and knew that if we wanted the house, we needed to put an offer in at list price. I knew Ben loved the house. I was more impressed with the house once I saw it in person. I loved the old character of the house. It had original trim and original doors. We knew there were at least some original hardwood floors underneath carpet. There was an old wood burning stove that we loved. We loved the outbuildings, and this place was outbuilding heaven! There was a barn with a lean-to, a three car garage with a workshop attached, a chicken coop, a summer kitchen, a wood shed, and a garden shed. And the land was really beautiful with a lot of mature trees, including some fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and a grapevine. I knew Ben was all in. The size of the house still concerned me, but I felt like I should go with Ben on this one and put an offer in at list price and see what happened.

We heard back the next day. There were four offers, and we needed to put in our highest and best. Sigh. It felt like every farmhouse was in high demand, and I began to wonder if we would ever find our farmhouse. We were already at the top of our price range, so we kept our offer as is. We really felt like this meant we wouldn't get it, but we also knew that the Lord could make it happen if he meant this house for us. Meanwhile, the girl who owned The Middle-of-Nowhere House sent me some pictures of the inside of their house, and I was glad we at least had this house to look forward to touring, and possibly it would be the house for us.

We expected to hear back on Friday about The Old Character Farmhouse. As we were sitting down to eat Thursday night, my husband came in and said, "Guess what? Our offer was accepted!" I couldn't believe it! Putting in an offer at list price as our "highest and best" felt like a true act of trusting God, but it also just felt responsible, and we mostly assumed that this just wasn't the house for us. So to have our offer accepted was incredible! We found out that there was one offer higher, but that person had some requests that the owner didn't want to manage, so he went with our offer which was second highest!

We were elated to be under contract, but I still honestly struggled with the size of the house. However, when inspection day came, I went over and had a good look at the house, and I felt very excited after leaving that day. I knew the space would be perfect for our family, and I intended to use the summer kitchen (which was right behind the house and currently being used mostly as a shed) as a homeschool room, which would really help give us more space!

When I look back to the beginning of our farmhouse search journey, I realize that the Lord changed our hearts in the process. Sometimes (or usually) we think we know what's perfect for us, but in actuality, we don't. That's what this process looked like for us. We needed the full six months of searching for the Lord to work in our heart and open our minds to houses and properties outside of what we thought was best. We would have never chosen this house six months ago. But six months of molding led us here, and here is perfect now. Here is exactly where God wanted us all along.

Yesterday we closed on the house, and it is officially ours! We had a sleepover there last night, but we have a few projects we'd like to do before officially moving in. The one thing about this house was that it always felt so peaceful to me. It contains so much of its history still, in both the layout of the house as well as in the outbuildings and the old trees, and that feels peaceful to me. It sits in the middle of cornfields on a gravel road, and that feels peaceful to me. And as much as the size concerned me, the intimacy of the smaller space truly feels peaceful to me now. There were other houses that perhaps felt more exciting or more glamorous, but this house is peaceful. And peaceful feels right.

Thank you, Lord, for this house. You are good and kind and always have a plan.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Finding a Farmhouse (Part 3)

(We've gotten lots of practice for living on a farm while living with my in-laws)

Ben and I discussed back and forth about the auction house. We figured it wouldn't hurt to just go to the auction and see what happened and have a number in our head of what we were willing to spend. During our whole house hunting process, we were looking at auctions. I became a fan of the Farmers Exchange, the newspaper that came once a week listing the upcoming auctions. So, we weren't intimidated by auctions. We just needed to decide if this house was one we really wanted and how much we were willing to spend.

The Foreclosure House
A few days before the auction, a foreclosure house was listed. It wasn't aesthetically my dream farm house, but it sat on twenty acres and was in our price range, so we were intrigued. We thought we would never be able to afford more than five acres. We went and looked at it the day after it was listed, and there were several other families looking at the house as well. We weren't surprised as the house was listed at a great price for twenty acres. Even after looking at the house, we were surprised to find that there were no big issues. We would have to patch the roof, and there were a number of other things we would want to do, but very little that had to be done. The house also had a barn with a workshop attached. I had plans for how we could make the house look more like a farmhouse by putting a white metal roof on, painting the shutters black, and painting the railing on the deck and porch white. The house itself was a good size, too, with three bathrooms! We knew putting an offer in on this house would mean we would definitely have to let go of The Auction House as we would not get a response before the auction was over, but we decided that we wanted to move forward with The Foreclosure House. While we loved a lot about The Auction House, we worried that we would be getting in over our heads with all of the updates and the addition we would want to do to make it work for our family. So we let go of The Auction House, and we put an offer in for The Foreclosure House.

Our original offer was at list price. We found out the next day that there were several offers so we needed to put in our highest and best. We offered a little over asking price, with a number we felt comfortable with, and trusted that if this was the house the Lord had for us that he would honor our offer. We waited several days, anxious and praying. Oh, the waiting. I am not a good waiter. I have a list of worship songs that I listen to when waiting to help my anxious soul stay calm and remember that the Lord has this. Meanwhile, the auction came and went, and we heard from friends who attended that the house went for more than what we intended to bid, so we felt confirmed that we had made the right decision. Six days after making our offer on The Foreclosure House, we finally heard back, and they had declined our offer and taken a higher offer. We were bummed but not completely surprised. We found out that there were nine offers total on the house.

So, we continued our search. It was now the beginning of April, a date when we had originally thought we would certainly be living in our farmhouse, so it was hard to not grow weary. At the same time, my trust grew in the Lord. It seems like that is how it works. The more we grow weary and the more we're put to the test to renew our strength in the Lord, the deeper our relationship becomes with the One who made us. We find in him more than we ever hoped. He is always sufficient, no matter our circumstances. And I know in many ways, my circumstances were light. But I know that in all of these smaller things, the Lord is training me for bigger things. Charles Spurgeon once said, "As God more fully equips your ship to sail in storms, He will send you on longer voyages to more boisterous seas, so that you may honor Him and increase in holy confidence." Amen a thousand times.

I should add at this point that during our house hunt, I was driving every back road possible in hopes of finding For Sale by Owner signs or houses that looked vacant. I even wrote a few letters to people inquiring about their farmhouses (I didn't receive any responses).

It was now a week into April, and we decided to post something on a Facebook buy/sell/trade page again about looking for a farmhouse. We posted on a different page this time, and I was excited to receive several responses. 

The Middle-of-Nowhere House
The first girl to respond was super sweet. She sent us pictures of her house, and it was a beautiful, big white farmhouse. We loved the house. It only sat on two acres, and it had just a small poultry barn, so those areas both left us desiring, but they weren't deal breakers. We were pretty much looking for houses in the middle-of-nowhere, but even we would say this house was further out than we desired. However, we were still open to the possibility, so we set a date to tour the house.

The Big Brick Hile House
At the same time, another girl had contacted me about their farmhouse. It was a big, old brick house built in the 1800s. It was one I was very familiar with because I had passed it many times over the years driving between my parents' house and Ben's parents' house. I had always loved it, and I also knew the relatives of the previous owners, so I was really excited about it. Ben was excited because he loves brick houses. We were extremely hopeful about this house. I had always loved the idea of owning a house where I could hear all of the history of the house, and I knew the family who had owned this house for many years, dating back to the early 1900s! The Hile family still have their name on the barn! The house was sold out of their family in the last ten years. The family who owns it now had bought it with plans to renovate it, but once they started, they got busy and simply didn't have the time to renovate the house. We were excited about the idea of getting the house for a really great deal because of all the work it needed. We visited the house and loved the property. It sat on seven acres with a beautiful old barn and a big garage. The house was on a busy road, which wasn't our preference, but it sat off the road enough to appease our worries. Inside, the house definitely needed a lot of work. It was the first true fixer-upper we had seen. It absolutely needed a lot of work. The downstairs had no drywall which made for a bad draft. The kitchen was dated though functional. The floors were half-done. Wallpaper was half-torn off the walls. Upstairs was completely unlivable. The family living there demo-ed the space but had never found the time to refinish the it. We knew if we bought this place, that we would need to completely finish the upstairs before moving in which would be both time and money. I loved the house! The idea of truly fixing up a piece of history excited me. Ben was hesitant after seeing the extend of the work and being uncertain about how much we would be getting into financially with purchasing a place like this. We asked the couple to give us a number as soon as they decided.

Ben and I talked about it and decided on a number we would be comfortable buying it for, knowing the amount of work it needed. The couple got back to us a few days later, and their number was $30,000 more than what we wanted to spend, so it was an easy, but sad "no" for us. I was sad that we wouldn't be able to give the house the love and restoration it needed. My husband felt relieved though. I realized several things with this house. First, I realized that every house comes with a big price tag, especially if you want acreage. Even if you buy a cheap fixer-upper, you're going to put money into it by fixing it up. Along with the money, you put time into it. Sometimes this is worth it, and sometimes it's not. And that's the second thing I realized with this house. I realized just how much Ben was giving up if we bought a house that was a big project. Ben works a full-time job, so any hours he would put into a house would be on top of that. He wants to enjoy our kids while they're young, and he wants to have a life outside of work. Maybe we would be able to save money in the long-run by buying a house that was an extensive fixer-upper, but time is costly too, and you can't get hours of your life back once they're spent. Our hope was still to find an old farmhouse that could use updates, but something less demanding than The Big Brick Hile House.

On the same day we said "no" to the brick house, a new farmhouse came on the market.
We also still had our appointment set up for the Middle-of-Nowhere House.
I wasn't sure what house God had in mind for us, but I had a feeling in my heart that very soon, we were going to have a house.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Finding a Farmhouse (Part 2)

(To read Part 1: Click Here)

At this point, we were in the middle of a mild winter. January turned into February, and we decided to look at a house that didn't quite meet our criteria but that was listed for a really great price.

We'll call this house The Game Changer House.

The Game Changer House
This house was an old house, but not necessarily the old farmhouse I pictured. There were only 1100 square feet of finished space, which was possibly an issue... the potential to finish the attic space and the basement made this house a possibility though. It was on a busy highway. It was only on two acres which, again, was our bottom limit in acreage. And, probably most importantly, it wasn't located in the area we wanted to live in. The beauty we saw in the house gave us hope, though, especially at the price it was listed at. It had beautiful hardwood floors. It had arch doorways. It had beautiful old doors and trim. It had an old bank barn. The house, though on a busy highway, sat on a lovely property of rolling hills. 

We went and looked at the house and realized there was mold in the basement. This wasn't a deal breaker for us, but it was certainly a concern we had to look into and consider. We decided if we did buy this house that it wouldn't be a forever home for us. We would buy it and flip it and live in it for 2-5 years before reselling. We thought about it for a week. I was ready to say yes, but Ben wasn't sure, so we decided to let it sit and keep looking.

While we said no, this house changed things for us.
We started asking questions. We started considering.
Should we just flip another house and find our forever home later?
Maybe a forever home isn't God's plan for us.
Were we holding too tightly to our location ideal?
Maybe God had plans for us to live in another town.

This was the game changer house for us. When we originally set out on this journey, we were determined to stay within a twenty minute radius of our church. We loved our church and knew in order to remain involved, we really needed to stay close. But as the Lord kept closing doors on houses in that area, and as we considered this house, we wondered if maybe the Lord had bigger plans than we could see. Maybe he had plans to move us. To change towns and to change churches. We weren't sure. But we opened our hands and our hearts and said, "Thy will be done, Lord."

The Auction House
In the middle of February, a friend of mine wrote me a message on Facebook asking if we were still looking for a house. She told me she had a friend whose parents were selling their farmhouse and wondered if we were interested. Umyesplease. She shared the son's contact information and we asked her to share ours. We waited a week as we were still deciding on The Game Changer House and we thought the son would contact us. When he didn't, we decided to contact him and let him know we were interested, and we proceeded to set up a time to tour the house. The day before we were set to look at the house, I checked Zillow and saw that the house was listed as an upcoming auction! I was frustrated as the son had never told us this. The auction wasn't until April 1, which was a month away at this point. We decided to go look at the house anyways. We loved so much about it. It was in our perfect location, and we thought, maybe God's plan was to keep us in the same area. It also boasted a wrap-around porch, a big red barn, 5 acres, and was a lakeview property!! A garden and fruit trees, and a newer three-car garage made us fall in love with this house. However, the house was really dated (green cabinets, red carpet, and wallpaper, oh my!) and was an awkward layout for renovating. Of course, we wanted something that we could renovate, but this house was already likely to be at the top of our price range because of its location. The auction listing said the owners would entertain offers before the auction, so we put in a good offer. The owners denied our offer and said they were going to wait and auction it. We found out that they had over twenty showings in the first several weeks, so we knew there was a lot of interest, and we expected the house would go quite high.

The Backroad Glory House
We had a whole month to wait for the auction, so we decided to continue looking for houses. An old farmhouse was listed, but it wasn't in our desired location and there was no barn. We decided to go ahead and look for it as it was a BIG house (2600 sq ft!). It was also listed at a great price, so we figured we could always build a barn. Upon touring the farmhouse, we found a lot to love. There was an attached garage, it had a workshop, the house had hardwood floors, beautiful trim, old doors,  and three bathrooms. There was a front porch, and the house sat on top of a hill with a beautiful view. Our favorite part, though, was that the entire hour that we were at the house, not a single car went down the road! For some people, this would be the last place they would want to live, but we loved the idea of owning a place where our kids could play without us needing to worry about cars and where we could take walks down the road. There were things we didn't love too, though. There was no barn, the house had an awkward addition, the kitchen was small, and the location wasn't close to family, friends, Ben's job, or our church. Despite the things we didn't love, we knew the positives outweighed the negatives, and we put an offer in.

We received a counter offer, and we in turn counter offered back. At this point, things started getting weird. The owners were being weird about a few simple requests, and they didn't respond by the time they were given. There were numerous red flags that worried us, and after talking to some trusted friends, we decided buying this home was not in our best interest. After not receiving a timely response from the owners, we had our realtor withdrawal our offer. Though we felt confident this was the right decision, we were still bummed. Another failed house.

There were no other farmhouses on the market. We were looking in quite a few towns, but yet, the market was slow. The auction house was still an option, but we still weren't sure if we wanted to pursue this house. We continued to trust that the Lord had a plan, though we often felt like we were preaching this message to ourselves continuously.