On the last day of February 2009 Dave and rose early. I filled a green metal thermos with coffee, gathered the dog gear, and my backpack. All the necessities of a journey. Then we loaded ourselves and two Jack Russells (Shorty and Tuff) into the Toyota and hit the road. We cut through the back way from Crawford to highway 84 and pointed the car west.
Dave had spoken to a realtor on the 27th about a property I’d located through the internet. I had seen the listing a few weeks before but had passed it by. The pictures and description hadn’t sparked my interest at the time beyond a passing glance.
On this day however, I was compelled to get more information on the property. Dave called the number and was provided with all the usual details. The lady Realtor on the phone gave him directions to the place and that is where we were headed on Saturday, February 28th.
Our real estate hunt had begun over a year before. A dedicated search commencing at the end of 2007 after a cross country move from Wisconsin to Texas. We had driven Jed Clampet style with 4 dogs and our belongings packed (and I mean PACKED) into a truck and trailer cross country, making the trip in a day and a half. Dave is dedicated to getting journeys like that one over ASAP.
For the past 10 years we had lived in Wisconsin (Dave’s home state). We had a very nice place on Lake Michigan, but fate paired with a strong desire to relinquish ourselves from the winters had us turning our eyes south to the state of my birth; wonderful warm Texas. After many months spent marketing our home we found a buyer and managed to sell our house ourselves in spite of the ongoing real estate melt-down.
During our time together Dave & I had lived in a variety of places. A small quaint cottage in a Mayberry like Wisconsin town, a motor home dubbed Susie in upstate NY, and a huge house complete with beach on the shores of vast Lake Michigan.
Each place had its experiences and provided us with valuable lessons about the roof over our heads and what it was like to live under each one. But we were gypsies. Transients…making the most of each place, while dreaming of the “one day” place where we would hang our hats and stay. THE PLACE where we could put all our lessons learned to use and make a unique and individual home.
Searching for real estate in Texas is quite something. Since we did not have the usual constraint of a specific location dictated by jobs- we were free to look far and wide. It was slightly overwhelming, but exciting as well.
Texas is huge. Anyone who has spent time driving around to its different regions knows what I mean. Sure, you can tell it is big when you see it on a map……but start driving across it and the size takes on new meaning. It is so varied and vast. You spend a day driving and you get half way across and everything looks like you’ve entered a completely different world than from where you started. We did a lot of driving in the Super Echo. Thank goodness it is a fuel efficient car or we might have spent all our funds on filling the tank before we ever found a place.
Our criteria was “when we found it, we would know it”. I’m a firm believer in following your heart and soul….and Dave & I were convinced that our place would find us, that it would speak to us, and we would “just know”. That is kind of our motto for most things in life…and it has panned out pretty good so far.
We did have some other ideas about what we wanted….we’d been dreaming of it for quite awhile. A country place. Somewhere with enough land that we could grow gardens and orchards, have some animals if we wished. A place that we could buy outright, no loans, no banks….no future of having to work or risk losing everything to some institution. And we wished to build a house the way we wanted just for us with our own hands and efforts.
I spent much time on the internet searching…..like until my eyes went buggy late into the night and I began to feel sucked into a vortex of never ending cyber space. But I persevered…energized by hopes and dreams…..and much coffee brought to me steadily by Dave.
I had a folder in my bookmarks: “Real Estate”. Under it hundreds of Realtor, for sale by owner, MLS, and classified websites. I checked them regularly, scanning countless listings. Calling, emailing, inquiring…signing up for updates and generally immersing myself in Texas real estate.
After a year of searching, I confess I was beginning to despair. Dave, who is much less prone than I to wearing his heart on his sleeve and dramatics, remained calm. He reassured me that, YES…of course we would find it. It was only a matter of time. He reminded me that I had a tendency to chomp at the bit and work myself into a tither when things did not proceed as quickly as I wished. He too was anxious to be moving on, but he was right. When you stare down a pot…it never boils, and good things come in time with patience and dedication.
I was perusing all my bookmarked real estate sites for the kajillionth time when the little country property I had first passed up appeared on the page again. After several recent dry runs, I told Dave….let’s just call on it…What have we got to lose? Which brings us to that car trip I mentioned at the start of this story.
The morning we set out was beautiful, even if a bit windy. The weather was very “early spring in Texas”. The dogs were excited as usual at the opportunity for a car ride. It took us about 2hrs driving a little more than 80 miles from our start. We found the place with no problem and commented to one another that directions for visitors would be pretty simple.
The road to the place took us through countryside typical of Texas hill country. Rolling hills, rocky outcroppings and an abundance of live oaks. Pastures dotted with longhorns and goats grazing in fields that at this time of the year were hues of brown and gold.
Down a hill and around a bend in the road we drove and had our first look at the property. A little white farmhouse was set back from the road behind a massive stand of live oak trees. There were many trees interspersed with open spots. The structure consisted of a modist tiny farmhouse, which had over the years been added to. It now consisted of a moolage (my word) of structures…making for a long and narrow dwelling.
The gate was open and we drove up the inclined drive and parked behind the house. We left the little dogs in the car so we could have a closer look.
First into the house which was open.
When Dave had spoken to the Realtor he’d asked her if the house was livable. Her reply was quick….”well, I wouldn’t live there.” But she had said that there was one part that would be ok if someone really wanted to. Not exactly encouraging words for us. We were hoping it would be suitable for staying in while we built a new house. Even so, we were undaunted, always preferring to draw our own conclusions before passing judgment.
We entered through the oldest part of the house. It was definitely showing age. There was a musty and unpleasant smell mixed with the pungent aroma of cat pee. The floor in the kitchen was sloping, but had newer laminate covering. It was apparent that some newer work had been done…some walls opened up and rooms made larger. Everything was pretty dirty due I’m sure to the fact that it had been vacant for some time.
As we continued on with our tour of the house we came to the small bathroom. It desperately needed to spend some time with a jug of bleach and some serious scrubbing. But there was new tile floor, a nice vanity, toilet, and shower with new tile. Nothing that elbow grease couldn’t remedy.
Next we entered into newer additions- stained carpets, dried dog or cat poop? and unfinished drywall. Every room was one step up….and the doors were narrow, requiring Dave to turn sideways a bit to get through. It was dry however, and we could see that the real issues could be solved simply by some heavy duty cleaning and getting rid of the stinky carpeting. There was more than enough room for us and our business stuff.
Finally we entered a large room made from 1/2 of a block garage that the house had been joined to by the sprawling additions. This was the newest looking part of the structure and we knew immediately it would make a suitable and comfortable bedroom/office.
The house, while not MTV cribs material, was determined to be more than live-able for our needs pending a thorough cleaning…very, very thorough!
We had been considering various properties with no structure to live in. For that scenario we figured we could purchase and live in an older travel trailer. The farmhouse solved the dwelling hurdle very well. It was far more spacious and complete with working kitchen, bath, etc. We were satisfied that the house would do.
Next we went outside into the fresh air, put the dogs on leashes and began a walk of the land. There were a few small barns and the entire property was fenced. Near one of the sheds was an open area with tall deer fence on one side- clearly once a garden. There were many fruit and pecan trees and the live oak trees….wow! They were scattered all over the place. A large mott in front of the house with one tree so big, we imagined it must have been here when the Spaniards first came to Texas.
The well house was in need of a cleaning and updates, but the equipment appeared to be newer and in good shape. Prior occupants had dug a large pit on the east end of the land, near the house. It was obvious that this was used as a trash burning pit. It was complete with a lot of unburned trash that unfortunately over time and with the help of the wind had been spread around the land. Little bits of plastic bag, paper, and plastic were stuck in the fences and vegetation everywhere. Definitely would be a job to deal with all that.
Next we ventured through the gate and across the road. The property was split by the road…making it into two large triangles of what was once a square parcel. This side had huge live oak trees and a variety of others as well. It also was fenced and cross fenced…about 75% of it being in decent shape. Here we found several rolls of usable fencing material and another small loafing shed….probably suitable for goats as it had a low roof. Behind the shed we discovered the remnantsof some sort of old foundation and a large concrete “cube” with walls that were about 6 feet tall. Nothing inside…it appeared as though perhaps a water tank of some kind had once been seated upon it. The lowest corner of the land we didn’t go through as it was quite grown up…but we could see that it added a significant chunk to the area.
We walked around both sides of the road for quite awhile, taking it all in. Making comments to one another about the potentials and the work. The area around the property was beautiful. It lay in a little valley and we could see tree covered hills all around. There were a few distant neighbors but all was quiet and we didn’t see a car go by while we were there.
We went back to the car and I told Dave…”call the Realtor”. We had a few questions for her regarding the well, septic, and a few other items. Really though…we were hooked. It was obvious that there was a tremendous amount of work to be done. I knew I’d be on the receiving end of more than one blister before all was said and done. Challenges we hadn’t considered would arise and the asking price was more than we were ready to spend….but the place had spoken to us. This, we felt was it. We just knew it.
Dave called the Realtor and she agreed to meet us at her office in the small town about 10 miles away. We hopped into the car and headed over. I’ve gone through a few real estate transactions. There have always been nerves and a sort of breathless anticipation. On this particular occasion we were especially energized. This could be it. The place we had dreamed of.
We sat down with the Realtor and made our cash offer. It was half of the asking price, but we were clear that we would accept the condition of the place “as is” take it or leave it. We stepped outside while she called the seller to present our offer.
She’d told us that there had been a few other parties who had tried to purchase the place. However, they were dependant on financing, which in the current economic climate was getting ever more difficult to attain. Nothing had worked out so far as a result….lucky for us. We were more appreciative than ever at having been fortunate enough to have money put aside for this purpose.
She called us back in and (drum roll)………informed us that our offer was accepted. Apparently there was urgency to sell and the opportunity of a cash offer was enough to roll the dice in our favor.
Happy Happy- Joy Joy! Next came the filling out of all the mandatory paperwork and then we were off. We left town and headed back to the property for one more look before we started for the current home base. Now our excitement was full-out. After we finally left, we spoke about the “new place” all the way home. We were told the closing would take place after the title company had done their work…about 2 weeks. What a long two weeks it was! During that time a survey was completed laying out the exact property lines and we made our arrangements for moving….yet again, but hopefully the last time for a long, long time!
Finally the day arrived when we made the long drive for the closing. Dave was in such anticipation that he neglected to look at our fuel gauge until we were about 10 miles from town…then he noticed it was on “E” ….thankfully we made it, got fuel and were on time for the closing appointment.
The actual closing was uneventful….an attorneywas on hand to explain everything to all parties. Papers were passed around a long board room table and signatures were attained. At the end the deal was finalized with our handing over the check. We said our thank yous and headed out the door.
It was ours!! And now a new chapter in our lives was beginning.
MORE PICTURES- these were all taken in February on our first visit to see the property…not a lot of green and no leaves on the trees.