We have a lovely vacation home, I like to tell people, except for the fact that someone else lives there.
Let me take you back to the early 2000’s when I was young and optimistic and ready to move to the country with my reluctant husband and two sweet daughters- Fiercely, almost 4, and Cleverly, 10 months. I was tired of the city and of living in the same place for six years. Mr Fantastic stated that he was willing to humor me with a move, but only once. I love moving; I would be happy to move every 2-3 years forever but the husband is more of a sedentary person, at least when it comes to residence. There was negotiation, there were discussions, there was a marriage counselor. Eventually it was decided that it would happen and we, as in primarily me, the instigator of the move, needed to decide where. After much research, I chose Ithaca, NY for its progressive vibe, beautiful natural areas, and rural yet culturally stimulating character. As a bonus, it gets a decent amount of snow.
We lived the first year in a 2 BR rental a short walk to The Commons, a pedestrian commercial area with a playground, shops and occasional festivals. We arrived in Ithaca without jobs, having just a few hundred dollars a month after paying the mortgage from renting out our house to some college students as we crossed our fingers against any costly problems there. Pretty quickly, I got a job and then Mr Fantastic got one, then I left mine since his was better and we were unhappy with our childcare situation. We met some great people and enjoyed the parks and the small towns nearby. After about 6 months, we started looking at properties.
We wanted something with a rental unit to help with costs. We looked in the city of Ithaca but quickly decided against it due to high taxes and the fact that we already had an urban property in a larger city. We spent a lot of time debating the benefits of an A-frame on 40 acres west of Ithaca, but it was almost guaranteed the bank would not loan us money for an off-the-grid, hand-built house. Then Mr. Fantastic got a hot tip at work.
The property was in our budget, had an updated 80 year old farm house, a new 5-car garage, 40 acres including a 3/4-acre pond, and a short driveway. The driveway mattered because some rural driveways are more like private roads, meaning the owner has to maintain them and plow them in winter. We knew someone who actually had a small bridge that was part of their driveway and it caused many problems. We knew we were not up for that kind of maintenance even thought it would mean we were closer to the road. This place sounded pretty good.
The farm house while we lived there. Tire swing, laundry line, and our ducks!
We looked at the property as we had looked at many with our real estate agent, and I will give her a shout out because she was so awesome – thanks Carol Bushberg!! This ended up being a complicated transaction, and she was great. We started out on a rainy Sunday driving from Ithaca, and it seemed like a long drive. We got out of the car to see the house and I just was not impressed. There was pale-colored, wall-to-wall carpeting, a molded plastic shower like one might find in an RV, and the clapboard siding had been covered with vinyl siding. We walked around the muddy property in the rain, Cleverly screeching on my back in the backpack as was her custom, Fiercely chattering away, and the realtor pointing out features of the house and land. There was a trailer next door, closer than I would hope for my ideal country house. Why did we end up buying this place? Stay tuned for part 2!
Below: Some of the 40+ acres, the trailer next door