Friday, October 7, 2011

Farm Tour: Windham Cape Fixer-Upper

Optimism is a characteristic of most farmers.  The ability to be excited about the upcoming growing season, to spend the winter planning and improving, regardless of how terrible the season before was.

Optimism, I'm learning, is also a characteristic of house-hunters.  Each new opportunity has the exciting potential to be "the one."

Which is why I spent all last night super-excited to tour this cape in Windham.  I had really liked the town of Windham when we drove around last weekend - particularly the fact that it seems to have affordable farmsteads (not something I've been able to find close to Mystic).  The 1720s cape, two-level barn, and large three-car garage/workshop were situated on 11 acres of cleared land.  The property was a corner lot off a main road with ample off-street parking (perfect if the workshop area were converted to a farmstand).

There were no pictures of the interior of the house listed anywhere on the internet, so I assumed it was a fixer-upper.  But, the property was listed at $150K, which definitely felt more affordable and would leave a decent amount of savings to begin slowly fixing the house.  I had already pumped myself up for conquering the project.

And I felt the same way, even after I found out that the current home owner is a hoarder.  Like on that horrible TV show.  A full dumpster in the driveway and a house filled to the brim with...crap.  And I was still optimistic after learning that nothing in the house had been renovated or worked on since her father was alive in the 1960s.  And that the upstairs ceilings were just over 6' tall (about as tall as K).  But I was drawn by the character in the house - the history.  I loved the all of the windows, the fireplaces, the wood floors, the built-ins, and the overall floorplan.  It was difficult to look beyond the clutter, but I saw the home had potential.

Then I saw the barn, which was in even worse disrepair and equally as filled with crap.  The garage also needed work (insulation, a new roof, etc, etc, etc).  Three old buildings is a BIG project.  But one that could be tackled slowly, I justified.

And then I looked beyond the trees out to the 11 acres of land.  The land dropped off (too steep to climb) into wetlands.  Nearly the entire backyard.  The realtor even shared stories of skating and fishing in the former pond.  Wetlands are highly protected and there was no way the land could be farmed, or really used for anything other than as protected wetlands.

The property across the street was a cleared, 5-acre field owned by a local church.  If that field had belonged to the house instead of the wetlands, I may have seriously considered it.  Which, in retrospect, probably would have been a terrible idea.  There were too many unknowns (about the well, the septic, the asbestos in the basement) and too little worth salvaging to make the project seem financially feasible.  Even if I got a good deal on the property, I  would rather spend my time building a farm business than fixing up a house.

Sigh.  And I still have a sore throat from the terrible smell of the house...

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