The Old Farmhouse
Of Our Dreams?

Dateline: 13 November 2013

(click pictures to see enlarged views)

The picture above shows the view down our road from the front yard of our house. There is woodland all the way down the road on the left side and we purchased that land a couple years ago. In the distance there is a two-story grey house. The house sets on 2 acres of land. It is an old farm house. We have always liked the place. 

The house has been abandoned for several years. Maybe four years ago the roof fell in with a heavy wet snow. It fell in because the person who owned it had removed all the collar ties from the roof rafters. There was no roof on the place for a couple years. Then a roof was framed up and sheathed but never finished. Then the man who owned the place died.

I wrote a letter to the estate and expressed an interest in purchasing the property. That was around two years ago. I never heard back. Then, last Friday I was driving by the place and there was a "For Sale By Owner" sign in the front yard.

I called right up. The man who owned it left the property to his son. The son is selling it. I asked how much he wanted for it, and he told me. I asked if I could go look at the place and he gave me permission. So Marlene and I went down and looked it over.

The place is a real dump, outside and in.

A first floor view

Most of the interior wall and ceiling surfaces have been gutted. The windows are all broken or in disrepair. None of the doors are any good. A section of main beam in the basement has broken, and the floors above have dropped down. 

A second floor view

It had been raining the day we went to look at the place and the roof, without shingles and with much of the tar-paper blown off, is leaking all over. 

In other words, the place is a disaster. Most people would look at the old house and see it as a structure that has to be torn down. That might end up being the case, but there is one aspect of this building that makes me think it can be saved.

The main house is a post and beam structure. The beams are hand-hewn and big. Most of them are still sound. The "lines" of the house are straight. The walls do not bow out or in, and the perimeter foundation beams look to be sound.

If the main frame of the place is still in good shape, and the foundation is still (mostly) good, the house can be saved. That's the way it looks to me.

I called my attorney and have an appointment to see him tomorrow. I called the owner back and offered him a price. He said okay and asked me to take the sign down. He said three other people had called about the place. The sign hadn't even been up a whole day.

We will see what happens. I have the savings to buy the old place, and probably enough to get a good roof on it. But not to do anything else. So this will be a long-term, one-step-at-a-time project.

The first step is to get it bought.

My wife has always wanted an old farmhouse……

This view, taken from in front of the garage, looks up towards our home (where the first picture above was taken)


Sunnybrook Farm said...

If it were in excellent shape you would really have to tear everything out to this state anyway. If it is like our farm house everything needs to be upgraded from insulation to wires and pipes. It is just easier if the place is gutted to start with. As long as the structure is good I would look at it as a positive and try to get the price down to the value of the land, people just don't understand how things work with an old house.

Herrick Kimball said...

Sunnybrook Farm,

The price I'll be paying is in line with what a two-acre country lot currently sells for in these parts. The only part of the house that I consider to be any good is the beam frame, foundation, and new roof rafters. Everything else would need to be new. With a good roof on the place, it will keep it from degrading any further. Thanks for the comment.

You Can Call Me Jane said...

Well, you may know how I feel about old farmhouses (I love them), so I applaud you for your courage and vision. I only wish I lived closer and had the time- I would LOVE to help clear out that mess:-). I sure hope you're planning on allowing us to follow along with this process! Also, I just received my clothespins kit in the mail and am excited to put them together and and put them to use. Thank you!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Jane,
Thanks for the enthusiasm and encouraging words. There sure is a lot of mess to clean up.

My one son has a truck and I'm sure he will "mine" out all the scrap steel and take it to the junkyard. We will burn the wood out back of the place, and everything else will go into a big dumpster. Just cleaning and cutting trees and mowing the lawn will make a tremendous difference.

I've spoken in the past with three older ladies (sisters) who grew up there and they said it was a beautiful farm with barns and all when they were younger. I'd love to get some old pictures.

First I have to buy it. Problems can crop up in that process. But I'm optimistic about it.

I'm glad your clothespin kit arrived and am looking forward to getting feedback from you (and others).

Ray said...

I'm really happy for you, Herrick! I pray that you get the place...what a wonderful project that would be, and it's great that your sons are available and willing to help. I'll follow with great interest.

Anonymous said...

This makes me think of the old saying, "good things come to those who wait" and the Scripture verse about the Lord gives us the desires of our heart".

You could save a lot of money if you buy your materials from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. They sell used windows, doors, paint, hardware, lumber, tools, lighting fixtures, furniture and appliances. I know someone who renovated their kitchen using the Restore and it looked beautiful! There are Restores in Albany, Schenectady, and Syracuse:

Will this farmhouse be the retirement home for you and Marlene that you were wanting?

David The Good said...

That's exciting - what an invigorating challenge to undertake. I can see the potential, I wonder why it doesn't have a porch.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks. Yes, my sons will be a help in this. Part of my reason for getting the place is that can be a nearby place for someone in the family to live.

Mrs. T,
Yes, wee have been waiting patiently (the story of my life) for an opportunity to purchase the place. And it has been a matter of prayer for years.

I've never heard of a Habitat For Humanity restore. The house we now live in, that I built 20+ years ago, has a few recycled parts from old houses. I like the concept.

Everything is subject to change, but my thinking now is that the house will be our retirement home AND a place for me to build a better facility for my Planet Whizbang business. The land is relatively level and there is space enough for both, unlike at our current house location.

This would mean I can put my previously mentioned bridge-across-the-creek plan to rest. The road/bridge would cost at least what I'll pay for the farmhouse with lot, and maybe even twice as much.

So this will be a great thing, though nothing will happen very fast with the farmhouse. I'll not go into debt to fix or build anything.\

Hi David,
I seem to have a lot of invigorating challenges lately, and so do you (as I read on your blog). I have the knowledge/skills to fix the place, but not the physical drive and stamina I once had. I try to make up for that with dogged persistence. I'm sure it had a porch at one time. All those old farmhouses did.

Gorges Smythe said...

Best of luck. It does look salvageable.

Anonymous said...

Good Luck Herrick. Praying for the sale to be quick and cheap.

Anonymous said...

Prayers sent!

David Smith

timfromohio said...

I see a sound investment opportuntity - more land and a farmhouse with solid bones is superior to potentiall worthless dollars in a bank!

Different topic - how about an orchard update? I started a mini-orchard this past year as well and was interested to see how your trees did.

Anonymous said...

So pleased to hear it will get restored. A nice story to start the day. I hope it works out for you.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks everyone.

Tim from Ohio—
My thoughts exactly.

The orchard is doing fine. I neglected it this last summer because I was so sidetracked with my business. But the trees grew well. There was some insect damage to the leaves and I thought about spraying something on them but I let them be. I'm trying to get hardware cloth cylinders around them now to keep mice and rabbits from eating the trunks. Then I hope to tend to them more in the spring. Thanks for asking.

K said...

Wow! This farmhouse needs a lot of TLC, but this house has a ton of possibilities. I'd be very interested in seeing your progress as you go along with this project. You ought to name it The Phoenix House.

Unknown said...

The very first thing I noticed were the huge beams, Perfect!
The walls, already stripped, wonderful, The view is outstanding, and the yard is only about cleaning up. Two years of rain and weather is not great, but is still not long enough to ruin it, check. Not too bad so far. But.....
However, when you said that the structure, and foundation was good. THAT is, to me, what made it a perfect decision.
If your foundation is "true" then it is more than a consideration, it's a "Let's do This."
The only other consideration would be, if Marlene really likes it too. As a team, nothing can stop it's success.
I personally believe that if you have both admired the land and home for many years, it is a part of you both. It may be a life long work, or not, but when you own it, it's "Family" and what could be better than that?
After all, you and your family will be spending a lot of time there. That's for sure!!!

Cyndi Lewis said...

This will indeed be a project! I will be praying for God's hand to guide the proceedings. How is it that you have so much energy?

Herrick Kimball said...

My life is pretty much an open blog. You can bet I'll be posting updates about the property and what we do with it.

Those are very good observations. The foundation walls are thick fieldstone and mostly good. One side is heaved in a bit. But it is not critical and I have lots of past experience with fixing foundations, if it is needed.

Thank you. I don't really have the energy I once had, and that is a concern to me. But my experience has been that I rise to the challenge. And I know that almost anything is possible if it is broken down into smaller parts and taken one step at a time.

timfromohio said...

Glad to hear your orchard is doing well. We were having problems with ants/aphids and found a soap solution sprayed on the leaves and insects was effective - just have to do it every day until the ants get the message!

Possibilities are endless with a sound, timber frame structure. I have a good friend who restored a timber frame barn and left as many of the timbers exposed as possible while still using modern materials like drywall. The result is an absolutely beautiful looking home. I look forward to a "yeoman farmhouse" blog being established!

Alex said...

I hope the sale is straightforward and, like others who have already commented, I will be eagerly awaiting further postings about your new project.

CHazzercise said...

As a real estate investor, I caution you to consider the difference of "can" the structure be saved and is it economically feasible. I'd argue that any structure can be salvaged, but more important is the value vs. cost of the result. As a poster above mentioned, even in relatively good repair retrofitting an old house is almost always (significantly) more than the equivalent new construction house. When I say "equivalent" I mean insulation, electrical and plumbing system, basement/foundation etc... Not trying to discourage you, I'd just strongly suggest you negotiate with the owner from the standpoint of "the house has no value, in fact it is a several thousand dollar expense to scrape the lot" angle. What you do with it afterwards is your business, not his... but allow yourself more monetary wiggle room than you think you'd ever need. Possibilities are endless... and expensive!

CHazzercise said...

by the way, thank you for your blog, I've been reading for a while now and am happy to have a comment to add, finally. Also, built one of your pluckers, too. changed me from being a rabbit raiser to a chicken raiser. (still like rabbit, though) never wanted to pluck 30 CC's at one time and it held me back for years from raising them, so thank you for that, too!

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks. It remains to be seen if the sale will go through smoothly or not. I hope so. It would be som much easier if I could write a check and get a receipt and that would be it. But it's never that simple.

Thanks for the advice. And I'm pleased to know your Whizbang plucker is working well for you.

Wendy S said...

How exciting! I hope the it works out for you and I look forward to reading about the renovations in the future.