Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Search for Land, Chapter II

We just got back from a five day trip to the Finger Lakes. We linked up with our very excellent and indefatigable real estate agent, Paul, and looked at 10 new properties and reexamined three from earlier trips.

A second look at the three leading properties proved very helpful. A 43 acre farm in Berkshire remains “our 80% solution”. The missing 20% is generally expressed in idiosyncrasies; the pasture is bisected by a deep stream bed that we would have to bridge, the barn needs a new roof and some rafter replacement, and the house’s first floor bathroom has a very large jet stream tub on the first floor, but there are no bedrooms on the first floor.

An 8 acre horse farm in Groton didn’t look as good the second time around, and that’s ok because it went under contract the day after our second viewing.

The third place we took another look at is near Cortland. We saw the place at open house on the last trip, and our impression then was that the house was well cared for, but the asking price was too high. It has since been aggressively re-priced. Our reexamination was very helpful. We never had any question on the land -- it’s 45 acres, half pasture and half arable, and all well drained. The living space in the house has been very well cared for. But the owners have done bupkis for the foundation, which is in very serious need of fundamental repairs. This explains why it’s being sold “as is”. Paul suggested that we might offer them full asking price but toss in a clause that would require the sellers to set aside $15K-$20K in escrow to repair the foundation. The place has an old 16 stall dairy barn and after a second look we concluded that it’s in much better condition than we remembered. A little work on the roof would give us a large, solid structure to work with.

One of the new places was of interest too. It’s either a 7 or 17 acre place in Lodi with very new outbuildings. At least two of the out buildings have both water and power. The knock on the place is that the house is a doublewide mobile home, though we thought much more of it than we would have imagined. It is in very good condition, with ceiling fans in most rooms, sky lights, and a wood stove. It’s also surrounded by Amish farms and is close to wineries; both big plusses.

After three days of running around looking at properties we repaired to Gentle Giants B&B for a weekend of R&R. We chilled out, toured some wineries, and generally let the dust settle some on our search to see where we were/are.

So here’s approximately where we are: we found some places in New York that would certainly allow us to start the market-garden vegetable operation we envision, with plenty of room to grow. The Finger Lakes are beautiful, exciting, and inviting. That said, we have really enjoyed Vermont, and would really like to find a place here, but it’s very difficult to argue with the economics. Vermont really suffers from the pressure its popularity as a vacation and seasonal home destination puts on the land prices. We’re also growing anxious to have all of our belongings in one place again, but we don’t want to make a rushed decision. We’re going to cogitate and meditate on it a bit more, view a handful other listings here in Vermont and then see what we've got.

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