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House, sweet house?

Could it be? After 2-1/2 maddening months of trying to make a deal on a house, could I possibly have one???

Wednesday night, my friend Leslie called. She’d spotted a real estate ad: 3 bedrooms, sun porch, privacy plantings, all appliances (including fridge, washer, and dryer — very unusual) — bargain priced and with owner financing.

The latter is a huge deal for me. It’s either that or straight cash. And limited cash has caused my house-bidding frustrations.

By Friday afternoon, before my offer was even typed, the seller had verbally accepted the terms.

I’ve never laid eyes on the place. But Leslie toured it for me, took 99 photos (gotta love the photographic profligacy of digital cameras), and gave me her considered opinions. Having renovated an old house herself, she has a pretty good idea what’s what. She pronounced the place move-in ready and filled with charms like hardwood floors and built-in bookcases, if not entirely beautiful or perfectly sound at the moment.

A professional home inspection is still ahead, and I already know that the house needs a new roof and other things (that’s why it can be sold only with owner financing; no bank would touch it). But could it be? Could it be that by this time next month I’ll be living in my first real house in more than 10 years? One with actual rooms??? With beaucoup storage spaces? A garage? A basement for stashing all those emergency preps?

That would be a giant WHOOHOO! I tell you, I’m ready for that.

The catch? Yes, it’s in a tiny town in the northwest where I want to be. But not in the warmer, drier part where I was aiming to get. Back in the gloomy old northWET where it rains nine months out of the whole blessed year. Urg. But such a deal I couldn’t pass up.

Will keep you posted for sure. Wish me luck!


  1. Pat
    Pat July 26, 2010 3:23 am

    Love those trees. Love that ready-made, lived-in look. Sounds perfect for fixing up, and I hope you can get it…and enjoy!

  2. Karen
    Karen July 26, 2010 4:38 am

    Fabulous! It looks wonderful and private and green. Sending all my best wishes for a successful transaction. I’ll be watching the mail for the housewarming invitation. Although I’m betting there are a few folks in the high desert mourning the prospect of your departure.

  3. Claire
    Claire July 26, 2010 8:14 am

    Thanks, Pat & Karen. 🙂 Now we’ll just hope the deal flies.

    Don’t know about mourning my departure, but some of the high-desert locals are plotting a good-bye party — an idea I thoroughly oppose. And I’ve heard rumors that the local animal-rescue types up north have already gotten wind of my possible arrival and are conspiring to put me to work. (Oh, not yet, please!)

    One person, at least, is glad to get rid of me. The sweetest of our neighbors here had offered to rent or even sell me a single-wide high up on 50 acres. They’re in the process of buying the property, but all they want is the land; they would have divided 5 or 10 acres with all the structures off for me. But a relative of the present owner, who helped build the place befor Y2K, loves and wants that property with all his heart. My departure is a blessing for him.

  4. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal July 26, 2010 8:44 am

    I hope it all works out for you. It’s been 8 years since I had my own house, and 10 since I felt like I had a home, so I know how you’re feeling. Good luck!

  5. Jim B.
    Jim B. July 26, 2010 9:41 am


    Since the offer has already been made and accepted, I hope that the house will give you lots of equity once you repaired all the stuff that need to be repaired.

  6. Karin Graham
    Karin Graham July 26, 2010 11:56 am

    I read your column every day. I truly hope this deal works out for you. I love the privacy setting. For quite awhile now I have been trying to figure out what exactly “bargain priced” means. In the economically deprived area of Gold Beach, OR, it apparently means $ 100,000 and up. It seems to be the same in this equally economically deprived area of northern Alabama. You are blessed to have friends in several places. I wish you the best. Karin Graham.

  7. Winston
    Winston July 26, 2010 1:17 pm

    Wow, I would kill for a place like that; trees, privacy, space, cold weather!

    Best of luck on the deal!

  8. Claire
    Claire July 26, 2010 2:46 pm

    Winston, Jim B., Kent — Thank you. And Winston — no need to kill. 🙂 Just be persistent and stubborn and have friends who look out for your interests.

    Karin — I’m definitely very blessed in my friends. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve them. Thanks for your kind comments.

    As to distressed real estate … I didn’t have any problem finding houses under $100,000 — even way under $100,000. One of the cutest houses I looked at (two bedroom, one bath, with beautiful — though neglected — landscaping, and a fantastic, brand-new island kitchen) sold for under $32,000. The house I almost got (3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a sunroom, skylights, etc.) was listed for $38,000 and will eventually go for much less. And they were both in nice little small-town neighborhoods. But both were foreclosed fixers in towns whose labor markets had been hit really hard, to the point where workers had moved away en masse, leaving scores of empty houses behind them.

    I know it’s a crap-shoot, though. Gold Beach, for instance, may be economically depressed, but it’s a spectacularly beautiful resorty area on the Oregon coast, while the places I found the best deals were in obscure inland blue-collar towns without many inate attractions. The town I was most drawn to and liked very much was one that a number of online commentors had dismissed as filled with “nothing but rednecks and Mexicans.” Hey, rednecks and Mexicans are fine by me! Especially if they live where houses can be had for under $40,000.

    The hardest thing for me was finding real estate agents or brokers who would take me seriously when I said I either needed a house in the low $30,000s or one not much more expensive that I could get owner financing on. I started searching online, looking at several states. I found lots of properties. But most agents and brokers either ignored my emails or sent replies that questioned my intent or my sanity.

    In one case, I found a cute little cottage for $44,000 in an area that is otherwise very toney. I couldn’t find the listing broker, so I picked another broker in the area, sent him the MLS number of the house, and asked if he could get me more information, especially on any possibility of owner financing. He wrote back and said, “There are no houses in that price range. What do you really want?” I wrote back, saying, “I know it’s an oddity, but there really is such a house, and here’s its MLS number and here’s the website where I found it.” He responded, “You’re not being serious. There are no houses here in that price range.” Sheesh … (I eventually got info on the house; there was no owner financing available. Just as well; I found much better deals after a day or two of searching.)

    I grant you, even in the areas where I found bargains, most of the houses were $100,000 and up. Sometimes way up.

    Still … investors are picking up $35,000 houses all over the place. And if somebody is willing to live in a dead berg in the middle of nowhere and do a fair bit of fixing … it’s really amazingly doable — thank heavens. If it weren’t, I might be stuck in this wind-blown fifth-wheel forever. $100,000 might as well be a million, as far as my budget is concerned.

    Cheers — and thanks again for the kind thoughts.

  9. Pat
    Pat July 26, 2010 3:47 pm

    Claire, is there any/much land attached to that house you’ve shown us? I’m thinking of room for dogs and vegetable garden. (And, BTW, if you painted it green, you could really camouflage it. 🙂

  10. Victor Milan
    Victor Milan July 26, 2010 4:47 pm

    Sweet! Looks entirely pretty.

    Best of luck sealing the deal!

  11. Claire
    Claire July 26, 2010 4:49 pm

    Pat, not much land, I’m afraid. There’s a giant vacant lot behind it — almost a full block long. I don’t think they’d like it if I took it over for a veggie garden. 😉 But I’m sure I’ll play fetch with Ava there.

    I take my dogs for two walks “in the wild” every day — and there are plenty of wilds within a mile or so of the house, including a river and logging roads — so I hope the pooches won’t feel too confined in the smallish (but completely fenced) yard. The place already has a doggie door to let them dash in and out.

    With some creativity and good use of trellises, window boxes, and raised beds, I think one could get a decent little veggie and herb garden going in and around the place. I really did want a bigger property, but I’ll take what I can get.

    Thanks for your interest in “my” (I hope, I hope) house. It’s fun to share. And what a thrill it’s going to be to have actual ROOMS!

    Camo … Hm ….

  12. Claire
    Claire July 26, 2010 4:55 pm

    Thanks, Victor! The sellers are supposed to sign and make it official tomorrow morning. Barring any Dreadful Discoveries during the home inspection, I think it’s actually going to happen! And yes, it’s sweet. And pretty. And funky in that turn-of-the-last-century sort of way. I’m so jazzed.

  13. ff42
    ff42 July 26, 2010 7:38 pm

    Are you dissing my beloved northwet? (Born and raised in Olympia).

    Congrats on your new home.

  14. Ellendra
    Ellendra July 26, 2010 8:42 pm

    Congratulations Claire!!!!!!

    “There’s a giant vacant lot behind it — almost a full block long. I don’t think they’d like it if I took it over for a veggie garden.”

    Ah, but what about a little covert gardening? Most people wouldn’t recognize a vegetable plant unless it’s growing in straight rows, especially if you chose slightly unusual plants, or plants that have wild cousins already in the area.

  15. Judy
    Judy July 26, 2010 9:00 pm

    Amen to Ellendra’s comment. Just think of it, wild asparagus, wild grapes and seed grown peaches and cherry trees. Why not!

  16. naturegirl
    naturegirl July 26, 2010 9:06 pm

    Congrats Claire!!!!! You are truly blessed… looks cozy, it looks comfy, AND SO VERY GREEN, too….

    The fun is in the personal “fixin up” part ~ where ya really get to know your new home…

    How cool!!

  17. Pat
    Pat July 26, 2010 9:18 pm

    There’s a great book on growing edibles in pots called “The Bountiful Container” by McGee and Stuckey. (Both authors live and work in Oregon, and are experts on gardening and writing about gardening.) It details multiple veggies, fruits, and herbs, with many illustrations and how-tos on choosing, planting and raising foods in pots, on trellises, and in small spaces. Book is available at Amazon as well.

  18. doug
    doug July 26, 2010 9:25 pm

    Well done, Claire! Wasn’t found without some searching, sounds like. Will be good to have you back in the NW–that’s the wonderfully wet, not too windy NW.

  19. Jim B.
    Jim B. July 26, 2010 10:00 pm

    Here’s something related to the “low priced homes” issue.

    It also covers other important issues at the end of the article that’d be critical to any “buyer”. Especially after sinking their own money into the properties, despite it being “free”.

  20. Victor Milán
    Victor Milán July 27, 2010 12:46 pm

    If you’re looking to grow food and yard space is a hindrance, check out Square-Foot Gardening .

    Indeed, if you’re interested in growing your own food it’s worth looking into regardless of space available. It works. It’s easy. I was able to grow substantial amounts of food last year using SFG, although such minimal gardening experience as I had was all of the “black thumb” variety.

    This really is an “if I can do it, anybody can” situation.

    SFG is highly efficient. This by default makes it

    As always, YMMV. But: worth a look, in any case.

  21. Claire
    Claire July 28, 2010 3:04 pm

    I’ve been waiting to respond to all these comments, not wanting to utter one more word about the house until the sellers had signed the contracts. They were supposed to do that yesterday but were delayed getting into town (they’ve already moved out of state and are just making trips back to move stuff). But … they’ve now signed! So the only potential roadblocks are the home inspection and roofing estimates, and I’ll be surprised if either reveals anything I’m not already expecting.

    So thank you thank you all for so much shared enthusiasm. The gardening tips I’ll take you up on. The yard there isn’t big, but it will surely support a few veggies and herbs. And I also already know that the are is loaded with community-supported organic farms that sell their produce via subscription, so what I can’t grow (and I do have a black thumb) can still be happily gotten.

    As to doing some “outlaw gardening” in the empty lot behind … I love the way you think. But I neglected to note that it’s a very well-cared for empty lot. Anything planted there, so it seems, would be regularly run over with a mower. However, I might just look up the owner of the land and see if they’d allow me to do a little gardening there — or eventually even sell me a portion of the lot. (On a plat map, it appears to be five or six different parcels; might not even need to be subdivided for a sale.)

    Jim B. — good article link. I’d really like to emphasize to anybody who thinks it’s impossible to find decent inexpensive real estate that it’s very possible with some persistence, and the next several years might be among the best times to do it.

    Doug — You’re right. When it’s raining cats & dogs & skunks & possums and I haven’t seen a scrap of sun in two weeks, I’ll recite the mantra: “At least it’s not so &^%$#@!ing windy!” That’ll help. A lot. Really. And for the first few years, at least, I’ll be so busy doing renovations that I probably won’t even notice the weather.

  22. Pat
    Pat July 28, 2010 3:14 pm

    Maybe the owner would turn some of that vacant lot into a community garden, with several people taking care of his/her portion and growing what each wants to, then sharing their particular produce. Or giving a portion of it to the owner in exchange for use of the land.

  23. Tracey Roberts
    Tracey Roberts August 11, 2010 7:06 pm

    Hey Claire! Happy to welcome you to the rainy NW (SW OR, here). Don’t forget that foraging for grub is a common and fun (and generally pretty safe) thing up here in the NW woods. Tons of books on the subject and lots of groups that do “walks” together to help newbies get the lay of the land. Also, wildland gardening (throwing seeds out on creeksides and in the forest and hoping for the best) goes on all the time. Only the hardiest survive, but it’s like your birthday every time you go for a walk and stuff is waiting for you!

    As a travel-trailer resident (37′ with hubby and 2 babies) I am SUPER, SUPER, SUPER excited for you!!!! WOO HOO – a full sized tubbie!! However, I am sure you will miss having to get off the pot to make your way to the sink and wash your hands. It is so convenient, as you know, to multi-task in the restroom, LOL!

    Cover that lot in green and enjoy the heck out of your new place! And, don’t let the house inspector scare you. They always think in terms of hiring stuff out to be done, when it may not be that big of a deal to do it yourself or, gasp, live with it for a while. Get that house, LOL!

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