"Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark."

~ Saying of the Gladdagh Gypsies of Galway

Monday, August 31, 2009

How did we get here?

Well, seeing as we've had a pretty un-eventful past few days again....or at least un-eventful for blogging's sake ;), I figured I would look back on the past and reminisce on how we ended up on our 5 acre "farmette" we call Apolloson Acres! We sure did luck out, and I want to log, before I forget more, of all we went through before we found our slice of heaven!

Warning! this could be a very long blog entry!

So I think it took about 2 years of searching before we finally found our place. UGH!! I recall, when I found it online, that it was WAY out of our price range and when I showed it to my friend Lauren, she told me I was getting desperate! It is important to note, I probably consulted with Lauren on more of my finds, than I did with my husband!! Lauren is my "horse mentor" and who to know better than her what would work best for my visions of what was to be Apolloson Acres!

Looking back, it is also important to note, we probably went through a record number of real estate agents! Although I am no spring chicken anymore, I do still feel, in some scenarios, that people don't treat or take me/us seriously because of our age....because we are/were a "young couple". Most of them wanted us to find a cute little bungalow for under $100k, a nice little fixer-upper with a white picket fence, and call it a day. HA - guess they didn't know me ;)

I must have crunched numbers so many times that I started to question what 2 + 2 really equaled! What our max. budget started at rose almost $50k within that 2 year search! Funny how things work....and mind you, this rise was in no part due to job promotions with pay raises ;)

So, if I remember correctly, the first house we looked at was a cute farm house on 9 some acres with a barn and IN OUR [original] PRICE RANGE! 'OMG - how could it be', I thought. I found our dream home on our first try! So Allen and I loaded up in the car with my parents and we went out to look at it. Da Duh Dum Dum... and then we pulled in the drive. 'Ok, ok, it could be worse! It needs a little work on the outside - so what. I bet the inside is cute and country looking.' Uh NO! The inside needed to be condemned! We were afraid to walk, worried the floor might fall out from under us. EWWWWW - there was no carpet or anything, just the bare floor boards! Usually, when you are selling and you have someone coming to look at your place, you clean up.... a little at least! Ugh, ok, so I was still very optimistic at this point. I was hoping there was a way to make it work. We ventured to the barn - not bad, nothing fancy....except the poor little, lonely Arab in his stall ;( *sigh* - so obviously we didn't move forward on that house and I still drive past it everyday to and from work. I don't think they ever sold it and I still see that lonely Arab out in his barb-wired fenced field every day *cringes*. The property is across from a large apple orchard -- maybe it was an omen of what was to come ;)

House #2 was a really cool, old Victorian house, but very out of shape inside. The highlights of this place were the well outside the back kitchen door that my mom said reminded her of the Blair Witch!? And the chickens that attacked when we walked in the garage...I walked in first and it scared the crap out of me. I instantly started to try and back out the doorway as I heard wings flapping and my dad, knowing my fear, thought it was hilarious, and continued to try and push me through the doorway!

Moving on....we looked at so many, SO MANY houses, that I cannot even remember them all, so I will touch on those I do remember.

The next that comes to mind is one we both were SO sold on that we looked at it a few times. Allen and I just had this conversation the other day - WHAT WERE WE THINKING! This one was a colonial of sorts with a large barn in the back. An old, large barn with the remains of what were a few stalls. I could look past the fact that the neighbors had a "mobile home hen house" in their backyard....yes, you read correctly, the mobile home was their chicken coop, if it meant this sweet piece of pie could be mine! UGH - then we walked in the house. The current owner was at the kitchen table with her years worth of cigarette butts in the ash try next to her. He computer desk was on the other side of her along with her big, hairy dog. I could see why she was there during our tour - I doubt she was able to UNHINGE her ass out of the chair! She must have been 400+ pounds and counting... Must explain why the house was DISGUSTING. The carpets might as well have had dead bodies decaying on them and the upstairs rooms hadn't been touched in years. Cob webs and mouse turds decorated the rooms and hallways --- and yet, I remained optimistic. 'Oh, we'll just gut the place and turn it into our heaven', as my mom rolled her eyes. After our second or third look at this place, Lauren came to give her seal of approval and her face was enough said! I think I drew the line when we were in the basement and my dad picked up an old, velvet covered riding helmet and attempted to put it on my head until we all noticed the RATS NEST burrowed inside it. I KID YOU NOT....and yes, we all screamed! The realtor was NOT happy! She didn't last much longer and honestly, I don't even remember why I dumped her. I think she just wasn't showing us what I wanted to see, she was too meek and thinking about it now, I think she blew me off on a property I did want to see asap! I guess I was quite the demanding client....but when you were in the market I was, when it listed, you looked right away or you lost it.

So moving on to the house that caused me to dump Realtor #1, this one was a charmer. I LOVED IT. I was so sad we didn't get it. At the time, I was worried that for the work we needed to do to it, and their asking price, that we just couldn't afford it. Looking back, their asking price was what we PAID for our current pad. Had I know! Although I am sure it was another omen to sway me away for what was to come. This house was shaped to look like a barn. And it had a barn with rock floor which worked for us. We could work with the putting in stalls. It had a pond which Allen loved and the layout of the 5 acres was dreamy. When we walked in the house, we all felt like our equilibrium was off! Turns out the original house burnt down in a fire and they rebuilt the new one on the original foundation. *Sigh* again, I could overlook that! I really liked this one. But the realtor showing it to us was the listing agent and I had been told not to go through the listing agent, so Allen's parents got us in touch with a family friend in real estate. This guy was my soon-to-be biggest pet peeve! He was ok at first, and when I told him I wanted to place a low starting bid, he told me I was out of my mind because the asking price was more than fair. Um HELLO - who was he working for and isn't this why I DIDN'T go through the listing agent. Anyways, we never did bid on the house; if I recall, we ended up finding out things about the septic system etc that was way out of our bank accounts league. I was sad :(

Ugh, septic systems, my soon-to-be other biggest pet peeve!

Next, we looked at a small but cute little bungalow on 8-ish acres. It had a large, brick outbuilding that I was determined to have Allen turn into a barn. Nothing too fascinating about the property and it was on a main road which I wasn't crazy about. Their was also a rumor that a housing development was going in behind it - ewwww. The inside was sad, seems the owners wife died tragically so the whole house had become a shrine to her ;( And it looked like Freddy Krugger showered in the basement bathroom! We were determined to see what was behind one of the doors in the basement and broke a fishing rod in the process *sigh* We meandered around the outside of the property contemplating for awhile what we thought about it and the realtor said to me "Are you really interested or is this just a waste of time" - UM HELLO, how is it a waste of time even if we decided we weren't interested! We are LOOKING for a house and you are a realtor that SHOWS houses to those our my position....and that is what we are doing right now, LOOKING AT THIS HOUSE. That was it, he was out the door! He continued to call and email me for about a year and eventually called Allens parents to ask what was up. He felt we owed him something for all the time he invested in the messages he left and the 'automated' weekly emails I was sent from him on houses in the market. Um, Take a hike buddy!

So we continued to search for our 'dream home'...and a decent realtor. I think, at this point, Allen was not even accompanying me on the first visit rounds! It took a second or third showing to convince him it was worth going to look at. And it is probably better he did this anyways. There was the house with 3 ft of water standing on the basement, the house that STUNK like cats and no one was home, yet the bedroom doors were closed with the tv on and neither myself nor the realtor wanted to open them....so we never saw any of the upstairs bedrooms! There was the house with a decent, true made-for- horses barn with correct horse fencing, but the whole house was gutted and apparently, the owner was renting it out until he found out the tenants had a GOAT living in it with them! (Seriously, you cannot even MAKE THIS STUFF UP!) I think, at this point, even my parents stopped going to look with me on the first showing!

Every night I would stay up all hours of the night searching endlessly online, hoping my dream home would pop up on the screen! My mom could see my frustrations, especially when I would come home from showings totally down and out. I felt like I was the only person on the face of the planet who would never find a home. Oh woe is me! My mom said to me a few times throughout this process something to the effect of, why don't you guys find a starter home and board Apollo somewhere for at least a year. NOPE - NOT AN OPTION was always my response. I WILL find my "dream home" and my horse will move their with me....oh yeah, and my husband! I got a lot of "Oh Allison's...you are setting your self up for disappointment, no one finds their dream home the first time around" type of comments. *Sigh* And so I moved forward. I WOULD FIND IT, I was determined.

Enter fall of 2007. We are now a good year into house hunting and I am completely depressed that everything we look at it not IT. Then we happen upon a cute little ranch that has siding on it to make it look like a log cabin. I never really was fond of ranch-type homes. I wanted the old, Victorian looking farm house, but somewhere in my gut, I knew we'd end up in a ranch ;) This house was cute, in an area we liked, and had a nice outbuilding I could have Allen put stalls into! It sat on 3.5 acres. The bedrooms were small and there were only 2, in addition to only one bathroom, but we liked it. It had a cute, screened-in back patio and nice landscaping. No garage, but, no biggie. I didn't have one as it was, so it wasn't like I had to adjust to that. We ended up putting in a bid, and after going back and forth, came to an agreement. OMG - this is it. We are buying a home....and only paying $10k more than what I put our budget at.........and then came the inspections. DREADED INSPECTIONS.

We found that one of the foundation walls in the basement had some issues and the stupid "inspector" [I use that term lightly for this guy] couldn't even locate the septic system to properly test it. Glad I paid for that! So, after arguments with the current owners via our realtor's about getting info on the septic [it was clear to me at this point there was some kind of issue with the septic system that they were trying to hide], we made the painful decision that we were not comfortable with the foundation wall or septic and pulled out of the deal.

Back to the drawing board.....

And then I got a call from our realtor about a house that was not yet publicly listed, but on the market. It was an old-fashioned colonial farm house on 8 acres with a fenced pasture and a NICE barn! Of course, the inside looked like a freaking chop shop and as I toured the stalls, I was surprised by PHEASANTS burrowing in the shavings.....and you may or may not know my aversion to feathered friends. And of course, being the optimist that I am, I decided, since the price was right, there had to be a way to make it work. Then, the listing agent showed up....I mean, Barbie on crack and after 20 plastic surgery procedures and reaching the ripe age of 90! As we pondered with my dad, since Barbie said she has a lot of interested parties on the property, we ventured through the yard and then stumbled upon what seemed to be a septic backup in the yard - UCK - what is it with the damn septics. So of course, my dad commented to Barbie about the poo we seemed to have stumbled on and she said something to the effect of "Nonsense, that water is so clean I could DRINK it" - ok lady - whatever. Another hope smashed....and so we move on....again!

So moving on, in no particular order, there was the colonial on 14 acres [that also had an orchard] that truly should have been bull dozed. When we walked in, there was seriously human feces smeared on the walls and in the green shag carpet. All the copper plumbing had been ripped out of the wall, there was mold growing in the basement from water damage.....it was just bad, bad, bad. No wonder it was in our price range ;) Then there was the cute, wood sided home with a second floor balcony and a true horse barn and fencing in the back. Too bad the inside was a mess, all the trim was painted black and of course, water damage inside, among other things. What made me mad about this particular home, is while I am still in optimist mode, and told the realtor what I wanted to bid on it, he laughed and said "No Way", then called me a week or so later and said "You will never believe what that home sold for" - lemme guess, what I WANTED to bid on it. Hmmm, imagine that!

And still, there were many, many more, some good, some bad and some just flat out too expensive for us! There was a very small ranch on 6 acres and the land was fascinating, but in the end, I just think we were not sold on the house. It was more of a mobile home with a basement....and again, on a majorly busy road. There were a few more homes we seriously considered, some we put bids on, but none worth devulging on.

And then yet again, another house I fell in love with. This one had a small barn and a small fenced in area, but it was a wooded, secluded lot with potential to build onto the barns. It was on 3 acres and in more of a "poshy" township. The house was something like 28 or 3200 square feet, 3 floors and what I believe is called a British colonial. Everything inside was original. Wood floors, 3 wood burning fireplaces, one of which was in the basement, built in bookshelves. It was just amazing. My mother said it looked like the Amittyville house from the outside, which for those who know me, it made me love it even more. AND IT WAS IN our newly decided price range ;) The trick here was that is was listed as that because the bank just wanted what was owed on it and in the end, someone outbid us ;( Bummed again.

So we again trekked on an I looked at many more house, some with nothing wrong with them, but they just were not the one. By this time, I believe I was now working with a realtor that Allen's boss referred us to. She was supposed to be the best of the best....and she was....but not without a cost. She was quite the conniving one ;) I had many roundabout arguments with her, but in the end, she got us what we wanted. She also got herself on my mortgage brokers "do not do business with list"!

The first time I met her, let's call her Atilla!, she drove me all over gods creation showing me houses that I didn't want to see, as well as ones I did. She even was nice enough to stop mid day and buy me a burger from McDonald's. Along this road trip, we happened across a small ranch on 5 acres that was formerly the residence of a gentleman who trained Standardbreds for the track. He had since passed and his widow was moving into a condo. The house was ok, nothing to write home about and needed work, but the barn was my dream come true! Dusty and needing a good spring cleaning and paint job, I think it had maybe 10 stalls and a tack and feed room. It had separated pastures with turnout sheds and a second open barn I could have used as an indoor arena. This was, of course, out of our price range, but I could not get it out of my head. I had to have this property. So I dragged the entourage, Lauren and Allen included, and we looked at it again. By now I may have seen it 3 times or so. Lauren agreed it was perfect for horses but that the house needed work. I started to have a heart to heart with Atilla on what I wanted and what I could afford and Allen ended up going to the car with my family while Atilla, Lauren and I sat down at the table. Lauren was concerned that the realtor wasn't being honest with me about all the considerations and talked to me like the Atilla wasn't sitting there, which in turn, ticked Atilla off. Oh what fun it was ;) We went back and forth with the seller trying to agree on a purchase price for the home, and in the end, we were divided by about $10k and neither of us was willing to budge, so no deal.....again.

By this time it March 2008 and I found a brick ranch on 5.5 acres that had outbuildings. I figured what the heck so I went to see it and fell in love. It was perfect, set back off the road, country setting, potential to transform into a horse property, a second detached garage [aka man cave] and an apple orchard to boot! So I scheduled a second appt. and had my Dad and Allen scheduled to come too. My dad agreed it was a nice piece of property; Allen didn't make the showing due to a hangover ;) So a third appt was scheduled with Allen, and then a fourth. One problem, it was $50k out of our price range! HA - OF course it was! But I wasn't giving up hope. I emailed the listing to Lauren and her response was "Now you are getting desperate".

It took 3 months, a lot of negotiating and round abouts with mortgage lenders that is a whole separate blog in and of itself, but by the time the trees were in bloom, we had the keys to our slice of heaven -- Apolloson Acres!

And my mom said to me, "I knew you'd do it, I knew you would find what you were looking for"!

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