It seemed so right–house at a foreclosure price, out in the country, price dropped twice. Five bedrooms–one for each kid as well as a nice one for the masters of the house; enough room to finally have the family at our house for holidays; ten acres for the barn and horses the daughters longed for and for my sheep dairying trial; several decent-looking neighbor houses within strolling distance for egg-borrowing and possible deep friendships; a good commuting base for my husband (saving him fifteen minutes each way); good light for gardening, and no silly, expensive landscaping or fancy driveway added into the price. Finished within an inch of its life before the money ran out, so we’d get a break from sweat equity. Lots of trees, but not the kind that it would break my heart to clear for pasture; same schools for the children. All the top requirements that were so hard to meet in one property.
Downsides seemed acceptable–ugly from the back, driveway that occupied the best gardening location, and an overly domineering garage door. Land that needed work, no outbuildings or fence. Drives to town activities ten minutes longer each way. But that would only be for a few more years, we told ourselves. Okay, maybe ten, but there would be sibling drivers to pitch in very soon, and college would be happening, and it wouldn’t matter as much.
The day before the viewing, our agent emailed us saying that the listing agent was wrong, and that the school demarcation put the household children in the next county’s district. Possibly negotiable, we thought. But when the agent met us at the house, she showed us the lot map, and my hopes dimmed. The developer had given the house its building site and a narrow strip heading down the valley, over the stream, and up the other side practically to the freeway. Not much hope of space for pasture before meeting wetland, and a weird shape for a homestead. For me that was it. Still, in we went, the younger children eager, unaware of any new reservations we had, dutifully removing their shoes.
It was clean, neutral, with a nice kitchen and lots of space, though with several of the soaring ceilings I tend to mentally split horizontally in order to create cool little lofts. I half-heartedly tried the closet doors, sketched the layout, looked out the windows, and listened to the agent answering my husband’s questions. My oldest son had already sunk to a seat on one of the two staircases and started fooling around with his smart phone to escape the dread he felt at being so far from his friends, work, and school. And the hurt at my not wanting to hear him express it again.The other three were scurrying around upstairs, eager for me to come see the bedrooms they had already staked out for each family member. It had been a while since we’d viewed the inside of a house for sale, and they had become utterly captivated by the thought of living there. I warned them that there were problems, and that there were many lovely houses they would like as well (if we could compromise on certain requirements).
We left with the plan of double checking the property lines and land use restrictions as well as contacting our school district to see what could be worked out. I felt exhausted on the way home, not wanting to talk or listen. I felt stuck–here we are again, in a 1260 square foot house, unwilling to add on when we might find the right home, unable to settle as a family on what we do find. My husband was still mourning the last chance on a rare in-town house with acreage we looked at over a year before, which we couldn’t afford anyway at the time. I was wishing we could look further north where we knew all the good, affordable acreage properties were. All of us dreamed of the day that yellow farmhouse on the hill above the south end of town would go up for sale.
That evening I drove up past the yellow house on the hill, and back again to supper. I had written down the number on the mailbox that looked right, again. It couldn’t hurt to write a letter of inquiry, after all–something I’d meant to do for a long time. Perhaps the long-time owners are only waiting for the right type of people–people who will love the classic house, use the pasture for grazing, not sub-divide in their lifetime. People tell me no one thinks that way any more, that everyone just wants top dollar and will subdivide if the option is there. Still, no harm in trying. I’ll start the letter tomorrow morning.