Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Series Finale - A Farm of Your Own

A Farm of Your Own

Series Finale

The general knowledge and information you have read about here and gleaned from other sources should have you somewhat prepared to start the search for your horse farm. I should point out that what I have written is only general advice and suggestions, should you need a reference point to start at. Ultimately, what appeals to you and what satisfies your particular needs will be your guide.

Real Estates & Their Agents

As real estates and their agents go, I have, in general, not been impressed by their practices, which I would deem to be just this side of devious and self-serving. During many years of searching for the perfect place, and numerous trips to properties that never even came close to resembling a potential horse farm, I can help you analyze some misleading ads.

  • Be wary of ads that boast “cozy” or “charming,” translated that means very small. “Rustic” could mean it is possibly lacking electricity, running water, and/or or a navigable driveway.

  • “Potential horse farm” could mean just about anything. Having been to quite a few of these, I would say if you own mountain goats or big horn sheep, the rocky mountainous cliffs of this type of property might be just what you have been looking for, but if rolling grassy meadows are dancing across your daydreams you might be disappointed.

  • Another of my favorites is “Gentleman’s mini-estate.” When they say “mini” they mean minute - maybe an acre if you are lucky. In addition, let’s see how many horses you can cram into a 10 x 10 paddock.

The phrase “buyers beware” really comes into play when dealing with real estates.

It would be wise to contact a real estate that deals exclusively in farm properties, or an agent who is a knowledgeable horse person. Tell the agent exactly what you are in the market for, and exactly how much you are willing to spend, or you may be disappointed with what you are shown. Worse yet, as has often happened to me, you will be held captive in the agent’s car for an entire day, because there is just one more property that they feel is the one you are looking for (and they are desperate to unload for the commission). Always insist on taking your own car and meeting at the property.

That said, there are also agents who are willing to work with you and who can be trusted. I have personally met two women who were unusually trustworthy and helpful agents in the real estate industry. The woman we eventually bought our place from was a horse person herself and lived in the area. She was very knowledgeable and helped us a great deal locating plumbers, electricians, and water/well services. Even now, after a year in our place, we still call her occasionally for a name of someone we need to do a service. If you stumble upon an agent like this, you can consider yourself very fortunate.

Once you find the property of your dreams, there are a few facts you should be aware of before any money changes hands. Always have a certified inspector that you hire do an inspection of the house, barns and land. It will add to the cost of the farm but the extra money for the inspection can save you thousands of dollars and could save you from making a colossal blunder. Our house inspector, saved us from a costly mistake with a farm we were weeks away from purchasing. Here is a quick synopsis of the tale:

After searching for years, we finally found the right place for our horses and ourselves… or so we thought. The property was 20 acres… or was it 15? Well, the real estate agent said the boundary was ‘back by that line of bushes or there about’. That was fine; it was still enough for someone with stars in their eyes. The house was small but could be expanded… well not really; as it turns out it was an historical home that could not be touched. Where it sat on the property was the only approved building envelope on the entire farm. Okay. The indoor arena was small but it would still be nice to get work done out of the weather. The outdoor ring needed to be enlarged and new footing was necessary. Not a problem. The barn and the stalls were on the small side, but would still work out for now. One selling feature that it had was a huge open field of protected property abutting it. Fantastic! We were shown this feature on a weekday, and informed no one ever used it, so it was practically part of the farm. Even better, it was maintained by the town. Wow! Except on the weekend, we drove by ‘our farm’ and the field was overrun with people, picnics, dogs, ATV’s etc. Hmm…. None of this deterred me from my purpose of having a horse farm. There was also a pristine river winding peacefully along the front of the farm. How exquisitely charming. The flowered walk to the barn from the house crossed a wooden bridge. How extraordinarily quaint.

Then the inspector came. It seems the river not only ran through it, but at one time it had also run over it, flooding the house (and barns) about four feet up the walls, leaving in its wake water damage, mold and mildew festering inside the walls. Hmmm… now that I think about it, I guess that’s why the owners were always burning incense and candles…. With freshly painted walls and refinished wood floors, I never would have suspected. The foundation was undermined and caving in on itself. Such a shame not to be able to see the foundation with all the plantings hiding that wonderful stone. The owners seemed such friendly, outgoing horse people; it was hard to believe they were really a couple of sharpshooters. Live and learn. The real estate agent was an accomplished liar; any question we asked her seemed to have a legitimate answer, only to find out later she had been less than forthcoming. Oh well. We were disappointed, but were also relieved not to have wasted a fortune on this particular money pit.

The moral of the story is; have an inspector check out your future purchase before you sign anything.

Paradise Found

After the disappointment of that particular property, I stopped looking for a few months, assuming I would never find anything worthwhile. The bug hit me again. I focused on different areas that were further away than where I wanted to be, because there was not anything closer. We saw one more place that was very nice and we made an offer, they came back with a counter offer raising the price by almost a half million dollars. Seems that the heirs got wind of what Mom was doing and wanted more for themselves. It is still for sale with the inflated price.

Our real estate agent had one more place and it was just a little further away. On our way to this property, we passed a beautiful farm with white fencing, manicured paddocks, freshly painted barns and sheds. I remember saying to my husband, wouldn’t it be nice if this were the place we were on our way to see. He said - and I remember this distinctly – “In your dreams! You wish it was this place.” But it was! We double-checked that we had the right address, and this was the farm for sale. To make a long story short we bought it and the same inspector did the inspection. A few minor things needed fixing, which the owner did.

We moved in a year ago two weeks before Christmas. I love our farm, but even though it is ‘Paradise Found’, there were still some problems that needed to be addressed. The first month the water pipes froze and burst in the tack room, but we have fixed that problem. The heaters in the wash stall and grooming stall needed repairs. There are a few steep cliffs at the back of the property that our herd could have fallen from and killed them or us, so fencing was installed for safety, and we continued the fence along the small creek, which borders the property, which could be easily jumped. Now if a horse gets loose they will be safe and unable to escape into neighbor’s yards or the road.

Our pond partially freezes, because one end has an aerator and remains unfrozen in even the coldest weather. Taking the horses in at dusk one winter evening Erik & Blue got loose and decided to skate across the pond, it was sheer luck they did not fall in the open end or through the ice and drown. The pond is now also fenced. Along one side of the barn are beautiful rose bushes, but, of course, when you need to open and shut the windows, you will be scratched up as if you were in a fight with a bobcat. They are being removed this spring and replanted.

One night during the summer, Dusty and her pasture mate Devon were let loose from their paddock; luckily, the gate to the road was padlocked. Apparently there were teenagers (I hope it was teenagers) whose mission of fun that night was to let all the neighborhood’s horses loose to run the roads. We have since dismantled that paddock and used the fencing around the pond. The remainder of the fencing was used to separate the front paddock in two. Devon went home, and Dusty was causing a lot of trouble with the boys, so she needed her own paddock. The boys’ side of the paddock had a gate installed at either end, and we built a culvert over the stream between the two paddocks. Turnout in the morning takes much less time and they can come and go as they please and spread out between the two run-in sheds in case of bad weather.

We also discovered this fall when the leaves turned that all the beautiful mature trees lining the street, the front paddock and the road along the pond are red maples. These are highly toxic to horses if they ingest the wilted leaves. Obviously, I cannot cut all of these down, so we are having the four by the paddock removed and switching them for something less dangerous. One side of the barn is planted with hydrangeas, which are very pretty, but also deadly. We will leave these; the horses are not allowed to graze there and Dusty cannot reach them from her window. When you find a place you like be sure and check for poisonous trees and plants. If you are not sure of something growing there, contact your local agriculture extension.

My wish list includes automatic waterers, an indoor arena, and a hedge along the side with road frontage. If anyone knows of a fast growing, dense hedge that is not poisonous, I would welcome all suggestions. We need it for privacy, to cut down on the noise from the road, and to deal with the wonderful people who throw beer cans, Styrofoam cups and any other garbage from their cars onto the farm as they pass. We are always on rubbish patrol.

Even though I love my place, and I would not trade it for anything, no place is perfect and there are bound to be problems. It will take time, but sooner or later the farm will be the way I want it to be and hopefully I will be more organized after all the jobs that need doing are finished.
Then we can finally sit back, relax and enjoy our long awaited paradise.

Until next time

Quote of the Day

The warmest feeling arrives when you know the horse you love is all cozy and snug, and it's all because of you.
- Fiona-Louise Miller

1 comment:

  1. Me again, another archival treasure post!! I'm sending this one over to siss too...er ate always hunting for horse properties.

    Very cool to find the beginning of your paradise!


It's so nice of you to take the time to visit. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting on what I've written. Even though I sometimes don't have the time to reply to each comment, I do enjoy reading them.