Babe Cave Prospecting: Vacant Farm House
The search is on for the next Babe Cave restoration and today's prospecting adventure took me to MiddleOfNowhere, America where a 100+ year old farm house is entering the "Falling Into The Ground" phase of life.
Its been in it's family's lineage since first framed, but years of neglect have left in gut-job shape.
Buying in MiddleOfNowhere takes out all the traditional bullshit of home showing - my kind of buying. You get to meet the owner, hear about the history and negotiate in the front yard. Best case you shake hands and make a deal. Worst case you've got a new friend.
The owner's pickup truck came barreling up the dirt driveway and out popped an elderly man in full farmer regalia with enough stories about Mamma and growing up at the farm house to make you want to pay cash on the spot.
These are the houses I dream of. They have layers of human patina that you can't find in an HOA community.
From the road to the steps you pass through a tunnel of trees and the front door slowly comes into sight. It's more off-roading than paved drive. Way more. I braced for the flat tire by enjoying a day dream of sitting on the front porch in my Tinkerbell pajamas, rocking in a rocking chair with my shot gun across my lap.
For a century old house the siding has held up well except for in the back. Located where there is the least sun exposure, the entire back side looks like it could be peeled off. There's obvious termite damage and the carpenter bees have set up several condominium communities inside the wall to let you know that entire side needs to come out.
In MiddleOfNowhere you are not connecting to municipal ANYTHING. The septic system has completely caved in but there was evidence of a well and power line. That's probably $4,000 for the septic and a few grand more to re-establish the well. Matching wood siding comes in around $14-$17 PER board - I'm looking at a whole back of the house to replace - you do the math.
When the owner opened up the door I braced for raccoons, squirrels and potentially a poltergeist to come running out.
On both sides of a long hallway were four MASSIVE bedrooms. In an era before electric or gas heat bedrooms often shared central fireplaces. So on both sides of the hall, each set of back-to-back bedrooms were joined by a fireplace - now completely boarded up.
Fireplaces can be very rewarding to uncover and restore, like the Babe Cave's. They can also be a fucking nightmare.
Old mortar turns to dust, it's extremely labor intensive to remove them entirely if you want to take out the wall and they often are part of the overall structural integrity. Could add a lot of character. Could also ruin a renovation budget.
Walking throughout the house was tactical. Slanting and uneven floors are indicative of settling. Lots and lots of individual peaks and valleys give you pause as to how far down you will fall if those boards give out. Reference: termite evidence outside.
A deteriorated roof (that's now been replaced with tin) allowed enough rain in to color all the ceilings with huge brown water spots. Moisture running down and behind the walls has the moldings and wallpaper warping and pulling itself right off the surface.
No formal dining room or living room but instead a sitting room which would have been appropriate for the time. Frankly, if you are lucky enough to live out in the country your time should be spent on the porch watching the stars come out. You don't really need that 80" flatscreen because you might actually take up a hobby.
There was one bathroom equipped with a caste iron tub and rusted medicine cabinet that admittedly, I would have a hard time ever getting rid of. Especially with those old glass bottles still inside.
At about 2,000 square feet total you can justify a 2.5 bathroom home. For some reason, people who have never renovated an old home throw out $5,000 as the "cost to add a bathroom." Yeah, maybe if Habitat for Humanity is building it for you. In reality to add a nice bathroom with mid to higher-end finishings you're looking at $20,000 and up. So I'm looking at $50,000 for the bathrooms alone.
A narrow staircase helped me up into the attic. The owner described this as a "bedroom area." While it looked like they had once tried to frame in some walls, let me be clear, it was an attic.
Looking up, there were some roof boards but mostly I was staring at the tin roof. No evidence of any insulation added anywhere over the years. That means nothing between the interior and the outside but a sheet of metal and that means God help your utility bill. Add roof work + insulation + finishing off the framing for a "bedroom" or office + electric + pulling out all the rot from the leaks and replacing = $$$$$$.
The kitchen was awesome in that it looked like a meal had stopped years ago and nothing had been moved since. That also means a rip-it-out-start-again project. Add $30,000 to $40,000 and up depending on what type of cabinets and appliances.
Doing a quick estimation in my head I told the owner my best guess was that it was a $200,000 restoration. To bring the house back to life and not cheap it, I would need a price that justified that amount of renovation investment.
His best price, is $275,000.
Granted, it includes a great tract of land that's hard to come by but I had to drive back to Wilmington without my next Babe Cave.
The search continues so any tips on houses for sale that need lots of love - comment below! And hit the big SUBSCRIBE button to not miss any future posts.