It’s strange to me how most real estate agents don’t get what would make a place a good homestead. I say this based on our experience selling a farmstead and buying another in 2013. (Part 1 of the tale is here.) Then again —unless your agent also happens to also grow some of their own food, raise some of their own meat — why would they know?
Good topsoil, direct sun, mature fruit trees, fencing and outbuildings will wow us. Tony neighborhood associations are a no-go and fancy countertops, meh. I can see how homesteading and real-estate agenting are not compatible really, given that both have summer as the high season. That’s challenge enough for the beekeeper who loves to garden.
Besides, can you imagine showing people around in the farm truck? Oh sorry, let me move that feed bag and um, brush that straw off your seat…please pardon the goat hair….I had to take the girls to visit the billy last week….er, are you allergic to goats?
Over six years, we’d taken the land and home in Arkansas from ‘bare but with good-bones’ to full out lovely in our opinions at least. There was a garden big enough to grow all your own veggies with good soil (hard won given we started with mostly gravel.) We were close to town but had exquisite privacy. There were fruit trees bearing their first fruit, cultivated blackberries on the fencing, blooming roses arched over gateways, predator-tough chicken coop, a large and solid new wood and equipment shed, screened-in porch and little deck for sitting to admire it all, pathways for walking all over the property, paddocks for your goats and/or chickens.
That was just the outside stuff. But the agents simply looked at when we bought (the peak) and when we were now trying to sell (well after the crash, but prices just nosing up), calculated the square footage (which hadn’t changed) and said You’ll never get your money back out of it. And they were talking what we paid, not even what we put into it. After a silence, I would describe again all that the land and house now featured — which would be attractive to so many folks dreaming of a farmstead just like this one. Didn’t matter, they all said.
I was heartsick. All the things I valued and that we had both worked like a sled-dogs to bring into being were deemed worthless in the eyes of the bankers. My heart was already broken that we had to move — we adored our farm, our town and our Arkansas friends. But the dry extreme heat of the prior summers was a serious health issue for Mendy and the call of home back in the Appalachians was getting stronger. I knew we had to go and didn’t relish spending more years working on a place I would still have to leave shortly.
After a dumb-struck day or two, I did mange to recall that banker types are notorious for utterly failing to recognize value that cannot be measured in dollars. (P.S. from a hospice nurse: they also fail to value the things that will matter most to you at the end of life, but that’s another story…)
Mendy had the foresight to consult with some savvy friends who knew real estate and back-to-the-landers too. Their suggestion: Give it a shot! Ask what we thought the property was worth as a farmstead and try to sell it ourselves. If a cash buyer wants your place, I remember her saying, they can pay whatever the heck they want to pay.
Long story short, we gave it our best shot. We offered it as a farmstead, not just a house and land. I publicized it everywhere I could imagine people who love plants, goats, chickens, and fruit trees might hang out. We staged an open house weekend when the flowers and fruit trees were ablaze in blooms and had a handout listing homesteader amenities.
We had not one but three full price cash offers. I remember one older fellow poking around in the soil of the huge garden and saying to his wife, Now this is a treasure right here. Turns out there were some folks who valued the same things I did and were willing and able to pay for it. So after the sale was complete, yes, I called up every real estate agent I’d consulted to let them know. Not to be a complete jerk about it, ok a little jerk, but mostly to point out this stuff IS valuable to people who are looking for just that. And unlike many curb-appeal details, bearing fruit trees, rich soil and mature berry patches can’t be manufactured in a weekend! Hrrrrumph, says this farmer.
For the moment I’ll spare you the gory details of a cross-country move in the heat of summer topped off by a carsick farm dog and four angry beehives. There was the matter of locating another rare jewel for our next, and hopefully final, homestead. I’ll continue with that in upcoming posts.
with love, Leigh
p.s. If you’re a beekeeper (or soon to be) and want to read a longer post about emergency winter feeding from last week, it’s here. (It didn’t go out as a newsletter.)
—Five Apple Farm: Growing it Larrapin in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina. Posts may be boom or bust depending on the season. If you subscribe here you’ll get one weekly email with selected posts. You are also invited to get related miscellany wherever you like to ramble online: Facebook [brand new page…needs your “like”] | Twitter |Pinterest | Instagram.