Monday, December 21, 2015

Nimo's Future Home, final part

After closing on the 5-acre lot, I turned my attention to shepherding the process for purchasing the one-acre lot.  A big reason I had hired an attorney was because I didn't feel that I had the time to closely monitor deadlines and processes.  I also hoped to get good legal advice if an issue arose.

But it didn't really work out that way.  I suspect what happened is that the attorney was over-committed.  He should have told me that he couldn't accept a new client during my consultation, but for whatever reason, he chose not to.  The result was that his office was constantly behind on where they should have been.

For those who haven't bought property before, a title search is really the first thing that should be done once the purchase contract is ratified (signed by both parties).  In Virginia, the title search shouldn't take much more than a week unless there are issues.  So when, more than 2 weeks passed and we didn't have a title search back, I was concerned.

I was also concerned because initially I'd planned to do the title search, then the survey.  That way, we wouldn't have to pay for what is a significant expense in the event that the results of the title search precluded us from purchasing the property.  However, I also wanted the survey done prior to the end of our 30-day study period.  So I ended up calling the attorney's office and requesting that the survey be done before we had the results of the title search in hopes that both would come back in good shape.

So I waited, and I waited, and I waited.  Over a week passed and nothing.  So I called the attorney's office again.  I was told no survey had been ordered.  I admit that at that point, I lost it, particularly after the assistant I spoke to tried to blame it on me.  Her point was that I'd originally requested that the survey be done after the title search, which is totally standard.  My point was that I'd specifically called to change my request because of the timing issue with the title search AND I'D BEEN TOLD THE SURVEY WAS ORDERED.  There is no excuse for that kind of lack of attention to a client's interests.  Let me be clear, by not keeping track of the study period deadline and failing to advise me that there was a timing issue, my attorney failed to adequately represent me.  Anyway, while I neither yelled nor swore (both of which I consider to be among my life's greatest achievements), I did really get after the assistant (by her own words, the processing and ordering of the title search and survey were her primary responsibility, so I felt justified that I wasn't just going after the messenger).

Things were better in terms of communication for several days after that, but it didn't last long.  We ended up once again having to decide whether to ask the seller for an extension to the study period or committing to closing without having the survey done (the title search did come in and showed that the title was clear of any legal defects).  At that point, we knew the five-acre survey from 1947 had been extremely accurate and there was quite a bit of room for error if the one-acre survey came back with deviations.  So we decided to go forward.

The survey came back about a week later, and it offered us our first glimpse at both properties.  Now that both properties were marked, we could figure out where the five-acre property was and use the right to access the one-acre lot as part of our purchase contract to walk the actual ground of what we had bought and planned to buy.  So, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we took a little trip and this is what we saw:

View from the one-acre lot into the five-acre lot, which is wooded
View from the back of the one-acre lot towards the road
My husband and dog in the five-acre lot
The five-acre lot on a different day showing the density of debris
It was kind of exciting at that point, because now all that was left was to schedule the closing.  Sigh...Once again, I needed to be constantly nagging my attorney's office to first get in touch with the seller to set a date and time and then get a copy of the settlement sheet (often called a HUD statement).  The assistant assured me that I could schedule the closing in as little as two days, but I didn't believer her, given her past performance.  We were anxious to get to closing, but I wanted to make sure there was enough time for everything to be taken care of prior to the date.  I didn't want to have everyone show up and certain things not be done.

So we planned for a closing of December 18.  Everything came together well (because I nagged, not because the assistant was competent) and finally the morning of closing arrived.  My husband had gone into work for a few hours and would be meeting me there.  I took the day off because my day doesn't start until
9 and I needed to leave at 9:45.  My hope was that the timing would allow us (and the sellers) to avoid the worst of rush hour traffic because we needed to head into old-town Alexandria, which is just south of DC and a true nightmare to drive in, regardless of the time of day.

Those of you with young children will understand - getting out the door on time is like an exercise in futility.  It really shouldn't be that hard, particularly because Gemma isn't a baby anymore, but somehow, we ended up rushing out the door.  And as we did, two things happened simultaneously.  Gemma fell down the concrete steps in front of our house and I dropped my keys.  I rescued Gemma, who was thankfully not hurt, and then I tried to rescue my keys, which were very badly injured.  The key fob had come apart and all of the components were scattered all over the ground.  Luckily I grew up back when there were no electronic devices to unlock cars, so I still remembered how to use the key to unlock the door.  I got everybody and everything in the car, and then it finally occurred to me that something could still go wrong.

I remember saying to my dad when we first made the offer on the five-acre lot that I had a good feeling about the deal and that I thought it would all work out.  i don't know where that came from.  I never have good feelings about anything.  I have bad feelings about everything.  I always assume that things that can go wrong will.  And that people lie and misbehave and that life isn't fair.  But throughout the entirety of this process, I believed that things would work out.  It was still stressful and aggravating, but that was largely because I was having trouble getting people to do what I wanted, when I wanted it, how I wanted it (which is kind of a constant theme in my life, so I'm used to it). 

So when Gemma fell and my keys broke, it was like a wake-up call to my brain to go back to its pessimistic way of thinking.  I started thinking about how the traffic could be horrifying on Beltway or there could be an accident.  What if WE had an accident?  What if my husband or the sellers had an accident en route?  What if the assistant had lied to me about the sellers confirming the closing date?  What if the sellers just didn't show up?  What if some idiot mass shooter or bomber threatened the area and shut down all the roads?

Deep breath...To spare you the further tedious details of the inner workings of my brain, let me just tell you that traffic was great all the way into Alexandria, where it slowed to a frustrating, but typical, crawl, and everyone made it to the closing in one healthy, happy piece:)

The closing was so ridiculously uneventful and easy.  Once again, there were no lenders involved, so it basically took 20 minutes, including pleasant chatting.  And that was it (assuming the attorney files the deed with the county in a timely manner, which I will be checking on daily!).

We now own 6 acres of mostly wooded land that sits on soil that doesn't drain well.  And it makes me very happy.  I know that the process of developing the property will be burdensome, frustrating, and make me want to throw myself into a bog to be eaten by feral pigs, but it will be worth it in the end.  There is something very inspiring about taking raw land and molding it into something productive.  And my husband and I are lucky to have things like chain saws and trucks to assist us.  Also professional contractors and loggers for the jobs that are too much for us to tackle:)

Here is sort of a crude rendition of what the whole six acres looks like:

The shape combined with county regulations will mean that we don't have a lot of choices for how we lay things out, but it is still exciting to be thinking about how to plan the site.  The doing will be quite challenging, I think, but we've come to look at the property as more than just a place for Nimo (he'll need at least 2 buddies!).  There are so many possibilities:  a garden, an orchard, a mini Christmas tree farm (to keep me from feeling sorry for the sad looking trees in the field and bringing them home and attempting to decorate them), animals other than horses, and maybe someday, even a house (like one of those nifty log cabin kits I keep exclaiming over on Pinterest!).

And thankfully I have the right kind of experience for taking on what seems like an overwhelming process.  If I can condition a Friesian to successfully complete 25 miles, I can do anything:)

I expect to post fairly often about how things are going, and there will be a new page on the blog (called something really creative like, "Farm") where I will organize the links to blog posts as well as some resources in case anyone comes along and is thinking about going through a similar process.  My first steps are to: 1) get an address, 2) get a permit for an entrance, 3) brush hog the front acre and start assessing the plants and soil, and 4) start thinning the wooded section so we can get from the front of the property to the back of the property without needing a machete.

I hope you've enjoyed my tale and I can't wait to share how things progress over the next year or so!


  1. Congrats on closing. I would not have held back from yelling and cursing. I wish you luck in developing the farm.

  2. SO EXCITING!! And Gemma is gonna LOVE all the fun animals and chores based on your current stories. What a fun family endeavor!!

  3. Yea! I'm glad the story had a happy ending because I was on the edge wondering. Are you eventually going to get a house there too? Again I'm amazed that we are on such similar trajectories in so many things. This fall, I bought 10 acres in Athol (a town about 16 miles north of Coeur d'Alene) and (for the first time in my long life of buying old houses and fixing them up), am having a house built from scratch and...more importantly... a BARN. The first barn I will ever have! The house is just a house but I have had so much fun planning every detail of the barn and it will be MY barn set up just the way I want it, and I have enjoying obsessed over developing every detail (especially the tack room!). It will even have electricity and running water! It won't be huge (36 X 36) but it will be my barn, loving designed and developed by moi. Whatever comes out of your current adventure, it will be all your own thing. First things first: what are you going to name your farm? I bet Gemma has some ideas...

    1. That's awesome, Jo! You'll have to keep me posted about how things go:) And I would like to build a house someday, but we're trying hard not to finance anything because at some point we have to pay for Gemma to go to college:) Who knows how things will work out, though? Life has a way of surprising me:) As for the name, we've been tossing a few ideas around but haven't picked one yet. When we do, I'll definitely post it!

  4. So exciting! Glad everything all worked out in the end, even with the delays and aggravation...sounds like you ended up with a property that is going to be pretty ideal and a fun kind of project.

  5. Congrats on closing, can't wait to see updates on the project! And Quest and I are now new AERC members, hopefully will be able to see you at a ride next year :)

    1. Thanks, Grace:) And I look forward to seeing you at a ride next year! I'm planning on both Foxcatcher and No Frills in April:)