Third time’s the charm?

Update to the last entry: The owner did choose our offer! When he returned the contract it left the mineral royalties in his family’s possession. We tried to negotiate that when he and his wife have passed away that the royalties would revert to us, but he was insistent that they remain in the family. Ok. That’s not a deal-breaker; I mean, it would have been nice, and it didn’t really hurt to ask. So our closing date is 6/22 and I’m praying so hard that this goes through!

In the meantime, our trailer is ready! I just spent an hour and a half on the phone insuring it. I hate the phone, btw! But it’s done! We are going to have it delivered next week to an RV park halfway between our current apartment and the property. Because the property is so very raw, it may take more than the two weeks we have between closing and the end of our apartment lease to get the septic installed and the well dug. So we might as well have the trailer delivered, get settled in it, and work on the land in a little less of a hurry.

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Sometimes I just can’t even

We are still land-less, folks. This is getting frustrating. Last Friday (5/22) we were supposed to close on the Paradise property. On Tuesday we heard from our bank. The appraiser said the land was valued for $25,000 less than we offered. The bank would finance the lesser number, but not more. We asked the seller to come down. He wouldn’t budge a cent. So…we had to give up that land.

Then when looking at the next list of properties our realtor sent us, we realized that the property literally across the street was for sale. Across the street was one 84 acre plot, and one 47 acre plot that was mentioned in the listing as not on the market, but also available for sale. We went and saw them on Thursday. The owners were willing to split the 84 acres, which intrigued us, as 84 acres is too much for us. But the 47 acres was a good-looking piece of land. So we put an offer in on it Thursday evening. On Friday the seller’s realtor informed ours that the seller was out of town for Memorial Day weekend, and would get back to us on Tuesday. Well today they let us know that they got a second offer on Monday and are deciding between the two today. GAH! I just can’t even! What is going on here!?

Being Christians we believe that God has the best for us in mind, but also that Satan is our enemy and would like to steal, kill, and destroy everything good in the world. Thus I’ve been waffling between thinking that this property isn’t God’s best and that He’s keeping us from settling for something, and thinking that Satan is summoning some destructive forces against us to keep us from fulfilling our dream. I have no idea which is true. All I know is I’m waiting on tenterhooks to hear what happens with this acreage today.

Testing the land

In our contract on The Land, we have an option period. I don’t know if this is unique to Texas contracts, but for a certain price (ours was $150), the buyer gets a certain period of time (we asked for 10 days) wherein we can terminate the contract for any reason whatsoever. It’s a super nice feature of our contract. We can do whatever testing we want and visit the property as many times as we like in order to get the testing done. I mean, we can’t camp out there for a weekend, but we are allowed to take soil and water samples, dig some holes, test the fences, etc.

Here’s what’s important to us to test before we complete the option period.

Septic: This is hugely important. We are going to be far, far away from city services. The soil and land HAVE to be suitable for installing a septic system and leach field. Fortunately for us, The Land seems to have had people living on it in the recent past; there’s a disgusting old mobile home with water and electric nearby, and a 25×35′ concrete pad poured with water, electric, and some sort of septic system nearby. While we aren’t going to have a septic company come out and check the existing system for usability yet, we can be very confident that the land itself can handle our graywater and blackwater with the proper system installed.

Water: There is at least one well on the property; perhaps two. Andrew got water sample containers from North Texas Regional Laboratory. They do chemical and biological testing. There’s a very specific way to do all the testing and I’m sure he’s going to put up a YouTube vlog about it soon. He got the little jars, drove out to Paradise, got the water samples, put them on ice, and sped them back to Fort Worth all on the same day. And the testing came back clean! Yay! We have water!

Side note: I think our gasoline budget is about to skyrocket 😉

Soil: This is not going to be as important to complete in the first 10 days of the escrow period, but I am going to want to send some soil in to Texas A&M’s soil testing service in order to know how best to amend the soil. I already dug a hole and found that it’s quite a bit sandier than the incredibly dense clay soil we have in Arlington, so that’s going to be awfully nice.

Animals: There’s about 20-30 cows on The Land. Since we’re planning an agricultural operation, but aren’t familiar (like, at all) with raising big animals, we’d like to keep these particular low-maintenance cows on the land. We’ve learned that they belong to a friend of the current owner, so we will try to work out a deal with the owner of the cows to keep them on the land – and, more importantly, to keep the land under agricultural use exemption when it comes to property taxes. Eventually I’d like my own, similarly-sized herd, but moving an hour away and living in a trailer and all the change that will happen when plunging into country life is going to be enough to handle without also suddenly raising large, expensive (and tasty) animals!

That’s all I can think of for now. So far The Land is passing all its tests with flying colors. Really all we’re waiting on is our lender to finish their homework on us and on The Land. We were pre-approved before we hired our Realtor so we aren’t super worried.

And I have to give a huge kudos to my husband. Andrew is doing MOST of the legwork and traveling that we need to be doing right now. He’s in contact with the lender and our Realtor, he’s driving out there to do testing, and he’s on the phone a lot (which I HATE). I love him!

Contract executed!!!

Wow! Words are hard to come by on this fabulous day.

We have an executed contract on 46 acres of land in Paradise, Texas! I am SO excited! All the crap we have been through since October of 2013 has composted into some beautiful fertilizer. Our dreams are not dead; they are alive and well!

It just so happened that Andrew got word about the contract from our Realtor when I was at our church’s women’s conference. Even though I was attending with my sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and grandmother-in-law, I’d chosen to have lunch alone because I’m an introvert and needed some recharge time. Thus, when Andrew told me, I didn’t have anyone around to immediately share the news with. Even though I’m an introvert, I still have to tell SOMEONE when something momentous happens! Anyway, I was just walking around the church with this huge grin on my face, tearing up a little, soaking in the news.

Then I went back to my seat and found a bright pink envelope on it. Our church does this really cool thing for the women’s conference; they have a team of women who pray and read the Bible and write down short notes of encouragement. I believe they are all unique, and we had 4,000 women attending this conference. They seal them and put them on the chairs, asking the Lord to get the right note to the right person. They can be pretty generic, but sometimes they’re oddly specific. When I got to my chair and found mine, I wondered if I should open it right away, and I heard the Holy Spirit say “open it! open it!” I did. Here’s what I read.

I’m not someone who’s prone to cry a lot, but this sent me right from smiling and some tears to full-out laughing/crying so hard the lady a few seats over asked if I needed a hug. If I needed confirmation that we were doing the right thing, I GOT IT. This note is gonna be framed and hung in the trailer. God is SO GOOD.

(And we are scheduled to close on or around May 22!)

Dealing with disappointment

We found a perfect piece of land. We loved it. My exact words were “I lovey dovey love it.” We put in an offer, and although the land had been on the market nearly two years, the sellers got another offer at the same time and accepted the other offer. That was quite an unpleasant surprise.

This whole thing relates to something I believe about marriage. You don’t marry your soulmate. I believe you marry someone who fits you pretty well, and then over years and decades of self-sacrificing love, you become each other’s soulmate. I think the same is true of whatever land becomes our farm. We have certain guidelines for the land we will purchase. But it won’t be perfect when we buy it. After years of hard labor, it will probably get better, and look a lot more like our dream land. It definitely won’t start off looking like that though.

So, off we go again to look at a few more properties!

Red-letter day

Does it ever feel to you that you trudge along for a while and then all of a sudden you have one glorious, terrific, everything-comes-together kind of day? Today was that kind of day.

It didn’t really start out great. For the last couple of weeks Andrew has had very little paying work. We are learning to trust, one day at a time, and this was definitely an exercise in faith. March was one of our best months yet, and February was just about $100 better than March, so we were hoping and praying April would be another of the same. One-third of the way through the month, though, and there wasn’t much. And then last night something was acting weird, and this morning two clients called and said things were broken, so Andrew was kind of flustered on his way out the door.

Then, like, every one of his major clients had things for him to do today. He got his minimum number of hours for the week TODAY. He figured out the weird thing, and the broken things, and got a call from a minor client who wants to do a major building project. Like next week. They’re meeting to talk about Andrew’s proposal tomorrow.

And then, our wonderful CPA has been working on our taxes for a LONG time. GOD BLESS CPAS. All of them, but ours especially. Andrew has been a beast about saving money this year. He saved over 30% of our income for taxes. And today, after waiting on pins and needles to see how much we would owe in taxes, we owe about 12% of our income. Not 30.

Twelve.

We totally sent our CPA a nice gift basket as a thank you.

So, y’all, do the math; we have a lot more money for our down payment than we thought we would. It doesn’t mean we need to spend it all, but we are going to pursue an incredibly gorgeous piece of land we found, that we can now nearly certainly afford to buy. (Ag loans require at least 20% down; we would have no trouble with the monthly payment, but that big cash outlay has taken a long time to save up.)

And THEN, on top of all this business, and finding us in possession of more cash than we thought we had, we decided to max out my 2014 contribution to my IRA. We were saying it was a little disappointing to take money from the down payment fund to put towards retirement, but we agreed it was better for us in the long term. In the next hour, Andrew sold a super specific and random camera part on eBay. When he looked at his PayPal account, he saw that it was, within $100, the amount we needed to complete my full IRA contribution.

Plus the girls and I got to climb trees and play in the rain.   

I just have to say, prayer works. We had a thunderstorm last night which woke up most of the family. Since I was awake already, I prayed. I prayed as a daughter talking to her dad. I told God that although I would follow his lead in wherever we ended up, I love this certain property that we are pursuing. So please, if it’s the right one, could we have it. That was it. Then today when Andrew was having trouble, I prayed for him. I don’t spend hours on my knees entreating someone to listen. I just calm myself, say what needs to be said, say thank you, and I’m done.

So, thank you God. Thank you for this red-letter day, and thank you for teaching us to believe.

Full time trailer living

Welllll….remember how I said I didn’t want to live in a travel trailer?

We are going to live in a fifth wheel travel trailer. (and build the steel building too)

And now the Reasons! So, right now we live in an apartment. We moved here in September 2014 knowing it was temporary, so we signed a 10 month lease, figuring we would know better what our financial situation was by July 2015, and when we could buy land. Here we are in March and we know that we can afford payments on the kind of property we’d like to have, and we’re also reallllly close to having 20% down. However, we knew we couldn’t afford both the monthly payments on our new land and our current apartment. We needed a place to live while building the house, a place that wasn’t in an expensive area, was close to the land so Andrew could build the house, etc. Lots of requirements. Andrew brought up the idea of the travel trailer again, and this time I wasn’t so resistant to the idea. Mainly because we would be building the house during our trailer stay, and the trailer would not be permanent.

Where will the trailer live? Excellent question. Don’t know exactly. If we have our land by July, and if the land has electric and water, and if we can get a septic system installed quickly, we will put the trailer on the land. If the land isn’t ready when the trailer is done, we will probably live in a nearby RV park.

I’m glad we decided this now, because we are buying the trailer new and ordering it custom built, which takes 8-12 weeks. Not everything in the trailer will be customized, but we have some options. We are getting double pane windows, for instance, and a bigger refrigerator rather than an extra cupboard. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Want to see some pictures?

Above is the floor plan. Starting on the left, there is a full second bathroom with a tiny tub to wash small people. It has a door to the outside, which I think will be great for messy little girls who need to run in to use the toilet in the midst of their outdoor adventures. Then there is the girls’ room. It’s a bunkhouse. Ellie will have the bunk above the outdoor kitchen. On the opposite side, we will put a bed for Emily where the optional sofabed is pictured. Above that there is an additional bunk which we will turn into toy and clothing storage.

Then you have the kitchen/dining room/living area. We’ll get a table with four chairs and a love seat with storage underneath.

The master bath has a nice size shower, and we will get the king bed in the master bedroom. There are laundry hookups in the master closet. We already have a full size washer and dryer, so we will probably not be buying a smaller washer to fit the space; we have a couple different options we would like to pursue before buying an appliance we already have.

The kitchen, with the optional bigger refrigerator, which we will get. It’s tiny! But it’s awfully nice for a trailer! We won’t have a TV in the trailer at all; that space above the cupboards would be much better used as pantry space than for a TV. And we have plenty of mobile devices for whatever TV watching we will want to do out in the country. Which will probably not be much!

Living area. Our sofa will have the storage under as pictured here. There’s also that little bench for sitting and reading. We’ll get the same swirly design in the upholstery, but lighter leather.

Master bedroom! My favorite part, besides the king bed, is the little windows on either side of the bed.

Ellie’s side of the bunk room. We won’t have a TV there. You can see the wardrobe to the left; that’ll be nice to have for their clothing.

Here’s the full bunk room; Emily’s bed will be where the sofabed currently is, and above will be storage of toys. The door leads to the bathroom.

Lots of light! And it looks huge with the wide-angle lens!

Regarding paying for it: We will be financing this for 15 years, and paying a very small monthly payment on it. If we get to the end of our lease and need to live in an RV park, the cost of the loan plus the cost of the RV park is far less what we pay for the apartment. This option is really the best one all around. It’s going to be weird living in about 600 square feet, but it will be SO worth it to take the next step toward our dream!

Now I have four months to purge a whole LOT of our belongings!!!