Eighteen months in the poorly designed travel trailer, and we’re ready to call that phase quits. I hate it.
I seriously hate it.
There is no place to put anything, and while some travel trailers are designed with adequate storage and a workable floor plan, ours wasn’t. It was awkward, cheaply made, and frustrating.
I also suffer from claustrophobia, and the bedroom was so cramped that I had to sleep with my feet hanging off of the bed to alleviate that feeling of suffocation (there was a “closet” alongside the head of the bed.) There wasn’t much I did like about it after the first few months.
We wanted to downsize, but this was a perpetual agony of downsizing. The size probably wasn’t the problem in our case, it was the design of the particular travel trailer we had bought.
So for over a year, we had been searching for that perfect “bargain” in real estate that we could not only live with the payments, but we could live with living there for a minimum of five years. If you add in the consideration that our budget was as downsized as our quarters, it is a wonder we had the faith to even keep searching. No money, no credit, no collateral, and still we hoped that we’d find SOMETHING suitable.
Obviously, with our budget, we were looking at “distressed” properties, and boy did we see some doozies. Some of those doozies also came with some incredibly surprising price tags.
$35,000 for a small rural lot with a gutted, formerly flooded home that had to be raised to get a certificate of occupancy…to the tune of FOURTEEN feet? With rotted roof and all, there it sat with the spray painted tags from the months after Katrina. It was going to need a new well, new pump system, new septic system up to current standards, and the house was unlikely as a candidate for renovation and raising onto a platform.
Another one had a reduced price of $22,000 in another rural location, although high and dry this time, out of the reach of hurricane storm surges by more than twenty miles. It was supposed to be in “rough” condition, sporting a garage, a shed, and a self-supported roof over an older mobile home. The reality had a far different picture, and while it came with over 2 1/2 acres of land…the roof was rotting, the insulation and ceiling had come down and the water was still streaming in days after a rainstorm when we visited the property. Vandals had ripped out cupboards in the kitchen, strewn personal belongings around, and it even came complete with used syringes on the floor. Doors hung halfway off of their hinges, and I shook my head. Who would want to start to work on this mess, knowing that whoever had vandalized this property probably lived in the area and might come back to see what they might be able to steal? The humped driveway off of the busy blacktop road was another problem–our van bottomed out on it, and there was no way we could get any trailer, let alone a 30′ travel trailer, over it, and it would require a bulldozer to level it out before we could start doing anything.
Scratch that off of the list.
Another one was another bayou property that had flooded severely during Katrina, although it was high enough that it didn’t flood with every tropical storm like some bayou areas do. It had a large, newer (circa 2000) mobile home on it, but the home had flooded, and the former occupants never removed their destroyed personal belongings. The bank hadn’t even foreclosed, instead, the property was forfeited due to back taxes. Repeatedly.
Inquiring with the local county zoning had us dancing through hoops with the mobile home, instead of merely getting rid of it and starting over. I had zero interest in renovating an older (by 2011) and flooded mobile home to live in, especially when it too had to be raised fourteen feet into the air. We also had not been able to get a straight answer about whether or not we could put our travel trailer on the property while we were dealing with preparing to build, raising the money and then building a home. We decided that there was too much red tape involved with the property, especially with it weeks from being forfeited again due to back taxes. That property, during the time period we looked at it, went from $7000 to $3500. About a month after we gave up on it, we drove past it again, and the mobile home was occupied…without raising it. I wish the occupants a long life and good health, but I suspect they are dealing with more mold than is healthy.
We looked at a newer mobile home in a nearby small town, supposedly in a “good area.” The area might have been good, but the particular street this one was located on was not. We weren’t able to get in and look at the interior at that moment, but it didn’t matter. I told GM that I’d be afraid to stay home alone…in the day time…in that neighborhood. He laughed and said that the first time we left, we’d likely not have to worry about coming home, because our impression was that the house would be looted the minute we were gone.
That one was scratched without further ado.
Another mobile home on a 2 acre lot sounded wonderful, but there again, we weren’t able to get in to inspect the interior. Its pump had been stolen from the well, and in talking with some neighbors, we found out what the problem with getting the permit for the septic system would be. The county was putting in water and sewer in the area, but it was going to be up to two years before it was actually available to this particular home. That meant we could be forced to sit on the property, unable to use it, for the two years. Another case of scratch-that-one-from-the-list. We couldn’t afford to buy a property we couldn’t use for the first two years.
Small houses, gutted houses, flood properties, dilapidated structures, debris and trash, junk cars…we saw it all. We’d sigh, sometimes we’d laugh, often we’d shake our heads, and we’d move on. The right property hadn’t come along, despite our desperation to escape our “sardine can” travel trailer.
Then, finally it did.
Or so we hope. We are actually waiting today to hear from the realtor about whether or not the deal has been accepted. It’s a tiny two bedroom house, in a converted garage, with the work done since Katrina. (The area had 5-6 feet of water from the storm surge.) It’s in a flood zone, but nearly everything on the coast is in a flood zone, and according to the neighbors, the area had only flooded during Katrina, instead of for every tropical storm that hit the coastal area.
It has a tiny laundry room, a basic full bathroom, two of the stupidest looking closets I’ve ever seen, and an all-in-one living/dining/kitchen/family room…without an exterior door to access the yard from that room, despite having the ramps indicating the original garage doors were located on that side. It has a dorky little overhang over the front door, and absolutely NO “street presence” in terms of the neighborhood. It really looks like a converted garage still, with this industrial looking parking area directly in front of the front door and missing fences on either side of it.
We know that the plumbing needs repairs, although we’re not sure exactly what is all wrong. We don’t know if the central air/heat works, nor if all of the parts are actually in place either. We weren’t able to inspect the water heater either.
There’s plenty of room for surprises. It is also affordable for us on a five year loan, a far better prospect than saddling ourselves with a thirty year mortgage. For most people the price translates to dirt cheap, even if it IS a converted garage.
How do I feel about that?
Surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me. Some things about the house I really like, some things I don’t, but the “likes” far outweigh the “hates”. I know we are going to want to change some things, as soon as we can afford to spend the money. I know I want a door added to the living area side to access the side yard. (The house has far more width than depth in terms of its lot size and shape.) I also want a deck to cover up the ramp, and a new entry of some kind for the street side. Some things we can change with very little money, other things are going to have to wait for the funds to be available.
This property, I will be sorely disappointed if we can’t come to an agreement with the seller. I’ve also learned that I would never hire this particular realtor to represent us in selling property–she doesn’t return calls promptly, and is not very actively engaged in this property at all. I realize that its probably the cheapest property (with the correspondingly low commission for selling it) but there is no excuse for simply ignoring phone calls…or people who walk into your office. We had actually waited in the office, rang the bell, and stood around for fifteen minutes listening to someone in one of the offices making phone calls that sounded more personal in nature than professional.
I really have a bone to pick with poor customer/client service. I don’t feel that they are representing either the seller or the buyer very well.
So we wait…and I just want to know if it’s a done deal, when we can close, and when we can find out about the utilities, paint the place, and get it ready to move into. Patience is not my forte, I guess! We have waited and searched for a long time for this “bargain.” Over half of the business day is gone today, and who knows if she has even called the seller with our counter offer.
I want to move on to the next phase. I want to go get measurements and start plotting. I want to arrange to mow down the waist high weeds before they are a snake haven and pure hell for humans and hounds. I want the fence fixed so we have at least the small “backyard” dog proofed so that the dogs can use that area. I want to find out where the shut off is for the water, to find the breaker box for the electric, and remove the nails holding the door closed on what is probably the water heater. I want to go buy paint, even if we’re stuck buying bargain paint.
Dang it, I just want to know if it is going to be our home!