Renovating an Old Farmhouse

Pay a bargain price, work hard at renovation, and you can turn an old farmhouse into something wonderful.

| September/October 1972

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    Do your homework... it can take quite a bit of searching to find a farmhouse suitable for renovating.
    Photo by Mark Gregory
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    Check for structural soundness before bidding on any old house.
    Photo by Mark Gregory
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    Look carefully for any signs of termites or dry rot.
    Photo by Mark Gregory
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    You will need to trim overgrown trees and shrubs.
    Photo by Mark Gregory
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    Be prepared to work hard on your farmhouse renovation.
    Photo by Mark Gregory

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First, the bad news: Since the end of WW II, hundreds of thousands of small family farmers have been forced off the land by sprawling corporate agri-business conglomerates.

Next, the good news: There are now thousands upon thousands of abandoned farmhouses scattered throughout this country. Although most need modernizing, a goodly number are available - with (maybe) a barn, outbuildings and garden patch thrown in - at bargain-basement prices.

Thanks to today's large-scale agricultural operations, there are literally thousands of old farmhouses in the United States begging for someone to give them a second chance. Usually abandoned because they were no longer needed when two or more small farms were consolidated into a single large one, such structures have often been left to deteriorate from neglect. Some lack running water or indoor toilets, most do have electricity . . . and a good many are perfectly livable "as is". In many cases—although the big operators won't sell you lot of land—you can buy one of these homes, its outbuildings and a couple of acres for a pretty reasonable price.

I know three ways of locating such an old house. The first, and probably easiest, is to contact a real estate company which deals in farm property from coast to coast . . . and ask for listings in the area of your choice.

A second way to find these old homes (it's both more fun and time-consuming) is by watching the classified ads in the papers. Keep your eyes open for offers to sell that say "handyman's delight" or some such thing.

The third—and probably best way to get a good deal—method of scouting out abandoned farmhouses is to do just that: scout out your own discovery by driving the back roads and talking to everyone in the area that interests you.

5/5/2009 11:28:04 AM

Especially if you are (or have to deal with) a partially rehabilitated suburbanite, testing the well does **not** go without saying. Do **not** buy any property without testing any existing water source and being able to absolutely verify the location of any septic systems or the absense thereof. I further very strongly suggest that you and whoever you're going to be working with undertake helping with a few house rehabilitations before jumping into a project like this. Make sure you've watched your partners work; believe what you see, not what they say. Otherwise you run the risk of ending up where I'm at: Stuck in a "recycled" house that's pretty much ready for the landfill with a partner who swore up and down they were "up" for replacing flooring and adding insulation and various other handyman tasks only to find thier motivation deserts them (and, more importantly, you) when the hammer, nails, et al come out of hiding.

11/26/2007 3:14:19 AM

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