My friends, it may not always feel like it but I’m definitely livin’ the dream. My own dream and one that a lot of other people have too. About three and half years ago we managed to leave our stressful, under-payed, over-worked, over-charged life in the city and buy a big house on a big property. It’s something I grew up thinking romantic thoughts about and hoping I might be able to experience one day, maybe when I retired. I caught the “restoring and old house” bug early on in life and I know it’s an affliction that a lot of other people have too. I thought today I’d share our story and our tips just for fun and so you might see how you could do it too if it’s your dream as well.
In the planning stages, it’s all about the money.
Oh my goodness, living that hustle-and-bustle city life is expensive! Big mortgages, big child-care costs to cover those long hours you have to work, and expensive fuel costs so you can get to the job to work the long hours, all that. It all adds up and you can really feel like the only way to get ahead is to stay put in your tiny townhouse, put budgeting ahead of everything else, and just work work work until hopefully you move up the corporate ladder and maybe get a bit of a raise. Those were exciting and character-building years for us for sure, but when I reached the ripe old age of 27 and our daughter Kennedy was about 5, I was done with it. I remember the exact moment when we realized there might be a loophole in “the system” and we might be able to actually get that big house on that big property that we wanted our kids to remember growing up in AND actually lower our cost-of-living. As soon as that idea hit, we were ON it! Within a few months, we’d changed our whole lives and have never had to look back. Let’s look at how THAT managed to happen for us, shall we?
As always: Location, location, location
Unless you’ve just won the lottery, you’ve got to move into a lower-priced market. In our previous market, this same property just outside the city limits would have been millions of dollars. Just a few hours down the road though, this property was much much less than the tiny townhouse with almost no yard that we’d been living in. There are a lot of other financial benefits that often come with living in a more rural setting like less traffic, less of a commute to work, lower costs on consumer goods and services. The savings on these things alone can mean that if you’re in a couple, one of you may not need to bring in an income anymore.
Create some savings
Moving into a lower priced market often allows you to create an instant savings account for yourself through the sale of your old house. This savings is absolutely necessary. If you’re doing the old farmhouse thing, there WILL be costly things that come up when you’re least expecting it. If at least one person in the household doesn’t already have a job lined up in the new town, a savings account can save your sanity. We were able to find work right away when we moved to our new town, so that was nice to be able to keep us from getting nervous about our risky new adventure. Having the savings allowed us to quickly feel comfortable transitioning into having me stay home and putting my time into building my business (this blog!). With that savings we were able to make the transition from working crazy full-time hours in a stressful corporate job to taking a risk and eventually being able to work from home (amazing!!). All this while still enjoying DIY projects around the house, putting on a new metal roof and buying fun new appliances. So if you’re not going to get a decent amount of money to put into savings from the sale of your old house, start putting a bit away now!
Pick the RIGHT farmhouse
If you’ve decided you want to live the old farmhouse dream, just be aware that not all old farmhouses are created equally. Our house is 114 years old and houses this age have gone through a lot of owners and a lot of different renovations. Typically, some good renovations, and some not-so-good. Be on the look out for a farmhouse that you can live comfortably in NOW and work on little by little over time. When I say over time, I mean LOTS of time. Plan to not have anything change to be exactly what you want for at least 10 years. Buy the house that fits with that plan. First on your list should be a kitchen and at least one bathroom that feel clean and comfortable to you. They should be updated enough that you can just move right in and use them, even if they’re ugly. You’ll also need a laundry room that you can use right away and somewhere cleanish and dry that you can store all of your stuff. Look at the foundation of the house, the structure, and the roof. If these things are “move in ready” then the rest of the ugliness can be taken care of over time. We had to walk away from a huuuuge beautiful house with 6 bedrooms, amazing fireplaces and original woodwork because the kitchens and bathrooms were really nasty and a new roof was needed right away. We realistically would not have been able to get it up and running any time soon. Plus there were some weird cat/rat things running around all over the place and that was kind of concerning. Walking away from that one allowed us to find this house though: Not quite as well-preserved in all of the rooms, but with a 10 year old kitchen and bathroom, and in the perfect location for us. We also have an amazing creek behind our house where all the wildlife is decidedly not creepy, which is nice.
There will be plenty. You know this of course, but there will be so many that you won’t expect. Some of the sacrifices you do expect are things like hard work, having to wait to afford the projects that you really want to do, maybe a little bit more of a drive to go shopping, less access to all the city amenities. The things I really find myself feeling on a daily basis are things like never being able to have a house that feels really clean in the rooms that haven’t been totally renovated yet, and that’s most of them. I also really miss having access to walking trails in city parks. We can walk the loop next to the creek around our property, which sounds so much better, but in reality I do really miss my old trails. I adjust to these things though and as soon as I start on a new DIY project, or see my kids outside playing soccer next to the cornfield, I forget all about those little things.
Remember that this isn’t just a house it’s an adventure, and one very few people get the chance to take. I do often find myself comparing my home to other new-build homes that I visit and feeling like we’re total failures for not being able to instantly get that fresh, new feeling happening in our old house. It’s true. I have to remind myself that we’re not just renovating a house, we’re living an adventure and it’s the kind of thing that builds amazing memories and creates a strong sense of identity for our family too. I can deal with some ugly walls for a few years for that!
So if leaving your stressful city life and moving to the country is something you’ve always wanted to do, after having lived it for the last three years, I say go for it! Just be smart about your money and try not to stress out about all the little things as much as I do. 🙂 These first few years here for us while we’re still really getting settled and getting set up are definitely the hard years. We won’t ever want to go back to them once they’re over, but I know we’ll be so glad we lived it. And if these are the “hard years”:
Then we really can’t complain.
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