09 October 2007

Interesting Opportunity - Farm For Sale

About a month ago, I posted about our decision to move to Michigan. We're still looking at places up there; a couple of promising properties didn't work out. Our own farm here in Illinois is still available for sale.

In the process of scouring real estate listings in Michigan, we came across a ten acre farm that might interest someone. It's been on the market for a very long time, and the price has dropped from $425,000 to $385,000. But that tells only part of the story.

As you can see from the pictures on the Realtor's site, it's an amazing old farmhouse that's had a lot of work done on the inside.

We have not been inside it, but my father in law took a look at the outside. His assessment: it is old (heck, it was built when ANDREW JACKSON was President), and the windows in particular are quite old. He said two of the barns are quite new and in excellent shape; the big red barn looks nice in this photo, but needs some work. Based on the outside, he wonders how this house will sell for anything close to the asking price.

Even at $100,000 less than the current asking price, the property is out of our price range, and it's also out of high speed internet range (even the Sprint data network doesn't come close to this house), so I couldn't work from there without satellite internet service.

But here's where it gets interesting. While on Craigslist, I stumbled onto listings for this house both for sale (more nice description and photos), but also for rent. A few weeks ago, the rent was $1200; it's now down to $1050, and I can't imagine they'll be getting a tenant in there anytime soon. The house is empty, and they need someone in there to generate some revenue. We briefly entertained the idea of moving up there and renting the house until it sold, and perhaps even writing a "right of first refusal" into the lease agreement so we could buy it if the price came down enough. But we have too much livestock to be moving them all twice, and if the house sold without warning me might have nowhere to put them while we continued looking for the right house. Also, I'd hate to invest a ton of money in satellite internet hardware if we weren't staying there long-term. (We did ask the owners about the possibility of a long term lease, but they really want to sell it. They've moved back to California and want to wash their hands of it.)

I did a little more digging, and discovered that according to the county authorities, these owners paid $440,000 for the property in 2004. It had previously sold for $309,000 in late 2000, and that's as far back as the records go. In other words: these folks are probably sitting on a large mortgage and in this market aren't going to get anywhere near what they paid for it. I bet they'd take even less than $1050 a month in rent (they're using some kind of property management service to rent it out, but their phone number in CA is in the "for sale" Craigslist link above, and you might try working something out with them directly), and it'll probably be awhile before they'll sell it. If you've been wanting to move to the country, this might be an excellent opportunity to "try it out." And perhaps you could ask for a right of first refusal; in other words, the opportunity to match any sale offer they receive.

As I said, we haven't been inside it, so I can't offer any more personal insight than what my father-in-law provided. We know it won't work for us, but it just might be an excellent opportunity for one of you readers out there. It's not far from Ann Arbor, and would be a reasonable commute to there.

Good luck.

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