01) Our Log Cabin Journal
Our journey started unexpectedly with a home show in the year 1997. As we walked up and down the aisles we saw a booth for a log cabin kit company. As we strolled through the display a nice gentleman asked us if he could help. So we asked “What does something like this cost?” and unspecifically pointed toward the pictures of log home kits. As many people were crowding in on our conversation he gave an equally unspecific answer, “Figure about 1/3 of the total cost.” Not really getting anywhere, and knowing there were other more serious buyers vying for his attention, we walked on by. But almost as an afterthought, our eye was caught by a pamphlet of one of their log cabins so we stuffed it into the plastic bag with several other items to throw out when we got home.
Two years passed and our mother/ mother-in-law passed. We were blessed by her generosity as each son received a sum of money. Our share would certainly help pay off some car loans, etc. We stashed the balance in the bank.
The year 2000 was a cold snowy New England winter so we hibernated at home with fires in the fireplace rather than venturing outside for much beyond the occasional home show and to go to work. Little did we know that soon the luxury of spending time in front of the fireplace would end forever! One weekend we decided to drive around our state (CT) to see what cottages were available on any of the surrounding lakes. We dreamily drove around many lakes in our area looking for a cheap fixer-upper. But our hopes were always dashed by overpriced trashed out dumps for sale or large McMansions crowding out the view on these pristine little lakes.
It was getting late on a snowy Sunday when we stumbled upon a patch of land for sale on a nice quiet lake. It was overgrown and being used as the neighborhood garbage dump. With only an outhouse – yes a real outhouse – and a falling-down stone fireplace, the snow-covered lot was not showing its best angle. But we saw through the debris and snow to envision our ultimate dream – a log cabin on a lake!
We wrote down the Realtor’s phone number and, after sleeping on it to make sure we were not being too impetuous, on Monday morning I called our family lawyer to make sure we followed the right steps. After giving our lawyer all the details, he sagely said, “Oh if it’s on water, buy it. They aren’t making any more lakefront land”. We pay him handsomely for such wisdom. And since we already had fallen in love with the location, his nod was just another good rationalization for following our dream. We asked him if we should make an offer to the realtor trying to sell it. Our first instinct was to avoid hiring a Realtor so we could leverage the fact that we were saving the seller the Realtor fees. However our lawyer strongly recommended that we should invest in hiring our own realtor to haggle price and to handle the paperwork.
So we hired the most tenacious, hair-splitting, tough-negotiating Realtor we could find to fight for a good price with the seller. Our realtor was disguised as a sweet shy granola-eating, peace-loving, tree-hugging reserved lady with tennis shoes and oversized glasses. And she had a Columbo-style air of perplexity that was capable of disarming the most ruthless of sellers. As we look back on our journey, the advice our attorney gave of hiring our own Realtor was one of the best decisions we made. We were ready to pay almost full price for the beautiful piece of land and do it quickly before spring arrived when the view from that land would become very enticing to other potential buyers.
But our seemingly harmless realtor went to work, digging up details on the land that told her the seller was desperate to sell. She uncovered that he had purchased this land for his parents but for reasons unknown that didn’t work out and he wanted to unload it. With our reluctant permission, she put in an offer that was substantially lower than what we ever would have. When the seller refused her outlandish offer, she pulled a handful of granola from her pocketbook to munch on and suggest that he should also be responsible for clearing the land of all debris including a large concrete slab, and level the land, dig the boulder out for the foundation, and the more he floundered, the larger she made her list of what should come with the outlandish price.
She knew that he didn’t want to rent the equipment to remove the concrete slab and didn’t want to do anything other than unload the land. We were on the sidelines nervously watching as she weakened her prey like a shark circling a tasty fish. She knew just how far to push without losing sight of the end result. By now you’ve probably guessed that after the feeding frenzy ended she got the seller to agree to sell for a lot lower than any comparables in the area. He is probably still wondering what happened to his limbs when the sweet lady with her pocketbook full of granola came to have a nice chat with him.
While our Realtor was beating up the seller, our lawyer had us verify that everything was in order with town hall. A building plot had already been submitted and approved. Everyone at town hall agreed that we were getting a great piece of land. Having done our homework with the folks at town hall, we met the seller for the first time at the closing. Regardless of the beating our Realtor gave to him, the seller was very cordial and the closing went smoothly.
After signing thousands of dotted lines and giving away our stash of money, we asked the seller for the real story behind why he was selling. The color left his face temporarily as he metered out the phrase, “I had some issues with town hall”. Well we could handle anything because we had done our homework with the town hall and more importantly, we were now the proud owners of a piece of lake front property!
Next entry: Planning Our Dreamhome
To be continued…