That Time We Bought A Homestead
In case you thought the only new thing going on in our lives right now is Babywoods, well, I have a small surprise. We kinda sorta bought our homestead. And by “kinda sorta” I mean we 100% bought our homestead.
I’m thrilled to share this news with you and it’s the main reason why I’ve been posting less often lately–Mr. Frugalwoods and I are delightfully busy preparing for our impending move!
We closed on our Vermont homestead earlier this year and will move there in mid-May (we needed to get our affairs in order before divulging to you fine folks). Our Cambridge home is already rented out for June 1st and I’ll discuss the rental property angle of our plan in a future post. In the meantime, we spend most weekends in Vermont and most weekdays frantically packing up our Cambridge place (and, of course, fixing the 1 million things that decided to break… gotta love that everything happens at once!).
The quick employment rundown is that Mr. Frugalwoods will work remotely from Vermont for his current employer and I will work from home as a freelance writer, blogger, and mommy to Babywoods (and Frugal Hound too of course). This is the super short answer to the pressing questions we’ve received about daycare–I’ll explain in greater detail how I made this transition from office job to work-at-home momma in another post because there’s so much to say!
Coming Up On Frugalwoods: Tons Of Homestead Posts!
I imagine you’ll have a million questions (uh, I still do too), so I’ll devote several upcoming posts to all things HOMESTEAD. Since this joyous announcement opens a veritable Pandora’s box of topics, consider this a table of contents… In the hopper right now are posts outlining the following:
- Why We Chose This Property (more detail on our homestead than you ever wanted to know)
- The Financial Underpinnings (the money side of things)
- The Rental Process For Our Cambridge Home (how and why we rented out our city home)
Woot! I’ll try to rein in my excitement enough to coherently tell you the full story. But first, let me express how deeply grateful I am to all of you for cheering us on in this journey. Its been incredibly heart-warming to have all of your warm wishes, advice, and encouragement as we embark on this unique adventure. I can’t wait to take all of you with me to Vermont (via the internet of course)! And fear not, this is by no means the end of Frugalwoods. Rather, it’s the beginning of an entirely new and fulfilling chapter in our frugal weirdo lives. Let’s homestead it up, everybody!!
The Backstory (brief version, I promise)
I shall get to the juicy bits in short order, but first, allow me to set the stage…
Two years ago (on March 29, 2014 to be precise), Mr. Frugalwoods and I had a joint mid-life crisis at age 30. At the time, we were living the life you’re “supposed” to live. We’d gone to college, secured good jobs, gotten married, purchased our first home, adopted a hound dog, and thought, well, is this it? Is this all we should expect for the next 40 years? We felt eerily out of touch with the things we’re most passionate about–hiking, nature, writing, self-sufficiency, and the ability to tinker, create, and explore. Not liking this outlook and not wanting to turn into bitter people, we made the decision to radically change our trajectory.
In our opinion, the culturally dominant idea of continually upgrading our home, car, possessions–in other words, hopping on the carousel of lifestyle inflation–was an empty, meaningless way to spend our existence. Propelled by the desire to truly live, instead of merely survive, we charted a path to financial independence through extreme frugality. We began saving over 70% of our net income and crystallized a dream of moving to a homestead in the woods of Vermont. Neither of us has a trust fund, our families haven’t given us huge sums of cash, we didn’t win the lottery, and in fact, we’ve both always worked for non-profit organizations. The power of frugality indeed.
Why Not Go House Hunting When You’re 9 Months Pregnant!?!
Longtime readers know we’ve been searching for our ideal homestead parcel for three years now and, when we saw this place, we just knew. As fate would have it, I was nine months pregnant when we first laid eyes on what would become our homestead and we debated waiting until after Babywoods was born to put in an offer.
However, we love this place and we’ve seen enough properties to know that it anomalously meets our criteria. And we feared that someone else would swoop in and buy it. We asked each other how we’d feel if it went off the market (answer: tears! terrible!) and that mental exercise made us realize how very much we wanted it.
Thus, we took the plunge and put in an offer the week before Babywoods was born (our realtor kept asking: when exactly is that baby due?).
This timing is precisely what I’m talking about when I discuss strategic and decisive pursuit of your dreams. I’m a firm believer in copiously researching, planning, and plotting for years, and then–when the moment is opportune–striking quickly.
Why We Bought Our Homestead Ahead Of Schedule (and while, you know, having a baby)
Our chief real estate strategy, which served us well both with this property and our Cambridge, MA home, was to gather epic amounts of data for years before making a decision.
Mr. Frugalwoods and I spent these last three years traipsing around various parts of southern and central Vermont viewing dozens of properties that fit our parameters of 20+ acres with a house, outbuilding(s), healthy woods, a vibrant community, and an accessible road.
Throughout the process, we educated ourselves on what to look for in rural acreage (much of which is detailed in our Frugal Homestead Series). Since we’re city slickers, becoming familiar with the nomenclature of rural life, and the nuances of rural properties, was a learning curve all its own.
This parcel popped up in our search results in October and was the catalyst for our final pre-baby homestead hunting trip (yeah, the one where we got seriously lost… uh, we’ve since procured an atlas). It looked too good to be true online and so of course we had to see it in person. Mr. FW and I were certain there was something grievously/bizarrely wrong with it since we were shocked to find so much acreage and such a well-appointed house in our price range. Fully prepared to uncover some horrible truth about this property when we visited, we were instead… absolutely, positively, and completely smitten.
We came back a second time to walk the land and, as we ate apples fresh from the trees in the front yard, I started to cry because this was the one. I felt at home and at peace on this land. No other piece of real estate has ever moved me to tears. I took it as a sign (or perhaps just pregnancy hormones… ).
Beyond Emotions: Vetting Our Homestead
After coming down from the emotional high of eating apples on the porch, we had a ton of due diligence to perform before: 1) putting in an offer, and 2) giving birth to Babywoods.
Armed with this dual deadline, we got cracking with our research. Although we would, of course, have a home inspection (including well, septic, and radon), we wanted to learn as much about the property ourselves as possible.
This property has a unique set of characteristics that all combined to make us very, very intrigued, which is what instigated our extensive research and what ultimately led to our purchase. I’ll outline our complete vetting process in a forthcoming post.
Frugalwoods Homestead Specs:
- 66 acres of primarily wooded land in central Vermont, 35 minutes from Hanover, New Hampshire (where Dartmouth College and every attribute of the ‘big city’ are located)
- A 4 bed, 2.5 bath, 2,300 square foot house, built in 1991, with two woodstoves
- An 1,800 square foot barn/shop with a woodstove
- One pond
- Many streams
- Countless apple trees, several plum trees, and a forest of sugar maples (syrup, anyone?)
- Two acres of cleared “yard” with extensive garden beds
- One very confused Frugal Hound who cannot figure out why there are smells of moose, deer, and turkey in her yard
Purchasing this home ahead of our original early retirement schedule is a perfect illustration of the power of frugality. Since we’ve been living way below our means and saving in earnest for years, it was no problem for us to come up with a downpayment.
As had always been our plan for our homestead, we secured a mortgage–more specifically a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4% with 25% down. We could’ve paid cash for this property, but our financial philosophy is that we’d rather keep that cash invested in the market and borrow for the house at a cheap rate. If interest rates weren’t so low, perhaps we’d be telling a different tale, but at 4%, we are happy to have a mortgage. Over the longterm, we expect to make more from our investments than we pay in interest.
Additionally, we’ve rented out our Cambridge home with a lease start date of June 1 and the projected net income from that property will cover our Vermont mortgage with some leftover. I’ll address the financial aspects in greater depth in an eponymous post.
The Realization Of A Dream
Mr. FW and I are still in a state of shock and wonder that we were able to make this crazy dream happen. I hope that the feeling of awe we experience each time we walk through our woods will never fade. I aspire to live a life infused with the grace of relishing what I have and of profound gratitude. And I want that gratitude to spill over to our efforts in our community and our broader world.
We are fully aware of how fortunate we are to have earned enough money to save enough money to buy a homestead and to make it a sustainable future for our family. This isn’t a standard, normal, or routine thing to do with one’s life, but we have no desire to follow a routine, normal existence. To take great risks is to realize great rewards. There are so many unknowns and things for us to learn and tasks for us to perform on our land, but for right now, we’re excited, grateful, and thrilled with this materialization of the “woods” part of our destiny.
Thank you for accompanying us on this journey. The reason I share our story here on Frugalwoods is to prompt you to ask yourself the very same questions that spurred our homestead quest:
What would you do if you didn’t need your paycheck? What’s your passion? How can you align your finances in order to facilitate it?
Update: check out the next installments of this story in How We Decided Our Homestead Was The One and The Finances Of Our City Rental and Country Homestead.