Shangri La

Shangri La

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Road to VT - Part 2

When the original cabin didn't pan out, I swore off and committed myself to the new house. I'd channel all of my cabin energies into making the new place as nice as it could be, addressing needs like new windows and siding, building the cabinets the 1940s kitchen was desperate for, and tending to the cottage-garden landscape I'd inherited.

Why did I need a second home? I kept asking myself. I can barely keep up with the one I have.

I held out for maybe 6 months, and then found myself casually perusing whenever I grew bored of surfing TheThruthAboutCars, Slate and TheOnion. (Ever feel like the web is just an infinitely larger version of cable television - millions of channels, and nothing on?) Eventually, searching the real estate listings again grew into a daily habit, and I found myself occasionally leaving particularly interesting listing up for the LSW. When she failed to comment on them, I'd casually call her attention to them.

Me (reading the paper): I saw an interesting property listing - did you see it?
She: Silence.
Me (pretending to read the paper): It's listed for 90, but we could probably get it for 75 in this market.
She: We don't need another house. You can hardly keep up with the one you have, remember?
Me: I know - just thought it was interesting. I left it up if you want to see it.
She: [Exiting the room with her breakfast]

This would lead to me chasing her around the house with the laptop on the hopes that this particular listing would pique her interest. When finally cornered, she'd usually look at the ad for all of 30 seconds and respond with a disinterested shrug.

But here's the thing: Methinks she doth protest too little. Against her better judgement, I know she'd like a cabin, too. And so she eventually acquiesced to an overnight trip to look at Shangra-La and two other listings for comparison.

The first two properties did not bode well. We looked at 2 very swampy acres in Whitingham for $25k, followed by a $75k log cabin with well and septic in West Halifax. The listing agent had advised me that the area was very 'Vermonty'. By this she meant that we should not have been surprised by the junked cars and random furniture adorning the lawns of the surrounding properties. I'd say we were less surprised than alarmed.

I had wanted to see one other cabin in the area - a very tidy-looking A-frame for $90k.
"I have to be honest with you," the listing agent cautioned. "The neighbors are hostile." OK, then.

I was low on confidence as we approached Shangra-La and parked by the old meetinghouse, but prospects seemed to improve as we walked the property and my normally skeptical LSW didn't say much. The land was conspiring with me: The day was agreeably autumnal, the sun was out, and the meetinghouse was the verisimilitude of New England charm.

"Whaddaya think?" I asked, as the realtor pulled up. "Should we make an offer?"

She didn't exactly say yes, but didn't say no, either, and I knew then I had it nailed. The original listing had been $40k, but had fallen to $30 after 6 months. We ended the day at the realtor's office across the street from a historic inn we'd stayed in 10 years earlier. It seemed a good omen. I made a formal offer of $22 contingent upon a septic test, and the realtor called the owner right then.

"Well, they didn't laugh me off the phone, so that's a good sign."

About a week later we had settled on $26k - about $8,100 an acre, and the septic waiting game began.

($8.1 an acre seemed like a good deal given the other properties I've seen listed, probably due to the fact that septic was unknown and the real estate market was down. The town is also less desirable than its immediate neighbors, with no real center and few services.)

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