Once Upon a House Part 3

P1030256

When we pulled up to the house, it was clearly occupied. A baby was sitting in a high chair by the front window and a fire could be seen roaring away in the wood stove at the back of the living room. Nancy got out and went to the door as we sat anxiously in the car. The house itself, never struck me as notable. I am not sure that I really gave it much thought from the outside. It was dull, plain and the colors all blended in to the slushy gray snow.

After a few minutes, the baby was swooped up out of the highchair and we were beckoned inside. We were greeted by the owner, a diminutive man wearing a lovely Swedish style hat and holding his small daughter in his arms. He seemed a bit awkward and told us to feel free to look around as he slowly guided us through the rooms. The house was very bright and warm. The yellow walls gave an air of sunshine filled spaces and the wood stove flames made everything feel a bit like a holiday.

IMG_2184 (2)

Just as I was about to follow Nancy and my husband down the main hall, a little hand grabbed my fingers. Startled, I looked down to see the grinning round face of a 4ish year old girl who immediately began babbling in half gibberish and yanking on my arm. “cmon’ show you!” she said and lead me to the wide stairwell in the corner of the room. It seems she had been through the routine of house tours before and she was certain that what I wanted to see was upstairs. I easily obliged and followed her up a rough white stair case to the second floor where she triumphantly announced “This is my room!” She lead me to a pile of blocks that she had been arranging and proceeded to build a tower as high as her adorable little head. Her room was enchanting. A small window looked out the back with a view of the property and the park beyond. But the best feature of the room was a mural of the moon and stars the decorated one side of the slanting wall.

IMG_2304-001

We were quickly joined by the others; I presume that the owner sensed that his daughter was missing. We toured the awkward sloped bathroom, the HUGE drafty master bedroom with one tiny closet and a porch door that did not fit it’s jam and needed to be held closed by a large chair. I noticed that the hall floor was nothing but a screwed on sheet of melamine. The stairwell was made from wide rough cut and occasionally warped board that had a thick coating of white paint. I tried for a moment to see them as cottage chic…but decided I wasn’t sure that was my decorating style. The paint was spotty, the ceilings clearly showed where each panel of drywall ended and another began and overall the house was unfinished. We went back down the stairs to the living room and resumed the walk down the main hallway. All the while, I had a small, monkey child bouncing off my arm and randomly pointing to things. I got a quick glance at the kitchen, which while large, had ancient appliances and a ruined counter top…..but OH, the cupboards!

Once Upon a House Part 2

All of the houses we planned to visit in La pine were on at least 1 acre of land. We wanted some room to spread out, live more privately and, most importantly, NOT feel like we were still in suburbia.

The first house we visited was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch that looked remarkably like many of the other homes we had passed by in the neighborhood. It was red on the outside and varying shades of plum and tan on the inside. It had a weird floor plan, with lots of unusable space in an entryway and then no real room for a full living room. The kitchen had vaulted ceilings, the bedroom had almost no closet and the whole floor plan flowed like a river that had been diverted too many times. Even though it was still occupied, and nicely decorated, we said, “no thank you” very quickly and were back on our way. I guess, looking back, there was really nothing wrong with the house at all. It was perfect….we did not want perfect though, we did not want to keep up with the Jones’ or have someone else make the decorating decisions for us. We wanted our cabin, unique, rustic, a diamond in the rough.

So back on the bumpy, muddy road we went. The second house we visited was a manufactured home that was on over 10 acres and was selling for a very reasonable price. When we pulled up to the obviously neglected house, I was instantly disinterested, but we decided to have a look inside just to make sure. 10 acres is 10 acres after all. The house was a large double wide and while not in perfect shape, it was not TOO terrible on the inside. we wondered from large dirty room to large dirty  room. I tried my best to say something positive with each new discovery. “My that’s a big window”,  “I sure could see myself being able to cook a large meal in this kitchen!”…blah, blah, blah. This house was not occupied, so we were able to open drawers and peek in cabinets without feeling like criminals. The last room we walked into was the master bedroom, where we got quite a surprise. There was a bed in the room, recently made up with a sleeping bag and a few extra comforters. La pine gets VERY cold in the winter and this house had no heat… I peeked into the master bathroom and suddenly felt like I was being watched, so we quickly decided it was time to leave. Nancy hopped outside and made a slightly panicked phone call to the Realtor who was listing the home and off we went

.Mobile Home

The third house was another interesting one. It had originally been built when the neighborhood had planned for a cul de sac to follow. But the economy in Central Oregon crashed in the late 90’s and the cul de sac never came to fruition. as a result, this house now sat on a flag lot behind a number of other homes and after making our way down the awkward driveway, we found ourselves facing the back of the house. No driveway or road had been installed to circle around to the front, so instead, the main entry to the house was through the laundry room! We nicknamed this house “big blue” because the previous owners had painted it an alarming shade of electric blue. Once inside, we had a really nice surprise. This house was HUGE! it had 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a den and a full family room as well as an ample living and dining area. It had new carpet throughout. When you walked to the front of the house, there was a big porch, reminiscent of the Walton’s and a view of a large grassy field, where the street and other houses were originally meant to be. Also unoccupied, we toured this house a bit more slowly. There were cabinets everywhere…my brain started to crunch ideas….there were TWO master bedroom suites….crunch crunch….there were patched holes in the walls everywhere…..and the ceiling….and there were STILL holes in two doors…loud crunch. I asked Nancy what had happened, and she did not know but told me the previous owner had agreed to repair everything before the sale was final…..no, I thought..crunch… This house was TOO big and TOO fake and perhaps TOO filled with someone else’s latent anger. Everything was carpeted, and I was sure that if we pulled the carpeting up, we would find chip board and maybe serious water damage. Plus, let’s get serious here, who wants to keep their laundry room “guest ready” all the times!

After that, I know we visited at least one other manufactured home, I remember the kitchen but in truth , it was all a blur once we stumbled upon the house of our dreams.

We were just about to give the search up when my husband said, “what about the house with the dogs?” Nancy seemed to know what he meant and quickly checked the listings. Yes, she had it and we could go there next. All I had seen about this house was a grainy photo from the outside and a picture of two dogs behind a gate. The one thing that made it worth visiting, my husband reminded me,  was that the map showed the property butting right up against La Pine State Park. If this house were worth it, we could have a 6000 acre back yard and that, in an of itself, made visiting worthwhile.

As we drove to the property. Nancy reminded us that this house was  short sale. I let my husband absorb that statement, having no idea myself what it meant and watched intently out the window as we pulled up through a slushy yard and parked right outside the front door of a small gray house  with two garages.

Once Upon a House

Image

This is the beginning of a story that will carry on for years. Back in 2012, my husband and I purchased this home in La Pine, Oregon which is a very small town just south east of the center of Oregon. The climate there is referred to as “high desert”. Dry air, cold nights, perfect days and lots of blue skies. The air in La Pine smells like apple sauce in the spring and vanilla in the morning when the sun just starts warming up the Ponderosa pines. If TV had smell-o-vision, they would have added this smell to the Bonanza series, because without it, there is a large piece of authenticity missing.

When I met my husband (#3 I confess) back in 2006, we bonded over a shared dream to have a cabin in the high desert of Oregon. We joked about designs we would add, like a trap door in the middle of the main room so I could sweep all the junk under the house. I lightly argued about the placement of the wood stove and whether or not we would have indoor plumbing. It was a dream but one that was fun to imagine.

If you read my first blog, you will find that I once had a sizable nest egg that was subsequently seized by the IRS. Well, in 2012, 4 years after the money was taken away, the IRS unexpectedly refunded almost 1/4 of the money and as a result, we started thinking about making our little dream a reality.

We had already been looking at houses on a Bend, Oregon real estate site so the next step was to find out how much financing we would be able to get. I went to our local USBank, where we held a checking account and met with their mortgage specialist. I won’t mention her name, but needless to say, after a confusing and very curt meeting she calculated a sum of $130K and I left feeling like an uniformed idiot. As a first time home buyer, I had a lot of questions about terminology and the difference in finance rates for manufactured homes, property and “stick built” homes….which was a term I had only learned when she abruptly corrected me. She made me feel foolish and immature. So, in typical introvert style, I left with visions of whomping her WWF style and instead drove home like I was Mario Andretti.

We now had a number to work with, so we wasted no time hoping in a car and driving 4 hours to get to Bend. The Realtor we met, Nancy, we very genuine. It was February and the roads were covered in slush and ice. We drove the 1/2 hour from Bend to La Pine in relative silence as I admired the small pile of rocks she kept in the cup holder of her SUV and pondered what the day might bring. My husband had been armed with a sheet of listings he had pulled off the internet and Nancy plotted them in order of nearest to farthest away from Bend so we would have a feeling for how long a commute we might have for employment and significant shopping.

LaPine….or is it La Pine….can’t get a real answer on that…is a township of about 5000. Rural Highway 97 cuts right through it connecting California with Canada. There are a few fast food restaurants, a small grocery chain, and even a Best Western, but mostly, it is a town that you might overlook as you passed through. While that is difficult for the economy, it makes it nice for those of us who grew up in and appreciate small towns. Back behind the familiar corporations that line the highway, there are fabulous restaurants, wonderful gift and craft shops and the friendliest hardware store I have ever been to. It would behoove you to stop if you are ever in the area and get the BEST Mexican food and service at Cinco de Mayo…or go to the Red Rooster for breakfast….and if you are crafty and like cloth the Quilt shop will literally leave you salivating.

Enough said, La Pine was the place for us. The first thing I noticed as we pulled off the highway was that the majority of roads were not paved. HUGE puddles of indeterminable depth blocked many of our paths, but Nancy waded through like a pro, even bottoming out her SUV at one point, in a hole so deep that there was a muffler left behind by a previous driver. We bumped and slushed our way for miles and came to the first house on our list.

And here I will leave you for a bit because I KNOW you want to go and research La Pine, Oregon and get a good visual before I continue. In blogs to come, you will hear a home buying nightmare, a costly victory and continuing takes of renovations, decorations and the ETSY business I try to keep afloat through it all.

It has been a CRAZY year!