From Farmland to Fixer-Uppers

What are we thinking?

elkhorn estates property south park coloradoWhen we left our stick home behind over two years ago in search of the next big thing, we had dreams of homesteading on one of those affordable 35-acre Colorado ranch parcels we kept seeing in the United Country magazine. Now we know most of those are in wide open flatland or covenanted communities that don’t want our type.

At some point we re-focused our search on smaller lots in more accessible subdivisions. Maintained roads are a good thing, and you can still be surrounded by vacant land, or at least situated so it feels like it. But a fixer-upper?!? We never thought twice about the idea. Been there. Done that. In a big way.

Rosita Hills Project Property Westcliffe, COBut then a realtor showed us an unfinished new home in the Rosita Hills of Westcliff – very unfinished, but a doable project. Small lot, secluded feeling, beautiful views, and someone else’s nightmare.

Later we discovered the most awesome piece of land in Badger Creek area of South Park County, CO. Much farther out there, way off the grid. And a much bigger nightmare.

badger creek offgrid nightmare projectThis old earthen “home” from the seventies has an unpermitted septic, some ancient looking well equipment, and trash strewn everywhere.

But it does have a lot of awesome terrain and a Quansut hut we could insulate for storage. Yeah, right. The views weren’t that great.

The solar power system in our trailer is more robust than the makeshift one installed at this place 30+ years ago! And upon our second visit, we realized this property had become a dumping ground after two old RVs mysteriously appeared, both without license plates.

no park county certificate of occupancy hereThen we saw this cute little Indian Mountain cabin on one acre with the awesome garage, big deck and snow capped views. It had everything we needed. Everything that is except a Certificate of Occupancy. After our offer was accepted we found out why this place seemed to good to be true. It was.

A trip to the Park County Building Department revealed an insane amount of work, back fees, and red tape required if we ever wanted the property to appreciate in value. I mean really, why would any property owner put so much work into something the bank owned, and not do it legitimately or up to code? But I digress. We ran from that deal. Fast.

Cedar Springs house on two acresThen there is the house going up for auction on two acres and a cistern. Again, everything we need, except a well, easy trailer access, and that “This is it!” feeling. While we understand we must bend somewhere with our extensive property criteria list, we’re not about to settle.

We are thinking smart.

The whole fixer upper thing idea just makes sense. If we can find that perfect place which meets our immediate needs and offers projects we can take on over the years. After all, we already have our own home. We just need a place to park, a place to dump and an insulated place to store some stuff. Water and power would be nice too.

Cedar Springs Condemned New HomeFor the same amount of money, we could develop raw land and end up with only a garage. And that’s  still an option. But when you factor in effort and equity, a project house is just smart thinking.

As long as the home we find doesn’t have serious structural damage, we can manage. Unlike this ultimate nightmare we saw. A tragedy really. Which could have been avoided with proper engineering, I’m sure. Call it a lesson in cutting corners …

Cedar Springs Condemned New HomeWe didn’t even think of considering the condemned show home in Glacier View. Even if it was brand new and half price.

This beautiful log cabin has overstressed structural members and rafters that no longer bear on the ridge beam – the ridge beam that is held in place with come-alongs. The beam that is out of plumb with the log post below. Not to mention the basement beam that is missing a center support post.

What are we thinking? We are thinking that perfect project place is out there. Somewhere. And we’re thinking that somewhere is here near Fort Collins, CO – one of the top ten places to buy in the nation. So we’re thinking we’ll just be hanging out here until we find it, or until it starts getting cold again.

10 thoughts on “From Farmland to Fixer-Uppers”

  1. Ahhhh the freedom of evolution’s green Earth. You can hear the wind through the trees and smell the fragrance nature’s finest and tallest. This isn’t just Marlboro country this is pull the proper permit country as well. Then there’s materials, tools, broken knuckles, dusty days, and the howlin’ coyote with it’s evening lullaby. Pass the beans dear, oh, and some of that squirrel would be good too, no, not the ribs the thigh, this little guy was runnin’ hard when I brought him down. A screwdriver in the throat works every time but man was he a scurrying, mmmm, awesome gravy.

    Smell that freedom honey, it’s you and me and this framing hammer, and… damn it, ouch, smashed my thumb again. Oh man does it hurt. I’ll be in the trailer with some foreign sounding beer if you need me. Oh man does my thumb hurt.

    Hey, doesn’t the new season of South Park start tonight? There’s a hotel with cable 10 miles from here, you in? You are? Then time’s a wastin’!

    All the best homesteaders – Eric.

  2. Yes, we went through much the same in North Carolina…but there is some good news in all this. I believe the ultimate “bottom” of real estate probably will not be reached for another 2-3 years, so your patience should be rewarded by another 30-40% reduction in prices then! So, hang in there, don’t let the urge for a place outweigh good investment discipline.

    • “don’t let the urge for a place outweigh good investment discipline.”

      Thanks Sam, this is good advice that I’ll keep telling myself.

  3. LOL! Your experiences sound so much like ours! We totally understand what you’re going through. I can’t wait to hear about the place that you finally buy.


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