Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Great House Hunt, Covenants & New Beginnings

Just over a year ago, my Mama, Bear and myself embarked on what will forever be known as "The Great House Hunt".  My Mama still currently lives in the great white north, where they have snowstorms before Halloween that knock out power for a week or more, and where they must shovel the roof to keep the snow from caving it in.  Clearly, that's madness.  The thought of my mom sleeping beneath a roof that could possibly cave in from the weight of the snow was terrifying to me.  Happily, my Mom decided that perhaps a change was in order, and we began looking at properties here in South Carolina, where a dusting of snow shuts everything down for at least a day, and people try to build a snowman out of an inch of snow.  Bless their hearts.  The plan was to find a piece of property big enough that there could be two homes on the lot, ours and mama's.  A small family homestead that would bring us all closer to our goals of living more self sufficiently.  

We looked at so many houses both online and in person that they were starting to meld together.  We didn't think our wishlist was excessive - one existing home, on enough land that a second home could be put on, plus room for a good sized garden, my chickens, and hopefully a rabbit house without everything being crammed together.  5 acres would be perfect.  After searching and viewing homes, we thought we'd found "THE PROPERTY".  Yes, the home was in dire need of cosmetic upgrades on the inside, but the home was down a dirt road surrounded by horse farms way out in the country but still in an easy to commute location. There was room for the 2nd house, plenty of room for a huge garden, my chickens and a rabbit house, with room to grow.  The inspection was done, we began lining up repairmen & workers to get some of the necessary work done, Mom flew down a few days before the closing date and we went to the house to walk though it and rejoice in our luck...that mood quickly soured as we discovered a note taped to the front door that read:

"This home comes with covenants that the property buyer must be made aware of."  The author was kind enough to include their number.  Our realtor was unaware that there were covenants attached to the property, as the listing agent withheld that information.  For those of you who are unaware of what a covenant is, it is very similar to a home owner's association with it's own specific rules and guidelines.  They differ from property to property, and not all properties have them.  Some expire, some run with the land, meaning regardless of WHO owns the property, they still must conform to the covenant.  The rules for this particular covenant were prohibitive to the point of near-insanity:

Only 1 home on the 5 acre lot, ANY additional structures such as sheds, barns or garages must be approved by the architectural review committee, ditto that for adding onto the house and putting fencing around the property.  You may not have any other animals except for cattle and/or horses and poultry was specifically forbidden.  The new property owner had to contribute to the maintenance of the dirt road (which we'd expected) as well as pay for any PRIOR maintenance for the dirt road.  (what?) Additionally, there was no way to break the covenant (our attorney looked) and the covenant administrators were adamant that there would be no exceptions - it must be followed exactly as is. Clearly, the property no longer suited our needs, especially since we couldn't place another home on the lot or do almost any of the things we'd planned to do.  We were seething that the listing agent knew of the covenants (the covenant administrators provided us with written proof that they'd notified her agency of them, and received written confirmation back) and they deliberately withheld that vital information from us.  If anyone is considering buying real estate in South Carolina, please let me know and I will happily provide you the name of the offending realtor & her company, as well as provide you a reference for our truly amazing, honest and hard working realtor who has continued to help us as we continue the house hunt.  

To say both Mama and I were completely heartsick over this is quite possibly the understatement of the century.  It's the reason for my prolonged absence from blogging, as it well and truly laid me out, emotionally.  The thought of my Mom having to possibly endure yet another winter in the north on her own, seeing all our dreams and hopes dashed with no prospects on the horizon...Well, y'all can imagine how that felt. 

You know what they say, though - when one door closes, another door opens.  Mama put her house on the market, and received an offer.  She'll be closing in mid-June and down here in South Carolina before that.  We still haven't found "the one" yet insofar as properties, but at long last Mama will be home in the South, and there'll be no more brutal winters of digging her car out, trying to get the snow blower working, re-digging out her car when the snow plows come through.  Now that's something to truly rejoice in! 

I'm sure there will be plenty more adventures coming, especially as we work on helping Mama adjust to life in the South, so till next time, y'all! 

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