Learn how to find a farmhouse of your own, where to start your search, and what to look for in a potential property!
How to Find A Farmhouse: A crash course.
We’ve only ever bought two houses in our life. However, we’ve almost bought about five. So I’ve learned a few things about assessing houses for purchase. And what I now know is that there are roughly four factors that go into a house purchase.
You can get a house:
- Cheaply: for a great price
- Quickly: you find the house very soon after looking
- Good location: the house happens to be exactly where you want it to be.
- Good condition: the house doesn’t need a lot of work and upgrades.
In my limited experience, you can get two, maybe three of the items on this list. That’s it. If you get all four, someone else probably bought it out from under you. ?
I don’t say this to scare you off. I say this to let you know that you will have to make sacrifices to get the house of your dreams. Beautiful, Pinterest-worthy farmhouses don’t just pop into existence. It takes time to build that life.
With that in mind, let’s dive into exactly how to find a farmhouse in three straightforward steps. I promise this is exactly what I did. And it paid off in a big way.
Step 1: Define your must-have list
Buying a house has SO MANY FACTORS. Where should it be, how much should it be, what should it look like, how many bedrooms? With so many possibilities and options, how can you ever settle things down to what you really need? Welp. You’re going to have to get PAINFULLY realistic.
Truthfully, the more constraints you have on the house you want, the harder it’s going to be to find one that meets all the requirements. Many times these old farmhouses are in terrible shape at first. But after a few coats of paint, they can be brought spectacularly back to life.
Your first task in finding your farmhouse is to define what you absolutely must have with no exceptions. What can you absolutely not live without? This isn’t what you want or what you’d like to have. These are the items that are deal-breakers to not have. This list should be relatively short.
Here was our list when searching for this house.
- Three bedrooms or more
- One bathroom or more
- Potential for first floor living so we can age in place
- 20 acres or more of land
- Built before 1920
- Within budget
That was the ENTIRE list. Everything else was negotiable. I didn’t care about size, square footage, basement, number of stories, condition, paint colors, or literally anything else. A three-bed, one-bath 100-year-old house on 20 acres or more with the possibility to live entirely on one floor. That was it.
This house has a great sense of humor because after searching for 18 straight months (more on that in a minute) this is the house I found. This house had all my criteria, but that was about it all it had.
WHAT A LOOKER RIGHT?! This house was BAD. Very bad. It needed a total renovation gut job. It had a sinking foundation. The roof was on its last leg.
And even still? We bought it. I knew from the first picture I saw that we were going to buy it. We didn’t even care what the results of the inspection came back to be. This was our house.
Because we had such a short list of requirements, many more houses were open to us. So we were able to look beyond the horrible carpet, vomitous paneling, and horrendous cabinets to see that this house had the bones of everything we were looking for.
Figure out what you actually need from your farmhouse and keep an open mind. You never know what you’ll find.
Step 2: Use the right search
Allow me to toot my own horn for a moment here and say that by the end of this process, I had the housing search engines down PAT. This may be the most important step in how to find a farmhouse because this is the actual, tangible process of how to find a farmhouse. You have to search! And you have to search the right way!
Of all the sites I used, zillow.com seemed to be the most user-friendly for what I was trying to do. I just liked their search options the best. But since almost all real estate sites pull from the same MLS system, you can use whichever you like best.
Price and Location
First things first. Enter your price range and general desired location. Do NOT enter anything higher than your budget. Just trust me. With more money, you can always find something better. But it’s a slippery slope.
Next, you’ll set up the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want. This is pretty straightforward. If you don’t care you can leave this option as is and see what comes up.
This is where the listing magic really happens. First I set the lower bound on the acreage. I wanted 20 acres or more. Then I set the age of the house, and this is where I learned a little trick. Sometimes the listings don’t know the age of the house, or they have it listed incorrectly.
So when I enter the age range I’m looking for, I only put the upper age limit in. I leave the lower age limit blank. Sometimes this captures houses that don’t have an age listed.
You can play around with any of the other factors listed here. I left as much blank as I could because somethings the listings are filled out incorrectly. I prefer to see more houses and eliminate them as possibilities myself instead of having the filters kick them out.
Step 3: Look ALL the time
How often do you think you should be looking for your farmhouse? Ok now double that. Seriously. This last step is not some big complicated secret. The truth is that the housing market changes all the time. So in order to be on top of the market, you need to look…all the time.
I checked the house listings once a day for 18 months. Sometimes I even checked them twice a day. Of course, there were a few weeks where I skipped a day here and there. But in general, I looked as frequently as I could. I knew the kind of house we wanted would get snapped up in two seconds. So I wanted to be there first.
The day I found this house I was sitting at work on my lunch break. I got this overwhelming feeling.
“Paige. You need to check the listings. Right now.”
Welp. I’m not one to ignore my gut yelling at me. So I pulled up my search and started scrolling. This was a Thursday.
Lo and behold on Tuesday night, a new listing popped up. A listing for a sweet little light blue farmhouse on more land than we ever thought possible. And though it was right at the tippy top of our budget, it was still within what we could afford.
Electric fire shot from my head down to my toes and back again. I immediately sent the listing to my husband. Then called him when he hadn’t responded after 30 seconds. You don’t understand. You HAVE to look at this house. This is our house.
His exact words were “I would eat hotdogs for a year if we could live in that place.”
One week later we had the house under contract. And two months later, we moved into our forever home. That would never have happened had I not been checking the listings every single day. The diligence pays off, I promise.
Your house is waiting for you. Don’t worry.
We spent over two years trying to find our perfect farmhouse. Those weren’t an easy two years either. I looked every day, we had several dream properties fall out from under us, and I shed more than a few tears. In the end, though, we found our perfect dream farmhouse. In fact, I’m halfway convinced that if you could be soulmates with a house, this one is mine.
You can hear all about our tumultuous journey from college apartment to dream farm in this episode of The Vernacular Life Podcast. It is a WILD ride filled with failed loans, crushed dreams, and…mold. Yes, mold.
So if you’re stressing about how to find a farmhouse and when you’ll find your own, take a deep breath. Follow these three steps. Your house is out there waiting for you. And you’ll find him eventually.
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