The Family Homestead
Yesterday, February 22, 2016 was an exciting day for the Hippie Homestead. We have officially expanded! (Or at least we have officially made it a possibility). Yesterday, my parents closed on 5.02 acres directly across the street from our property. As my dad put it, they are now “land-bearers!”
It was definitely a long process to get here. This all started probably about six months ago, when I informed my parents that the empty five acres across the street from us was actually available (but not listed anywhere that is was). Before yesterday, the property was owned by a woman named Bernice Montgomery, who, until recently, also owned a 200 acre farm through the trees across the dirt road from us. With a husband who had recently passed away, and an age ranging anywhere from the 90-95 range (we never quite figured out the real number), she decided her farm and my parents land was now more than she needed. So she decided to sell both, separately. We got wind of this information from Dave (our neighbor and the previous owner of our hippie homestead). He had been friends with Bernice’s husband and frequently used their farm for hunting and fishing in their pond.
My parents met with Bernice sometime near the end of summer 2015 to discuss her interest in selling the property to them. By their second meeting, they had a handshake deal (and in Bernice’s time, a handshake deal still meant a lot). And, judging from the closing made yesterday, it still does. But it was not that simple.
A few days after the handshake deal, we noticed that the hopefully-soon-to-be-their five acres was being surveyed. We knew her farm was under contract, so, although we found it strange, we passed it off, thinking maybe it was for those purposes. It turns out it was, but not in the way we thought. A few days later, Bernice called and informed my dad that somehow their piece of land had been written into the contract for the farm, and the “mystery man” purchasing the farm was under the impression that those five acres were soon to be his as well. Something fishy was going on. Bernice never intended to sell the five acres to him, and she was going to get this all straightened out. She told my dad, “don’t worry.”
And that was the last we heard from her…for about three months. Of course, my dad, being the anxious guy that he is, tried, numerous times to get in touch with Bernice. But her phone number was no longer in service. We learned from Dave that she had sold her farm and moved. No one had her new phone number. We were beginning to wonder if we would ever hear from Bernice again. So much for a handshake dealing meaning something to people from her time. How could she make that promise and then just fall off the map forever?
Well, as you know, she did not. After months, she finally called my dad back and informed him that she had in fact moved, but now she was all settled in and ready to sell again. The move from her farm she had lived on for years with her late husband was much more difficult than she had anticipated, and she needed to take a little extra time to adjust to all of the changes. How could anyone argue with that?
About a week later, my parents went to meet her to get the ball rolling again. They were ready to write up the contract for the amount they had shook on….until Bernice informed them that during her three month hiatus, she had decided she wanted 1000 dollars more. But what about the handshake deal?! (I know, in land and house-buying dealings 1000 dollars probably does not seem like much, and considering the pretty good deal my parents got on this land, it really isn’t). But, for someone who just sold a 200 acre farm, shouldn’t that 1000 dollars mean even less?! Seriously…what did this money mean to a woman in her 90s who just received a great deal of farm cash??? When my parents questioned this, once again bringing up that handshake deal, Bernice actually said, “Well, I’m sure there is other land for sale in the Winchester area.” Well!!! With the hope of keeping our family together, my parents had no choice but to accept. Maybe the “rich” Bernice was willing to turn down a deal for 1000 dollars, but they were not. What a crotchety, greedy old woman…..yes..this is what we all were thinking. But at least a deal and contract were made.
The process still wasn’t over. Then began the permit process. Would the land perk for a septic system? Would Bernice’s septic permit transfer over? Clearly, all the answers were yes. And in the land-buying world, it only takes a short two months to answer all of these simple questions!
But alas, these questions were finally answered, and within thirty minutes of being in the lawyer’s office yesterday, my parents’ question of, “are we land-bearers?” was answered too.
Prior to this final meeting yesterday, we had wondered if Bernice would have anything else up her sleeve. It turns out she did, this time just a simple word of advice.
Before we left the lawyer’s office yesterday, after all was said and done, Bernice tightly squeezed my mother’s hand and said, “You be happy.”
No one knows for sure what the future will hold…what will happen, who you will meet, where you will end up, how deals will work out... But as we go through the ups and downs of our ever-changing contracts and ever-changing lives, the only thing we can and should really do is just “be happy.” After all, a happy life with family and friends is worth more than a thousand (or a billion) dollars. Thank you Bernice…
P.S. While writing this blog, my mom texted to inform me that she found out Bernice is 91. Wow, what a life. If only we will all be so lucky..