Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ha--that big house is back....

My house is for sale again. Can you believe it?

Reasons this won't sell. Again.
0.  Publicly available, easily searchable online estimates of the value of this house are (on homesnap) $189,000-230,000 or so (the same as my house I'm in now) or Zillow, comparable properties are worth $39,000-$80,000 (less than the equity in my current house).  Not only that, every real estate site shows it sold last December for $210,000. So nobody is going to fall for the $650,000 estimate.
1. People who are ready to spend $650,000 on a house want a house that is ready to live in and worth $650,000, or else they'll build a brand new custom place
2. Even if it was fixed up, this wouldn't be worth $650,000.
3. No water rights, so not useful as a farm property
4. No barns, so not useful as a horse property
5. County has insisted this property will never be used in a pot-related industry
6. Stubbornly zoned Ag, so very limited business allowed here, but the building looks like a business, not a house. Not to mention the dirt road won't support traffic of a business use
7. The place was for sale for 5+ years, off and on, for prices ranging from $450,000 and down to $200,000; it's changed hands twice in 12 months and nobody has successfully developed it into anything yet.
8. REALLY difficult to get a loan of any sort on this property thanks to it being gutted
9. Last people who got a change-of-use approved on the big building found it came with a bunch of arbitrary and capricious requirements, including not letting their pigs offend the bald eagles nearby and removing a perfectly good shed for no discernible reason.
10. It looks like a big office building.
11. This is what you can get for about the same price right now in the same area: "Custom built 6 bed, 4 bath, ranch tucked into the foothills with outstanding views and 30 plus acres. Wonderful horse property with eight fenced in acres, and a 1000 sq ft 3 stall barn with water and electricity. This home features heated, 3 car, over-sized garage, walk-out basement, vaulted ceilings, 5 piece master, covered back patio great for entertaining, and a geothermal system that reduces the cost of utilities and keeps the home at a comfortable temperature all year round." On 30 acres. THIRTY.(
Or this, for less and an hour north: "In-town acreage w/ room to roam! Come stretch out in this sprawling, updated & nicely appointed ranch home w/ open floor plan design. Boasting 2 master suites on main level, this 5+ bdrm, 4 bth home has something for the whole family. Enjoy the covered back patio while watching family play in the park-like backyard. Retreat to the finished basement for fun & entertainment. Don't miss the insulated detached 30'x40' workshop w/ 2220V service. Country feel, w/ access to everything in SE FTC."

Funny thing was, even though I want to raise my kids in that kind of area (it just FEELS right), just yesterday (literally yesterday), I decided it was good we hadn't been able to buy that place last year because I'm not sure the county would have been easy enough to work with. Boulder County has a downright terrible reputation for being bullies to homeowners who live outside city limits. Nobody wants to work with them, it seems. Of course, nobody complains about when things go smoothly and run well, so maybe the few unhappy voices are all that get heard, over hundreds of happies. I have no way of knowing. 

My concerns:
1. I'm not sure we would be able to get permission to do what we'd want to do with the place even though it's zoned for it.  We would need a change of use permit approved to turn the former migrant worker dorms into a single family house. The property is already zoned for that, but they have rules about how big a house can be in the county, and this building is outside their limits. Never mind that THEY BUILT THE BUILDING. They might still not approve it because it's too big, even though there's no way to make it smaller.

2. They might approve it but make arbitrary demands we couldn't afford. The last potential buyer wanted to turn it into an ag research facility with a pig farm out back, and the land use commission approved that use, but with a list of bizarre conditions that included putting up a six-foot privacy fence (around a 3.5 acre property--that's a lot of fence) so the pigs wouldn't offend the bald eagles half a mile away by the river, and taking down a perfectly good shed (and they didn't give a reason), and making whatever modifications FEMA required to get it out of the flood plain (not just buying flood insurance....), and put in nice landscaping in the back lot--presumably so the pigs would like how it looked in their yard?  So that doesn't give me a lot of hope they would approve 8 kids living there, if pigs were too potentially offensive. 

3. I have tried and failed to figure out what the taxes on the property would be. It might break us if they decided it was a million dollar property and figured taxes based on that.  (Edit: I found it finally--just about $2400 a year, so about double what we pay here--not as bad as I feared).

4. Given their requirements for the yard, I'm not sure we could happily (and affordably) meet their requirements for the house to become a house and get a certificate of occupancy for it.

5. Even though they say homeowners can act as their own contractors and do the work themselves, I'm not sure they actually would let us, even though we'd want to. I'm pretty sure I can build a wall up to code if someone teaches me how (and we were planning to hire a contractor to do that), but I'm not sure the inspectors/building permits people will approve.

6. Kids might scare the bald eagles, and that might be trouble. Apparently those bald eagles are THE important residents of the area.

7. They might not allow us to do what I had wanted: Finish the kitchen and bathrooms, and then finish the main body of the house as 4 giant rooms and use temporary walls until we know for sure where we want to put the permanent walls. 

I suppose if it were even possible for us to buy that place (given the current overpriced-ness....), I guess I would want to talk to the neighbors (all 2 of them, in fancy houses) to make sure the county is reasonable to work with, and also insist the current owners get the change-of-use approved (it costs like $500 to apply) BEFORE we agreed to buy it (or as part of the conditions of the contract).  I wouldn't want to be in the position the current owners are--bought the property thinking they could flip it and make a good buck, and it turns out they can't use it or sell it.

I'm waiting, though. Even though I decided we're not even going there at all, having it hit the market again kind of threw me for a loop. Especially since a friend gave me an entire kitchen a couple of weeks ago--cupboards and all. Even the sink. 

But Tim just applied for a job in Aurora that I hope he gets, and we agreed he was done commuting, so I was thinking if we could find a place, we'd go down there.

But there is so much about that big house that appeals to me. Big sky. View of the mountains. Quiet. Dirt road. Space enough for everything we'd ever want to do, inside and out. The dreams are all there. The practicalities of it may be impossible.

Ah, life. Every time I move on, that house comes back to get me.

Update: What I think they think they're doing: There is a shortage of commercial/warehouse property in Boulder County right now thanks to the pot industries taking it all. Boulder has been adamant that the growth and production of marijuana is more of an industrial operation than an agricultural operation, despite growing plants being involved, because of the intensity of power usage, the armed security required, and the complexity of the process. I suspect the owners of this property are from outside Boulder County and are trying to sell it as an industrial property and potential pot grow operation. Unfortunately for them, multiple realtors have told me the county has made it very, very clear that they WILL NOT change the zoning on this particular property from agricultural to industrial or commercial. So at the moment it's priced as a commercial property would be (probably reasonably). But it won't sell as a commercial property because the county won't change the zoning.

And it's unsuitable as an ag property at that price (given you can get much better ag properties for less) and also because it has no water rights and no outbuildings. Some sites classify it as empty land because the buildings are not in finished condition, but as empty land it would be worth only $80,000 after the buildings were removed (which would be costly). Some sites classify it as farm/ranch property with buildings, which is also not going to happen because there is better farm/ranch land available for cheaper and with finished buildings and water rights. But even sites that list it as a property with a house find the value, in its current condition, is about $183,000-$230,000. And one site gave a "finished and ready to live in estimate" of the property value as $435,000.

So unless they can successfully do what 5 years of potential buyers wanted to and failed to do (get the county to change the zoning to make it commercial or allow pot grow operations in ag zones), the building is not going to sell for anywhere near $650,000. And, in fact, it's probably not going to sell at all. They'll probably either lose it to the bank or have to give it away because truly the value of any given thing is not what you think it is worth but what people actually are willing to pay for it. And 5 years of attempts tells me that this property is actually worth nothing, not even the value of the land thanks to the buildings that stand on them being so expensive to deal with.

Curious to see what they end up doing with it and how long it takes them to realize the trouble they're in, write off the loss (since it's owned by an LLC, I understand this is a possibility), and give the place away. Or trade me for the equity in my own house. I might do that, if the county would let us turn the big building into a house. But that's a big if.

No comments: