I have a confession to make: I've been having a daydreaming DIY house affair. It's true, I have to come clean...I'm obsessed with another house. But my clear and obvious destiny to own and care for this other house has been prevented by my wife, and I pine for the loss of this dwelling I never had. My lovely wife cares not for the important things, like how much this house needs us, but rather about frivolous things like a pedestrian 20th century need for indoor plumbing, functional living space, and the apparently "extremely important" ability to drive up to this house on an actual driveway that isn't simply two wagon wheel tracks cut in the mud through the woods.

This obsession of mine began several months ago. Some may call it an accident, but I call it fate, the aligning of the real estate stars, or perhaps a kind glance from the DIY gods. While investigating what one can expect to pay for a large amount of land with an old house on it somewhere in the Virginia countryside, I was constantly faced with beautiful home after beautiful home, but each with a shockingly high price tag that was far less attractive.

Having a "can you believe how much this costs?!" moment while investigating pipe dream after even more unrealistic pipe dream, I stumbled across a beautiful diamond in the (very) rough. Among the well manicured lawns and historic structures of Virginia horse country, this jewel called out to me from the tiny preview photo.

I rubbed my eyes, surely they were deceiving me. Could it be true? A Victorian gem in need of a *tiny* bit of TLC on 50+acres of land!

What's that you say? You think the house looks like it's falling down? Probably haunted? Definitely has snakes? And you can't imagine someone in their right mind purchasing it? Oh ye of little faith! 

Love at first sight doesn't begin to describe my feeling while looking over the details in the listing. Built in 1878 in the Shenandoah Valley countryside of Virginia, this farmhouse has sat untouched for decades. (Cue the "Yeah, no kidding!" from the peanut gallery while looking at the peeling paint on the exterior.)

Where many may see a tear down, I see a gorgeous Victorian farmhouse full of charm and potential in the middle of 50 wooded acres. Unlike many homes of the era, it's not been tinkered with and stripped of its character. It's not built too close to the road, it's secluded and quiet and not adjacent to a large housing development. And the 50 acres on which it sits are nearly completely wooded, not a mass of property that needs to be continuously mowed, maintained, and manicured.

When I first discovered the home I excitedly shared it with Wendy, absolutely certain she would join in on my excitement. Like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, imagining his teacher's joy when reading his report, I showed Wendy the amazing photos. She was not impressed.

Certainly something was lost in translation. I read the description aloud...

"51 +/- wooded acres with about 1 acre open in front of a wood siding farmhouse built in 1878, no indoor plumbing but house has a hand dug well, but house has fantastic possibilities with original plaster walls and nice wood work trim, house has 100 amp electrical service survey shows 2 parcels (49.5475 and 1.6991 acres ), dividable into 2 lots and a residue"

"Wait...What?!?," she said. "What do you mean, no plumbing? Oh, hell no, there's NO way I'm buying a house with you that doesn't have plumbing," she insisted. "We *have* plubmbing and look how long it's taken us to get nice bathrooms," she reasoned. "That house may be perfect or it may have a lot of problems, but the only one thing I even need to disqualify it from ever being a home that we own is the lack of plumbing. Does this look like the face of someone who would enjoy frequenting an outhouse?," she...well, yelled really.

What had happened? I really didn't understand. How was she not seeing the brilliance of this home and its character. Had I shown her the wrong house? I double checked, nope, right house. Based on Wendy's response and sound of my dreams being crushed you would have thought I was asking for an "official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!" And she started dancing around and singing, "You'll shoot yer eye out, you'll shoot yer eye out." It was over as quickly as it had started. I took my shot and I missed, the clock ran out, and I had the rest of my life to think about what I'd done wrong with the failed pitch.

Confused by Wendy's odd reaction, I've shown this house to several friends and begin going through all of the positives and how great it is. Oddly enough, many have a very similar, and sometimes far more negative view than Wendy. Some question my sanity, while others praise Wendy's "patience" with me. Weird, I'm sure she must have gotten to them, nothing else can explain it!

Often, when they see the first photo, which made me fall in love, many say, "Um, yeah, that home is probably haunted." Then they see the next photo, which is also in the listing.

"Yeah, it's pretty much totally haunted by those people right there." I'll tell you one thing, I'm friends with a with a whole lot of alarmists. However, if they're right, how often to you get a house listing that actually includes a photo of the people who will possibly be scaring the bejesus out of you?! It's a rare treat, I guarantee you.

The crusty exterior is far from "toast" or "too far gone," instead it's just waiting for the right person with the right vision to come along and breathe a breath of fresh air into the tired home.

For those of you who simply can't understand my attraction, I don't blame you, It's far too easy to be distracted by the exterior appearance, which suggests a home that may be lived in by families of raccoons, poltergeists, or worse, hoarders. But the interior is what sealed the deal for me.

The details of the home, like the mixed species wood staircase with chunky newel post and beautiful floors...

...the original stained glass builtins...

...the figured wainscoting...

...beautiful original doors...

...and the many fireplaces all represent the building blocks for beauty.

Obviously it's not a move-in ready place, but the bones are there, and more than the bones the details and all important old home character are completely intact.

There's a well on the property, and with 50 acres I can install a septic system to one day put actual plumbing in the house. And with all of that space, I can't help but think of geothermal heat, raising a salvaged 100 year old barn that could play double duty as a wood shop and guest house, eventually a pool, outdoor kitchen with wood fired pizza oven, and even a long driveway with bricks near the house and crushed oyster shells all the way to the street. 

Sure, there's a lot of work to do, but I'm not afraid of a little work, I'm actually excited by it! It's a chance to revive this home, make it our own, turn it into something spectacular, awe inspiring, rejuvenated! I want those people who might be haunting the house to have their ghost socks knocked off!

So who's with me? Who wants to see what we can do with this house and the surrounding land? Who believes in me and my vision? Who can see what I see and knows we can transform this home into something truly spectacular? Who wants to see Old Town Home turn into The Farmhouse Without Plumbing? I'll tell you one person not on this list of "who." My lovely wife...and that, my friends, is what they call a "deal breaker" in the business of married DIY.

Have you ever coveted a home your better half knows better about? Perhaps, like me, where your DIY eyes are plenty bigger than your renovation stomach? I can't be alone in my foolish and reckless abandon.

Comments 86


8/1/2013 at 9:56 AM
No, you are definitely not alone. Even without plumbing the place looks amazing. I would totally go for it. It could be your "weekend estate" :)

You could be the next Beekman Boy's, but call it the "Townie Twosome" or "The Homies Haven" or "Old is the new NEW" or even "Rags to Richness". He, he cracking myself up.
I really like the "Townie Twosome" idea!
8/1/2013 at 10:04 AM
This is awesome! I wish you would do it!
You have no idea just how much I want to do it!
Isaac Houston
8/1/2013 at 10:05 AM
I vote yes. I wouldn't go for it, personally, but if I were you, I would. Plumbing is overrated anyway. I look at that land and think, wow. Driveways are overrated to. Didnt Wendy want a pony as a child? Now is her chance! And she can ride it to her front door every day!
I agree with you 100%. And yes, I do believe Wendy has always wanted a pony/horse. So in a sense, this purchase is to make *her* dreams come true, no just mine.
8/1/2013 at 10:17 AM
I'm in love! YOU CAN DO IT! This is just the sort of thing I'd love to tackle sometime in the future.
I love the nearly overwhelming support I'm getting on this. I'll surely be able to reference all of these comments in our eventual divorce proceedings.
8/1/2013 at 10:19 AM
I would love nothing more than to live in a secluded area like that. At least I think. I never have before, and things like losing power and not having gas or fast food scare me, so I'd like to be somewhat near a town for emergencies. But oh my god, I imagine letting my dogs run free, no people or cars or other damn dogs for them to bark at, no trash or noise from the neighbors, no solicitors or sales people knocking at my door, etc.

The interior was not as bad as I expected based on those exterior photos. It probably is completely haunted. You should totally get it and hire out for the plumbing and septic though. Once those things are in there, it's live-able and you can work on all the other things at you leisure. Go for it!
I know you say to hire out septic and plumbing, but I already have a plan. It involves childhood dreams of renting a giant backhoe, plopping in a few thousand gallon septic system, then pluming the whole house, along with a gray water system and many cistern devices. It wouldn't be fast by any means, but it would be a project house for sure!
8/1/2013 at 10:22 AM
guys... really, this sounds delicious... I think you would find a way to make it work with all the hiccups. But if anyone could restore this to its original beauty... and then make it work for you. Maybe a b&b? A winery? Aw yeah. Imagine your own winery. Get those grapes in the ground asap.
B&B or winery sounds perfect. Actually, in a perfect world, it would be sort of a B&B for all of our friends. If we weren't using it I'm sure we'd open it up to people to get away for the weekend.
8/1/2013 at 10:24 AM
I can see how awesome this place could be. I would buy it in a heart beat if I lived near and had time. Wish I could find something like it around here that has been untouched and is also priced appropriately. Seem to be way too high prices around here for even those that need a lot of restoration.
It's about an hour and thirty minutes away from us, so it's a good distance, but very doable for frequent trips. It could truly be amazing!
8/1/2013 at 10:25 AM
Indoor plumbing is over-rated. How long did society function without? Right?! I see those great old farmhouses from the side of the road and dream about them, too. The ones held together by kudzu. Oh, I long for one.
I've used this same argument. It apparently didn't work.
8/1/2013 at 10:29 AM
OMG. I see it's beauty. Absolutely gorgeous! I am amazed sometimes at the inability of others to see the finished product and overlook the potential. If only I had the money - or lived in VA.
Your comment is precisely why I love the commenters on our blog. You all get me. :-)
8/1/2013 at 10:31 AM
That looks amazing... like a story book! ! In terms of your marriage surviving or not... "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"
You can't beat that logic with a stick!
8/1/2013 at 10:31 AM
Omg, it's amazing. I have faith in you! Who needs plumbing?

I too have tried to convince my skeptical spouse that we should buy a country home fixer upper. Seeing as he is overwhelmed trying to assemble Ikea furniture, he refuses to budge.
Hey, Ikea instructions, with all of their cartoons and ridiculous looking screws, can be crazy.
8/1/2013 at 10:44 AM
Those interior shots are how you can really tell the house is in a secluded area. It's rare that a property can sit for 20-30 years unoccupied and still look that good inside. Anywhere else you would have juvenile delinquents vandalizing it, bums camping in it, and druggies cooking meth in it.

Personally I would love to live in the middle of nowhere like that and own a lot of land. No traffic. No parking nightmares. No idiots. No noise. No trash. No lack of space. No idiots. The list goes on. To me, that would be a fair trade-off for no indoor plumbing. You can always drill a well and dig a septic tank.

A place like this would bring back memories of my childhood days at my great-grandmother's house. It's been over 25 years since I last used a johnny house!
I thought the same thing about the interiors.

The only real concern about the septic is if the ground doesn't perc. But you gotta believe that in 50 acres you have to have some bit of land somewhere that can hold the tank and leach field.

Even after we installed plumbing, I'd still want to keep an outhouse, just for nostalgia.
8/1/2013 at 10:58 AM
I say - go for it! Blog fodder for the next 10 years :) Do you read After Dinner Design? One of my favs...
10 years?!?! At our rate, try 35. :-) Who knows if the Internet will even exist by the time we'd be done.

I haven't read that blog, but I am now. Very cool looking place.
8/2/2013 at 6:07 PM
This is why I always read the comments. Someone always mentions a blog that I need to check out ASAP. I am about to go deep into the archives of After Dinner Design...
Mike Howard
8/1/2013 at 11:05 AM
I'm excited about this one. There's a significant opportunity to get off the grid here. The big question is that state of the basic structure. Is it fix-up'able or is it only fit for salvage?
This place is totally fix-upable. There's nothing that I can see wrong with it other than some deferred maintenance and need for system updates.
8/1/2013 at 11:07 AM
DO IT!!!! We just moved into a turn of the century farmhouse that needs all the mechanicals updated. The original farmhouse sink is still in place, along with original cabinetry. The kitchen is only heated by a wood burning stove, most of the original windows are still in the house and the siding is the original, peeling siding. But, it sits on 1.5 acres on the edge of town. Room for an outbuilding, chickens, and my husband assumes he's putting in an ice rink in the winter to play hockey on. All that to say, you can do it. Septic's only about 10k ;)
Your husband and I should NOT get together. My dream is to eventually own something with enough land to build my own Field of Dreams. Whenever I watch that movie all I can think about the entire time is how I really want to build my own baseball field. It's a reasonable dream, right?

If you get your own rink will you also get a personal Zamboni?
8/1/2013 at 4:13 PM
Haha! I live in Iowa, and we just spoke the most epic line from that movie last weekend when the weather was so wonderful out here (super abnormal for July).

In any case, I would personally vote yes to the Zamboni :) but then I'd be concerned about insurance and upkeep because at some point, someone has to be rational right? But in good news for you, he was staunchly opposed to adopting this little "fixer upper" and now we're about to embark on a massive overhaul, so maybe Wendy will come around yet?
8/1/2013 at 11:13 AM
Haha, I'm with Wendy on this one. Although, I do like your positive perspective on knowing who your poltergeists will be.
Cara, you're the first dissenter in the comments, Wendy will be quite happy that I'm not winning everyone over.
8/1/2013 at 11:25 AM
This is so awesome! If I had money burning a hole in my pocket (and maybe even if I didn't), I would love to jump on an opportunity like this. And even if I wasn't restoring it myself, it would make for great blog reading!
The "great blog reading" is my main justification for this that makes any sense at all. Oh how I wished I had this burning money problem.
8/1/2013 at 11:38 AM
What looks, to the untrained eye, like a tear-down wreck is actually in pretty good overall condition. All of the roof ridges are straight, the exterior walls aren't bowed out anywhere I can see, and the corners all appear to be nice and plumb. The roof may look bad, but it's obviously been keeping the rain out. Someone spent a pretty penny on all that exterior trim and what-appears-to-be grain-painting on the interior.

This said, we both know that EVERYONE involved in old house renovation has to be completely on board, or it's hell to live with the less-committed partner. We certainly can dream, though.
I only see a few small signs where there might be some leaks on the roof, or that could simply be due to clogged gutters, but you and I see the same thing about the house's structure being square and solid.
8/1/2013 at 12:37 PM
I say go for it. Not as a full time residence but what an awesome retreat. Hire out the plumbing just to get it DONE and then everyone wins. Awesome house AND plumbing. Win-Win.
A weekend retreat is EXACTLY what I'm thinking of when looking at this place. Just an hour and a half drive, perfect distance to just get away.
8/1/2013 at 12:57 PM
My first thought, like Connie's, is how solid and straight everything is -- buying an old house and making it structurally sound/everything straight and true is (IMO) a lot more daunting and costly than indoor plumbing. I absolutely love the wood work and can see how irresistible that would be to you.

Yes this has happened to me. Like you I got obsessed by a real estate ad for a house in the boonies, this one in southside VA (not too far from Lake Gaston). It had about 5 acres and no close neighbors -- nothing but farms and forest -- with lots of cool old outbuildings like barns and a country store. The house did have a bathroom and electricity and running water but am not sure if it had central heat or if any of the above worked.

The obsession got worse after my husband and I looked at it -- it was a whole lot bigger than it looked with very high ceilings and lots of very old decorative painting (e.g. marbleizing). I suspected the house was much older than listed which just further fired my imagination and fantasizing.

To top it off it was really cheap. Though my husband didn't hate it, it didn't get to him like it did to me so sadly, this didn't become our weekend getaway/lifetime project.

In fairness to my husband, the wet blanket, our own old house and very large, labor intensive garden need plenty of work. We hardly needed a new project (but both of us are kind of ADD).
As you know, obsession with something can either be met with agreement or opposition/indifference. Agreement is usually far more dangerous since the obsession is exponentially compounded. If Wendy were on board, we would have had this house months ago. Instead, I just visit the listing every day, hoping some day they'll lower the price to $1 and we can go snap it up. I'm not hopeful that day will ever come.
8/1/2013 at 1:25 PM

If I could buy that and then not live in it until it was completely done? Heck yes. But living in it while fixing it up? Deal breaker. Because we all know how well that went with our last house. We are not cut out for that!

How far of a commute would this give you guys to work?!
I need all of that yelling in your head to transfer over to Wendy's head. In my perfect world, we wouldn't live in it at all for a while, not until things were updated and ready for us. Then it would be a weekend retreat where we could lounge and relax, appreciating all of our hard work, and chatting with the poltergeists.
8/1/2013 at 1:40 PM
it looks so awesome! maybe if you finish your master bath wendy will let you get the farmhouse :)
I don't even think that will do it, but I'll try. :hangs head and walks away to peanuts depressed snare drum music:
8/1/2013 at 1:43 PM
Wow, the trees sure have grown since that original photo! Diamond in the rough, indeed. But I'd have to agree with Wendy that since you still have a cast-iron tub and Restoration bathroom hardware waiting to be installed, taking on a plumbing-free house might be less than fun. I'm also no fan of septic tanks, having grown up in a house with one that was always giving us ... problems. :-D Love the winery or B&B idea, though. How is victoriaelizabethbarnes.com coming with her house? Maybe she'd buy it!
Perhaps we could even use that run and hardware in the basement for the plumbing in this house? I should let Victoria know about this. Maybe we can go in on it together and watch both of our lives turn into endless manic episodes trying to manage two home renovations each, both with dissenting spouses.
8/1/2013 at 2:19 PM
1. I laughed at the Raphie references. Then I guffawed out loud about the "it's probably haunted by those people right there" comment.

2. The inside looks MUCH better than I would have thought given the disrepair of the outside. I wonder if it's actually not in bad shape, but just needs some scraping and painting? I mean obviously it probably needs more than that ... but I wonder if a clean paint job would make it not look haunted.

3. Is there space to add indoor plumbing?

4. I totally support this dream so that I can live vicariously through you guys. My latest wish is to find 25+ acres near my sister in Ohio and build a reproduction salt box colonial. Unfortunately it's incredibly difficult to find wooded acreage as everything's been cut down for farm land and I'm kind of freaked out by flat, wide open land.
#2 is my main point. I think it's just sat without inhabitants for a long time, but it isn't falling apart by any means. I think there is some water damage from the roofline, but you're probably right, scrape and sand the siding, patch the stuff that needs patching, maybe put on a beautiful copper roof, and apply paint. You've got yourself a house that looks inviting, not haunted.

#3 I'd have to imagine there's space somewhere to add plumbing. It's not the hardest thing in the world. The main thing is getting the septic tank and well pump installed and knowing where your water comes in and leaves the house.

#4 Either we can live vicariously through you or you through us. Either way one of us needs to make it work.
April Gillespie Fehrman
8/1/2013 at 2:55 PM
I love it! I vote yes, too. What an opportunity!
Kelly C.
8/1/2013 at 3:18 PM
Wow - I'm speechless, that's the coolest house! I'd love to know more about the owners. I love the history of homes. I'm always curious what happens to make someone give up a cool old family home and land like that. If only walls could talk. I bet a lot of kids have had fun out there!
Kelly C.
8/1/2013 at 3:19 PM
And, I'm in Texas so I have no idea what acreage costs there. What's the approximate price per acre?
I agree, I'd love to know more. I've done a tiny bit of research and can't find anything. Acreage varies pretty substantially since it is a big swing between farmland, horse grounds, and woods. Woods are by far the cheapest since it can't really make you any money. But pretty much anything in this area isn't "cheap" in the least bit.
8/1/2013 at 4:30 PM
ummm.... don't get me wrong, I'm totally smiling at all the support and enthusiasm in the comments here. I can absolutely see potential in this property, however I've got to be honest. Not only did I think "I wouldn't move in until the septic system and many, many water tanks are installed" (particularly as your dream includes guest houses and pools), but I also thought, 'no chance the current home will ever get finished if such a succulent morsel was also on the platter'. Sorry to be a sour note in your DYI love fest, but yeah... let's say I can see Wendy's hesitation. Cheers
Kerrie, I won't hold it against you, Wendy needs some people in this comment thread that are realists.

You are absolutely right, the logistics of a well and septic system that can handle what we'd like to ultimately do is substantial, and it only really makes sense to install it from the onset, even if we don't have a guest house and pool to start off with. Let's not forget running new underground electric all of the way from the street in at least 200 and more likely 400 amps (future expansion), as well as any other necessary items (phone, television, etc, no high speed internet out there). The price quickly escalates and we'd be looking at $100k+ just to get to the point where we can really start working. That's a steep startup cost, to say the least.

But oh to dream.
8/1/2013 at 6:12 PM
I'll support your decision, but only if I get to stay there at least one weekend a year.
You convince Wendy and you've got a deal.
8/1/2013 at 9:20 PM
I think that I'll need a REALLY large wine budget for that to happen.
8/2/2013 at 9:16 AM
I love it, what great bones! And the surviving details, inside and out, you don't always find in a 'neglected' home! She's BE..U...T...FUL!!!!
The details (and the old photo) are what really call to me. So untouched and waiting to be loved by someone.
8/2/2013 at 10:22 AM
Just found your blog the other day via Victoria Barnes. I totally love this house. I see old houses as neglected puppies at a shelter, I want to take care of them all. A house in the country doesn't need too much. Running water, a sofa, a bed, a table and a chair and I'd be happy.

I'd also like to encourage you, as I will other home renovation blogs, to watermark your photos. A follower alerted me yesterday to an unscrupulous contractor who copied all of the photos in the big before-and-after post of my exterior to his own Facebook page and was passing it off as his own work. If I had watermarked the images, he wouldn't have been able to get away with it. It sucks having to watermark your images but it sucks even more having your work ripped off.
We see eye to eye on old houses, that's for sure.

Thanks for the tip on the watermarks. It's something I've been looking into lately. It's a balance between convenience of being able to easily apply the watermark and usefulness. You're absolutely right though, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Glad you found us, and we hope to see you around quite a bit.
8/2/2013 at 12:41 PM
Good grief. 60 comments?? If that's not enough to convince Wendy I don't know what is. Internet peer pressure! :)
I just checked with her, she said that 60 comments isn't enough. She also said that 60,000 comments isn't enough. I think she's getting at the idea that some amount is actually enough. No?
8/2/2013 at 6:00 PM
I'm with your wife...no indoor plumbing!!! Maybe a compromise would be install indoor plumbing and then she'll move in.

Though it's beautiful inside, I can't help but think this might be a huge money pit.
One of only a few detractors in my restoration pipe dream. Oh well, I can't win them all. I also can't say that you're wrong.
8/2/2013 at 8:44 PM
Wonder how long it would take to make storm windows for all those windows??
That hurts, Margie...that hurts. Well, I just counted the windows up, and it looks like there are about double the number on that house as ours, so I'll go with...14 years. :-) Think I can do it?
8/2/2013 at 9:43 PM
With your skills? Go for it. Plant the vines first so Wendy has some wine.
Maybe we'd have a new label to go with it. We could call it "Old Victorian Vineyards."
And I'd make a "No Plumbing Pinot."
8/6/2013 at 9:33 PM
8/2/2013 at 9:59 PM
That house is AWESOME!!! A little caulk, a little paint...
And a little duct tape. I see no flaw in this reasoning!
8/3/2013 at 8:06 PM
Sorry Alex, but I'm on the fence here. I definitely see what you see, but I also agree with Wendy. Sure it could be a fantastic house, but HOW LONG would it take to get to that point? 10 years? 20 years? Consider how long you've spent on your current place, and compare that with what would need to get done with this place.

If this house/property were seriously under consideration, I think you'd have to have the plumbing and septic put in before moving in, which means you'd need to have the additional funds for that added into your loan. The house also looks/sounds like all of the electrical needs to be replaced. How is the roof? What's the condition of the wood siding? Does it just need paint, or does it need half the boards replaced?

Then there's also the insulation: does it have any? How much will heating cost? It looks like it has oil heating (which could be 2 grand a month in the winter time). What about the taxes?

I just think that there would probably be a better deal to be found elsewhere. The house definitely has potential, but I think fairly deep pockets would be required.
It doesn't surprise me that you, someone who knows first hand the level of work involved, as well as the potential disaster the lies beneath, would be hesitant. You're probably right on just about every account. However, doesn't mean I want it any less.
8/4/2013 at 8:27 AM
If I win Powerball this weekend I'm buying this place. This is an AMAZING find, I love all the original woodwork and its in great shape...oh if I only had the $$$!
Not if we beat you to it (both the winning Powerball and buying the house parts).
8/6/2013 at 6:11 PM
Well the outside definitely says Devil Queen, but the inside is lovely. I wonder how watertight the second floor is?
There's actually a finished 3rd story attic area that I'd be more concerned with than the 2nd floor. The photos show some cracking/evidence of water at some point, but it's not bad enough that there's entire crumbling areas or anything.
8/9/2013 at 11:35 AM
My parents did this, but with less to start with. They bought a 400 square foot SHACK on a waterfront property. The indoor plumbing was a hole through the floorboards under the tub, and buckets to go down the river to get water, and a hole in the ground in the woods.
They started with a composting toilet system and ab infrared water purification system with a heated line from the river. That worked for about a year, then the composting toilet froze in the winter (fun) and they decided to go septic. Next spring, a backhoe and a couple of days and they had a septic system. My Dad then built a much larger house around the shack, and now it has water, indoor plumbing, a washer & dryer and A/C. It's do-able. It's a task, and it will be expensive to retrofit the old place. So I see Alex's excitement and feasibility, and I also see Wendy's "are you effing crazy?" perspective. If you have the FUNDS and the PATIENCE, it could be a good opportunity. But remember, it's a lot harder to drive three hours round trip to do a bit of work on the weekends, then to go downstairs to the workshop.
1/7/2014 at 7:51 AM

My aunt and uncle live in a hand-built cabin in northern Minnesota with no indoor plumbing. And they survive and enjoy life!
Just saying.
Is this still on the market?

11/18/2015 at 11:49 AM

Did you get the house? I hope so, it is gorgeous! We bought a 150 year old farm house 16 years ago and still love it. It was a lot of work but worth it! Love living on 12 acres but would really love 50.

12/25/2015 at 9:13 AM

The one thing that was not mentioned was a price for all this beauty.
If My husband and I were much younger and we were American Citizens we would be looking for something like this for ourselves.
I can see by the dates on the comments that it has been almost 3 years and wondering minds are asking: Did you and Wendy go and look at it in person? Did you get the house and if so how are things going?
My husband just gave me a 1" scale model of a house very similar to this one, and I found this blog because I was researching the era of the model.

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