I’ve lived in the city for ten years, and my partner Barry moved here years before I did. I’ve always dreamed of a way to live in two places at once, and in 2020, our desire for a place outside of our city New Orleans became increasingly hard to ignore. We dreamed and schemed over what we’d want, our must-haves, and bided our time. In early February 2021, we were finally in the position to purchase something and we began the actual search (as you know I had been casually looking on-and-off for months beforehand).
Here’s what we wanted:
- Wooded area/feel like you’re in nature
- Enough land for our kid and dog to run around, have a garden
- A workshop/area for my partner’s tools and projects
- Lots of natural light in the house
- On the water
- 2 hours max from New Orleans
- Stay under $120,000 purchase price
- The house needing work would be okay, we could do it over time
I had bookmarked a few different properties, and we even went to look at one about an hour from our house. After seeing what we could get for $120k, my heart sunk. The property was rickety, close to neighbors, small, dark – besides its position on the river, it had nothing going for it. After that, I was pretty discouraged and stopped looking at listings every day. But Barry didn’t give up, and he found this listing on Facebook marketplace of all places, and it intrigued us:
The house was listed for $65,000 (!!!) cash only and it appeared to be some kind of foreclosure or mortgage issue – I couldn’t really tell. The photos were clearly just snapped with a cell phone and there was no real description of the property.
When I searched the address, I could only find a listing from the last time it sold several years prior. It wasn’t on the official MLS, which felt both a little sketchy and also like a great opportunity. I reached out to the poster, who messaged that we could come see it anytime as there was a lockbox on the door and that he lived out-of-state and wouldn’t be meeting us (again – a little sketch, but also maybe a great opportunity?!). The next day, February 23 2021, we got in the car and drove north.
It was exactly two hours door-to-door to reach the property, which is just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We loved that it sits on four acres right on the river and is secluded, but we could still get to the grocery store/restaurants in twenty minutes. We’re very fortunate that we both have a history of buying and renovating properties, so we (Barry, especially) were able to look at the house with a discerning eye and see what needed to be done. The HVAC was old, but the roof was in good condition. The flooring had all been ripped up and the appliances had all been removed. The paint colors were truly baffling (all that red!). But none of that intimidated us, especially at this price point. We took about an hour to explore the house and the grounds (with Gus, who as always was along for the ride) and neither of us said much. I was mentally going through our check list – it had tons of huge windows, a shed that could be expanded as a workspace for Barry, nearly four acres both wooded and cleared, an amazing view of the river, exactly two hours from our house – check, check, check, and so on.
At the end of our visit, we got in the car, closed the doors, and I waited to see what Barry would say. I am much more of a natural risk-taker than Barry. I was head-over-heels for this run-down cabin on the river and I knew we could make it absolutely amazing – and the price couldn’t be beat. But I didn’t want my natural exuberance to overwhelm him. He looked at me and said, “We need to do this, right? We need to do this.” And so, it was on.
We called the mysterious Facebook user who posted the listing and said we wanted it. He said he had multiple other people coming that week – and although that’s a typical sales tactic of a statement, I believed him. We signed a contract and sent a deposit to the title company that day. Before sending the deposit, I called the title company and was able to get more information about this man. I learned he regularly purchases mortgages from homeowners who are in debt, and turns around and sells the house – typically in a “double closing” fashion, meaning he’d close on the house in the morning and we’d close on it in the afternoon. I had never heard of this before, so did a bit more research and had a friend I have in real estate law look over the contract. With that stamp of approval, we moved forward and closed on March 4 – just nine days after we first saw it.
We didn’t do an inspection (fortunately, Barry got under the house and checked out the major things), we never met the owner OR the seller – and while both those things are typically “red flags” in a real estate deal, we knew they were also the reason we got this house for half its worth. The risk was worth it to us, and so far, it’s absolutely paid off.
We started cleaning, painting, and securing the house right away. We already had plans to travel most of the summer, so we didn’t start any big projects on the house until about six months after we purchased it. I spent a lot of this waiting time while we were traveling making moodboards out of extreme excitement.
In the last five months, I’ve spent about half my time up here and we’ve demo’d out a closet, opened up attic space, hired a crew to put in a tongue-and-groove ceiling, painted every inch, refinished the plywood floors, put down flooring in the loft, painted the kitchen cabinets, demo’d out most of the countertops and backsplash, replaced doors, installed a hot tub, got a sandbox, added a new backsplash from leftover tongue-and-groove, furnished the house, put in new appliances, and made big plans for our bathroom and kitchen renovation (probably coming in 2023 at this point).
We’ve already come so far in just a few months – honestly got emotional gathering all these photos! Having this place to escape to has been huge for our mental health over the last year. I love that Barry found it on Facebook marketplace, because he’s always wheelin’ and dealin’ on there – and this was truly the deal of a lifetime.
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