some things about living in the country

April 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Michigan, Moving | 7 Comments

We know NOTHING about living in the country.

J and I both grew up in the ‘burbs.  We have lived together in the city.  Are we crazy for attempting to find our dream home in the country?  Maybe.

But, I think both of us fell in love with the quiet serenity of the woods surrounding the house at the top of our list.

We didn’t realize, though, that financing such a large plot of land (9 acres) is a bit trickier than financing a home on a smaller plot of land.  We’re learning that lenders don’t like to do loans on land because it’s easier for the owner to walk away from a plot of land than it is their own home.  We’re learning to be creative in how we approach financing something like this.

We’re learning to think about things like wells and septic systems.  We’re learning that you have to investigate whether the local cable/internet provider will service your house, and that garbage collection and recycling might be a bit more complicated than it is in the city.

It’s so quiet there.  And the privacy!  Not that I dislike our city neighbors, but sometimes I want to sit on the porch with a good book without listening to our neighbor’s son’s loud music.  Sometimes I want to grill out in the back yard without another neighbor asking me to affirm my love for our doggy (seriously.  He was in tears last week because he thought that we’d be getting rid of Barley because we’re moving.  I had to confirm repeatedly that we were keeping the dog.  That, yes, he is a member of our family, and no, we would not be dropping him off at the shelter on the way out of town).

But, would we actually miss having neighbors?  Would our future kids miss out on having friends across the street, or down the block?  One of my favorite things about my childhood is that there were always kids around to play kick-the-can or sell lemonade or ride bikes with.  Would our kids be too isolated to enjoy that?  Or would they become better friends with each other because of it?

I’ll have to remember what its like to have to drive everywhere.  (Although, I doubt we’d be able to walk many places or take public transit if we moved to the city of Kalamazoo anyways). The grocery store appears to be a short 20 min drive away – comparable to the drive we currently take to shop at the nearest SuperTarget (after the no-smoking-ban issue, this is my second complaint about Kalamazoo – how will I get by without a SuperTarget!?!)

It’s a lot to think about, and it’s completely uncharted territory for either of us.  But, I think we might just try it and find out.

I know that a few of you out there are rolling your eyes and groaning (ahem, dad), and that you probably think its a mistake to even consider buying a house in a city we’ve barely lived in — especially when you take into account that the last two houses we’ve bought and sold in less than 2 years.

Nope, that is not a good history at all.

But, we’re basing our present decisions on the information that we have at present.  Kalamazoo is a nice place to live.  Jason loves his job, and his boss, and his coworkers.  He can’t imagine ever NOT liking this job, and those of you that know him will be quite impressed that this particular job has not produced one. single. complaint.  At this point in his career, Jason would not be able to do any better than this new job.  Also?  I just want to be settled and comfortable in my own house.  I want to stay in one place longer than 3 years.  Longer than 5-10 years, even.  My sanity cannot handle moving again anytime in the near future!  So, that’s what we’re working with.

In totally unrelated news, I wonder if any of you could recommend a new bank to us.  The bank where our accounts are held doesn’t have any locations in Michigan.  Our choices are: Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, Keystone Community Bank, Comerica Bank, National City Bank, Charter One Bank and any others any of you recommend.  Have you ever banked with any of these before and had great experiences?

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  1. I used to bank with National City. I didn’t exactly have a great experience, but it was fine. That said, I’m pretty sure my sister said that it might be in financial trouble. (But who isn’t?)

    My suggestion would be to pick a bank with the largest national coverage, or at least branches in places you’re likely to visit.

  2. Girl, you will LOVE living in the country. Although we’re probably buying a home in suburbia, we grew up in the country and loved it. Your kids will too! If I were you, I’d jump on it! & I like Kalamazoo- I went to school ~1 hr. from there. As far as banking goes, I’ve heard negative things about 5th 3rd- they’re sometimes called “fee-third”. But anyway, good luck! I’m excited for you!

  3. I’ll answer your last question first. Find a local, small town bank. You simply cannot beat their customer service. I get calls on my birthday, and in a few instances where a large check was going to beat my deposit into the bank, a quick call and they cleared the large check, didn’t add any overage charges, and all was good. Not to mention that getting loans through a small bank after staying with them for a while is much easier.

    Onto the country. I’m jealous you have the ability to get a property with land in the country. While we love our new house, I’m dying to get back out in the country. It is the little things. Like window blinds. When I lived out in the country, we had curtains that were always open. You could walk around naked if you wanted to and no one would call the cops for seeing you standing in front of your window with your stuff showing. Not that I walk around naked, but you get the point.

    If you end up having kids, I’m going to recommend having more than one if you are out in the country :). I have two brothers and we spent every moment we could outside doing things that city kids couldn’t do. We built what had to have been hundreds of forts out in the woods. We dug holes in the woods that had no real purpose other than to frustrate my dad to this day. We’d go exploring. When you come from a city background, it might even be hard to imagine this stuff being fun. But even at my age, I still long to go run out in the woods and get lost. And your kids will probably still hang out with the neighbor’s kids, even if they are half a mile down the road. I used to bike down the road (a small gravel one with 6 homes on it) a mile to visit a friend and visa versa.

    The grocery store issue is one of those things you learn to live with. Once again, you’ll get much better customer service, but prices will be a bit higher and you’ll have that drive. I remember we’d never go shopping more than once every two weeks.

    Another thing that I miss about the country is being able to have animals who aren’t stuck inside. We had dogs who slept in a heated dog house outside (I doubt Barley would though after living the life of luxury inside :)) and would spend their days exploring the woods. We had outdoor cats that we never had to clean up after because they’d do their duty only God know’s where as we never saw it. You still get the companionship without the chores :).

    My biggest thing is as I said above, the privacy. Going from living in the country to living in the city is like living in the ocean and getting dropped into a gallon sized fish bowl on the dining room table. Having lived in the city your whole life, you probably won’t realize that until you go visit friends and family in the city after a while and realize you have to close the blinds to change into PJs, or have to use the bathroom.

    Wow, that got long. I’m stopping now 🙂

  4. I have lived in Kalamazoo most of my life. I bank at Citizens Credit Union. Much nicer, less fees and they know me by my nickname. The public transportation system is very reliable. I live on the west side and love the established neighborhood. But, yes, sometimes neighbors can be a problem. However, they can also be a blessing. I work downtown and can easily walk there (a 40 minute jaunt), a 15 minute bike ride, a 7 minute car trip. If you are planning on having kids soon, having neighbors for them to play with is so important. Welcome to the zoo!

  5. I use Nat’l City for my personal accounts and the rescue group that I’m with. We’ve developed a pretty good relationship with the offices that we use.

    I’m heading over to my house near Martin in a few hours. We’ll be spending a week there, taming the area around the barn and trees that fell over the winter. Even though this house is on a 2 lane highway (M-222), it’s quiet. The background noise is the sound of the birds, the wind or my dogs. There’s no white noise like there is at the other house I own, even though it’s in the country as well.

    When I bought the house near Martin, the mortgage company didn’t want to have 8 of the 10 acres in the mortgage so we did a land contract with a 3 year balloon for it. We paid a nominal fee each month to the home owner and then handed over a lump sum. It worked out well, although the owner had a bit of a hitch when it was payoff time as his wife had left him and getting her to sign off on it was a bit sketchy.

    I grew up with wells and septic systems so it was no biggie. You just have to take precautions like having lanterns, candles, kerosene heaters, lay in jugs of water and get a generator if you can afford it. As far as internet goes, I have to have dial-up or satellite. I have Dish Network for the television. Do I consider these hardships? No, not really. It’s kind of nice to be disconnected at times.

  6. Banks??? Keystone seems to be a good bet (FDIC submissions and the web site seems too elementary for this to have the “big bank feel”) or one of the local C/U’s could be a best bet.
    Call the president of the intitution if they call you back or take your call that is the one (You can tell them about 31/2 generations in the biz and that you want a “local banking relationship”)

    I kinda like the back up generator idea from another post.
    And with Jason and the stills a brewing, maybe deep in the woods (haller’) would keep the feds away….

  7. I GOTTA spell check better… or slow down on the response!


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