The call came on Friday morning, the representative from Skowhegan Savings called to say that our loan request had been rejected. Apparently the underwriter felt that we just don’t have enough wiggle room if something were to go wrong during the construction process. It wasn’t a terrible shock, Keith and I know that we’re not the best of investments. I have good credit, but with Runamuk still in it’s infancy I make pretty small potatoes, while Keith has no credit, and though he works away from the “farm” he’s still not pulling in a whole lot of money. But we’ve got our 50-acre parcel, and the house we plan to put up is nothing fancy–very basic–we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to squeak through somehow.
So…..we’ll try another bank.
But we’re also working out several contingency plans, just in case “Plan A” doesn’t work out.
Keith and I have been looking at alternative housing options–we’ll do whatever it takes to move our family onto our farm-site this year–which means considering every angle.
We’ve looked at modular homes, but it looks as though the pricing for those would run approximately the same as our stick-built design.
A trailer is absolutely out of the question. I’ve had enough bad experiences living in trailers to swear off of them for the rest of my life, but mainly–there’s no value in a trailer, and we want Runamuk to be something great-something with meaning.
I introduced the concept of cordwood building to Keith a while back, and now he’s researching the process with gusto. Sometimes called “stackwood” construction, cordwood building essentially consists of using mortar to glue chunks of firewood into walls. Cordwood houses are easy to construct, very economic–especially here in Maine where firewood is readily available, possess a great energy advantage since the mortar does not conduct heat directly through the wall because of an insulated cavity built into the middle of the wall and insulated with sawdust.
Read more about cordwood construction.
I’ve admired the look and environmentally-friendly nature of the cordwood construction for years now, as I daydreamed of our homestead. I really prefer this method over the more traditional stick-built house we’d had designed by Hammond Lumber, but getting the bank to finance such an unusual home through a construction loan is not likely to happen. UNLESS we can get a personal loan instead. 😉
Another possibility we’re considering is the idea of living in the basement and building the house on top of it later. Once upon a time this was a popular concept, in fact when I was 11 my family moved into a basement we’d had constructed in Salem, Maine and we did just that. Again that would involve a personal loan because the banks want finished houses representing their investments.
Check out this article about the history surrounding Hope Homes.
Garage Conversion Home
We’re also considering building Keith’s garage and living in that temporarily, but that poses some issues that make it less feasible, such as sewage disposal–our septic design is geared toward the house, not for the garage which would sit off to the east of the house. All of our permits, too, are for the construction of a house–not construction of a garage. Since we’ve already bought and paid for the building and plumbing permits for the house, we’d hate to have to go shell out more money for different permits.
The option of using tires to build a house has been brought up, since we can get tires just about anywhere for free. They call it an “Earthship”. It’s energy efficient, repurposes materials that are readily available–and best of all–cheap!
While I like the idea of repurposing old tires and I can see the value in such a structure, I admit the tire-house to be my least favorite option, mainly because it doesn’t align with the vision I’ve maintained for my dream-homestead all these years. But if it came right down to it, and this was our only way to move to the farm-site this year, I would suck it up and live with it–literally.
Here’s more about Earthship construction from the Rodale Institute.
There’s also the option to go through the USDA’s Rural Development program, which we’ve previously looked into. This route includes a generous amount of paperwork and red-tape, but I know we would qualify. However the waiting period for funding is extensive and would dash all hope of moving this year.
Wait another year
Our absolute last resort is to put off construction for another year, save our tax-return money and go back to the bank to apply again. I can’t accept this option until I know that all other avenues have been exhausted.
Perseverance is Key
It was disappointing, sure–but by no means have we given up. Acquiring farmland is one of the biggest hurdles new farmers face, and I know that once we’ve overcome this obstacle Runamuk will grow to be something really great. It’s going to be good for our family, good for the land, and great for our surrounding communities. Just you wait and see. 😉