Scratch one major item off the to-do list: the house is rented.... or almost so.
Several weeks ago, I posted an ad on Craigslist. After some thought, I decided on a strategy to market our rather unorthodox rental as an adventure listing. Here's the Craigslist ad in it's entirety:
Unique opportunity for a family or people interested in finding out if the farming/country life is for them. We are moving to Mexico for one year, starting in August, and are looking for a family to rent our farm on five acres outside of Ferndale. We will be gone for the entire school year and will write the lease to that effect - no worries about an interrupted school year. School district is Ferndale, Custer elementary, Horizon middle school. Spacious three bedroom/one bath with a gigantic wraparound deck that takes advantage of the sweeping view of the Canadian Cascades (yes, that is the actual view in the photo below). Pretty much wall-to-wall mountains. Hardwood floors, huge playroom, fenced dog yard, and many extras such as Rainbow "safest in the world" trampoline, and play structure. Three fenced pastures and two small barns ready to receive your animals - or, if you are interested, you could take over care of our small herd of Nubian dairy goats (if not interested, we will make other arrangements). If desired, house could be rented partially furnished (dining room and living room). Bedrooms have built-in dressers and enormous closets. Propane heat.
ONE slightly unorthodox issue: the house has a completely self-sufficient mother-in-law apartment (separate entrance, kitchen) which will be occupied by our daughter, who attends WWU. Quiet and non-annoying. No shared facilities except laundry, 100% at your discretion.
Rent $1025. We are looking for responsible, stable people who understand that this is a short term rental, one year only. Respond for more information, tons of photos.
The photo I included was my favorite of the view to the north - the main view off the front porch, and the view on which all the windows in the living and dining rooms open. Many people answered my ad. Lots and lots of folks, it seems, are attracted by the idea of country living, without the risk and investment of actually purchasing real estate. A surprising number of folks are interested in goats - I included the language about goat care on the off-chance that I might not have to sell off my goats, not with much actual expectation.
We have spent much of the past three weeks showing the house and property to a stream of interested parties, only a small percentage of whom seemed to us like real prospects. There were hippies without obvious sources of income, and a few folks who seemed suspiciously like meth-addicts. Maybe we had set the rent too low?
But there were also serious prospects: a newly divorced dad looking for a place that his three kids could visit him; a woman searching desperately for a place she could bring her two horses. Strangely, I got a few e-mails from folks who lived far away. I hadn't thought about that possibility. A man called from San Diego - his business was expanding into British Columbia and he was looking for a house near the border, he said. He was serious, and seemed legit enough that I asked him for references, but they didn't check out.
Another man wrote from Texas. He was from our area, he said, and wanted to move back because his father was old and frail. He had a job lined up (health care professional). His wife was a stay-at-home mom who specifically wanted to get into dairy goats. They have three children, seven, five, and three.
They asked a few pertinent questions, and requested more photos. Then they said "we want to commit," the first people to say so.
I told them I wasn't comfortable committing until they had "met" my daughter Rowan, so we set up a Skype date. She talked to them for an hour or so, and carried her laptop around the house, showing them all the rooms. Rowan gave them the thumbs up. They sent me their excellent references. All of us got a good feeling from this family. We liked them, insofar as is possible to like people you have never actually met.
But Homero was still uneasy. To tell the truth, so was I. Just as, in a relationship that starts over the computer or by letter, you cannot possibly know for certain if things will work out until you meet your inamorata in the flesh and smell their sweat - until you have tested the chemistry - we felt that it was impossible for a family to commit for certain to live a year in our house until they had actually entered our home.
Given that we must ourselves make a commitment - cross the rio grande, as it were - by purchasing plane tickets and making other non-negotiable arrangements, we decided to speak plainly. "We're worried," I said, "that you might change your mind. Surely you can understand that we can't take our home off the market and buy plane tickets without being certain. Are you and your wife absolutely sure you can sign a lease without having visited the house?"
They offered to pay a deposit, plus the first month's rent. They said "We are sure, and we give our word." Well, what can you say to that? Either you decide to only consider locals, or you accept their word. We decided to accept their word.
Tonight I will be writing up the lease. A first draft, anyway. I'll e-mail it to them, and then we'll get on the phone and go over it, tweaking it to our mutual satisfaction. When all sides are content, I'll fax them a hard copy, and they'll sign it and fax it back. They'll send us the deposit via Western Union, or perhaps Paypal. And then we will all pray - they that they will like the place and find it adequate to their needs, and we likewise.